Commitment, the big “C-word” in relationships, is defined as feeling connected to your partner, wanting your relationship to succeed, and thinking about your long-term future together. Although there are downsides to commitment (see here for an example), commitment is associated with lots of good outcomes...
Entries in breakup (72)
It may be hard to believe, but I was once in a relationship for nine years where I was so unhappy, I cried nearly every day. A decade later, with a Ph.D. in Psychology under my belt and an intellectual obsession with how and why humans attach themselves to one another and form relationships, I am finally beginning to understand the mysterious crazy glue that keeps people in bad relationships. It often boils down to commitment level, attachment style, and a strange ability to distort the future.
“Closure” is a term I have heard bandied about by many of my friends over the years, but I have always wondered what it really means. For example, after my friend Daphne’s long-distance boyfriend broke up with her over the phone, she told me she needed to fly from NYC to London to see him in person to “get closure.” Even after she saw him in person, she still didn’t feel like things were really over. The meaning of closure is something I have grappled with when trying to make sense of one of my own past relationships. I spent the better part of 10 years trying to get closure with The Question Mark so that I could move on, trying everything from writing him long treatises on why our relationship could never work, to hashing things out in person in order to finally say “goodbye.”
It seems intuitive, right? Getting a rejection letter from a top college, dumped by the love of our life, or excluded from lunch with friends can make us feel pretty crummy. Rejection can cause us to re-evaluate ourselves and make us think, "Why wasn’t I good enough? What am I doing wrong?" According to the sociometer theory, being rejected by others decreases self-esteem.1 From this perspective, self-esteem represents an internal monitor of our acceptance level in our social world. When our acceptance is high, we feel pretty good about ourselves. But when we experience rejection, we are much more critical of ourselves and modify our behavior in an attempt to restore our sense of belonging. Thus, rejection’s effect on self-esteem is adaptive: it sparks self-reflection and improves our likelihood of gaining acceptance going forward.
But does rejection really lower our self-esteem?
When faced with a potential break-up, who among us hasn’t uttered the phrase, “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone?” Whether expressed as a threat or stated matter-of-factly, it is an all-too-familiar anthem for underappreciated dumpers and dumpees alike. Even if you were only bluffing when you said it, you can seek solace in the fact that whether they want to or not, your exs are indeed going to miss you when you’re gone.
There’s something to be said about the “we-ness” of high-quality romantic relationships. When you think of your relationships in a plural sense (e.g., “We've been together for 6 years,” rather than "I've been with him/her for 6 years"), you sometimes start to define who you are (what psychologists call your self-concept) in terms of those relationships. By defining yourself in this way, you include aspects of your romantic partner in your self-concept. For example, you might take on some of your partner's characteristics, or see your partner's interests as your own (think about it – did you actually get into that eccentric rock band because you think they make great music...or was it because your partner liked them first?). In many studies, partners who define themselves in this pluralistic way tend to enjoy greater closeness, more commitment, and greater relationship satisfaction.1,2 In other words, the more you include your partner in your self-concept, the better your relationship is likely to be.
But is it always good when we include our partners in our selves?
After a breakup, should you wallow in your misery by listening to sad music, or should you try to lift your spirits by listening to happy music? Across three experiments, people who had recently experienced interpersonal loss, like a breakup, preferred music that reinforced their current mood (sadness) rather than elevated it.1 For example, in their third study, the researchers randomly assigned half of the participants to write about an interpersonal loss, like a lost love, breakup, or death of a loved one, while the other half of participants wrote about a non-interpersonal loss (like an academic or career-related loss). After thinking about a non-interpersonal loss, people preferred cheerful music (click here for a feel-good tune), but following interpersonal losses, participants preferred sad music (click here if you were just dumped). So it seems that sometimes we use music to raise our spirits, but when it comes to breakups and lost relationships, we surround ourselves with more sadness.
Read more about music and relationships here:
- "Soul Meets Body" - How Music and Relationships are Connected
- I Need to See Your iPod Before We Can Go Out
- The Music of Relationships
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1Lee, C. J., Andrade, E. B., & Palmer, S. E. (in press). Interpersonal relationships and preferences for mood-congruence in aesthetic experiences. Journal of Consumer Research.
Can you accurately predict how bad you’d feel if your relationship breaks up? To study this question, researchers asked undergraduates to predict how they’d feel if their current relationship ended. Then the research team tracked the undergraduates over several months and waited for those relationships to break-up. The researchers then asked the same participants how they actually felt now that their relationships were over. Turns out people overestimate how bad they will feel following a break-up, especially those who are in love. So if you’re staying in a relationship because you think the break-up will be awful and devastating, you should realized that it may not be so bad. This is especially true if you’re in a bad or abusive relationship (read more here).
Eastwick, P. W., Finkel, E. J., Krishnamurti, T., & Loewenstein, G. (2008). Mispredicting distress following romantic breakup: Revealing the time course of the affective forecasting error. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(3), 800-807. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2007.07.001
As someone who takes comfort in reducing highly complex human experiences into single-line mathematical equations, let me share my latest shiny new toy: a formula that predicts the breakup percentage of a given sample of dating folk over a particular period of time.
Isn’t that intriguing?
There are a lot of ways to put a relationship to the test...add allen wrenches and vague directions to the list.
My girlfriend of 10 months just broke up with me a few days ago. This has been her longest relationship. She had never lasted longer than 3 months with anyone prior because she is an independent girl and is afraid of commitment. For whatever reason, our relationship is different. We fell in love with each other and have had our ups and downs. However, the ever looming fact that we are both about to graduate from college this May and going to different states afterwards has been her main concern.
She claims that she has not felt the same about me lately and that she is tired of fighting for something that is going to end. This is not the first time she has broken up with me because of this, but it is definitely more serious and evident this time around. She says that I love her more than she loves me and that she now only loves me as a friend. The decision to break up was purely hers and now I am heart broken.
I plan on waiting a couple of weeks with no contact with her. If she does not break silence, then I'd like to at least meet up one more time to see if she might have reconsidered and if we can at least spend the rest of the semester together and make the best of it. I just want to be with her and not waste what we have together.
I am really sorry to hear about your heart being broken. It is always hard to end relationships, especially when you had already accepted that your time together was limited to begin with. Based on the information you provided, it sounds as if your ex-girlfriend has a very avoidant attachment style.
Research recently published by our friend and colleague Dr. Ximena Arriaga shows that people in abusive relationships underestimate the degree to which they will be better off after leaving those toxic relationships. Read more about her research here, and check out the short interview with Dr. Arriaga here.
Now that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, you may be worried about picking out the perfect gift for your partner. Is it something he will like? Will she be disappointed by your efforts? And how is a partner’s response to your Valentine's Day gift related to thoughts about the future of your relationship?
When I told my ex-husband that I wanted a divorce, I knew that it would not be easy to overcome the legal and logistical hurdles that would inevitably follow. But I was eager to tend to my emotional bruises and move on to whatever else life had to offer. My ex-husband, on the other hand, was not ready to let our relationship—or me—disappear quietly into the night. Months after I filed the paperwork and I had moved across town into a small, one-bedroom apartment, he continued to pressure me to give our relationship another chance. He sent dozens of texts and emails declaring his undying love. I awoke one morning to him banging on my door, asking me to comfort him. He left a (gaudy) handpicked bouquet of flowers at my office. Most recently, I opened my front door and literally stumbled over a container full of leftover food and a $500 winning lottery ticket (okay, so I kept the lottery ticket). These events took place so frequently that, for a while, I was genuinely scared to leave my apartment, lest I run into him or another “gift” that he left for me.
My situation is not unique. Unwanted pursuit behaviors—which include relatively innocuous behaviors, such as gift-giving or exaggerated displays of affection, as well as more serious types of intrusions, such as stalking or threats of physical violence—occur relatively frequently following relationship breakups.
It’s that time of the year again - streets coloured with festive decorations, malls ringing with well-known holiday music, and shops filled with people wandering aimlessly in search of the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I, for one, struggle every year to find that special present that will give my boyfriend a big smile under the holiday lights. I’m sure I’m not the only one who suffers from this pre-holiday shopping stress. To add to my stress, research confirms what we probably all know already: gift-giving has a significant impact on romantic relationships.
John Mayer is apparently a trend-setter among celebrities. The singer/guitarist reportedly dumped Katy Perry by email and Jennifer Aniston with a text message (recommendation: if you are dating John Mayer, hide his iPhone). And Taylor Swift is said to have been the recipient of a break up voicemail (although not from Mr. Mayer). Is this form of calling it quits isolated to just our friends in the entertainment industry or is it common among the rest of us?
Have you ever been dumped over email? Would you text a (soon-to-be-former) partner to let them know it was over? heyyy we r over bye. Technology provides many options for communicating a desire to break up while allowing us to avoid the awkwardness of dumping someone face-to-face. But how often do people use technology to break up, and are some people more likely to do it than others (or be the recipient of it)?