EvoS Journal: The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium
Volume 3, Issue 1, 2011
Frequency, intensity and expression of post-relationship grief
Craig Eric Morris & Chris Reiber
Following the break-up of a romantic relationship, individuals experience varying degrees and constellations of emotional and physical trauma. Colloquially referred to as “heartbreak,” we term this experience post-relationship grief (PRG). A strict adherence to sexual strategies theory suggests that males and females may experience PRG differently since males have evolved to favor promiscuity and females, to favor mate stability. This suggests that PRG may be more pronounced in females than males. Another plausible argument could be made that since males must compete for mates in this model, a breakup signals a costly resumption of mate competition tactics for males. To evaluate these predictions, we analyzed quantitative and qualitative data collected through a self-report questionnaire that was administered to 1735 university students. Three times as many females as males responded, and nearly four times as many females offered free-response comments when prompted. Of the 98% of respondents who reported experiencing a breakup, 96% reported emotional trauma (such as anger, depression and anxiety) and 93% physical trauma (such as nausea, sleep loss and weight loss). The intensity of PRG was virtually indistinguishable between males and females. However, the expression of PRG varied between genders across a series of recurring themes; females focused on broad self-esteem and trust issues, while males reflected more narrowly on the actual intensity and duration of PRG. PRG levels were lower in individuals initiating the breakups than in those who did not.
How to cite this article:
Morris, C. E., Reiber, C. (2011). Frequency, intensity and expression of post-relationship grief. EvoS Journal: The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium, 3(1), 1-11.