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Lack of Intimacy Predicts Breakups. Attachment Insecurity Doesn’t.

Lack of Intimacy Predicts Breakups. Attachment Insecurity Doesn’t.

Why do people break up? If we were to take direction from movies and TV in answering this question, it would be reasonable to assume that breakups come about because of things like fighting, lying, infidelity, or insecurities constantly rearing their ugly heads.

But a recent study found that this wasn’t the case. Today’s study is a longitudinal study, which means that participants were studied over an extended period of time. In this study, all participants were recruited and completed weekly surveys until the point at which they broke up with their partners. In addition, some participants kept a daily diary for approximately a month after their breakups and also completed a survey an additional month after they finished the diary portion of the study.

The researchers found that attachment insecurity or worry about the relationship didn’t predict breakups. They did, however, find that a lack of intimacy and a feeling that the relationships weren’t intrinsically rewarding were quite predictive of whether or not a breakup occurred.

The team notes that in this particular study that they didn’t interview the other partner and caution that it is indeed possible that the other partner was indeed finding the same relationship an intimate and rewarding experience.  This does invoke the future research question: Is lack of perceived intimacy by one partner enough for the relationship to fail? Or can a relationship survive a lack of intimacy if at least one person in it is finding it rewarding?

My gut intuitive answer would be that I would imagine it depends. I would say that a lot of relationships could not survive one half feeling a lack of intimacy — but it would depend on how entangled the partners are (do they have children? live together? own joint property?) and also on how deep any one-sided dissatisfaction with a lack of intimacy runs.

But I’ll be watching this line of research with great interest for any new insights that are confirmed and/or unearthed.

In any event, it’s nice to know that while the little voice of insecurity that worries about abandoned can be loud and persistent, it can’t see the future.


This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.


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