A study publishing in the latest issue of Personal Relationships explores why romantic relationships sometimes break down. Using a two-part research program, author Judith Feeney focused on people's perceptions of the appraisals and emotions involved in hurtful events in couple relationships. The research tested the proposition that we feel 'hurt' when a relationship partner commits a relational transgression that seems to devalue the relationship, and that evokes a sense of personal injury by threatening positive mental models of the self and/or others. Hurt was strongly linked to violations of supportiveness, fidelity, openness, and trust.
In the first study, participants gave retrospective accounts of an experience of being hurt by a romantic partner. These accounts supported the above proposition, and although different types of hurtful events differed in important ways, a sense of pain and injury emerged as the dominant theme in accounts of emotional reactions. The emotion terms generated in Study 1 were used as stimuli in a word-sorting task in Study 2, which confirmed that many of the terms were perceived specifically as injury-related. The findings suggest that hurt is elicited by "...relationship transgressions that damage the victim's core beliefs about self or others ... [and] the sense of personal injury that lies at the heart of hurt feelings is often accompanied by other negative emotions, which depend on the type of hurtful event."
Personal Relationships is an international, interdisciplinary journal that promotes scholarship in the field of personal relationships throughout a broad range of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, communication studies, anthropology, family studies, child development, and gerontology. It is published on behalf of the International Association for Relationship Research.
Judith Feeney is an associate professor of Psychology at the University of Queensland. She has published a large number of widely cited articles and books in the areas of marital and family relationships, interpersonal communication, and the link between personal relationship and health.
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