After looking at some great topics in reason weeks, I wanted a bit of a platter-cleanser-style episode where we look at a really fun topic and something that all of us can relate too. Therefore, in this fascinating episode, we look at the 12 reasons why couples break up and the different outcomes this can have on people’s mental health.
Today’s episode has been sponsored by Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Friendships, Romantic Relationships and More Fourth Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Why Do We Need To Look At Why Couples Break Up?
The main reason why I want to look at this is because the main audience for the podcast is psychology students and professionals and anyone interested in psychology. And just because we love psychology, it doesn’t make us immune to break-ups and other relationship-related behaviours. Therefore, I want to look at it for all of us so you listeners can get a better understanding.
However, if we look towards our clients, then relationship breakdown can seriously impact their mental health, so by looking at this topic, it helps us to gain insight how they’re feeling as well.
For example, Rhoades et al. (2011) showed that break-ups can increase a person’s psychological distress as well as reduce their life satisfaction, and it’s interesting to note that break-ups can impact a person’s mental health for months, and even years, after it happened.
Additionally, this is exactly why it’s a good idea to be at least aware of the common things that lead to break-ups, so you can help to manage your own relationship and maybe even steer yourself in a better direction in the future. And I just want to say here that if you listen to today’s episode and you realise that you might want to change a few things in your relationship. One, I think that’s a healthy attitude to have because it shows you care about the relationship, and two, I seriously doubt you’ll be alone.
Building upon that last point further, break-ups really are just part of life because Rhoades et al. (2011) also showed that a third of unmarried people between the ages of 18 to 35 have had a breakup in the past two years.
Why Do Couples Break Up?
Personally, I always find it interesting to read these sort of research articles because it is an area I would never personally research, because I can imagine this sort of thing gets depressing after a while. But I do really admire the researchers that want to investigate this area.
Therefore, according to Gravningen et al. (2017), here are the 12 most common reasons why couples in the UK breakup:
· They Grew Apart
· Lack of Respect
· Different Interests
· Moved (presumably one partner wanted to move away for some reason and the other didn’t follow)
· Money Issues
· Not Sharing Housework
I can really imagine a bunch of people nodding their heads now, because I think that will be a seriously annoying thing I find in the future.
· Difficulties with sex
· Domestic Violence
· Not Wanting Children (Presumably when the other partner does)
· Drugs, gambling or drinking
Personally, before I explore the results in any great depth, I just want to mention my thoughts on them, because they are interesting. Since the first five or so aren’t surprising in the slightest, and I can fully understand why not sharing housework is a factor in breaking up. Yet different interests I find interesting, because I personally believe it’s healthy to have your own things in relationships so you effectively have you time or your space. But this finding raises the point that you always need to strike a balance, as with everything in life, so you still have your time and interests but you have shared interests too, and effectively bond over.
Overall, another interesting thing about the findings were that these factors were relatively consistent for both men and women. Since both genders said “arguments” and “growing apart” were the top-two reasons for breaking up. Yet there were some gender differences as well, because women were more likely than men to say “lack of respect” was a more important factor for breaking up, along with “money issues”, “domestic violence” and “not sharing household responsibilities”.
Furthermore, another reason this is important to look at is because Williamson et al. (2016) found many problems that led to a divorce were present at the beginning of the relationship. Therefore, it is very possible that if couples sort out of their issues sooner rather than later in a relationship, and do eventually get married, then they might save themselves the trouble of a divorce.
On the other hand, we have to realise that people do heal from breakups and the damage, hurt and pain they cause aren’t permanent. As well as Gardner and Oswald (2005) found some vital findings showing divorcing couples do reap a lot of great psychological gains from the breaking up of their marriage and men and women tend to benefit equally in this regard. This can be supported with the following quote:
“Divorce works. The evidence suggests that marital dissolution eventually produces a rise in psychological well-being. For those couples who take it, the leap into the dark seems to improve their lives.”
Social Psychology Conclusion
At the end of this episode, I am not denying that breakups are emotionally devastating, but, it is important to learn from it. We need to take time to reflect on what happened, what went wrong and what could we do in the future to protect ourselves from another let-down. I hope the 12 reasons we briefly looked at in this episode might help to give you a place to start.
However, I will make this point very clear, you must not shelter away from the world after a breakup. You must at some point get back up and get back out on the dating scene, because sheltering yourself away out of fear will do you no good whatsoever.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Friendships, Romantic Relationship and More Fourth Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day.
Social and Clinical Psychology References
Gardner, J., & Oswald, A. J. (2006). Do divorcing couples become happier by breaking up?. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 169(2), 319-336.
Gravningen, K., Mitchell, K. R., Wellings, K., Johnson, A. M., Geary, R., Jones, K. G., ... & Mercer, C. H. (2017). Reported reasons for breakdown of marriage and cohabitation in Britain: Findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Plos one, 12(3), e0174129.
Rhoades, G. K., Kamp Dush, C. M., Atkins, D. C., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Breaking up is hard to do: the impact of unmarried relationship dissolution on mental health and life satisfaction. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 25(3), 366–374. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023627
Williamson, H. C., Nguyen, T. P., Bradbury, T. N., & Karney, B. R. (2016). Are problems that contribute to divorce present at the start of marriage, or do they emerge over time?. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33(8), 1120-1134.
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