One foot out the door: Stay/leave ambivalence predicts day-to-day fluctuations in commitment and intentions to end the relationship

Samantha Joel, Sarah C. E. Stanton, Elizabeth Page-Gould, Geoff MacDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Why do some people maintain stable feelings of commitment toward their partners, whereas others’ feelings wax and wane from day to day? The current paper draws insight from decision conflict research suggesting that individuals torn between decision options are particularly susceptible to attitude change. In three samples, we validated a stay/leave ambivalence scale to capture internal conflict about whether to remain in versus exit a relationship. In two dyadic daily experience studies, individuals who felt more ambivalent about their relationships experienced greater daily fluctuation in commitment and breakup contemplation compared to less ambivalent individuals. Ambivalent individuals’ relationship intentions were also more strongly tied to their daily experiences, such that they felt more motivated to stay on days with greater relationship positivity, and more motivated to leave on days with greater relationship negativity. We discuss implications of these results for ambivalent individuals, their partners, and our understanding of stay/leave decision processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-312
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Volume51
Issue number2
Early online date5 Feb 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • longitudinal measurement invariance
  • gender measurement invariance
  • strengths and difficulties questionnaire

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