Washington, April 18, 2014 (Agency)
You turn to the almighty when faced with difficulties in life. New research explores a little-known role of God in your life - helping you cope with the threat of romantic rejection.
“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,” said Kristin Laurin of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
The idea is certainly not new in terms of cultural discourse but it is not something that psychologists have done a lot of empirical work to study.
Specifically, researchers wanted to see how our relationship with God changes as our
other relationships change.
So the researchers designed a series of studies 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.
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 added.
"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,” she noted.
They then asked the participants to rate their closeness to God.
The 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.
“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,” she explained.
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 do not seem to be able to use this new resource either.
In some ways, God is an ideal relationship partner to draw comfort from when feeling down about other relationships - the nice thing about God is that there is never any solid evidence that God has rejected you.
The research was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.