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Fear Dictates Why Men and Women Remain in Bad Relationships, Study Reveals

Update Date: Dec 04, 2013 01:30 PM EST

"It's better to be alone than unhappy!" so goes the saying. But a group of researchers at the University of Toronto found that exactly the opposite is actually the case for most people.

The study recently published suggests that men and women, driven by fear of loneliness, settle for less in relationships and marriages.

Many people, the finding claims, continue on relationships and marriages that have long gone sour, and the reason behind it is the fear of remaining single for life, according to a press statement.

"Those with stronger fears about being single are willing to settle for less in their relationships," stated lead author Stephanie Spielmann, postdoctoral researcher in the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology. "Sometimes they stay in relationships they aren't happy in, and sometimes they want to date people who aren't very good for them. Now we understand that people's anxieties about being single seem to play a key role in these types of unhealthy relationship behaviors."

The study surveyed several samples of American adults across a wide range of ages.

The results points that some 38.8 percent have reportedly absolutely no fear of living life alone, with another 18.4 percent worrying anxiously about "spinsterhood" and a lonely eventual death. Another 11.8 percent of respondents expressed both anxiety and relief with the vicissitudes of single life, while 6.6 percent said they worried the future might bring loneliness.

Professor Geoff MacDonald, also from the University of Toronto and co-author of the study, said: "In our results we see men and women having similar concerns about being single, which lead to similar coping behaviors, contradicting the idea that only women struggle with a fear of being single."

"Loneliness is a painful experience for both men and women, so it's not surprising that the fear of being single seems not to discriminate on the basis of gender." 

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