Science Says You Can Get Over a Break Up In 3 Ways
No matter how a relationship ends, the break up can be truly excruciating. We wish we could simply say, “Thank you, next,” and skip all the hurt. But while we might not be able to eliminate all the pain, it appears that we can get over a break up better in 3 different ways, according to science.
Bright Side feels that in order for us to move on from a relationship that no longer works for us, it is important to consider these 3 strategies.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General concluded that there are 3 ways to get over break up. There were 24 participants, ages 20-37. Regardless of whether they were the ones who ended the relationship or the ones who were dumped, all of the participants were chosen because they said they were upset by their break ups in a questionnaire. The average duration of their relationship was 2.5 years.
The first strategy involves a negative reappraisal of the ex-partner. Participants were asked to think of the things they did not like about their ex-lovers, for example their annoying habits. The idea is that the more you recall about what you dislike about your ex, the easier it is to get over them. This was proven effective, since the results show decreased love feelings. However, this strategy also resulted in the participants feeling more unpleasant.
The reappraisal of loving feelings is the second strategy. Statements like, “It’s ok to love someone I’m no longer with,” were presented to the participants. They were instructed to repeatedly and silently read the statement and to try to believe it for the duration it was presented on the screen. This method did not change the loving feelings or feelings of pleasantness. Nevertheless, it still made them pay less attention to their ex-partner, which means it’s better than not doing anything at all.
In the third strategy, called the distraction condition, the participants were asked about positive things that were unrelated to the break-up or ex-partner for example, “What is your favorite food? Why?” Just as distraction can help reduce cravings for food, maybe it could help you get over your break up as well. It appears that this method did not reduce the loving feelings. The good news is, it did make people feel more pleasant.
Among all 3 strategies, thinking negative things about your ex was the most effective way to get over a break up, whereas distraction is an effective way to feel more pleasant. As for the second strategy, instead of thinking of love, perhaps it would be more helpful to think of negative emotions. For example, instead of saying, “It’s ok to love someone I’m no longer with,” we could say, “It’s normal to be sad after a break up.” All 3 strategies helped the participants pay less attention to their ex-partner, which could make it easier to deal with reminders about the ex-partner.
These strategies may also come in handy for people who’ve suffered through unreciprocated love for someone they have never been in a relationship with. Or, people trying to get over someone they should not be in love with, e.g., someone who is abusive or someone other than their spouse.
Do you agree with the study that the best way to get over your ex is to think about what you dislike about them? How have you gotten over an ex?
Illustrated by Alena Sofronova for BrightSide.me