Staying connected when coming apart: The psychological correlates of contact and sex with an ex-partner

Ashley E. Mason, David A. Sbarra, Amanda E.B. Bryan, Lauren A. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

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, pairbonding, and the loss of coregulatory processes following marital separation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-507
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Volume31
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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