Posted on Dec 28, 2013

What keeps unhappy people from seeking a divorce? While some stay with their partner for financial reasons or because of the kids, a significant number of people stay in unsatisfactory relationships simply because they fear being alone.

A new study, which was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, has found that a fear of loneliness may keep many couples together, long after the romance is gone. Specifically, researchers found that:

  • 40 percent of people feared not having a long-term companion.
  • 18 percent of people feared being a spinster.
  • 12 percent feared losing their current partner.
  • 11 percent feared getting old alone.
  • 7 percent feared never having children or a family.
  • 4 percent feared the judgment of other for not having a family.
  • Less that one percent said that having a bad relationship was better than having no relationship at all.


The study also found that this widespread fear of being alone resulted in people settling for partners who were not ideal, staying with partners who were not compatible, and not divorcing partners even if they wished to end the relationship.

Another study was conducted by Stephanie Spielmann, a researcher at the University of Toronto. Spielmann had thousands of online participants in the United States and Canada fill out one of seven online questionnaires regarding relationships, marriage, and loneliness.

What can we learn from this study? That a person’s fear of being single may affect how they conduct their relationships, and why some people decide to stay in bad partnerships even when they are not happy.

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Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington