How the breakup of a relationship changes the personality

In a long-term relationship, our identity becomes more and more intertwined with that of our partner. Elizabeth Barrett Browning described it perfectly when she told her husband Robert Browning: “I love you, not just for who you are, but for who I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have done with yourself, but for what you are doing with me. I love you for the part of me you bring to light ”.



Indeed, in some cases this attunement is such that we can end up confusing our traits with those of our partner. Therefore, it makes sense to ask what happens when the relationship breaks up. Does it mean that our personality will change? Does our personality influence how we deal with the breakup by making us stay alone longer or does it prompt us to immediately seek another partner? Find out what personality disorders can appear when a relationship ends.

The changes that occur in personality when a relationship ends

Men and women usually don't react the same way to a breakup. A study conducted at the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore found that the effects of divorce differ by gender. These psychologists analyzed the personalities of over 2.274 people over 40 and met them again between 6 and 9 years later. Then they asked them what the most important events in their life had been and they saw how much their personality had changed.

Thus they found that women who had gone through a divorce showed a greater propensity for extroversion and were more open to new experiences, which can be attributed to the liberating effect of the breakup. Conversely, divorced men appeared to be less aware and more emotionally unstable, possibly because they experienced the breakup as a demoralizing event.



But not all studies met this pattern. A group of German researchers analyzed the personality traits of over 500 middle-aged men and women three times over a 12-year period.

It turned out that divorced men and women had become less extroverted. However, this is likely to be due to the fact that with the breakup they lost many friends they shared with their spouse, meaning they had fewer opportunities to socialize. Interestingly, these people showed a decrease in confidence, perhaps because they no longer had to continually support each other.

It is clear that, even if the effects on extroversion are not very significant, they can have a major impact on the person's life, especially considering that extroverted people are more likely to meet a new partner and remarry.

How quickly you will be able to move on depends on your personality

The breakup of a relationship not only slightly changes our personality, but also the way we see life and affects the way we react to the situation. A study by psychologists from the University of Louvain analyzed the personalities of more than 2.000 people who had gone through a divorce to find out what kinds of new relationships people formed during the following seven years.

Thus it was observed that extroverted people were more likely to remarry quickly than others. On the other hand, those with a tendency to neurosis were more likely to be alone for the next seven years or to move from one relationship to another without finding the right person to establish a solid relationship. However, people who showed greater awareness were more likely to form a serious relationship and this lasted much longer.


One reason breakups are so distressing is that they can lead us to wonder who we are, especially when it comes to a long relationship, since our identity is intertwined with that of our partner, so that when we lose it, it's as if we had lost a part of ourselves. This means that the concept we have of ourselves contracts and we feel that we no longer know exactly who we are, what we are or where we are headed. These feelings can be particularly painful for some people.



Interestingly, psychologists at Stanford University found that those who had a rigid view of themselves tended to take rejection as something more personal, feeling that the break up revealed something negative about their character and, consequently, the experience. it was even more distressing.

The good news is that our personalities change over time, so it is possible to encounter a positive way of interpreting the breakup, especially by reminding ourselves that we are complex and ever-changing people who are able to learn from their mistakes and move on. This view can alleviate the painful effects of rejection to some extent.


 

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