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Kim Kardashian’s Divorce: Khloe the Homewrecker

Whether or not the allegations of cheating are true, there was definitely another woman in Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian’s marriage: Khloe Kardashian. Khloe was not Kris’s mistress, but Kris constantly compared Kim to Khloe. Khloe, who is married to NBA star Lamar Odom, has given up aspects of her career to spend more time with her husband, especially when they were still newlyweds. Kris has said that it is great that Kim has Khloe as a role model in her life and has told Kim that she should be more like Khloe, suggesting that Kris sees Khloe as a better “NBA wife” than Kim.

When others outperform us, especially close others, such as friends or siblings, we can respond in one of two ways: we can bask in their glory or we can compare our own performance to theirs. When basking in others’ glory, we often feel proud and happy for others and feel great about ourselves because we know such successful others. But when comparing to our own performance, we may feel worse about ourselves because our own performance is inferior to theirs.

So what determines how we will respond? It primarily depends on how important our performance in a particular domain is to our identity.1 That is, if that particular aspect of our life is not very important to us, we bask in the other’s glory. But if we strongly value a domain (e.g., career, a skill, our relationship) and it is an important part of our identity, we will respond to the other’s superior performance in that domain by comparing it to our own. Furthermore, after comparing ourselves, we can do several things to make ourselves feel better. Some individuals may sabotage the performance of others.2 Others may try harder to improve their own performance. We can also try to distance ourselves from these close others.3 Finally, we can also devalue the comparison domain.4

For example, let’s say that being really great at your job is very important to you. One day you find out that your friend at work received a better job performance assessment than you. Consequently, you may decide to distract your friend so he/she will perform worse (sabotage your friend), to work harder to receive a better assessment in the future (work harder to improve), or to spend less time with your friend (distancing yourself from your friend). Finally, you may decide that being great at your job isn’t really that important to you (devaluing the comparison domain).

It is clear that Kim views being in a relationship as an important aspect of her life. So how did Kim respond when compared to Khloe? Based on how she has behaved towards Khloe on Kourtney and Kim Take New York, she distanced herself from Khloe. In fact, she became unnecessarily disrespectful and rude to Khloe, lashing out at her and calling her an “evil, ugly troll” simply for saying bye to her before leaving for the Hamptons. She also appears to have decreased the relevance of her relationship with Kris. After being compared to her sister, she was less willing to make her relationship work (e.g., Kim did not respond constructively to Kris’s concerns, she was unwilling to accommodate Kris’s wishes, and was unwilling to make sacrifices for their relationship). Clearly, there was one too many K's in Kim and Kris’ marriage.

Click here to see our post from the past week, "Kim Kardashian’s Divorce: Science Saw it Coming," also written by Sabrina Thai.

Interested in learning more about relationships? Click here for other topics on Science of Relationships. Like us on Facebook to get our articles delivered directly to your NewsFeed.

1Tesser, A. (1988). Toward a self-evaluation maintenance model of social behaviour. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 21, 181–227.

2Tesser, A., & Smith, J. (1980). Some effects of task relevance and friendship on helping:  You don’t always help the ones you like. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16, 582–590.

3Pleban, R., & Tesser, A. (1981). The effects of relevance and quality of another’s performance on interpersonal closeness. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44, 278–285.

4Tesser, A., & Paulus, D. (1983). The definition of self:  Private and public self-evaluation management strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 672–682. 

Sabrina Thai - Graduate Student, Psychology, University of Toronto
Sabrina’s research focuses on relational social comparisons to better-off and worse-off others, including individuals' responses to learning that partners have performed better or worst than them. Sabrina is also interested in how individuals respond to encounters with highly successful relationships. 

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