What if it this relationship doesn't work out? What if this is not the right person for me? If these "what ifs" sound familiar, it's time to start thinking positively about your relationship; the more you worry about breaking up with your partner, the more likely it is to happen.
I am a natural-born worrier. I often lie awake at night, troubled by thoughts of situations that are usually out of my control.
This isn't always a bad thing; my tendency to think of the worst-case scenario means I am usually prepared, should the worst happen. I like to think of it as "positive pessimism."
But when it comes to romantic relationships, my pessimistic nature has often yielded negative outcomes. I am full of "what ifs," and I'm pretty sure these negative thoughts have helped along the demise of my previous relationships.
So, I was interested to read the results of a new study, which appear to confirm my theory: worrying about your relationship ending will probably lead to a breakup.
The study — recently published in the journal Motivation and Emotion — was conducted by Simona Sciara and Giuseppe Pantaleo, of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milano, Italy.
Breakup risk, commitment, and romance
The research included 104 individuals who were in a romantic relationship, all of whom disclosed basic information about their feelings toward their partners and the overall state of their relationships.
Participants were then subjected to various manipulation techniques, such as the presentation of statistics or false information about how likely it is that their relationship will end.
The aim of these techniques was to influence participants' perceptions about the likelihood of them breaking up with their partner. For example, telling subjects that around 80 percent of relationships fail might plant seeds of doubt about their own relationship.
Next, the researchers asked the participants about their romantic feelings toward their partners and their commitment to the relationship.
Subjects who were told that there was no chance of their relationship ending expressed more intense commitment and greater feelings of romance toward their partners, while those who were told there was a moderate chance of their relationship ceasing showed greater commitment.
On the other hand, participants who felt there was a high likelihood that their relationship would end demonstrated a significant slump in feelings of romance and commitment toward their partners.
"This shows that, when faced with a 'too high' risk of ending the relationship, participants clearly reduced the intensity of their positive feelings towards the romantic partner," says Sciara.
This has a knock-on effect, increasing the likelihood of a relationship breakup.
"Reduced relationship commitment, for instance, leads to dissolution considerations and, thereby, to actual relationship breakup. Relationship breakup, in turn, plays a critical role in the onset of depression, psychological distress, and reduced life satisfaction."
Giuseppe Pantaleo, study co-author
So, what does this mean for us worriers of the world?
In essence, it suggests that focusing on the positive aspects of a romantic relationship, rather than worrying about what might happen in the future, could help your relationship to stand the test of time.
Stop thinking about those "what ifs," and focus on the here and now. Your relationship will thank you for it.