When leaving your ex, love yourself: observational ratings of self-compassion predict the course of emotional recovery following marital separation

Psychol Sci. 2012 Mar;23(3):261-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797611429466. Epub 2012 Jan 26.


Divorce is a highly stressful event, and much remains to be learned about the factors that promote psychological resilience when marriages come to an end. In this study, divorcing adults (N = 109) completed a 4-min stream-of-consciousness recording about their marital separation at an initial laboratory visit. Four judges rated the degree to which participants exhibited self-compassion (defined by self-kindness, an awareness of one's place in shared humanity, and emotional equanimity) in their recordings. Judges evidenced considerable agreement in their ratings of participants' self-compassion, and these ratings demonstrated strong predictive utility: Higher levels of self-compassion at the initial visit were associated with less divorce-related emotional intrusion into daily life at the start of the study, and this effect persisted up to 9 months later. These effects held when we accounted for a number of competing predictors. Self-compassion is a modifiable variable, and if our findings can be replicated, they may have implications for improving the lives of divorcing adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Divorce / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Self Concept*
  • Stress, Psychological*