Everyone knows how traumatizing a relationship breakdown can be – but what’s the psychological science behind it, and how can one overcome the grief of it all?
Relationship breakups can be one of the hardest things a person can experience, and their emotional consequences can be severe. Despite this, modern human society often creates a false dynamic of the relationship breakup, portraying it as something unnecessarily dramatized – sometimes even to the point of being quite comedic to outsiders.
The reality for the one enduring the emotional rollercoaster of a breakup, however, can be anything. On the contrary, few things in the world have a greater potential to form long-lasting psychological injury than a breakup, especially if not treated seriously. That said, is it treatable, you ask? Yes, absolutely! Here’s why, and more importantly: how.
Why Breakups Hurt So Much
One can be forgiven for getting quite confused about why being broken up with via a text message is so traumatic, considering that, realistically, there is no evidence to suggest either that it will be one’s last relationship or that anything bad is going to happen to anyone in an actual physical danger sense – but the trauma is very real, and the answer as to its severity goes all the way back to evolutionary biology.
Genetically speaking, homo-sapiens have not changed much neurologically in hundreds of thousands of years, for a vast majority of which, due to the small scale and nomadic nature of people back then, the sudden ending of friendships and relationships was most commonly associated with one thing: tragic and unexpected death, or exile, often leading to death.
Therefore, in humans’ prehistoric minds, at least, there is little difference psychologically between being dumped on instant messenger and coming home from a fishing trip one day to discover that a crocodile has eaten one’s lover – something which most would agree would be quite traumatic.
Where Breakups Can Get Messy
Forgetting how ingrained in humans’ brains the importance of maintaining the relationship may be, there may also be innumerable serious, real-world consequences to consider. Your ex may share a friendship circle with you for one thing, which may lead to segregation within the group and social unrest, or for one party to be ostracised completely.
Additionally, you may even be their co-worker, which can easily impact work productivity and lead to conflicts of interest in the workplace. Plus, if you share accommodation, this might lead to at least one party having to move – or in a more complicated circumstance, should you co-own property together, a separation will probably mean getting a legal intervention to decide who ultimately gets what in terms of the estate.
If you are married or have children with your ex, a breakup can have lifelong consequences for them and their relationship with their parents as well – something specialist lawyers like those in the Robertsons Family Law child law advice department know all too well, for instance. The point is, it is remarkable how easy it is to build an entire life around a certain individual and the relationship with them, and so when you or that person leaves, everything else changes – which can be overly traumatic for so many people.
Processing the Trauma
With some relationship breakdowns, it is possible to strike while the iron is hot, and indeed, some ‘rebound’ relationships can turn into marriages. However, for most, the more constructive approach is to take some time out to work on oneself, and in particular, to work on finding sources of confidence and self-esteem that are not wholly dependent on someone else – such as learning a new skill or hobby, developing one’s career, or traveling if one can afford it.
Despite how emotionally draining and despairing the post-breakup turmoil may be, it does not mean isolating oneself from friends and family is the right way to go about it – quite the reverse, actually; social interaction is a key strategy to keep issues like depression at bay following something tragic.
However, succeeding in learning from prior relationship breakdowns and applying those lessons in future relationships does require energy and confidence that comes from a recognition of one’s own self-value and what another stands to gain by being in a relationship with you. In other words, convincing others that you are attractive is far easier if you believe it yourself!
Killing the Hatred
That said, it is just as easy to go in the opposite direction and blame your ex for everything that went wrong in the relationship. Unfortunately, relationships are rarely as clear-cut as to say that one party had absolutely nothing to do with what has transpired. Where issues like domestic violence or infidelity are concerned, one should not victim-blame where the cheater or abuser clearly shoulders the blame exclusively for those actions.
Still, in a majority of other cases, it is far healthier to face one’s own mistakes, learn from them, and adapt in the light of future encounters, rather than allowing the errors of others to fester – a type of unhelpful self-neglect that ultimately ends up leading to a sense of bitterness or resentment, as these issues of trust will almost certainly become an obstacle to the success of future relationships.