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Love can envelope you in a fifth of a second as we learned from a Syracuse University study "The Neuroimaging of Love" in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. So often you meet someone and each of you thinks you have been touched by the same star. For a long while, you are walking on air. Then suddenly the euphoria subsides. It can be for a myriad of reasons ranging from internal stress to outside factors. In terms of outside factors, relationship harmony took a dive during this past election season continues to do so.  

The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 6,426 people, taken from Dec. 27 to Jan. 18, [released in February] shows "the number of respondents who argued with family and friends over politics jumped 6 percentage points from a pre-election poll at the height of the campaign in October, up to 39 percent from 33 percent." (Reuters Relationship Poll.) 

Even after you fall from Cloud Nine and slip into feelings of annoyance, impatience, and anger you might still have a chance at saving your relationship. If you let negative feelings simmer into hate it may be too late for making up. However, breaking up is hard to do. Here are seven thoughts to keep in mind during a relationship struggle.

  • Sadly accept the realization that half of all marriages end in divorce, but yours does not need to fall into that statistic.
  • Be aware that when a relationship between unmarried couples ends, it affects quality of life.
  • When you sense a problem, calmly discuss and try to solve it with your partner.  
  • Be wary of advice from your friends.
  • If you cannot resolve the situation, move on with dignity.
  • In the event of a break up, and a bit of a mourning period, consider rebound love.
  • If you find yourself overwhelmed with sadness, seek the help of a therapist.

Half of all marriages still end in divorce

Despite the number of trips to the altar over the past 10 years, the divorce rate has remained consistent.  Approximately half of all marriages end in divorce according to recent figures from the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC:

  • Number of marriages: 2,140, 272 (49 reporting States and D.C.); that is, 6.9 per 1,000 total population 
  • Number of divorces: 813,862 (45 reporting States and D.C.); that is 3.2 per 1,000 total population

Be aware that when unmarried couples break-up, it is still distressful

Even couples in a committed relationship, who are not married, can experience heartbreak when their relationship ends. In the Journal of Family Psychology, a report focused on those in unmarried relationships: “Breaking Up is Hard to do: The Impact of Unmarried Relationship Dissolution on Mental Health and Life Satisfaction.”

This study was the first to examine the impact of unmarried relationship break-up on psychological distress and life satisfaction using a within-subjects design. Among unmarried 18 to 35 year olds (N = 1295), 36.5 percent had one or more break-ups over a 20-month period. Experiencing a break-up was associated with an increase in psychological distress and a decline in life satisfaction (from pre- to post-dissolution). Breaking up is Hard to Do 

Try to save your relationship with calm discussion

If you feel that your relationship is in trouble and you would like to be able to save it:, here are some thoughts to consider. 

  • State the reality —“Something is not working between us.”
  • Express your feelings —“I need us to recommit to each other or to move on.”
  • Be willing to listen, calmly, to the other person’s reaction.
  • Decide if the two of you can try again, and if so give yourselves a timeline and set goals.
  • If reconciliation is not possible, end the relationship with dignity.
  • If your partner is adamant and says, “It’s over,” instead of getting angry, you can still ask if the two of you might give it another try. 
  • If he says firmly, "No," accept the answer. Part with dignity and graciousness.
  • When you are alone ask yourself if you knew the relationship was in trouble. Oftentimes women know instinctively, but do not want to admit that a relationship is on a downward spiral. This is helpful because when you realize that something was missing in the relationship, it can make it easier to let go.

Follow a process so that you can recover and be accepting

If it looks as if reconciliation is out of the question, you might find yourself crying uncontrollably or falling into depression. You can find yourself on a positive path by trying the following: 

  • Start your days with gratitude:  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.
  • Resist the temptation to talk unkindly about your ex-love: Speaking kindly will encourage you to maintain a positive focus.
  • 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.  Focus on the inner you who is lovable and deserving of new love.
  • Try using a gratitude journal:  Research from Gary Lewandowski (2009) has found that writing about positive aspects of a break-up increases feelings such as comfort, confidence, empowerment, energy, happiness, optimism, relief, satisfaction, thankfulness, and wisdom.

Be wary of asking friends for advice

Sometimes we feel the need to talk with all of our friends—poll them even—to ask for advice.  But keep in mind that advice oftentimes comes in three wrappers and each carries an inherent danger.

  • If I were you—Keep in mind that this type of advice is usually tailored to what they would do if they were you, but they are not!
  • In my case—Oftentimes people who give advice do so based on personal circumstances, which may or may not be relevant to your own situation.
  • Telling you what you want to hear—This group dishes out advice that they think you want to hear even if they would not necessarily follow the advice for themselves.

In the case of love advice, it takes a bit of confidence and clear thinking to sort out advice that is valid from advice that is self-serving.  The first love advice rule is to consider the source! Doing so will spare you the anxiety of wondering if you are making a thoughtful decision.

  • Do evaluate advice; that is consider the source.
  • Do ask advice from friends whose decision making skills you respect and who have made wise, even forgiving choices in tough situations.
  • Be open—some advice is given because a friend is really concerned about you. 
  • Trust your instincts—your own thinking is often the best source for advice: Here is a link to an earlier article of mine: 35 Ways to Tell If It's Over and Tell Your Partner. 

If you are doing the breaking up, end with dignity and move on

If you are the one saying, "good bye" trust your breaking up instincts. In a completely rational way ask yourself, “If he was breaking up with me, what are the words that I would want to hear?" And extend the same kindness even if you have been betrayed.

  • Start from a positive position—“We have shared happy times together. If this is the end, I wish you happiness."
  • Decide to stay on the high road. No angry texts or messages. Why? It will help you keep your eyes open for the time you are ready to date again.
  • Make a list of all the positive qualities your former love possessed.
  • 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 that person should come off the list.

Look ahead to love again

  • Manage expectations: When you meet someone new, be careful that you do not impose expectations upon the person. For example, if you wanted a more loving relationship because your previous relationship lacked warmth, do not see a romantic in someone who simply squeezes your hand.  
  • Watch for too much by way of public displays of affection, it can signal a person trying too hard to make an impression.
  • Guard against repeating the past: A new person may have a different profession or different looks, but still have certain traits or characteristics of your past love, traits that precipitated a break-up. Look beyond the looks.

Take a chance on rebound love

In fact new research indicates that perhaps rebound love might be more helpful than harmful, as had been previously thought.  We have often read that the rebound relationships rarely last. Shimek and Bello (2014) tell us that after a serious romantic relationship ends, “some individuals employ and find relief in superficial or noncommittal rebound relationships, which act as a means for coping with the loss of the previous relationship and the severed emotional attachment to an ex-partner. . . .” 

However, going into a rebound relationship may not necessarily indicate superficiality.  Before doing so it is advisable to sift through and resolve issues from the previous relationship, access the factors leading up to a breakup, and acknowledge the positive aspects shared.

Brumbaugh and Farley (2015) determined from two studies that there may be some benefit in rebound love:

“Analyses indicated that people in new relationships were more confident in their desirability and had more resolution over their ex-partner. Among those in new relationships, the speed with which they began their relationship was associated with greater psychological and relational health. Overall, these findings suggest that rebound relationships may be more beneficial than typically believed.”

In essence, rebound love may be just what the doctor ordered. Keep yourself open to infatuation and love at first sight.  And if it is too soon for another love relationship, be open to the friendly hug of someone who is warm and loving.

Copyright 2017 Rita Watson

References

Brumbaugh, C.C. and Fraley, R.C., Too fast, too soon?  (2014) An empirical investigation into rebound relationships,"  The Journal of Social Relationships.

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

Shimek, C. and Bello. R. (2014) Coping with Break-Ups: Rebound Relationships and Gender Socialization,  Social Sciences, Special Edition.

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