Valentine’s special: Good news for those who’ve recently ended a relationship!

Valentine’s day can be a lonely time for people who have recently ended a romantic relationship. But they might find solace in new research showing the huge positive impact that relationship break-up can have on a person’s life.

Gary Lewandowski and Nicole Bizzoco surveyed 155 people (aged 18 to 32) who had experienced a relationship break-up in the last 11 weeks; for 25 per cent of them, it was their partner who had chosen to initiate the break up.

Fifty-eight per cent of the sample reported high levels of positive emotions following the relationship break-up, such as feeling energised and hopeful, while 71 per cent reported high levels of growth, agreeing with statements like “I have learned a lot about myself” (importantly, growth was not related to who had initiated the break-up). By contrast, just 31 per cent reported high levels of negative emotions like feeling traumatised.

“The present results indicate that growth and positive emotions may be a larger part of the relationship dissolution experience than previously thought”, the researchers said.

Key to a break-up having a positive impact was the quality of the prior relationship. The ending of a relationship that provided little opportunity for self-expansion (measured by questions like “How did knowing your partner make you into a better person?”) was more likely to be followed by positive emotions and re-discovery of the self (as measured by agreement with statements like “I have done things I once enjoyed that I could not do while I was in my relationship”).

“Rather than focusing on the negative consequences of dissolution as a reason to stay in a bad relationship, people could use the present results as a motivation for leaving the bad relationship. In fact…leaving a bad relationship is likely to result in personal growth and positive emotions”, the researchers said.

Lewandowski, G.W. & Bizzoco, N.M. (2007). Addition through subtraction: Growth following the dissolution of a low quality relationship. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2, 40-54.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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