Stanford study shows that the threat of a breakup draws people closer to God

"God is an ideal relationship partner."

Published 18 April 2014  |  
(Photo: S Braswell)

A new Stanford University research study shows that when a romantic relationship is threatened, people draw closer to God.

Kristin Laurin of the Stanford Graduate School of Business examined whether people's relationship with God is similar to their relationship with human beings, and whether God can "stand-in" in the absence of a romantic partner.

Laurin and her colleagues tested their hypotheses in four studies.

The first experiment presented some participants with relationship stressors, meant to make these individuals feel threatened in their coupledom. The researchers found that these participants felt closer to God than those who were not subjected to the stressors.

The second study found that the same thought process that controls people's interpersonal relationships also controls their relationship with the Lord.

The same results were found in the third experiment, when the predominantly Christian participants wrote an essay about how to have a "deeper conversation" with God, after experiencing threats to their romantic relationship.

In other words, Christians who have close, intimate relationships are more likely to feel closer to God than those who lack romantic relationships.

This study also found that individuals with high self-esteem are the most likely to turn to God in the face of relationship threats.

"In some ways, God is an ideal relationship partner to draw comfort from when feeling down about other relationships," Laurin said in a statement.

In a reversal of roles, the final experiment examined whether participants would draw closer to their romantic partner in the face of "divine rejection." This time, the relationship being threatened was the participants' relationship with God.

"The nice thing about God is that there is never any solid evidence that God has rejected you," Laurin stated.

The researchers found that people do cling tighter to their partners when they feel less of a connection to the Lord, with high self-esteem people clinging the tightest.

The study, "A Relationship With God? Connecting with the Divine to Assuage Fears of Interpersonal Rejection" by Kristin Laurin, Karina Schumann, and John G. Holmes was published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal on April 17.

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