“Who am I without you?” The influence of romantic breakup on the self-concept

From Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin

When Jerry Maguire in the movie declares to his estranged wife “you complete me,” he means she has forever altered who he is. This article reveals how in real life couples come to complete each others’ selves. The end of a relationship can bring multiple psychological consequences that impacts one’s self concept. The study considers how vulnerable a person is at this point when they face their “incomplete” self.

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Romantic relationships alter the selves of the individuals within them. Partners develop shared friends and activities and even overlapping self-concepts. This intertwining of selves may leave individuals’ self-concepts vulnerable to change if the relationship ends. The current research examines several different types of self-concept change that could occur after a breakup and their relation to emotional distress. Across three studies, using varied methodologies, the authors examined change in both the content (Study 1a and 1b) and the structure of the self-concept, specifically, reduced self-concept clarity (Studies 1 through 3). As predicted, individuals experienced self-concept content change and reduced self-concept clarity post-breakup. Additionally, reduced clarity uniquely predicted post-breakup emotional distress.

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Article details:

Title: “Who am I without you? The influence of romantic breakup on the self-concept”

Authors: Erica B. Slotter, Wendi L. Gardner and Eli J. Finkel

From: Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin

DOI: 10.1177/0146167209352250

First published: December 15, 2009

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