The Dissolution of Romantic Relationships: Factors Involved in Relationship Stability and Emotional Distress

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This investigation was designed to examine factors involved in the stability of premarital romantic relationships and the extent of emotional distress experienced following their dissolution. During the fall of 1985, a large sample of individuals involved in ongoing dating relationships completed an extensive questionnaire survey. The survey assessed 10 factors: satisfaction with the current partner, closeness of the relationship, duration of the relationship, sexual nature of the relationship, the quality of the best actual and imagined alternative dating partner(s), the ease with which a suitable alternative partner could be found, exclusivity of the relationship, self-monitoring propensity, and orientation to sexual relations. Approximately 3 months later, all individuals were recontacted to determine whether they were still dating the same partner and if not, how much emotional distress they experienced following relationship dissolution. Analyses revealed that at a univariate level, all 10 factors successfully forecasted relationship stability. Three of the 10 factors-closeness, duration, and ease of finding an alternative partner-reliably and independently predicted the intensity and duration of emotional distress. Specifically, individuals who were close to their former partner, who had dated the former partner for a long time, and who believed they could not easily acquire a desirable alternative tended to experience more pronounced distress following dissolution. These results are discussed in terms of the investment model and recent theorizing on emotion in relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-692
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1987


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