The influence of a romantic breakup on self-concept

Mar 08, 2010

When a romantic relationship ends, an individual's self-concept is vulnerable to change, according to research in the February issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Self-concept is defined as a person's sense of "me." Romantic partners develop shared friends, activities and even overlapping self-concepts.

Using three studies, the researchers examined self-concept changes that can occur after a breakup. They found that individuals have reduced self-concept clarity after a breakup. This reduced clarity can contribute to emotional distress. The loss of the relationship has multiple psychological consequences, including the tendency for individuals to change the content of their selves and the feeling that their selves are subjectively less clear and even smaller.

Finding that there is a prevalence of self-change experienced when a romantic relationship ends provides a testament to the power of loss that impacts one's sense of self.

"Not only may couples come to complete each others' sentences, they may actually come to complete each others' selves," write authors Erica B. Slotter, Wendi L. Gardner, and Eli J. Finkel. "When the ends, individuals experience not only pain over the loss of the partner, but also changes in their selves. This research is the first to demonstrate the unique contribution of reduced self-concept clarity to the emotional distress that individuals experience post-breakup."

Explore further: Inadequate mental health care for blacks with depression and diabetes, high blood pressure

More information: The article "Who Am I Without You? The Influence of Romantic Breakup on the Self-Concept" in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is available free for a limited time at psp.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/36/2/147

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Selectivity is ultimate aphrodisiac

Feb 06, 2007

Speed daters who romantically desired most of their potential partners were rejected quickly and overwhelmingly, according to a new Northwestern University study.

Recommended for you

What sign language teaches us about the brain

5 hours ago

The world's leading humanoid robot, ASIMO, has recently learnt sign language. The news of this breakthrough came just as I completed Level 1 of British Sign Language (I dare say it took me longer to master signing ...

Why do men prefer nice women?

5 hours ago

People's emotional reactions and desires in initial romantic encounters determine the fate of a potential relationship. Responsiveness may be one of those initial "sparks" necessary to fuel sexual desire and land a second ...

Study reveals how to be socially successful

5 hours ago

Romantic, personal and professional relationships are fraught with danger, but a University of Queensland researcher has found the secret to interacting successfully with others in such settings.

User comments : 0