Thirty-eight percent of the participants --16 men and 10 women-- ended their relationship within the first six months of the study. On average, those relationships had lasted 14 months.
Focusing solely on this group, the researchers found that, on average, the participants' predictions of emotional cataclysm offered just two weeks before a split far exceeded the actual distress they underwent for three months after the split.
And, although both real and imagined distress diminished as time went on, the spread between actual and predicted anguish stayed constant throughout -- with predicted distress far exceeding actual distress even months after a relationship had ended.
In addition, those who said they were more in love before a split did experience slightly more distress after a break, but they were also much more likely to overestimate the ardor of breaking up. By contrast, those who said they were not in love before a split or indicated they would get into a new relationship within two weeks of a split were found to be "quite accurate" at visualizing a true post-break experience.
Eastwick and his colleagues suggested that those who were less in love might have better predicted the post-break experiences because they were more prepared for the possibility, better able to accent the positive, and more rational in their outlook.
Although the research highlighted the experience of college students, Finkel said the findings could probably apply to people of all ages.
"It would be surprising if this effect didn't appear among older people as well," he said. "The sort of misprediction we found is very robust. It looks to be a very general effect of our psyche that we're not that good about predicting our own happiness. So, even tho
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