Based on the findings, those who separated from their partner showed a drop in perceived control the first year after separating—but after that, their sense of control slowly started to creep back up. The researchers attribute this to a form of “stress-related growth.”
“Our findings suggest that people sometimes grow from stressful experiences,” the researchers explain in a news release. “In the years after losing a romantic partner, participants in our study became increasingly convinced in their ability to influence their life and future by their own behavior. Their experience enabled them to deal with adversity and manage their life independently, which allowed them to grow.”
This is hopeful news for anyone who’s going through a breakup. After all, it makes sense that losing a relationship could make one feel like their life is out of their control—not only do you lose the person in question, but you lose a part of yourself as well. But over time, as you learn to live without that person, you regain the sense of autonomy you seemingly lost.
In addition to those findings, the study also showed women were more likely than men to experience a drop in sense of control immediately following separation, and young people actually had an increased sense of control after separation from their partner in comparison to older participants.
And as you might imagine, the type of relationship loss someone is dealing with will greatly influence how that loss affects them: People actually experience an immediate post-loss increase in sense of control following the death of a partner, as grief is often a catalyst for growth. Though interestingly, there was no clear link between divorce (specifically) and perceived sense of control in these findings.