God can help you cope with romantic rejection

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Washington: Scientists have explored a little-understood role of God in people’s lives: helping them cope with the threat of romantic rejection.

Most psychological research to date has looked at people’s relationship with God as similar to a parent-child bond, said Kristin Laurin of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“We wanted to push further the idea that people have a relationship with God in the same sense as they have relationships with other humans,” she said.

“The idea is certainly not new in terms of cultural discourse, but it’s not something that psychologists have done a lot of empirical work to study,” she added.

Specifically, Laurin and colleagues wanted to see how our relationship with God changes as our other relationships change.

The researchers designed a series of studies, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, that experimentally induced people to believe their romantic relationship was under threat and then tested their feelings of closeness to God.

They also wanted to examine the opposite idea – how people’s romantic relationships take on different meaning when their relationship with God is threatened – and tested how this dynamic changed based on the individual’s self-esteem.

In one of the studies, they recruited 187 participants who were primarily Christian and Hindu, but also Muslim, nonreligious, or unaffiliated.

To manipulate relationship threat, the researchers told some of the participants that everyone hides certain aspects of themselves from their partners.

“Then we hit them with the idea that these ‘secret selves’ always end up coming out, and ruining relationships,” Laurin said.

“And just in case that’s not enough to make them nervous that their relationship could be in danger, we force them to think more specifically about things that they themselves might be hiding from their partners,” Laurin said.

They then asked the participants to rate their closeness to God. Another group of participants simply rated their closeness with God without first reading the threat scenario. The researchers also assessed the participants’ self-esteem.

Laurin’s team found that participants sought to enhance their relationship with God when under threat of romantic rejection – but only if they had high self-esteem.

“We find that high self-esteem people, who already are the ones who take constructive steps to repair their relationships when they are under threat, have yet another resource they can turn to: their relationship with God,” Laurin said.

“Low self-esteem people, who are the ones who retreat and protect themselves at the expense of the relationship when the relationship is under threat, don’t seem to be able to use this new resource either,” she added.

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