CHICAGO (Reuters) - Despite the laments of pining pop stars and sad sack poets, U.S. researchers now think breaking up may not be so hard to do.
“We underestimate our ability to survive heartbreak,” said Eli Finkel, an assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University, whose study appears online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Finkel and colleague Paul Eastwick studied young lovers — especially those who profess ardent affection — to see if their predictions of devastation matched their actual angst when that love was lost.
“On average, people overestimate how distressed they will be following a breakup,” Finkel said in a telephone interview.
The nine-month study involved college students who had been dating at least two months who filled out questionnaires every two weeks. They gathered data from 26 people — 10 women and 16 men — who broke up with their partners during the first six months of the study.
The participants’ forecasts of distress two weeks before the breakup were compared to their actual experience as recorded over four different periods of time.
Not surprisingly, they found the more people were in love, the harder they took the breakup.
“People who are more in love really are a little more upset after a breakup, but their perceptions about how distraught they will be are dramatically overstated when compared to reality,” Finkel said.
“At the end of the day it, it is just less bad than you thought.”