You’ve heard of “revenge makeovers” or “breakup haircuts,” but why do people change up their appearance after a breakup? Psychologist Theresa DiDonato explains it links back to what’s known as the “self-expansion theory,” he says, “People are motivated to grow in order to achieve goals and one way to do that is through close relationships, where the identities of two people often merge.
But evidence shows that during breakups, self-concept shrinks, leading to identity questions.” These questions are often answered through hobbies or haircuts, a physical sign of growth. Senior lecturer of psychology at University of Essex, Veronica Lamarche adds, “When rejected, humans are motivated to fit in with others, such as becoming more attractive—we like positive enforcement. If change makes an ex-partner jealous, that can soften rejection; if it opens sexual opportunity with others, that can validate.” Breakups can also ignite change that was already being considered by someone.