What happens when romantic couples discuss personal loss? Relational, emotional, and physiological impacts. Academic Article uri icon


  • Does talking about loss with a romantic partner have salutary personal and relationship effects? Prior evidence reveals the benefits of emotional disclosure in couple relationships, yet disclosure about loss has been overlooked in research on couple communication. Using a novel communication paradigm with young-adult heterosexual romantic partners (N = 114 couples), we investigated emotions, physiological arousal (skin conductance responses [SCR]), and relationship closeness when narrating a personal loss and listening to the partner's loss, and compared these loss discussions to discussions about desired relationship changes. Based on partners' self-reports, narrating loss elicited more vulnerable and, unexpectedly, more antagonistic emotions. Both narrating and listening to loss produced higher self-reported partner closeness, compared to discussing change. In support of the physiological benefits of disclosure, women's SCRs decreased over the discussion when they narrated their own loss. However, both women and men as listeners show a general trend of increasing SCRs over the discussion, suggesting the challenges of being a responsive partner. Moreover, in line with the putative protective effects of partners' biological interdependencies, partner closeness also was higher when both partners showed synchronous decreasing SCR as women narrated their loss. Although limited to young couples in relatively short relationships, these findings reveal some potential benefits of talking about loss in the context of romantic relationships. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

published proceedings

  • J Fam Psychol

altmetric score

  • 2.2

author list (cited authors)

  • Margolin, G., Daspe, M., Timmons, A. C., Corner, G. W., Pettit, C., Rasmussen, H. F., ... Schacter, H. L.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Margolin, Gayla||Daspe, Marie-Ève||Timmons, Adela C||Corner, Geoffrey W||Pettit, Corey||Rasmussen, Hannah F||Chaspari, Theodora||Han, Sohyun C||Arbel, Reout||Shapiro, Lauren Spies||Kazmierski, Kelly FM||Del Piero, Larissa B||Schacter, Hannah L

publication date

  • September 2022