Two sides to the breakup of dating relationships


  • The data collection for this study was possible through several small research grants from Illinois State University. An earlier draft of this article was presented at the Fourth Conference for the International Network on Personal Relationships, June 1993, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The author would like to thank the reviewers and Keith Davis and Patricia Noller, who provided feedback on the manuscript, and all of the following colleagues who provided comments on an earlier draft of the article: Anita Barbee, Diane Felmlee, Elaine Hatfield, Kathleen McKinney, Alicia Thomson, and Ann Weber. Furthermore, a special thanks goes to all of the participants in this study.

For correspondence on this article, write the author at Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, 61790-4660; or E-mail: SPRECHER@ILSTU.BITNET.


Very few studies on the aftermath of relationship breakups have included data from both ex-partners. The major purpose of this study was to examine whether there is any validity to the principle that there are two sides to every breakup. Questionnaire data were collected from both partners of 47 heterosexual, dating couples after they experienced the breakup of their relationship. Their emotional reactions, perceptions of who had control over the breakup, and perceptions of reasons for the breakup were analyzed. Results indicated that there was no association between ex-partners in the level of distress experienced after the breakup. Ex-partners agreed about who had control and who was responsible for the breakup and about some of the specific reasons for the breakup. Fewer gender differences were found in this study than have been found in previous research on dating relationship breakups (e.g., Hill, Rubin, & Peplau, 1976). For example, men and women were similar in the overall distress they experienced after the breakup and in the reasons they gave for the breakup. Women were more likely than men to be seen as the initiator of the breakup, but only by women themselves. Additional analyses indicated that perceptions of control and the reasons for the breakup were related to emotional reactions after the breakup.