Self-esteem takes around one year to recover from a relationship breakup, psychological research finds.
It did not matter if people remained single or not in this period, it still took the same amount of time for self-esteem to recover.
However, while breakups are painful, most people recover and even gain some strength from them, the study’s authors write:
“Even though relationship break-ups are painful, people
tend to recover from them and move on.
Especially in adolescence and young adulthood, when individuals are dating, have their first romantic relationship, try different types of relationships, and search the right partner to spend their life with, relationship breakups are not unusual and, thus, normative.[…]
…individuals tend to report positive changes after experiencing relationship break-up, such as gaining inner strength and maturity, and report having learned important lessons that will be useful in future relationships.”
The conclusions come from over 9,000 German adults who were followed for three years.
The results showed that breakups of relationships that had lasted a year or more are particularly damaging to self-esteem.
Subsequently starting a new relationship increased self-esteem, as long as the new relationship lasts.
However, shorter relationships — those lasting less than a year — tended to reduce people’s self-esteem.
Recovery from a breakup took around one year, the authors write:
“…the decrease in self-esteem after a relationship break-up is only temporary and that the person’s self-esteem is recovered already one year later.
Thus, although research on many psychological phenomena suggests that “bad is stronger than good” —that is, the effects of negative events, negative interactions, and negative emotions are often stronger than the effects of positive events, positive interactions, and positive emotions—in the present research the effect of beginning a relationship
(i.e., a positive transition) was more sustained than the
effect of relationship break-up (i.e., a negative transition).”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Luciano & Orth, 2017).