We all know breaking up is hard, but a team of scholars in the United Kingdom, led by Man Cheung Chung, conducted a study on college students to discover how to make your breakups as easy as possible. They discovered three main effects of breaking up and three ways people make it harder.
Intrusive Thoughts and Memories
Have you ever had a dream about a relationship that just ended? What about memories of the relationship that come when you least want them? Such thoughts, dreams, and memories can intrude on our everyday life and make it more difficult to move on from the relationship.
Sometimes we might try to escape and avoid our memories and thoughts, attempting to push them away forcefully. More often than not, however, this strategy backfires and the more we force the memories away, the stronger they come back. Instead, filling your time with new activities and creating new memories with friends will give the bad memories less space and eventually they may just go away on their own. It will also allow us to find new meaningful relationships, whether as friends or romantic partners.
Reminders of Past Experiences
With any relationship comes special places and symbols. After breaking up, our old partner may leave, but those places remain. One way that breaking up can affect our everyday life is by making it difficult to go somewhere without somehow being reminded of the relationship.
You're making it worse if you…
Rehash the Relationship
Many times these past experiences and places make us ponder what we did wrong or why the relationship ended. Trying to take total responsibility for what went wrong in the relationship as these reminders come about in our everyday life may backfire on us. Trying to figure out what we did wrong is not necessarily bad as we can certainly learn from our mistakes. However, if we are constantly trying to make ourselves responsible, we may get stuck in a pattern of thinking about what we should have done differently instead of thinking about what we will do differently in the future. Being proactive and not living in the past can help you move on and no longer need to avoid those places or people that remind you of your past relationships.
Breaking up is often associated with decreases in health, especially mental health. This effect is commonly seen in depressed moods, feelings of insecurity and rejection, and a decrease in self-confidence and self-esteem. Because of these feelings, we may feel less socially accepted or competent. Instead of creating new relationships, we put up walls to keep from being rejected again, which then creates loneliness and more sadness.
While putting distance between ourselves and the people we break up with is often an important and healthy part of moving on, trying to push emotions away will only make them more overwhelming. Instead of taking control of our emotions, when we isolate ourselves we have allowed our emotions, and the past relationship, to control us. Instead of hiding your emotions and cutting off from people, try to accept how you feel, and share it with people you trust who can love and support you through this difficult time.
This article was originally published on Relate Institute. It has been republished here with permission.
The Relate Institute is a not-for-profit organization that revolves around the aim of distributing the Relate Assessment - the most comprehensive premarital/marital assessment available - to as many couples and individuals as we can reach. We believe that all may benefit from assessing personal strengths and weaknesses as relationship partners, and work to help make relationship success a reality.