Bleeding hearts, wikicommons.org
Source: Bleeding hearts, wikicommons.org

As college semesters came to a close, simple observations revealed faces of young people who had formed attachments and were anxious about summer break. Could their love be sustained? Despite some work noting that summertime is a high time for relationship endings, breaking up at anytime of year can be painful.  A Museum of Broken Relationships on Hollywood Boulevard stands as a reminder.

In talking about the museum, CBS reported on June 9, 2016: “Think of it as emotion under glass: a hundred or so ordinary objects that mean absolutely nothing to you and me -- and everything to the people who gave them up.”  Attorney John Quinn, who saw the original museum in Zagreb, Croatia, decided to create a model in Los Angeles.  (1)

The end of a relationship is often fraught with emotion. In terms of unmarried couples, Galena K. Rhoades, Ph.D., University of Denver, and study authors, discussed the mental health aspects of breaking up in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2011.  They found:

“Experiencing a break-up was associated with an increase in psychological distress and a decline in life satisfaction (from pre- to post-dissolution).”  

“As we had expected based on Rusbult’s (1980) investment model of commitment, relationships that had been characterized by more investments were associated with greater declines after the break-up. In particular, we found that when individuals had been living with their partner or reported having had plans to marry their partner, their life satisfaction declined more.” (2)

Essentially, the longer or more committed a couple may be, the greater the impact on their emotional well-being.

One can look at the effects of a broken relationship from both a physical and emotional perspective. In terms of physical reactions, the broken heart syndrome has been identified.  It manifests severe symptoms mimicking a heart attack and often will necessitate a hospital emergency department visit.  Stress cardiomyopathy, the broken-heart syndrome, primarily affects middle-age women. It is the interrelationship between the depression of lost love and extreme emotional distress triggers that such acute symptoms.  Although we often read about people who die of a broken heart, in fact, this particular syndrome is not considered life-threatening.  

In terms of emotions, Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D. discusses "The 7 Stages of Grieving a Breakup" in PsychologyToday.com. She identifies these stages as: Desperate for answers, denial, bargaining, relapse, anger, initial acceptance, and redirected hope.  (3)

The key question is this: After a breakup can a person whose heart is aching be healed? From maintaining a positive attitude to research on journal writing and even contributing to the Museum of Broken Relationships, here are thoughts on restoring balance if your world was shattered by the end of love relationship. Some of these suggestions are common sense, others are backed by science-based studies.

1. Start your days with gratitude:  Try using a gratitude journal. By expressing gratitude you remind yourself of the good times you shared and how you have been freed to find a love who values you, a love whom you value.  

Research from Gary W. Lewandowski, Ph.D., Monmouth University, has found that there is a benefit to writing about positive aspects of a break-up:

“The increased positive emotions included feelings such as: comfort, confidence, empowerment, energy, happiness, optimism, relief, satisfaction, thankfulness, and wisdom.” (4).

2. Have a good cry with your friends.

3. Resist the temptation to talk unkindly about your ex-love. Speaking kindly will encourage you to maintain a positive focus.

4. Practice image replacement.  If you find yourself feeling alone and falling into a dark hole, find a photo of yourself when you were happy and in love.  Believe that you are lovable and deserving of new love.

5. Make plans with friends who are upbeat, those who will encourage you to smile and embrace a new life about to unfold before you. (Check out old episodes of “Sex and the City.”)

6. Use social media wisely. Consider staying away from social media if friends touting their successful love life will depress you.  However, you might consider looking ahead and getting to know someone new. 

7. Make a new relationship checklist. Know the qualities you would like in a new partner. Think in terms of weighted averages.  If you find a new person who has everything you ever wanted on your wish list, but he/she is married for example, that one factor outweighs all the positives and should come off the list.  "20 Questions to Finding New Love and Marriage."

8. Remain open to a rebound love. Research in the Journal of Social Relationships found that rebound love may have its benefits. Brumbaugh and Farley determined from two studies that there may be some positive aspects to rebound love contradicting the notion to beware of the rebound. (5)

9. Embrace laughter: Before brooding alone call a friend who makes you laugh until your sides ache. Keep in mind that laughter is attractive to both sexes. A happier you can act like a magnet in your search for new love.

10. Be mindful about expectations: When you meet someone new, be careful that you do not impose expectations upon the person. For example, if you want a more loving relationship because your previous relationship lacked warmth, do not see a romantic in someone who simply squeezes your hand.

11. Contribute to the Museum of Broken Relationships.  Should you toss the mementos from a broken relationship?  There are two schools of thought on this. Keeping special reminders of the good times, may help you remember the joy you shared and thus, keep anger at bay. But you may be someone who wants no reminder whatever of your past love.  For you, there is the museum.

Alexis Hyde, the museum's director, acknowledged that even a failed relationship “contributed to who you are today. And we're all failing together and we're all trying to get back up together. And that, I think, is very beautiful."

When you get the sense that a relationship is coming to an end, take action. Try to have a face-to-face talk instead of phone call or  text message.  Both you and your soon-to-be ex will feel better if you can break up with dignity, clarity, and firmness. "35 Ways to Tell It's Over and How to Tell Your Partner."  

Copyright 2016 Rita Watson / www.ritawatson.com

Resources

1. An Exhibition of Bad Breakups, CBS News

2. Rhoades, Galena K.; Kamp Dush, Claire M.; Atkins, David C.; Stanley, Scott M.; Markman, Howard J., Breaking up is hard to do. Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 25(3), Jun 2011, 366-374. 

3. Suzanne Lachmann: 7 Stages of Grieving A Breakup / PsychologyToday.com

4. Lewandowski, G. Promoting positive emotions following relationship dissolution through writing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(1), 21-31. 2009

5. Brumbaugh,  Claudia C. and Fraley,  R. Chris “Too fast, too soon? An empirical investigation into rebound relationships, The Journal of Social Relationships. March 5, 2014

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