Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships

By Ralph Erber ; Robin Gilmour | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
The Theory of Mental Incongruity, With a Specific Application to Loneliness Among Widowed Men and Women

Pearl A. Dykstra Jenny de Jong Gierveld NIDI, The Netherlands

Widowhood is one of the most painful experiences a person is likely to endure. It not only involves the loss of a loved one, but means the end of a way of life shared with that person. There are many similarities in the manner in which widowed men and women adapt to life without their former spouses, but there are also many differences. Some prefer to remarry, whereas others want to remain single. Some desire to remarry within a relatively short period of time, whereas others prefer to wait. Some find a new partner relatively soon, whereas others, despite repeated efforts, do not. After a while, some become content with life as single people, whereas others continue to experience stress. Why are there such differences in the adaptation to widowhood? What factors influence the adaptation?

The adaptation to widowhood requires a reorganization of daily activities, the network of personal relationships, and so on. Processes of reorganization are not unique to widowhood, however. They are also required by events such as unemployment, retirement, relocation, the birth of a child, and divorce. For that reason, to answer questions about differences in adaptation to widowhood, it is helpful to make use of a general theory about the manner in which people react under restrictive circumstances. "General" means that the propositions used in the explanation do not refer to specific events or specific categories of individuals. The propositions have a higher level of generality than the phenomena under investigation. When applying a general theory, the propositions must be tailored to the problem at hand.

In the present chapter, it is our objective to illustrate some of the possibilities

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