As the old song says, breaking up is hard to do. And most of us have been there. Unless you're one of the lucky few to still be married to your childhood sweetheart, you know what it feels like to try to rebuild your life after splitting ways with your significant other. If you have a strong system of friends and family, they may listen to your woes for a while, but most will advise you to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and move on with your life as soon as possible. But a new study has found that the best way to get over a break up is to really wallow in it for a while.
The study came from relationship researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Arizona, who decided to take a closer look at how the studies they were conducting over the years on relationships and breakups were affecting their participants. One concern the researchers had was that the studies themselves might harm the participants. After all, it's hard enough to break up. Isn't it worse to be reminded about it and forced to analyze it over and over again? Turns out, this may actually be the best way for people to heal from a breakup. Researchers were surprised to learn that rather than feeling distress, participants felt relieved to have really dwelled on their breakups for a time, and better able to move on with their lives.
For the study, researchers evaluated the emotional recovery of 210 non-married participants who had experienced a breakup within the last six months. They split the participants into two groups — one in which subjects were only asked to give an initial and final summary of their situation and another in which the participants completed interviews, questionnaires, and private speaking exercises in which subjects spoke into a recording device about the story of their breakup.
After a nine-week period, researchers found that the subjects who were repeatedly asked to talk or write about their breakup were more healed emotionally than their peers. The continued reflection on the failed relationship helped the participants "build a stronger sense of who they were as single people," said Grace Larsen, a Northwestern University student who initiated the study. "I would encourage a person who recently experienced a breakup to consider who he or she is, apart from the relationship," she added.
If you've got a strong network of friends and family who can listen to your sorrows, now is the time to call them into action. But even if you don't have someone to talk to, you can write about your breakup in a journal or use the voice recorder on your phone to tell the story, and figure out your own happy ending.
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