Breaking up is hard to do

August 05, 2021

Man with arm around woman, photo by cottonbro (Pexels)

Photo by cottonbro (Pexels)

When making decisions about what to do with their romantic relationships, people are typically inclined to move relationships forward rather than end them, according to a new paper by Western’s Samantha Joel.

These pro-relationship decisions, she says, favour the initiation, advancement, and maintenance of romantic connections over decisions that stall or end relationships.

In the new paper published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, Joel and co-author Geoff MacDonald from University of Toronto reviewed the literature on decision making in the context of romantic relationships. Across a range of fields such as social psychology, sociology, family studies, and behavioural economics, they found consistent evidence for a “progression bias,” which is a tendency to make decisions that move romantic relationships forward.

Increasing investment and commitment to a romantic partner feels relatively easy and effortless, whereas decisions that halt or end relationships feel difficult and painful. That is, it feels easier to commit than to pull back from a relationship, at least in the short term. This progression bias may help people work through challenges in relationships, but it may also leave people in relationships that are not ideal.

Joel and MacDonald argued that evolution and cultural norms are behind the tendency to be drawn in the direction of increasing investment and commitment in such relationships.

Read the full story by Jeff Renaud