‘Our relationships build us, define us, sustain us and break us too’: Gary Lewandowski


The very thought of parting ways can be quite painful, but what we often forget is that heartbreak could also help us grow and evolve. “Whether a relationship is awful, good or great, we don’t like endings. We don’t like to lose things, especially the things that are important to us. Our relationships build us, define us, sustain us and break us too,” said Gary Lewandowski, professor of Psychology and director of the relationship lab at Monmouth University.

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Gary’s research showed that a breakup leads to experiencing a loss of self. Hence, when you lose a relationship, part of who you are as a person goes with it. He found that a breakup made some people sad, and they characterised breakup as negative. However, the ratio was one out of three and one out of four people were neutral or a little bit of both. 41 per cent of people characterised their breakups as positive.

“My research focussed on self-expansion. This is the experience of a relationship that help build who you are as a person, helps you grow and add to your sense of self. Being in such a relationship makes you a better person. But it is a continuum; it goes the other way too,” he said.

“Sometimes your relationship is impoverished. It lacks self-expansion. Your partner is not building but holding you back. These stagnant and stale relationships feel like you are stuck in a rut and your partner is not helping you grow. They are preventing you from being the person that you can be. If you get out of such impoverished relationships, it is going to be addition by subtraction,” he added.

The research found that people who had gotten out of a low self-expanding impoverished relationship reported a full range of positive emotions. They were relieved, calm, energised, confident, strong, and happy.

“It is like their world opened up, things started getting clearer and they started experiencing less loss of self, more personal growth and importantly rediscovering self,” he concluded.

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