Is it time to break up?

Written by:

Winston Lam

Winston Lam

Winston is a psychologist who is passionate about the underlying mechanisms that influence social interactions, human behaviour, and self improvement.

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Breaking up is never easy, but sometimes it’s what needs to be done and for the best.

But how do you know when it is one of those times?

Rusbult’s Investment Model might be able to answer that. It is an empirically supported theory that states that there are 3 factors that together determine how committed a relationship would be: Satisfaction level, Comparison with alternatives, and Investment.

Let’s take a look at each of them:

Satisfaction level
Satisfaction level is simply put, the weighing of positive emotions and negative emotions. If you
feel happier more often and more intense than you feeling sad or angry from the relationship,
you are likely to be satisfied with your relationship and would want to stay in it.

It also refers to rewards and costs. If the companionship and emotional support you got from your partner is
worth the conflicts you have with him, you will be happy with your relationship.

Comparison with alternatives
How good are the alternatives? That’s the question we all ask ourselves, admittedly or not. The
better the alternatives are, the less committed you are.

If you like your partner so much that you think there is absolutely no alternative that you will consider, then good for you. You are still comparing though, just that in this case the alternatives are valued negatively. The alternatives include being single, by the way.

However, some gay men in Asia might be biased against the alternatives even if they are unsatisfied with their relationship, because they are afraid of being single, and the harm they might cause to themselves and the people they are leaving. Please, do not settle for less out of fear and uncertainty.

Investment
The most important factor is the resources you have invested in this relationship. It includes
both the things you directly put into the relationship, such as money and time, and also the
things your relationship brought to you, like friends and memories.

This factor is the strongest predictor to commitment. This is why the longer you have been with your partner, the committed you tend to be.

You’d have spent more time and got more shared experience with him. Whenever you are questioning your relationship, maybe after you just had another fight or you have been feeling like something is missing, try to think about these 3 factors objectively.

Write down the good and the bad for each if you like. And if you do decide that this relationship has come to an end, that’s okay. It does not mean you failed as a partner, or that it was all wasted.

Sometimes relationships just do not last, it does not make them less meaningful. And you will surely come out of it a better person, with a new experience to learn from, and ready for the next.

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