Breakups are most of the time challenging, and you will go through many different phases to adapt to your newfound singlehood.
This article aims to discuss psychological facts about breakups. It will help you understand what happens during breakups and know what to expect if you, a close friend, or a relative are going through one.
In fact, having a grasp of the psychological facts about breakups will also increase your readiness in your future or current relationship.
That is to say, if you are thinking about a breakup, these facts will surely help since nothing will take you by surprise.
Hopefully, this article will allow you will fare much better if a breakup happens to you.
32 Psychological Facts About Breakups
Fact #1: People Have Doubts About Breaking Up Until They Do
You often won’t be certain of breaking up before it happens. It takes a while for anybody to be sure that this is the best solution, and most of us will believe there is still a way to work things out.
In fact, most breakups take a long while, and they’re hardly ever clear-cut. But still, there’s no perfect time to do it.
No matter who is right or wrong, the breakup will feel like the right decision if the relationship has truly come to its upper limit.
You might still experience doubts about your or your partner’s choice, but you will eventually see that you were not made for each other, at least not for the time being.
Fact #2: The Reasons Are Alike For Men and Women, Except For Cheating
The reasons for breakups are essentially the same, like feeling that you’re not the priority, that you’re not loved the way you deserve, or simply that you don’t see a future together.
Still, women initiate breakups more often than men do.
When the reason for the breakup is due to specific events, such as cheating, then the reasons for men and women will vary. Men are more likely to break up if their lover cheats on them sexually or emotionally.
However, women are more likely to break up if they were cheated on emotionally, in the sense of having feelings for the other woman.
To be clear, neither men nor women are okay with cheating, and many women will break up after purely sexual infidelity.
However, according to evolutionary psychology, men would break up because it would be a direct threat to their genetic fitness, whereas, for women, it would be because it imposes a threat on the safety and stability of the family that the couple will eventually build.
Fact #3: Coping Is Different For Men And Women
The main difference between men and women is how they cope when it comes to breakups.
Although both will suffer, research suggests that even though women are mostly hurt in the initial phases of the breakup, men have higher post-breakup stress and take longer to heal after splitting up.
As such, women move on more easily than men, as they feel less angry and vengeful.
For instance, men’s self-esteem is strongly negatively impacted after a breakup, and it takes quite a bit of time to recover from such a depletion.
On top of that, women will seek social support and embrace their feelings more than men do. In a sense, women tend to cope more adaptively with breakups than men do.
Fact #4: We Are Psychologically Wired To Avoid Losses
One universal fact about human beings is that we are more strongly motivated to avoid losses than to pursue gains.
The Prospect Theory of Daniel Kahneman supports this hypothesis, and it seems that it plays a role in making breakups feel more significant than any good news we might receive throughout the healing process.
However, even if we’re wired this way, becoming aware of this phenomenon opens up the ability to steer away from negative thinking and start embracing the positive events in our lives more intensely.
As a matter of fact, such loss-oriented thinking can be a relevant maintaining factor for feeling low.
Fact #5: You Will Recall Good Memories After Breaking Up
One psychological phenomenon that will accentuate the significance of being at a loss is remembering our good memories with our ex-partner.
Quite paradoxically, breakups happen because the bad outweighs the good, but it is only after splitting up that we realize all the good we’ve had with that person.
It is easy to be fooled by this process, however. In fact, it will make your healing more painful and lead to regrets and doubts about the breakup.
There is a balance to be found: thankfully, you have good memories with the person who played a significant part in your life, so it was not all in vain.
But still, bad things inevitably happened too. Even though seeing both sides of the coin at the same time is difficult, it will truly help you move on.
Fact #6: Moving On Is Similar To Overcoming Addiction
Moving on after a breakup is highly akin to getting rid of addiction, especially if you did not choose to break up and are still passionately in love with your ex.
In fact, the brain areas involved with addiction withdrawal, especially the nucleus accumbens, are highly active in people going through this type of breakup.
This region is the center of the brain’s rewards and motivation. It is also active in the early stages of romantic relationships when love is obsessive.
This means that this region will make us think and seek the person we love, whether we are with them or not. So, you must deal with intrusive thoughts, ruminations, and urges to talk to them.
Therefore, overcoming a breakup is quite the same as overcoming an addiction.
Fact #7: You Might Use More Drugs and Alcohol
Although coping differs from person to person, research results have suggested that, after a breakup, substance use will generally increase.
This is not only the case for young adults but for older people as well, and it seems to be an attempt to numb down the pain.
But again, this self-medication is, more often than not, something that will slow down your healing process and perhaps even create new problems you didn’t have before.
So one should be careful about drug and alcohol habit changes, and consumption must be kept in check.
Fact #8: It Can Cause Physical Pain
When facing a breakup and looking at a picture of the loved one, the activity pattern in the brain suggests that the emotional pain is processed in the same brain area that processes physical pain.
Therefore, it can actually cause physical complaints and discomforts, which is believed to be caused by simultaneous activation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
In fact, breakups can provoke a real condition in the heart called Broken Heart syndrome.
It manifests itself as sudden and intense chest pain and shortness of breath that sometimes feels like one is about to have a heart attack.
So beware, tough breakups can hurt the heart, both real and metaphorical.
Fact #9: It Might Decrease Your Appetite
Experiencing appetite loss after a breakup is a completely normal occurrence. Note that this event is extremely stressful for quite anyone because we are losing an important attachment figure in our lives.
And since stress increases cortisol and adrenaline levels, which reduces blood flow in your digestive tract, it results in a reduced appetite and possible weight loss.
But no need to worry- this is almost certainly temporary. And, truth be told, the main thing you can do at that point is not to force yourself and to let the process unfold.
If you don’t want to eat, drink liquids and work out, release stress relief hormones that will help you recover your appetite—one step at a time.
Fact #10: Prepare For A Change In Your Sleeping Patterns
One of the things that can contribute to reducing your appetite is a change in your sleeping habits since sleep influences your hormones a lot.
Losing sleep is also a normal consequence of a breakup, and it is to be expected.
At nighttime, it is harder for people to distract themselves from their thoughts, and that’s when they usually have flashbacks of their ex and feel their lowest.
The anxiety and sadness that comes with it make it hard to fall asleep and push people to consume more drugs and alcohol.
However, many techniques can help you go to sleep more easily, such as progressive muscle relaxation.
In the first few days of a breakup, taking some time off from work would also be wise since mornings might become especially challenging.
Fact #11: You Will Feel Sad
This is not a ground-breaking fact but needs to be explicitly addressed. Breakups will inevitably make you feel sad and lonely, and you will almost certainly lose pleasure in the activities you used to enjoy before they happened.
This sadness usually comes with withdrawal and avoidance, which will act as maintaining factors for how you feel.
The sadness you will feel serves a purpose, however. In fact, feeling low gives you the space you need to process your emotions and start facing your new reality.
Nonetheless, you should do your best not to dwell in the avoidance and withdrawal phase since it can worsen your feelings and stop you from reaching out for help from your loved ones.
Fact #12: You Might Develop Negative Beliefs About Love
If you have experienced many breakups with people you really loved and went through yet another harsh and messy heartbreak, you might start developing some negative core beliefs about romantic relationships and love in general.
These beliefs serve as a framework through which you can predict future events, but it becomes problematic when they hold the function of a defense mechanism.
Unearthing your core beliefs is an essential process. Doing so will clarify what you deeply believe in, whether it be about yourself (« I am made to be single »), others (« Nobody will love me enough to stick around »), and the world (« This world is devoided of long-lasting love »).
Your core beliefs might have some evidence to back them up, but you should also enquire about falsifying evidence and whether these beliefs help make a happy and content life.
Fact #13: You Will Think About It, A Lot
Your mind might become your worst enemy after a breakup. It will keep bringing up images and memories of your ex and inundate you with intrusive thoughts that will annihilate a seemingly positive day and make you feel worse.
This is how the mind works, and there is no changing this fact.
However, you can control how you perceive these moments and how to respond to them. In fact, having a mindful mind makes the breakup process less painful and more adaptive.
You should work on becoming aware of your triggers and learn to accept that this is your mind’s way of processing the breakup. So instead of fighting it, try to embrace it.
Fact #14: Pretending Not To Miss Your Ex Will Have The Opposite Effect
We might develop the idea that pretending that we don’t miss our exes will help us move on faster.
A sort of « fake it until you make it » thing. But we would be mistaken in believing that.
In reality, the more you push things down to avoid facing them, the more they will rebound and come back around stronger and more intrusively.
The more you fight to stop missing them, the more you will long to be with them.
There is no reason for you to pretend like everything is fine. Breakups are tough, and they literally break our hearts.
We will miss our ex, no doubt about it, and that is okay. Breaking up doesn’t imply that we need to stop thinking about them altogether because that is simply impossible.
Realizing that it is a long process will help you come to terms with missing your ex instead of trying to fool yourself into thinking that you’re already over it.
Fact #15: Stalking Your Ex Will Make The Process Harder
Missing your ex is one thing, and it cannot be avoided. However, missing them doesn’t mean that you should act on it by going and stalking their social media accounts.
In fact, it is dangerous because it can quickly become a habit, which will take you even more effort to overcome.
In addition, since the breakup is done, knowing what happens in your ex’s life is of no use to you.
The information you might get is of no use, except for making you feel bad and activating negative thoughts that you will ruminate over and over again.
Stalking your ex is a bad idea because it will slow down your process. So even if you feel the urge to, try your best to keep it in check.
Fact #16: Grieving Is Inevitable
Confronting the fact that you miss your ex, thinking about your relationship, and feeling the urge to see what they’re up to are all part of a larger grieving process.
When a breakup happens, you are grieving the relationship you had with a significant person in your life. To move past the breakup, you need to fully grieve that relationship as if the person you once knew had passed away.
Although psychologists talked about stages of grief, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, recent research at Utrecht University suggests that it is more of a two-fold process occurring in parallel.
As such, adaptive grieving would consist of oscillating between loss-oriented experiences and restoration-oriented experiences on a daily basis.
This means that, in order to cope properly, you will have to think about your past relationship, such as the fact that you still miss them, what went wrong, and the challenges in moving on.
But at the same time, you should also focus on what’s next by attending to new life changes, doing new things, and distracting yourself from the grief you feel.
The two processes might co-exist; attending to both equally will help you heal more integrally.
Fact #17: Self-Blame Might Occur
When we indulge in loss-oriented thinking, one common phenomenon is to start realizing the things we did that we could’ve done better.
But as one thing leads to the other, we might rush ourselves into thinking that the breakup is entirely our fault, which leads to self-blame, guilt, and perhaps even shame.
This fact is here to make you aware that this is a slippery slope that will worsen your negative feelings.
Nonetheless, becoming aware of our own wrongdoings will truly foster self-development to make us better partners in the future.
Yet, dwelling in guilt and self-blame is unnecessarily painful. Once you understand your behavior and decide to improve yourself, try to let go of these feelings, as they have served their purpose.
Fact #18: Breakups Usually Cause Identity Crises
With regards to restoration-oriented processing, looking forward to where we’re heading can be quite confusing.
People often report having identity crises after a long-term relationship or after a relationship that was intensely lived.
This is because we are moving away from a « we » that was created with our ex-partner into an individual « I » that we might have forgotten about during the relationship.
This confusion might come with psychological suffering, but it is also a door towards creating ourselves anew and discovering brand new aspects of who we are and who we can be.
Think about it this way: your identity is like modeling clay that was somewhat shaped by the relationship you had.
Now that the relationship is gone, the shape is gone too. Now, you are free to create new shapes with your clay as freely as you wish.
Fact #19: Your Social Circle Will Also Be Impacted
Attending to changes after a breakup might make you realize that you are not the only one being impacted by it, as your social circle will also be.
More often than not, couples will introduce each other to their friends, who might become friends too.
But when a breakup happens, things might get a little messy, and sometimes you might realize that your ex’s friends aren’t really your friends.
Such changes can be destabilizing at a time when we need our friends the most.
But it is useful to remember who our true friends are and to come back to those who stick with us no matter what, including our family members.
So, no matter how drastic changes are, you will always have your people by your side, and you will also need to grieve those who left with your previous relationship.
Fact #20: Talking To Friends Helps
Your friends will be of immense help in moments of extreme vulnerability, like after breaking up.
Talking to them will help you relieve some of your emotions, and they can also keep your mind in check if it goes to overly negative and dark places.
Your friends’ support is priceless, and you will realize their value in these difficult moments.
On top of that, it will help you deepen your relationship with them. In and out of itself, this is a therapeutic thing.
Although they will not fill the void left by your ex-partner, they will certainly make it more bearable.
Being grateful for the chance to have them will also make you aware of the good things in your life, which will reduce the amount of catastrophizing that the breakup might trigger.
Fact #21: Developing New Relationships Is Beneficial
After a breakup, you might tend to withdraw and avoid social activities altogether.
When this phase served its purpose, you would gain a lot in seeking out new interactions with people you’ve never seen or met before.
Talking to strangers and befriending some of them will create a new dynamic in your life and help you get over the old one you were in.
It is also a great catalyst for reconnecting to your individuality after being untied with somebody for a long time.
Fact #22: Journaling Will Purge The Negativity Out
Besides talking to friends and new people, a great therapeutic tool is journaling your feelings.
Writing them on a piece of paper help you take them out of your mind and heart, and it will help you stop ruminating and thinking about them constantly. The more you do it, the better.
In fact, journaling is also about being honest with yourself, as it might not always be possible with other people.
Writing your thoughts and emotions down is like having a conversation with yourself, albeit in a structured, kind, and constructive way.
If you ever feel overwhelmed by your feelings during the breakup process, diving into your journal to write will become your safe haven.
Fact #23: Getting Closure From Your Ex Can Help, But Isn’t Necessary
A few weeks after breaking up, you might be tempted to talk to your ex once again to clarify some things, especially if the breakup was messy and all over the place.
Getting this type of closure can really help you come to terms with it, accept the end of it, and move on with your life.
For many people, that post-breakup discussion was pivotal for completing the grieving process.
However, getting closure from your ex is not always possible if emotions are still running high on both sides.
You should know that it is possible to move on without closure from them since you can give that to yourself. It might be more challenging, but it will empower you greatly.
Fact #24: Starting A New Romance Too Soon Is Risky
Usually, psychologists recommend not starting any new serious romantic relationship until about a year after the breakup.
This is because a year is deemed sufficient to find yourself again, to work on the insights you got from the previous relationship, and, most importantly, to avoid carrying the consequences of the heartbreak into your future relationship.
In fact, people have the urge to find a new relationship when the previous one is done and go as far as marrying somebody in the first six months after the breakup.
However, most of them report still thinking about their exes and sometimes longing to be with them. This creates problems with their new partners and makes them dissatisfied.
So be careful about jumping back into a romance too early; it might hurt you and other people too.
Fact #25: It Won’t Be Long Before The First Rebound Sex
Rebound sex is real, but people are inconsistent in reporting whether it was beneficial for their healing process.
Interestingly, researchers at the University of Missouri report that nearly fifty-eight percent of people will have rebound sex in the first month after the breakup.
Most people engage in rebound sex as a means to boost their self-confidence and validate their attractiveness by feeling wanted by somebody else.
Although rebound sex seems to cause more positive effects than damages, revenge sex shows the opposite pattern. Your intention before going back to the dating scene is the only thing that matters.
Fact #26: You Will Know More About Yourself
The self-knowledge you will get after a relationship is incredibly precious.
You will understand the ways in which you want to be loved, your boundaries, your taste in romantic partners, and many other things.
But this understanding is not limited to romantic relationships only, it is deeper than that.
For instance, how you felt throughout the relationship can inform you about your attachment style and make you more aware of your personality traits.
It will shed light on your deeper fears and insecurities, as well as your core beliefs and your behavioral tendencies.
A breakup might feel like a failure, but it really isn’t: thanks to that relationship, you are one step closer to self-mastery.
Fact #27: You Will Change Many Things
Being faced with the end of a relationship will increase your drive to make changes in your life.
For instance, although seemingly stereotypical, women usually change their looks, and men go to the gym.
But this example is superficial because the desire for change is deeply linked to the increased understanding of yourself that the relationship and the breakup made you aware of.
By understanding more about yourself, you also get a clearer grasp of what you like and dislike in your life.
Changing things according to your needs and desires will be beneficial to you, and it contributes to setting a new dynamic in your life that you will carry on as you move past the breakup.
It echoes the new identity you’re working to build, and carrying out changes is the way forward.
Fact #28: It Doesn’t Have To Be All Negative
As time passes by and the breakup starts feeling more and more distant in time, you will come to realize that the relationship you had wasn’t all bad and that it wasn’t all good.
You will start seeing things objectively as your emotions return to baseline intensity levels. In those moments, you realize that what you had was good while it lasted.
This realization is extremely relieving and a sign that your healing process is reaching its purpose.
You may even be grateful for the time you had with your ex and start holding the good memories dear in your heart without clinging to them.
The ups and downs have led you to this moment, and you feel at ease, in peace with what has been, instead of fantasizing about what could’ve been.
Fact #29: You Will Feel More Ready For Your Next Relationship
As the understanding of yourself grows and your self-concept clarifies, the work you made on yourself will bring its fruits.
You will become more mindful of your own maladaptive patterns and learn to recognize them in other relationships.
You will be more able to regulate your emotions and tackle your misbehaviors. In sum, you will have matured.
The work you made on yourself will make you eventually feel that you are ready to step into a new relationship that will be handled better.
But do not be mistaken; more work awaits you when you get into that new relationship.
Self-development never stops, but you will certainly fare better than before, thanks to the new version of yourself that you worked so hard to reach.
Fact #30: They Might Come Back
Exes tend to come back around. This might be a triggering moment for you, so you should treat yourself with kindness if it does occur.
When your ex comes to ask about you, it is up to you to do as you see fit.
But it is useful to remember the process you’ve been through, the insights about yourself, and the relationships you acquired, both good and bad.
With a new frame that is more objective, talking to your ex will feel like a slightly, if not a completely different experience because you have changed and grown since the breakup.
This potential talk can also be a nice way to get a final word of closure if you didn’t have to chance to have one in order to truly close that chapter of your life and move onwards.
Fact #31: You Will Find Love Once More
Make no mistake about that: love will always come back to you. There are plenty of people out there looking for their soulmates, and you will find one without a doubt.
You can take all the time you need before allowing somebody in your heart again because that is your own choice to make.
However, remind yourself of this fact when loneliness creeps back again, along with thoughts that you won’t find anybody to match you.
Have faith in love, even if your previous relationships told you to do otherwise. Affirm this in your heart: love will find your way again.
Fact #32: Remember, You’re Free Now!
To end on a good note, remember that, at this moment, you are completely free! You can do as you please, whenever suits you, without taking any partner into consideration.
The single life is yours for the taking, and until love crosses your path again, make the most out of it!
Life is so vast, and there are so many experiences to have. If you felt limited in your previous relationship, now is the to go out there and explore.
Learn to enjoy your own company, do things alone or with friends, but most important of all, go out there, do those things, and have the fun of your life.
Going through a breakup is difficult. It makes us go through some tough, dark moments, and we are left confused about who we are and what to do next.
It is important to take it easy on yourself during these times and to let the process unfold as it should.
The psychological facts about breakups that this article described are a summary of what we currently know about them.
It will help you prepare and respond to the consequences of a breakup and understand that many people are going through the same process at the same time.
Keep faith, and light and love will always come back to illuminate your life.
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Alan is the founder of Subconscious Servant. He has a passion for learning about topics such as spirituality and the metaphysical world. The thing he loves to explore most though is manifesting with the law of attraction ✨.