Storying the heartbreak
The transformational processing of romantic breakups
We examined narratives of romantic breakups (i.e., breakup accounts) in relation to romantic attachment tendencies. In Study 1, participants provided accounts of difficult breakups and indicated who in the relationship initiated its dissolution. In Study 2, participants provided breakup accounts from the perspective of the initiator and the non-initiator. Breakup accounts were coded for levels of exploration (active reflection of the narrated experience) and resolution (emotional closure and a sense of resiliency). Across studies, levels of resolution were highest in self-initiated, when compared to other-initiated, breakup accounts. In Study 2, avoidant attachment correlated negatively with levels of resolution in self-initiated, but not other-initiated, breakup accounts. These results suggest that avoidantly attached individuals narrate self-initiated breakups in a less thoroughly processed manner than their secure peers, and that these differences in transformational processing may carry implications for romantic domain functioning.
Keywords: adult attachment styles, breakup accounts, exploratory narrative processing, coherent positive resolution, transformational processing
Published online: 10 March 2020
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Wilkinson, Dulce E. & William L. Dunlop
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