When you’re a teenager or young adult, you’re still trying to figure out who you are, both as an individual and in a romantic relationship. And when it comes to relationships, there can be a whole lot of figuring out to do.
'Young people are just developing the skills they need to be in a romantic relationship,' researcher Valeriya Bravo explained to Love Matters at the 2016 International Association for Relationship Research (IARR) conference. 'They are also just developing their understanding of what they want from a romantic relationship and a partner, what they can give in return, and how they envision the relationship versus how it actually plays out. This is all new – it’s uncharted territory.'
Because everything about relationships is new at this stage of life, it makes a lot of sense that ending one is different when you’re young. But how exactly? That’s what Bravo wanted to find out. So she tracked down almost 800 Canadian high school and university students aged between 15 and 25 who all had one thing in common: they’d recently gone through a break-up.
Why did their relationship end? Was it because they just weren’t into their partner anymore? Or the opposite: did they crave intimacy and find their partner wasn’t there for them when they needed him or her most? Was the relationship casual or serious? The students worked through different questionnaires. Then Bravo puzzled out the results.
It's not you, it's me.
So… why do young lovers break up?
When you’re young, there may be some truth to the cliché, ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ the research showed. Losing interest in a boyfriend or girlfriend was one of the most common reasons for a break-up among the students, regardless of their age. It was especially true if they had been dating casually.
'Being bored, not wanting to hang out together, not finding pleasure in activities that they share, not really sharing much together anymore – that was really important to the people who were casually dating,' Bravo explained.
For those in more serious relationships, a lack of intimacy was a major reason to call it quits – maybe because they didn’t feel they could trust their partner, or there wasn’t much affection or connection anymore.
The desire for more independence was also a common cause of a break-up, whether it was to have time for themselves or to be able to focus on school or work.
Guys and girls were pretty similar in the reasons they gave for calling it quits. Well… with one exception: unfaithfulness. More men than women told Bravo they hadn’t been faithful and that this was the reason for their break-up!
The study was in Canada, but Bravo believes that certain break-up reasons are universal when you’re young.
'Among young people across cultures, important reasons for breaking up are likely to be a lack of closeness, shared interests and romantic time spent together, as well as a lack of trust and honesty, and the feeling of not being treated well by the romantic partner,' she explained.
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- Presentation at the IARR conference 2016: “It’s not you, it’s me…”: Breakup reasons of youth at different dating stages and ages
- Interview with Valeriya Bravo