Most of us have experienced a breakup, and though it may be liberating or the best thing for both of you, it isn’t the funnest thing in the world (especially if it turns into a messy divorce).
There is nothing like the feeling of finding someone who finally “gets you,” you live briefly in the euphoria of their affection, and one day you realize it just isn’t going to work. Maybe you have different values, maybe one partner wants to take the relationship “to the next level” while the other isn’t ready, or maybe you realize you can’t stand the way your lover leaves their hair in the sink. Whatever the reason, and regardless of how much sense it makes to go your separate ways, it still hurts. Why, though? Why does breaking up with someone hurt?
The Science Behind Why Breakups Hurt
Interestingly enough, there is a lot of science conducted in this field – and maybe this understanding can shed some light on why you feel the way you feel.
- Breakups hurt because your brain feels the same emotions as being physically hurt. More specifically, the same parts of your brain fire as when you are physically hurt and when you feel rejected. You can check out the study here – it’s mind-blowing!
- Breakups hurt because we have incorporated another person into our sense of self-identity. Because we include them within our sense of self, we feel a part of us is destroyed or lost when the relationship doesn’t work out. Sometimes we forget who we were before we were with them back when we were single, and our brain is forced to rewire itself and form a new idea about who and how we are.
In short, we think and say things such as, “I am so-and-so’s girlfriend,” or “We are in the same line of work,” or “Racketball is our favorite hobby together.” Suddenly, when this person is no longer in the picture, the “us” falls away leaving us wondering who we are.
When the relationship ends, the individual’s brain has to change its self-identity which takes time. We, in a sense, lost our individuality and have to rediscover it. This could be why people pick up new hobbies and interests – they are changing their whole physiology and self-identity and this actually helps them to move on.
The Fastest Way to Get Over A Breakup
The fact of the matter is getting over a breakup is different for everyone. One person may move on in a matter of weeks and for another, it may take years. You can sit down and bitch to your girlfriends (which can help at times), or have some wine and escape with a movie or series, you can take time to mourn your past relationship, burn all your pictures together, and while all of this helps you to move on there are ways to get over a breakup faster. Keep in mind the following tips are based on scientific study and actually are counter-intuitive for many people…
- Get Back Out There in the Dating Scene
According to research on the subject of rebound relationships, focusing on someone new or getting back into the dating game can help a person recover from a break-up. I know! I was shocked too! I always figured people did that in order to “get back” at their ex or to use their new lover for intimacy with no intention of it leading anywhere. As it turns out, as you date someone new and focus on them, you begin forming a new autobiography of yourself.
Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Marin County, California and she discovered focusing on someone new helps anxiously attached individuals let go of ex-partners – Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1382-1394. How interesting!
- Take a Chill Pill
So remember how the same parts of your brain fire for the sense of rejection as for physical pain? If you take a pill for physical pain, it stands to reason that said pill would also work for a breakup. Another interesting study found that acetaminophen, a physical pain suppressant, reduced reports of social pain on a daily basis. There really IS a pill for everything these days!
Why Some People Get Over Relationships Faster than Others
Did you know your personality type may determine your ability to get over a relationship? According to the following video, most people can fall into two broad genres of personalities – those with a “growth” personality and those with a “fixed” personality. As it turns out, those with a “growth” personality tend to not take rejection personally which helps them get over breakups quicker. Watch this four-minute video to check it out!
In the end, everything is OK. If it isn’t OK, then it isn’t the end. I say if you need time, then give yourself some time to move on. And though it may hurt, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You’ll get through it – we believe in you!