Oh, the chatter of couples reserving a spot at their favorite romantic restaurants, enamored significant others shopping for the ideal gift, beloved partners plotting the perfect engagement proposal, top hotel ballrooms fully booked for weddings…all Valentine’s Day festivities sound so dreamy, however the majority of the nation’s singles probably want to vomit.
Since I’ve been writing about grief in my recent posts, I curiously looked up existing research on psychological aspects related to relationship breakups. I found a few interesting studies and figured I’d share what I learned especially since National Singles Awareness Day is fast approaching:
1. Up to one-third of active Facebook users go on the social networking website to “Facebook stalk” their exes. I’m sure many of us have experienced how difficult it can be to avoid ANY contact with our exes soon after a breakup (previous research has shown continued contact offline to be associated with poorer functioning post breakup). Well, a study conducted by Dr. Tara Marshall showed Facebook stalking to be even WORSE for recovery post breakup! Those who de-friended their ex showed greater personal growth, which suggests that the best chance for healing a broken heart is to avoid them both online and offline.
2. There is hope in breaking up, at least in terms of developing personal growth. Another study led by Dr. Tara Marshall examined the association of attachment styles (see below for my attempt at a simplified explanation of this theory) as predictors of personal growth following romantic breakups.
- One attachment style involves those who grew up in an environment where the caregivers were inconsistently available nor responsive. As an adult, they tend to be clingy and require excessive reassurance especially when they feel insecure and unsafe in the relationship. Therefore, after a breakup, these highly anxious individuals developed heightened distress, which ultimately led to greater self growth. Why so? Perhaps experiencing high distressing emotions acted as a catalyst to promote self-reflection and growth.
- In contrast, when someone grows up in an environment where the caregivers were never around nor available, then as an adult they grow up to be highly self-reliant and mistrustful of others. Therefore, after a breakup, these individuals aim to restore their self-sufficiency and take on the role of parenting themselves. In this study, they were found to exhibit low amounts of distress and less personal growth likely due to experiencing little motivation to change as a result of the split.
3. Changes in your brain activity occur after a breakup. One study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2004) conducted brain scans and found altered brain activity in women actively grieving from a recent breakup. Therefore, you’re bound to experience some changes in emotions, especially sadness, and there’s a scientific reason to account for this.
Thought of the Day: Ready, set…stop stalking your ex! (at least until you’ve healed and moved on. I admittedly get a kick out of Facebook stalking my exes every once in awhile as well).