Health & Wellness

No such thing as a broken heart?

When it comes to breakups, most of us prepare for the worst. From lonely days to sleepless nights, we picture ourselves suffering from an emotional downpour, unable to continue on with the most basic of life’s functions.

Luckily, the reality is much less harsh. According to research, breakups aren’t usually the angst-ridden fallouts which we imagine them to be. A recent study published in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology shows that breakups actually tend to be less heartbreaking than we initially fear. And not only is the initial breakup not as crushing as we expect, but the recovery time is also much quicker than we might imagine.

Why is this? Is there really no such thing as a “broken” heart?

Maybe not. Or maybe we just overestimate how “broken” breakups can make us feel. The study found that participants greatly overestimated (sometimes up to twice as much) how hurt they would feel by a breakup. Apparently, snapping back from a bad breakup doesn’t take 80 pints of Häagen-Dazs — it might just take three or four.

However, if you haven’t summoned up the bravery to end a bad relationship, the light at the end of the tunnel might seem impossibly far away. So how do you know if you are ready to go for the split?

Check your reasoning.
Why are you so reluctant to leave the relationship? Is it because there is true, lasting love there? Or is it because you don’t want to be alone? Even if your reasoning is “noble” (such as you don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings), realize that this doesn’t create a foundation for a happy, healthy relationship. Once you understand that staying together for the dog isn’t fair to either of you (or the dog), you might finally have the courage to call it quits once and for all.

Listen to your heart.
It might sound trite, but your heart can sometimes lead you better than your mind. Your mind is going to think of all the reasons why a breakup would be complicated (moving out, telling friends and family, being alone again), but your heart is going to be looking out for you. If the thought of your partner only brings up feelings of sadness and angry, it might be your heart’s way of telling you … Get out!

Don’t expect the world to end. If your mind is telling you that breaking up is going to be the worst pain of your life, remember the study mentioned above. Human beings are built to snap back from even the worst tragedies, so whether you are ending a three-month affair or a 10-year marriage, your body and your mind have the capability and the desire to get you back on your feet. Sure, it is going to take more than a few girls’ nights out to return you to your happy, confident self, but you will land on your feet.

To make it through a breakup with even less drama, stick to these simple guidelines of breakup etiquette:

  • Keep it honest, open and short. A breakup should never last longer than the relationship itself. Let your partner know why you want to end the relationship. Be honest but not intentionally hurtful. When he/gives you your feedback, listen openly, but then move on. There is no reason a breakup should turn into a screaming “he said/she said” match.

  • Don’t end it on a bad note (or text). As tempting as it might be, don’t end an important relationship via e-mail, text, or phone call. Chances are, you will see your ex again, so make sure you don’t end things on such bad terms that the next meeting will be unbearable. You owe the relationship a little bit of respect, even during the breakup!

Remember, a breakup is not the end of the world. As long as you love yourself, losing the love of an ex is not going to kill you — and like the saying goes, it might even make you stronger.

Dr. Laura Berman is the director of the in Chicago, a specialized health care facility dedicated to helping women and couples find fulfilling sex lives and enriched relationships. She is also an assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. She has been working as a sex educator, researcher and therapist for 18 years.

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