There is a lack of literature surrounding women’s experiences leaving romantic relationships. This study asks, “How do women experience the social and emotional consequences associated with their voluntary departure from a long-term, heterosexual romantic relationship?” Using a qualitative research methodology to allow for an in-depth exploration of their stories, nine women aged 20-29 were interviewed about their breakup experiences. A narrative analysis generated three themes: active defiance of the socially understood female role in a relationship; absence of a socially understood anti-relational script available to women; and healing and growth experienced as results of validation, meaning-making, and script-creation. These themes can be understood as functions of Social Role Theory—the idea that beliefs people hold about the sexes reflect and influence the sexual division of gender. Counselling implications include working through disenfranchised grief, managing anxiety, and facilitating methods of relational, intrapersonal, and observational validation.
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Thesis advisor: Keats, Patrice
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