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This research investigates individual and contextual differences underlying postdissolution friendships by considering communication with former romantic partners among individuals in new romantic relationships. Two studies demonstrate the prevalence, determinants, and implications of former partner communication for the current relationship. Study 1 showed that approximately 40% of individuals in relationships communicate with a former partner and highlighted differences between those who communicate and those who do not. Study 2 factor analyzed reasons why people communicate with former partners and examined how the reasons are differentially associated with current relationship functioning. In general, results support the notion that under certain circumstances and for certain individuals, communication with former partners can have deleterious influences on one's current relationship.
Personal Relationships, (2016). Printed in the United States of America.
Copyright © 2016 IARR; DOI: 10.1111/pere.12133
Communication with former romantic partners
and current relationship outcomes among college
aUniversity of New Hampshire; bFairleigh Dickinson University; cPalo Alto University;
dUniversity of Houston; and eBaylor College of Medicine
This research investigates individual and contextual differences underlying postdissolution friendships by considering
communication with former romantic partners among individuals in new romantic relationships. Two studies
demonstrate the prevalence, determinants, and implications of former partner communication for the current
relationship. Study 1 showed that approximately 40% of individuals in relationships communicate with a former partner
and highlighted differences between those who communicate and those who do not. Study 2 factor analyzed reasons
why people communicate with former partners and examined how the reasons are differentially associated with current
relationship functioning. In general, results support the notion that under certain circumstances and for certain
individuals, communication with former partners can have deleterious inuences on one’s current relationship.
Research suggests that the formation and
maintenance of social bonds is essential for
optimal physical and psychological well-being
(e.g., Baumeister & Leary, 1995). However,
many social bonds that are voluntary even-
tually come to an end; approximately half of
all marriages end in divorce (Kreider & Ellis,
2011), and an even larger percentage of dating
relationships dissolve. When relationships
are terminated, some individuals success-
fully sever all connections with their former
romantic partners. However, many others con-
tinue to maintain communication with their
former partners (e.g., Graham, 1997; Kellas,
Lindsey M. Rodriguez, Department of Psychology, Uni-
versity of New Hampshire; Camilla S. Øverup, School
of Psychology, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Robert E.
Wickham, Department of Psychology, Palo Alto Univer-
sity; C. Raymond Knee, Department of Psychology, Uni-
versity of Houston; Amber B. Amspoker, Baylor College
of Medicine, Houston.
Correspondence should be addressed to Lindsey M.
Rodriguez, University of New Hampshire, Department
of Psychology, Durham, NH 03824, e-mail: Lindsey.
2006; Kellas & Manusov, 2003; Weber, 1998).
Generally, it appears that while many people
remain friends with their former partners
(Wilmot, Carbaugh, & Baxter, 1985), there
may be situational and individual differences
underlying these friendships.
Communication between former partners
may take on a different meaning when one or
both individuals become involved in a new
romantic relationship, and this is a vastly
understudied area of relationship science.
Moreover, such communication may have
important implications for current relation-
ships, particularly in light of the motivations
behind such communication. The current
research sought to better understand commu-
nication with former partners among those
currently in relationships. Specically, we
present two studies examining: (a) the preva-
lence of communicating with former partners,
(b) characteristics of the former relationship
that are associated with communication with
the former partner, (c) the motives underlying
2L. M. Rodriguez et al.
individuals’ communication with former
partners, and (d) the implications of these
communication motives for one’s current
Prevalence of communication with former
Stage models of relationship development
and dissolution imply that the last stage of
relationship dissolution is termination of
communication (e.g., Duck, 1982; Knapp,
1984). In these models, partners diverge to live
separate lives. However, many former partners
continue to maintain contact in the context
of a friendship or other platonic relationship.
Some researchers present anecdotal evidence
that friendships between former romantic
partners exist; however, relationship theorists
tend to neglect including such relationships as
a possibility in their models (Agnew, Arriaga,
& Wilson, 2008).
Although there is relatively little research on
postdissolution communication, some research
on marital dissolution has found that approx-
imately 50% of individuals maintain contact
with their ex-spouses between 2 and 10 years
after separating (Fischer, de Graaf, & Kalmijn,
2005), and between 40% and 67% report com-
munication with an ex-partner after a nonmari-
tal relationship dissolution (Kellas, Bean, Cun-
ningham, & Cheng, 2008; Schneider & Kenny,
2000). Similarly, other researchers have found
that approximately 50% of individuals said
they were still friends, close friends, or best
friends with a former romantic partner (Shee-
han & Dillman, 1998), and 14% of males and
13% of females reported that their closest cur-
rent friendship was with a previous romantic
partner (Kaplan & Keys, 1997). In the con-
text of understanding the complex interconnec-
tions between former and current partners, we
believe that an especially relevant determinant
is the motivation for the communication.
Motives for communication with former
Previous research has examined factors
that increase the likelihood of postdissolu-
tion friendships. Among these factors are
friendship prior to the former relationship
(Metts, Cupach, & Bejlovec, 1989), a mutu-
ally initiated breakup (Hill, Rubin, & Peplau,
1976), a continuing mutual attraction to
one another (Banks, Altendorf, Greene, &
Cody, 1987), a satisfying former romantic
relationship (Bullock, Hackathorn, Clark, &
Mattingly, 2011), and support from family and
friends (Busboom, Collins, Givertz, & Levin,
2002). As can be seen, factors inuencing
whether postdissolution friendships emerge
are as widely varied as factors inuencing
relationship dissolution itself, and we expect
to nd different motives for maintaining the
relationship to be differentially predictive of
current relationship outcomes. These differ-
ences may be due to the intricate dynamic
between characteristics of the individuals
themselves, their former relationship, and their
current relationship. Becker (1988) proposed
a typology of postdissolution relationships,
ranging from “ctitious friendships,” in which
former partners pay lip service to their friend-
ship but rarely communicate with each other,
to “family” relationships, in which former
partners have invested in their relationship and
view each other as important parts of their
lives. Thus, in some cases, partners no longer
desire to be together romantically but have
developed a platonic relationship. For such
people, communication may occur simply
because they are friends. Another reason for
communication with former partners might be
because they share some common social net-
work (e.g., friends, job, children; Metts et al.,
1989). In this way, former partners communi-
cate to facilitate smooth interactions involving
friends, family, or work. For others, communi-
cation may occur because they are invested in
the person. Those who have invested heavily
in their former partner or relationship are more
inclined to maintain a connection and value
that friendship more strongly than those who
invested little (Busboom et al., 2002). This is
also supported by Rusbult’s investment model
(Rusbult, 1980; Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew,
1998), which suggests that investment is an
important predictor of commitment. Invest-
ment in one’s former relationship may not
be enough to keep the relationship intact, but
greater investment may serve as an impetus
Communication with former partners 3
for continued communication with that former
partner. With regard to how these motives
might be associated with current relationship
quality, although this has yet to be explored,
motives for friendship, social network, or
investment do not seem to be particularly
detrimental to the current relationship and may
be unrelated to current relationship outcomes.
For others, however, communication may
remind the partners of their shared history
and reignite romantic or sexual feelings. In
this case, communication occurs because of
an attraction to the former partner and/or
upon experiencing uncertainty in the current
relationship trajectory. Either of these factors
might lead these individuals to secretly seek
to reignite the romantic relationship should
their current relationship end. Bell (1981)
found that 66% of women were either friends
with or attracted to an ex-partner. Consis-
tent ndings are echoed by Foley and Fraser
(1998) who found that 13% of ex-partners
were sexually involved, and 22% reported
that they wished to include sexual intercourse
as part of their postdating relationship with
their ex-partner. Other work has shown that
individuals experienced greater physiological
reactivity when asked to think of a former
partner who was still desired (Wegner & Gold,
1995). One particularly relevant study found
that longing for a previous partner increased as
current relationship satisfaction declined over
time (Spielmann, Joel, MacDonald, & Kogan,
2013). Thus, communication based on wishing
to reignite a relationship, or even simply to
have a backup in case the current relationship
fails, may be an indicator of dissatisfaction
in the current relationship. It is likely that
communication with a former partner, with an
eye on reinitiation of the relationship (either at
that time or in the future), may be associated
with poorer current relationship functioning.
Current research: Former partner
communication, motives, and implications
for current relationship outcomes
Although previous research has shown that
some individuals communicate with a former
partner, relatively little has examined the
reasons behind such communication, and, to
our knowledge, no research has examined the
implications of such communication for cur-
rent relationship outcomes. Across two studies,
we sought to examine the extent to which indi-
viduals communicate with former partners,
aspects of the former relationship that are
associated with communication, reasons for
such communication, and, nally, implications
of communicating for the current relationship.
Study 1
The objectives of Study 1 were to examine:
(a) prevalence rates of communication among
those currently in relationships, (b) the nature
of these friendships with former romantic part-
ners, and (c) differences in emotions toward the
former and current partner based on commu-
nication status. Communication with former
partners may have implications and outcomes
that extend into the current romantic relation-
ship. Thus, we sought to compare differences
between those who communicate and those
who do not on characteristics of the breakup,
romantic emotions toward the former partner,
and current relationship functioning utilizing
Rusbult’s investment model (i.e., commit-
ment, satisfaction, investment, and perceived
quality of alternative). Based on the lack of
evidence on characteristics of former rela-
tionships among those in new relationships,
specic hypotheses were not derived but rather
considered as empirical research questions.
Specically, our research questions were as
RQ1: Prevalence and frequency of commu-
nication with former partners.
RQ1a: Examine the prevalence of
communication with former partners
among individuals in relationships.
RQ1b: Examine frequency of commu-
nication with former partners.
RQ1c: Examine differences between
those who do communicate and those
who do not based on former and cur-
rent relationship status.
RQ2: Differences between those who com-
municate and those who do not in emotions
toward former partner.
4L. M. Rodriguez et al.
RQ2a: Examine differences in roman-
tic feelings for the former partner
based on communication status.
RQ2b: Examine differences in per-
ceived characteristics of the breakup
based on communication status.
RQ2c: Examine differences in post-
breakup adjustment (emotional dis-
ruption following the breakup and
current adjustment to the breakup)
based on communication status.
RQ3: Differences between those who com-
municate and those who do not in emotions
toward current partner.
RQ3: Examine differences in satisfac-
tion, investment, quality of alterna-
tives, and commitment to their cur-
rent partner based on communication
Participants and procedure
Participants were 260 undergraduate students
at a large Southwestern university who were
currently in a romantic relationship of at least
1 month and who had also been in a former
romantic relationship of at least 3 months.
The 3-month mark is an oft-used benchmark,
and research has found that relationships are
typically committed after 3 months (Ackerman
et al., 2011). The average age of participants
was 22.8 (SD =5.3) years, and most (89%)
were female. The sample was ethnically
diverse, with 35.4% Caucasian, 23.1% Asian
or Pacic Islander, 21.5% Hispanic or Latino,
14.2% African American, and 5.8% who
responded with “Other.” Level of current rela-
tionship involvement also varied in the sample,
with 8.9% casually dating, 47.9% exclusively
dating, 24.7% nearly engaged, 5.8% engaged,
and 12.7% married. Participants had been
in their current relationship an average of
2.98 (SD =4.08) years and had been out of
the relationship with their former partner for
an average of 3.42 (SD =2.97) years. Right
before termination of the former relationship,
23.6% of participants were casually dating,
55.0% were exclusively dating, 15.0% were
nearly engaged, 3.9% were engaged, and 2.3%
were married.
Participants were recruited via yers
placed around the psychology building. Inter-
ested participants logged in to the university
research participation website and completed
the online study on SurveyMonkey at the
time and location of their choice. The survey
included measures of one’s current relation-
ship and emotions around one’s most recent
former romantic partner. If they had multiple
previous partners, participants were asked
to refer to their most recent former partner
whom they dated for at least 3 months. By
referring to the most recent partner, we were
able to focus on one previous relationship and
minimize retrospective bias. Measures assess-
ing current and former relationship factors
were counterbalanced. All study procedures
were approved by the university Institutional
Review Board.
Communication with the former partner. Par-
ticipants were instructed, “We would now like
you to turn your thoughts to your last romantic
relationship that lasted 3+months before
your current relationship.” Communication
with the former partner was assessed with
a single item. Participants were asked, “Do
you communicate with your former partner?”
Options were “yes” and “no.” If participants
indicated that they communicated with their
former partner, time since the breakup and
frequency of communication were measured.
Specically, they were asked, “How much
time elapsed between the breakup and when
you began communicating with your former
partner again?” Response options provided
were: no time,a few days,a few weeks,afew
months,ora year or more. Participants who
communicated were also asked, “How often
do you communicate with your former partner
currently?” Participants responded on a 1–7
scale (1 =never,2=once every few years,
3=once a year,4=once every few months,
5=once a month,6=once a week,7=several
times per week). Furthermore, they were
asked “who initiates the contact,” to which
Communication with former partners 5
they responded on a 1–5 scale (1 =always
me,2=usually me,3=both of us equally,
4=usually him/her,5=always him/her).
Characteristics of the breakup. Participants
were asked how much they perceived that
specic adjectives described the breakup and
who terminated the breakup. Participants were
asked, “To what extent do each of the following
describe how your relationship with this former
partner ended?” Participants rated ve charac-
teristics (i.e., harsh, mean, nasty, heartless, and
understanding) on a 5-point Likert-type scale
(1 =does not describe at all,5=describes
completely). An average of the four negative
characteristics was taken to represent neg-
ative perceptions of the breakup (α=.92).
Participants also indicated who they perceived
terminated the relationship (1 =completely
him/her,2=mostly him/her,3=completely
mutual,4=mostly me,5=completely me).
Romantic emotions toward the former partner.
Romantic feelings for one’s former partner
were measured with the Hot–Cold Flame scale
(HCF; Wegner & Gold, 1995), current close-
ness with the former partner (Inclusion of
Other in the Self scale [IOS]; Aron et al.,
1992), and the Post-Dissolution Adjustment
scale (PDA; Kellas et al., 2008).
The HCF instructed participants to indicate
their agreement with statements about feelings
toward their former partner. The HCF includes
items such as, “I am still in love with him/her,”
“If he/she could come back into my life, I
would immediately leave my other relation-
ship,” and “I have to try at times to not think of
him/her.” Participants rated their agreement on
a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 =strongly dis-
agree,7=strongly agree). An average of the
items was used to create the composite score
(α=.92). This reliability is consistent with
previous research (e.g., Spielmann et al., 2013;
Wegner & Gold, 1995). Closeness to former
partner was assessed using the single-item The
IOS, which consists of seven Venn diagrams
that overlap to varying degrees. Participants
were asked to choose the circle that best
reected their current relationship with their
former partner. The PDA is composed of
six items that form two subscales: current
adjustment and emotional disruption. Items
representing current adjustment to the breakup
asked, “Overall, how upset are you about the
breakup now?” “To what extent do you feel like
you have adjusted to the end of the relation-
ship?” (reverse scored), and “To what extent
do you feel you are ‘over’ the relationship?”
(reverse scored). Higher scores indicated
poorer current adjustment (α=.80). Items
representing the emotional disruption asked,
“How difcult has it been for you to make an
emotional adjustment to this breakup?” “Since
the breakup, how much has your typical every-
day functioning and routine been disrupted?”
and “How upset were you immediately after
the breakup?” Items were scored such that
higher scores indicated higher levels of dis-
tress following the breakup (α=.79). These
reliabilities are higher than those reported in
the original scale (Kellas et al., 2008).
Emotions toward the current partner. The
Investment Model scale (Rusbult et al., 1998)
was used to assess emotions toward the cur-
rent partner. It is composed of four subscales
measuring commitment (7 items; e.g., “I am
committed to maintaining my relationship
with my partner”; α=.91), satisfaction (5
items; e.g., “I feel satised with our relation-
ship”; α=.95), investment (5 items; e.g., “I
feel very involved in our relationship—like
I have to put a great deal into it”; α=.85),
and quality of alternatives (5 items; e.g., “If I
weren’t dating my partner, I would do ne—I
would nd another appealing person to date”;
α=.87). These reliabilities are consistent with
previous research utilizing the Investment
Model (e.g., Le & Agnew, 2003; Rusbult et al.,
1998). Participants responded to each item
on a 9-point scale (0 =do not agree at all to
8=agree completely).
RQ1: Prevalence and frequency of
communication with former partners
Nearly half (n=105; 40.4%) of the partici-
pants indicated that they still communicated
with their most recent former romantic partner
(RQ1a). Of those who kept in touch, most
(93.3%) began communicating with their
6L. M. Rodriguez et al.
Table 1. Study 1: Former partner communication and perceptions of current and prior relation-
ship attributes
Target Variable
Do not
communicate tobs pCohen’s D
Former Hot–cold ame 1.63 (0.86) 2.00 (0.91) 3.38 <.001 0.418
partner Closeness 3.26 (1.89) 4.11 (1.94) 3.55 <.001 0.444
Current adjustment 1.62 (1.11) 2.07 (1.29) 2.96 .003 0.374
Emotional disruption 3.33 (1.63) 3.67 (1.63) 1.65 .099 0.209
Breakup: negative 2.61 (1.34) 2.24 (1.25) 2.19 .029 0.276
Breakup: understanding 2.53 (1.34) 2.88 (1.33) 2.11 .036 0.262
Current Commitment 6.72 (1.75) 6.24 (1.74) 2.19 .030 0.275
partner Satisfaction 6.49 (1.83) 6.29 (1.79) 0.87 .385 0.110
Investment 5.42 (1.93) 5.16 (1.95) 1.05 .294 0.134
Quality of alternatives 2.77 (2.12) 3.11 (2.02) 1.31 .193 0.164
Note. Higher current adjustment scores indicated poorer current adjustment to the breakup with the former partner.
former partner within a few months after
the breakup. Additionally, most participants
(90.4%) indicated that they communicated
with their former partner at least once every
couple of months, with 13.3% communicat-
ing several times per week (RQ1b). We also
evaluated whether individuals who commu-
nicated with former partners differed from
those who did not in their current relationship
status and in their relationship status with their
former partner prior to the breakup (RQ1c).
Results revealed signicant differences in cur-
rent relationship status and communication,
χ2(4) =10.53, p=.033, such that signicant
differences emerged among those who were
almost engaged to their current partner (67.2%
did not communicate and 32.8% did) and
those who were currently married (78.8%
did not communicate and 21.2% did). There
was no association between communication
and former relationship status, χ2(4) =6.839,
RQ2: Differences between those who
communicate and those who do not
in emotions toward former partner
A series of independent samples ttests were
conducted to examine differences in partici-
pants’ feelings about their former partner as
a function of communication status. Means,
standard deviations, and t-test results are
provided in Table 1. Results revealed that
relative to those who did not communicate,
individuals who communicated with their
former partners reported feeling closer to their
former partner (p<.001) as well as a “hotter
ame” (i.e., more romantic feelings) for their
former partner (p<.001; RQ2a). When asked
to characterize the termination of the prior
relationship, participants who still communi-
cated with a former partner reported that the
breakup was signicantly more understanding
(p=.036) and less negative (p=.029; RQ2b).
With regard to the PDA, individuals who
communicated exhibited signicantly poorer
current adjustment to the breakup (p=.003)
and marginally higher emotional disruption
following the breakup (p=.099; RQ2c).
RQ3: Differences between those who
communicate and those who do not
in emotions toward current partner
We also evaluated differences in participants’
feelings about their current romantic partner
as a function of communication status. Results
from analyses are also provided in Table 1.
Relative to those who did not communicate,
individuals who communicated with former
partners reported lower levels of commitment
to their current partner (p=.030). Participants
did not signicantly differ in satisfaction,
investment, or quality of alternatives based on
communication status (RQ3).
Communication with former partners 7
Study 1 results showed that many individuals
(40%) continue to communicate with former
partners after the dissolution of the relation-
ship and upon entering into a new relationship.
Prevalence rates in our sample were similar
to those in other studies, many of which did
not require participants to be in a current
relationship. Moreover, in general, commu-
nication occurred relatively infrequently (i.e.,
at least once every couple of months), but a
proportion of people reported communicating
very frequently (i.e., several times per week).
Individuals in more committed types of cur-
rent relationships (i.e., almost engaged and
married) were less likely to communicate with
a former partner. Results showed a consis-
tent pattern with regard to romantic feelings
toward the former partner: Those who still
communicated with former partners reported
higher levels of romantic feelings for their
former partner and experienced poorer adjust-
ment to the breakup. However, those who still
communicated also perceived the breakup
more positively (i.e., more understanding,
less negative). Importantly, these individuals
reported lower commitment to their current
partner. Our ndings are consistent with
recent research reporting that individuals
who continue to communicate with partners
postbreakup continue to have romantic feel-
ings for their ex-partner longer and experience
greater sadness than those who terminate
contact (Lee & Sbarra, 2013).
This pattern of results suggests system-
atic differences among those who choose
to communicate with former partners and
those who do not. It is possible that these
differences may be related to why people
choose to maintain postdissolution friend-
ships. Additionally, given that communication
does occur between former partners, a natural
next step is to examine the implications of
communication—and related motivesfor
one’s current relationship. It is possible that
under certain circumstances or for certain indi-
viduals, communicating with former partners
may be associated with worse current relation-
ship outcomes. The objective of Study 2 was
to understand how frequency of, and motives
for, communication with former partners is
associated with current relationship commit-
ment, satisfaction, investment, and perceived
quality of alternatives.
Study 2
The frequency of and motives for communi-
cation with former partners when one is in a
new romantic relationship has not been exam-
ined and deserves special attention. It may
be that more frequent communication may be
more detrimental to the new relationship than
communication that is rather infrequent. More-
over, there may be many reasons for com-
municating with a former partner, including
desire for a friendship, sharing and/or divid-
ing property or custody of children, or cir-
cumstantial communication at work, school,
and among members of a mutual social net-
work (Kellas et al., 2008). We believe the rea-
sons underlying communication with former
romantic partners may be more important than
the mere presence or absence of communi-
cation. For example, communicating with the
desire to reignite a romantic or sexual rela-
tionship may have vastly different implications
for the current relationship than communicat-
ing as a function of a shared social network.
Thus, Study 2 examined reasons for commu-
nicating with their former romantic partner(s)
and implications of those reasons for current
relationship outcomes.
Study 2 research questions were as follows:
RQ1: Identify motives for communication.
RQ1: Identify different motives for
communication with former romantic
partners among those in current rela-
RQ2: Examine associations between fre-
quency of communication and current rela-
tionship outcomes.
H2: Based on results from Study 1, we
hypothesized that frequency of com-
munication will be negatively associ-
ated with current relationship com-
mitment, satisfaction, and investment
and positively associated with per-
ceived quality of alternatives.
8L. M. Rodriguez et al.
RQ3: Examine associations between
motives for communication and current
relationship outcomes.
H3: We hypothesized that commu-
nicating for investment or social
network motives will either be
positively associated with current
relationship outcomes or will show
no association at all, but commu-
nicating with a desire to become
romantically involved with the former
partner in the future will be negatively
associated with current relationship
Participants and procedure
Participants included 169 undergraduates at a
large Southwestern university who completed
a web-based survey at a time and location of
their choice in exchange for course credit. In
order to participate, individuals must have been
in a current committed relationship for at least
1 month. Individuals must also have had a com-
mitted former relationship of at least 3 months
and still communicate with that former part-
ner at least once every few months. If they had
multiple previous partners, participants were
asked to refer to their most recent former part-
ner whom they dated for at least 3 months.
The average age of participants was 21.9
(SD =4.8) years, and most (81.0%) were
female. The sample was ethnically diverse,
with 28.6% Asian or Pacic Islander, 22.6%
Hispanic/Latino, 21.4% Caucasian, 19.6%
African American, and 7.7% Other. Level of
relationship involvement also varied in the
sample, with 18.3% casually dating, 56.8%
exclusively dating, 14.8% nearly engaged,
4.1% engaged, and 5.9% married. Participants
had been in their current relationship an aver-
age of 2.4 (SD =4.0) years and had been out
of the relationship with their former partner
for an average of 2.8 (SD =2.5) years.
Motives for communicating with one’s former
partner. Two independent informal groups
composed of undergraduate research assistants
(ns=6 and 8) were utilized to generate motives
for communication with former partners. As
a group, research assistants were asked to
discuss and derive different reasons for why
individuals might communicate with former
partners. Twenty-ve motives were identied
during the discussions. Study participants then
indicated the extent to which they agreed with
each of the reasons for communication with the
former partner using a Likert-type scale (1 =do
not agree at all,5=completely agree).
Communication frequency. Participants were
asked, “How often do you communicate with
your former partner?” Participants responded
with one of the following options on a 1– 4
scale (1 =once every few months,2=once a
month,3=once a week,4=several times per
week). The frequency variable was transformed
to be interpreted as an actual frequency by
rescoring it to represent the number of times
communication had occurred in the past year
(once every few months =6 times per year,
once a month =12 times per year,once a
week =52 times per year,several times per
week =156 times per year).
Current relationship outcomes. Current rela-
tionship outcomes were assessed with the
same subscales of the Investment Model scale
(Rusbult et al., 1998) used in Study 1. Reli-
abilities were satisfactory (αcommitment =.92;
αsatisfaction =.95; αinvestment =.91; αalternatives =
Results and discussion
RQ1: Motives for communicating
with one’s former partner: Factor analysis
To identify the number of constructs and the
underlying factor structure of why people com-
municate with former partners, exploratory
factor analysis (EFA) using MPlus version
7 with maximum likelihood estimation was
performed on the 25 original items assessing
motives for communicating with one’s former
partner. Additionally, because it could not be
assumed that factors would be uncorrelated,
promax rotation (an oblique rotation method)
was used. We rst examined the scree plot
Communication with former partners 9
Table 2. Study 2: Motives for communicating with former partner and factor loadings
Item M(SD)
Factor 1
Factor 2
Factor 3
(Social network)
Factor 4
I really enjoy our friendship. 3.487 (1.228) 0.820
We are still friends. 3.610 (1.181) 0.787
He/she is a great person; we just
had bad timing.
3.302 (1.416) 0.804
I value our friendship. 3.585 (1.338) 0.922
We have a strong bond. 3.200 (1.391) 0.912
We understand each other. 3.361 (1.333) 0.897
He/she makes me feel good. 2.943 (1.422) 0.871
I am not sure how my current
relationship will work out.
1.938 (1.187) 0.786
I want a backup for my current
1.523 (0.916) 0.750
I depend on him/her. 1.990 (1.193) 0.705
I can’t let him or her go. 2.206 (1.342) 0.780
We have similar social networks. 2.682 (1.418) 0.953
We have similar networks of
2.867 (1.490) 0.867
We invested a lot in our
2.862 (1.487) 0.890
I invested a lot in our relationship. 3.082 (1.490) 0.937
We went through a lot together. 3.497 (1.405) 0.790
of the eigenvalues, which suggested four fac-
tors. We then performed a parallel analysis,
which conrmed the retention of four factors
(Hayton, Allen, & Scarpello, 2004). Two cri-
teria were used for determining item loadings:
(a) factor loadings were examined against an
a priori established cut score of .70, and (b)
in order to exclude potentially cross-loading
items, factor loadings had to be .3 higher on
the retained factor than on any other factor.
Sixteen items belonged to factors that
shared conceptual meaning (see Table 2).
The four factors reected (a) communicating
for friendship reasons (eigenvalue =11.117,
factor determinacy =0.983), (b) commu-
nicating to keep the former partner as a
“backup” in case the current relationship did
not work (eigenvalue =3.520, factor deter-
minacy =0.966), (c) communicating due to
a shared social network (eigenvalue =1.585,
factor determinacy =0.966), and (d) com-
municating due to investment in the former
relationship (eigenvalue =1.567, factor deter-
minacy =0.972). Each of the four motives for
communicating displayed adequate reliability
(αfriendship =.92; αbackup =.73, αnetwork =.87,
and αinvestment =.89).
RQ2: Associations between frequency
of communication and current relationship
Descriptive statistics. Table 3 presents
zero-order correlations among frequency of
communication; motives for communicating
with one’s former partner; current relationship
satisfaction, commitment, investment, and
alternatives; current relationship length; and
time since the former relationship ended as
well as means and standard deviations for
all variables. Results showed that commu-
nication frequency was positively associated
with communicating for friendship motives
and negatively associated with relationship
Multiple regression analyses. Prior to evalu-
ating the inuence of motives, we were inter-
ested in how frequency of communication was
associated with current relationship outcomes.
Frequency of communication was included
10 L. M. Rodriguez et al.
Table 3. Study 2: Correlations and descriptive statistics
1. Frequency of
2. Friendship motive 0.258*** —
3. Backup motive 0.091 0.305*** —
4. Network motive 0.031 0.267*** 0.166* —
5. Investment motive 0.045 0.493*** 0.437*** 0.167* —
6. Commitment 0.129†−0.095 0.354*** 0.070 0.199** —
7. Satisfaction 0.166* 0.117 0.374*** 0.079 0.186* 0.721*** —
8. Investment 0.049 0.135†−0.1290.108 0.042 0.535*** 0.402*** —
9. Alternatives 0.080 0.235** 0.244** 0.033 0.282*** 0.497*** 0.417*** 0.282*** —
10. Relationship length 0.044 0.087 0.009 0.034 0.053 0.074 0.156* 0.150†−0.027 —
11. Time since breakup 0.163†−0.029 0.073 0.060 0.080 0.097 0.011 0.149†−0.117 0.284*** —
M37.183 3.562 1.979 2.876 3.272 5.692 5.599 4.473 3.607 29.266 33.049
SD 49.546 1.015 0.882 1.368 1.275 1.900 1.898 2.173 1.999 47.502 30.197
Note. Relationship length and time since breakup are in months.
p<.10. *p<.05. **p<.01. ***p<.001.
Communication with former partners 11
Table 4. Study 2: Former partner communication motives predicting current relationship
Outcome Step Predictor bSE(b)βtp
Satisfaction 1 Intercept 6.036 .202 — 29.94 <.001
Relationship length 0.007 .003 .163 2.16 .032
Communication frequency 0.007 .003 .173 2.29 .023
2 Friendship motive 0.004 .161 .003 0.03 .979
Backup motive 0.777 .167 .361 4.59 <.001
Investment motive 0.087 .128 .058 0.68 .500
Social network motive 0.219 .101 .158 2.16 .032
Commitment 1 Intercept 5.975 .205 — 29.14 <.001
Relationship length 0.003 .003 .080 1.04 .298
Communication frequency 0.005 .003 .133 1.73 .085
2 Friendship motive 0.074 .165 .040 0.45 .655
Backup motive 0.725 .174 .337 4.17 <.001
Investment motive 0.139 .132 .094 1.06 .292
Social network motive 0.191 .104 .137 1.83 .069
Investment 1 Intercept 4.345 .234 — 18.54 <.001
Relationship length 0.007 .004 .148 1.93 .056
Communication frequency 0.002 .003 .043 0.56 .579
2 Friendship motive 0.347 .199 .162 1.74 .083
Backup motive 0.349 .210 .142 1.67 .097
Investment motive 0.137 .159 .080 0.86 .390
Social network motive 0.250 .125 .157 1.99 .048
Quality of
1 Intercept 3.518 .218 — 16.17 <.001
Relationship length 0.001 .003 .024 0.31 .760
Communication frequency 0.003 .003 .079 1.02 .310
2 Friendship motive 0.221 .180 .112 1.23 .220
Backup motive 0.318 .189 .141 1.68 .094
Investment motive 0.270 .143 .172 1.88 .062
Social network motive 0.073 .113 .050 0.64 .522
in a multiple regression equation predicting
current relationship satisfaction, commitment,
investment, and quality of alternatives. Current
relationship length was included as a covariate.
Results are presented in Table 4 as the rst step
in the hierarchical regression model (second
step results are presented below). Results
revealed that communication frequency was
negatively associated with current relation-
ship satisfaction and marginally negatively
associated with relationship commitment.
Communication frequency was not associated
with investment or quality of alternatives.
RQ3: Associations between communication
motives and current relationship outcomes
Correlations. As can be seen in Table 3, com-
munication for backup and investment motives
were signicantly and negatively associated
with relationship satisfaction and commit-
ment, and positively associated with quality
of alternatives. Communication for friendship
motives was also positively associated with
quality of alternatives. Communication for
social network reasons was not associated
with any relationship outcome.
Multiple regression analyses. Next, we eval-
uated how motives were associated with
current relationship outcomes beyond com-
munication frequency and current relationship
duration. These results are presented as
12 L. M. Rodriguez et al.
Step 2 in the hierarchical regression results
in Table 4. The most consistent pattern of
results held for backup and social network
motives— as expected—in opposite direc-
tions. Backup motives were signicantly
negatively associated with relationship sat-
isfaction and commitment. Backup motives
were also marginally negatively associated
with investment and positively associated with
perceived quality of alternatives. Conversely,
social network motives were signicantly pos-
itively associated with relationship satisfaction
and investment and marginally positively
associated with commitment. Friendship
motives were marginally negatively associ-
ated with investment, and investment motives
were marginally positively associated with
perceived quality of alternatives.1
General Discussion
Scholars are in agreement that understanding
inuential factors of the postbreakup relation-
ship is essential to relationship research (e.g.,
Graham, 1997; Kellas et al., 2008; Lannutti &
Cameron, 2002; Masheter, 1991, 1997; Metts
et al., 1989). The literature examining friend-
ships with former partners is limited at best,
and the current research provides an insightful
glimpse into this rather unexplored area. The
current research is among the rst to exam-
ine the prevalence and implications of com-
munication with former partners for individ-
uals who are in new romantic relationships.
We found that communication with former
partners is common among young adults in
new relationships, that this communication has
implications for both the current relationship
and the relationship with the former partner,
and that different motives for communication
are differentially predictive of current relation-
ship outcomes. Study 1 provided preliminary
results showing that people in new relation-
ships do indeed communicate with former part-
ners and that those who communicate differ
from those who do not in emotions toward both
1. As a supplemental analysis, we also examined interac-
tions between frequency of and motives for commu-
nication with former partners on current relationship
outcomes. No signicant interactions emerged.
the current and former partner. Specically,
those who communicated reported lower levels
of commitment to their current partner, poorer
adjustment to the breakup, and higher levels of
romantic emotions toward their former partner.
Findings from Study 2 revealed that for-
mer partner communication frequency was
negatively associated with current relationship
satisfaction and (marginally) commitment.
Results also revealed that people communicate
with former partners for different reasons
and with varying implications. The results
particularly indicated that communication
for backup motives were consistently delete-
riously associated with current relationship
outcomes (i.e., lower satisfaction and com-
mitment, marginally lower investment, and
marginally higher quality of alternatives).
Communicating for social network reasons,
conversely, was largely positively associated
with current relationship functioning (i.e.,
higher satisfaction, marginally higher com-
mitment and investment), whereas friendship
and investment motives were largely unrelated
to current relationship functioning. In sum,
these two studies suggest a relatively common
phenomenon with real implications for those
in relationships.
The nding that communication for backup
reasons is detrimental to current welfare can
be viewed in light of the investment model
of commitment processes in relationships.
According to this model, relationship commit-
ment (and persistence) varies as a function of
satisfaction with and investment in the relation-
ship as well as the perception of high-quality
alternatives to the relationship. If individuals
perceive that they are heavily invested in the
relationship and that there are few desirable
alternatives to the relationship, they are likely
to be more committed and satised. However,
when other desirable alternatives to the current
relationship are available, commitment may
decrease, particularly given romantic (i.e.,
backup) motivations with the former romantic
partner. Unless clearly communicated other-
wise, communicating with a previous partner
may indicate to new partners that individuals
still perceive the former partner as a potential
alternative. This may be problematic given that
many resume communication relatively soon
Communication with former partners 13
after the end of the former relationship. That
is, if individuals enter into a new relationship
already seeking other partners (via backup
motives), they may be less likely to invest
effort into the new relationship, which then
predicts lower satisfaction and commitment.
Moreover, communication with a former
partner may serve the function of maintain-
ing parts of the identity that may be lost with
relationship dissolution (Lewandowski & Sah-
ner, 2005). Maintaining social networks and a
friendship with a former partner may be partic-
ularly adaptive if both partners share a network
of friends or colleagues; in such situations,
the loss of a romantic relationship may mean
the loss of other friendships as well. Thus,
maintaining platonic friendships with former
partners may allow for continuation of a val-
ued friendship without the obstacles that were
encountered in the romantic relationship. How-
ever, some individuals may continue to feel
drawn to the partner or seek sexual or roman-
tic contact despite distressing aspects of the
former relationship (Mason, Sbarra, Bryan, &
Lee, 2012). For these individuals who remain
attached, although communication may offer
temporary relief by providing a degree of felt
security, it may also encourage psychologi-
cal pain or rumination regarding the relation-
ship loss, which, in turn, may prolong dis-
tress. Further, comparisons— and subsequent
dissonance—likely emerge as a function of
maintaining romantic connections with two
individuals. All of these factors undermine cur-
rent relationship satisfaction and commitment.
Thus, in these cases, communication with for-
mer partners can negatively impact the individ-
ual’s own well-being as well as the welfare of
the current relationship (Lee & Sbarra, 2013).
Implications, limitations, and future directions
There are several implications of these nd-
ings, many of which elicit questions for future
research. This research generally shows that
communicating with one’s former partner can
have extensive implications for well-being in
the current relationship. However, whether
communication is hurtful depends on the
underlying motives. Given that we found
that individuals communicate for different
reasons, future research would benet from
further examining whether individual differ-
ences (e.g., attachment insecurity, neuroticism,
impulsivity, approach/avoidance, motivational
orientations) predict a propensity to com-
municate for certain reasons. For example,
attachment anxiety has been associated with
greater dysfunctional coping following a
breakup, greater preoccupation with a former
partner, increased feelings of being cheated by
end of the relationship, idealization of a former
partner, and more frequent postdissolution
communication (Davis, Shaver, & Vernon,
2003; Mikulincer, Shaver, & Pereg, 2003;
Pistole, 1995; Sbarra & Emery, 2005), which
suggests dramatic differences in how individu-
als handle transitions from one relationship to
the next as a function of individual differences.
Coupled with our results, it appears that these
differences carry over into affecting the health
of the new relationship. Future research may
wish to explore whether specic motives for
communication (e.g., backup) might elicit an
on-again/off-again relationship (Lee & Sbarra,
2013). These relationships tend to be charac-
terized by more uncertainty and lower levels
of positivity, love, and satisfaction compared
to stable relationships (Dailey, Middleton, &
Green, 2012; Dailey, Pester, Jin, Beck, &
Clark, 2009). Considering how deleterious
these tumultuous relationships can be, future
research may also wish to examine factors that
lead to the eventual dismissal of these rela-
tionships in favor of stable ones (i.e., factors
involved in emotional distancing).
This work should also be considered in
light of its limitations. First, these studies
only included perceptions about the current
and former relationships from the individ-
ual’s perspective. Future studies may wish
to collect data from both partners (or even
both current partners and the former partner)
to determine exactly when and for whom
communication with former partners is bene-
cial (vs. detrimental) for each person in the
current relationship. Utilizing data from the
individual and former partner would allow for
tests of concordance in motives and whether
this concordance might predict either person’s
current relationship outcomes. For example, if
both partners are communicating for backup
14 L. M. Rodriguez et al.
reasons, perhaps the former partners will be
more likely to leave their current relationships
and begin another attempt. These questions
cannot be answered without procuring data
from both individuals. Second, this research
was aimed primarily at the dating population
in order to establish a paradigm that focused
not on marriage and divorce but on dating
and breakups. Although there are consider-
able similarities between both populations,
the underlying motivations and cognitive
processes may be systematically different.
Research investigating the similarities and dif-
ferences would strengthen our understanding
of how they relate to and what factors regulate
communication with former romantic partners,
both from a dating and a marital perspective.
Similarly, communication with former part-
ners may be different among college students
as compared to communication in the general
population.2More specically, students at resi-
dential campuses—particularly at smaller uni-
versities or colleges— may be more likely to
maintain contact with former partners given
the inevitability of seeing each other on cam-
pus, the likelihood of frequent contact with
a shared friend group, and the prevalence of
social media among this population. Thus,
future research should seek to compare com-
munication with former partners among more
traditional college students with that of the gen-
eral population or with nontraditional students.
The campus at which the current data were
collected consists primarily of commuter stu-
dents, the majority of which would be deemed
nontraditional (i.e., older, full-time employees,
do not live on campus). Thus, whether stu-
dents at traditional campuses are more likely
to communicate with former partners is still
an open question. Moreover, the conditions
surrounding dating relationships during col-
lege are quite different from the conditions in
which people enact their dating relationships
after college but prior to marriage. Research
should seek to examine communication with
former partners from the viewpoint of emerg-
ing adulthood, in which many issues con-
cerning identity and interpersonal relationships
2. We thank a reviewer for bringing this issue to mind.
arise (Arnett, 2014). Additionally, our samples
were primarily composed of females. Finally,
the current manuscript presented a preliminary
investigation into the factor structure underly-
ing motives for communication. However, a
full psychometric evaluation of such a measure
is warranted.
The current research is among the rst to exam-
ine motivations underlying communication
with former partners and implications of com-
munication for one’s current relationship. This
work highlights the complexity of postdissolu-
tion communication by discerning associations
between characteristics of individuals, former
relationships, and current relationships and
communication with one’s former partner as
well as implications of that communication for
the current relationship. We hope that this may
serve as a basis from which future research can
continue examining this interesting topic that
has considerable implications for relationships
from the past, present, and future.
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... Many people (40-67 percent) report maintaining communication with their ex-partner. 2,10,11 Notably, a main motivation for doing so is unresolved romantic desires. 12,13 As mentioned, two defining features of back burners are romantic/sexual attraction and communication. ...
... those who did not) reported more romantic feelings for their ex and, if they had entered a new committed relationship, reported lower commitment to their current partner. 11 These patterns indicate that prior romantic/sexual contact creates a platform for desiring and expecting future romance/sex with an ex-partner, and communicating with an ex coincides with attraction to the ex. However, communicating with an ex-partner may be deleterious to a current relationship as even in the absence of sex, the interaction may be perceived as a betrayal of the current romantic partner, consequently generating negative feelings on behalf of the admirer. ...
Back burners are people with whom one communicates to potentially establish a future romantic or sexual relationship, and these relationships are common among college students. Using a sample of noncollege adults currently in committed relationships (N = 246) obtained via Amazon's MTurk, this study examines how a prior relationship role with a desired back burner (i.e., whether a back burner was an ex-partner or not) affects digital communication and sexual activity with back burners, and participants' negative affect. Sequential mediation analysis revealed that when the most-desired back burner was also an ex-partner (vs. not), participants digitally communicated more, increased communication was positively related to sexual activity with that back burner, and sexual activity was associated with negative affect in the participant. Even in the absence of sexual activity, both increased digital communication and simply having an ex-partner as one's most-desired back burner were associated with negative affect. Limitations and implications for staying in touch with ex-partners are discussed.
... Redefining their relationship may lead to different trajectories -either becoming friends or ceasing to talk altogether (Metts, Cupach, & Bejlovec, 1989). People who tend to stay in contact with former partners while initiating new relationships have reported being less committed to their new partners and having stronger emotional ties to the former partners (Rodriquez, Øverup, Wickham, Knee, & Amspoker, 2016). When keeping possessions, people may not be able to easily untangle due to mutually overlapping networks, or the desire to directly or indirectly convey to their network that they are still on friendly terms with the former romantic partner. ...
... In fact, people who keep in contact with their former partner have a harder time adjusting to the experience (see Merolla, Weber, Myers, & Booth-Butterfield, 2004). By reducing contact, through deleting strategies, people might be able to better engage in relationship dissociation (Rodriquez et al., 2016). Individuals try to rebuild and recast a new persona by altering or rewriting aspects of the previous relationship that display their negative characteristics or relationship attributes (Dragon & Duck, 2005). ...
As relational partners document their romantic relationships in mediated contexts, they must manage virtual relational possessions to determine what should be kept or deleted, particularly following a breakup. Using the Relational Dissolution Model, this study examines keeping and deleting behaviors through the lens of a newly proposed process – relational curation. Collegiate participants (N = 234) who had experienced a breakup were recruited to complete an online survey. Findings showed that when individuals based their possession decisions on their relationship with their former partner, they were more likely to keep possessions; whereas, when individuals based their possession decisions on their relationship with a potential future partner, they were more likely to delete possessions. By further clarifying the role of former and future relationships in keeping and deleting decisions, the results further delineate the dissolution processes of grave-dressing, relational curation, and resurrection.
... This includes, but is not limited to, stalking ex-partners or sexually coercing acquaintances. It is also common for college students' relationship status to fluctuate in terms of length or commitment, or to continue contact with a former partner (Brisini & Solomon, 2019;Dardis & Gidycz, 2017;Katz & Rich, 2015;Kaukinen et al., 2012;Miller, 2011;Rodriguez et al., 2016). ...
Intimate partner violence (IPV), which includes emotional, physical, and sexual violence in casual/dating and committed relationships, occurs at disproportionately high rates among college students. Prevention in college-age years is developmentally crucial, as college is associated with IPV risk. Relationship skills training has shown preliminary efficacy in decreasing IPV among college students. This article presents data from a controlled trial of Skills for Healthy Adult Relationships ( SHARe), a weekly eight-session (12-hr) group program for college students, which aims to prevent interpersonal conflict and IPV through enhancing positive communication, reducing negative communication, promoting positive relationship attitudes, and strengthening ability to self-regulate in interpersonal contexts. Sixty-two college students (54.8% female) were allocated to the SHARe group or a wait-list control by randomizing to condition and then reassigning some individuals to control based on schedule availability to attend groups. Participants completed self-report measures of positive and negative communication, interpersonal confidence, and perpetration of physical, emotional, psychological, injurious, and sexual violence at baseline, post-group, and at a 3-month follow-up. At baseline, participants reported low levels of recent severe IPV perpetration, but controls reported higher levels of emotional abuse. Analyses controlled for baseline IPV. SHARe participants reported significantly higher confidence in their ability to manage conflicts at post-intervention and significantly lower psychological aggression at the follow-up compared with wait-listed controls. At the 3-month follow-up, self-reported perpetration of psychological abuse was 1.5 times higher for wait-list controls versus SHARe participants. The findings indicate that SHARe can help college students improve their interpersonal skills and develop healthy, non-abusive relationships.
Building on the extant research, the current work outlines a comprehensive model of post-dissolution distress (CMPDD). The model integrates the previous research and includes both distal (static; e.g., controllability of breakup, relational anxiety) and proximal (dynamic; e.g., desiring reconciliation, coping, quality of alternatives) factors in predicting both initial distress and change in distress over time. Potential mediating mechanisms are also proposed. We conclude with a discussion of several ways the model could be potentially refined with empirical research to generate a more specific and parsimonious theory of PDD. Ultimately, testing and refining the model will provide insights on identifying those who will be more distressed following a breakup and highlight the factors that could be altered (e.g., contact with the partners, coping strategies) to best alleviate distress.
Why do people fall in love? Does passion fade with time? What makes for a happy, healthy relationship? This introduction to relationship science follows the lifecycle of a relationship – from attraction and initiation, to the hard work of relationship maintenance, to dissolution and ways to strengthen a relationship. Designed for advanced undergraduates studying psychology, communication or family studies, this textbook presents a fresh, diversity-infused approach to relationship science. It includes real-world examples and critical-thinking questions, callout boxes that challenge students to make connections, and researcher interviews that showcase the many career paths of relationship scientists. Article Spotlights reveal cutting-edge methods, while Diversity and Inclusion boxes celebrate the variety found in human love and connection. Throughout the book, students see the application of theory and come to recognize universal themes in relationships as well as the nuances of many findings. Instructors can access lecture slides, an instructor manual, and test banks.
As an important dimension of romantic relationships, sexual activity has received little attention in research on on‐again/off‐again (on–off) relationships. Study 1 assessed the prevalence and perceptions of sexual experiences in on–off relationships as compared to non‐cyclical relationships (those without a history of breakups and renewals); furthermore, current and post‐dissolution (PD) relationships were assessed. Findings showed that on–off partners were four times more likely to engage in sex after breakups than non‐cyclical partners (55 vs. 13%). Results also suggested that on–off partners' perceptions of PD sexual experiences were more satisfying, more compatible, and less stressful than were non‐cyclical partners'. Using longitudinal data, Study 2 showed that PD sex was linked with reconciling the relationship. Conclusions from these findings and future directions are discussed.
Cambridge Core - Social Psychology - On-Again, Off-Again Relationships - by René M. Dailey
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between attachment needs toward an ex-partner and transition of stage of relationship dissolution. People who experienced relationship dissolution within the previous year that was initiated by their ex-partner were eligible for this study. Based on the results of the latent rank theory, the participants were divided into three ranks. Results of the multiple logit model suggested that the selective probability of rank 3 to rank 2 was associated among attachment needs toward ex-partner, attachment anxiety, remorsefully attitude of ex-partner, and selective probability of rank 2 to rank 1 was associated with attachment needs toward the ex-partner and a sincere attitude of the ex-partner. These results showed that attachment needs toward an ex-partner is an important factor for the transition to stage of romantic dissolution similar to attachment style.
Individuals high in attachment anxiety often experience persistent negative self-perceptions and heightened sensitivity toward perceived relationship threats. These characteristics may extend into past romantic relationships. This study examined whether individual differences in attachment style predict self-evaluations and relationship social comparison frequency. Two hundred and fifty-nine individuals rated themselves, their partner, and their current partner's ex-partner (CPE) or their ex-partner's current partner (ECP) on several dimensions. Individuals high in attachment anxiety experienced more relationship uncertainty but were not less satisfied than individuals low in attachment anxiety. They also made more comparisons in general and to relationships involving an ex-partner, and viewed themselves less positively than they viewed their CPE/ECP. Findings are discussed with respect to the influence that past relationships might hold over anxiously attached individuals’ current relationships.
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Cognitive and electrodermal effects of suppressing thoughts of an old flame were examined in 2 experiments. Participants were asked to think aloud about an old flame-a past close relationship that either was or was not still desired-as their skin conductance level (SCL) was measured. Participants continued to think aloud as they were instructed either not to think about their old flame or to perform a comparison task. Participants were then asked to think about the old flame again. Participants who had suppressed thoughts of a no-longer-desired relationship were inclined to think aloud more about it afterward whereas those who suppressed thoughts of a still-desired relationship did not show such a rebound but evidenced increased SCL.
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The present study sought to determine whether past relationships have a significant influence on the self, and thereby influence subsequent partner choice. Specifically, it was hypothesized that inclusion of a former partner in the self would be positively correlated to desired similarity between the former and next likely partner in terms of physical characteristics, personality traits, and hobbies/interests. Participants were 27 males and 98 females who were not currently in dating relationships and had broken up with the former partner with the last 6 months. Findings supported the hypothesis, and found that that inclusion of the former partner in the self was significantly associated with desired similarity between former partner and next likely partner in terms of physical characteristics, personality traits, and hobbies/ interests. Further, this association was still evident after controlling for variables such as time since break-up, length of former relationship, current frequency of interaction, and gender. These findings support the idea that former relationships may influence subsequent relationships due to the impact of former relationships on the self.
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Although marital separation is an inherently social experience, most research on adults' psychological adjustment following a romantic separation focuses on intrapersonal characteristics, or individual differences (e.g., attachment style, personality, longing) that condition risk for poor psychological outcomes. We know little about how these individual differences interact with interpersonal processes, such as contact between ex-partners. In the current study, we sought to understand how adults' continued attachment to (and longing for) an ex-partner, and both nonsexual and sexual contact with an ex-partner (CWE and SWE, respectively), are related to adults' post-separation psychological adjustment among 137 (n = 50 men) adults reporting recent marital separations. Data revealed that (1) less separation acceptance was associated with poorer psychological adjustment; (2) among people having CWE, those reporting less acceptance reported significantly poorer adjustment relative to those reporting more acceptance; (3) among people reporting more acceptance, those having CWE reported significantly better adjustment relative to those not having CWE; (4) among people not having SWE, those reporting less acceptance reported significantly poorer adjustment relative to those reporting more acceptance; and (5) among people reporting less acceptance, those having SWE reported significantly better adjustment relative to those not having SWE. We discuss the findings in terms of adult attachment, pair-bonding, and the loss of coregulatory processes following marital separation.
This study presents descriptive and explanatory analyses of contact between former spouses, using data on 1,791 previously married men and women in the Netherlands. The authors employ a typology of relationships between former spouses, differentiating between friendly contact, antagonistic contact, and no contact. Ten years after divorce, still almost half of the respondents report contact with their former spouse. Especially the number of former couples with antagonistic contact decreases strongly over time. In multivariate models. we examine six hypotheses concerning (a) duration, (b) prior attachments, (c) prior conflicts, (d) life-course events after divorce, (e) liberal family values, and (f) personality. Important predictors of postdivorce contact are duration since divorce, prior economic ties, the presence of joint children, marital duration, marital conflicts, a new relationship, and liberal values. Couples with joint children have both more friendly contact and more antagonistic contact than other couples. This difference is largest for antagonistic contact.
Using two indicators of postdivorce attachment, preoccupation and hostility, this article distinguishes between divorced survey respondents' (n = 232) healthy and unhealthy friendship and between healthy and unhealthy hostility toward the ex-spouse. The preoccupation indicator ranges from low (low scores) to high (high scores), whereas the hostility indicator ranges from high friendship (low scores) to high hostility (high scores). Respondents with low preoccupation and high friendship have significantly higher emotional well-being (M = 46.0, SD = 7.6) than those with high preoccupation and high friendship (M = 31.6, SD = 11.8). Respondents with low preoccupation and high hostility have significantly higher well-being (M = 47.4, SD = 9.0) than those with high preoccupation and high hostility (M = 38.1, SD = 6.8). Low preoccupation appears to be crucial to healthy postdivorce relationships, whether friendly or hostile. These quantitative findings confirm previously published qualitative findings based on research interviews and clinical cases.
This study examines postdivorce relationships between ex-spouses, using survey data from 265 respondents (154 women and 111 men) from a random-selection sample of 550 couples who had been divorced for 2 to 2½ years. Half of the respondents had at least monthly contact with their ex-spouses since the divorce. Two aspects of attachment, preoccupation with the ex-spouse and affect (friendly vs. hostile feelings toward the ex-spouse), related differently to other variables. Contact was friendlier and quarreling was less frequent for those without children than with children. Lower well-being was associated with quarreling and preoccupation, whereas contact frequency and affect had no relationship to well-being. These findings suggest a new, two-dimensional conceptualization of postdivorce attachment.
This study assessed characteristics associated with on-again/off-again (on–off) partners’ perceived relational stability. We employed a three-category conceptualization of stability in which participants were classified as believing the relationship was relatively stable, permanently dissolved, or continuing to cycle between breakups and renewals. Investment theory was first used to distinguish the three stability groups with satisfaction and alternatives mostly strongly associated with perceived stability. We also assessed specific characteristics salient to on–off relationships. Most were associated with perceived stability, but relational uncertainty, relational stress, positive feelings about the relationship, and number of renewals emerged as the best discriminators. Overall, the cycling group reported moderate levels of most characteristics along with greater uncertainty, suggesting they have a more ambivalent view of their relationship.