Romantic relationship termination

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Conlan, Sean Kevin, 1975-

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An evolutionary model of long-term romantic relationship termination is proposed. According to the model, relationship termination is the functional output of psychological mechanisms evolved to solve adaptive problems faced by humans over evolutionary history. To the extent that men and women have faced similar adaptive problems in romantic relationships, their psychologies of romantic relationship termination are expected to be similar. To the extent that these adaptive problems have differed, their psychologies of relationship termination are expected to differ. Consequently, men and women are hypothesized to have evolved similar, but distinct psychological mechanisms that underlie the decision rules in the termination of long-term romantic relationships. Specific hypotheses and predictions about the contexts and tactics of relationship termination have been derived from this perspective, including: 1) a greater sensitivity in men than in women to declines in their long-term mate's physical attractiveness; 2) a greater sensitivity in women than in men to declines in their long-term mate's investment of resources in them. To test these and other hypotheses about functional design in the psychological mechanisms underlying mating relationship termination several studies were conducted to investigate: 1) perceptions regarding the contexts in which men and women are likely to terminate romantic relationships; 2) perceptions regarding the tactics men and women employ to terminate romantic relationships; 3) thoughts of relationship termination; and 4) personal accounts of relationship termination. Men were judged more sensitive than women to decreases in their long-term mate's physical attractiveness, but did not differ from women in reporting decreased physical attractiveness as a cause of relationship termination. Women were judged more sensitive than men to a partner the decreasing investment of resources in them and reported decreased investment more frequently as a cause of relationship termination. Because several tests of the hypotheses described in this dissertation were disconfirmed, the results should be interpreted with caution.