It’s like the world’s most complicated LEGO set and I can’t stop staring
The Aston Martin DB11 has a 600 horsepower, twin-turbocharged 5.2-liter V12 engine. It can go from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and can keep going all the way to a top speed of 200 mph. In pure Aston Martin form, the car is even more beautiful than it is quick, and a Grand Touring mode allows for long-distance cruising in sublime comfort.
But it’s that engine, hand-built at the Aston factory in Gayden, England that fascinates me today. The V12 has 1,667 individual parts (and 273 unique parts, thanks to duplication across those twelve cylinders) and the company’s engineers were kind enough to lay them all out for us in this fantastic photograph. It’s like the world’s most complicated LEGO set and I can’t stop staring. It seems that everything Aston Martin makes is incredibly beautiful, and this disassembled engine is no exception.
Magnificent. Also, I present you with the (completed) DB11, ready to climb the famous hill, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Spoiler: it looks even better in person.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has some advice for Donald Trump: Listen to Abraham Lincoln.
Trump had slammed Schwarzenegger on Twitter Friday morning for disappointing ratings for the season premiere of The New Celebrity Apprentice, so Schwarzenegger came back with an inspirational video message for the President-elect, harkening back to 1861.
“Please study this quote from Lincoln’s inaugural, @realDonaldTrump,” Schwarzenegger tweeted Friday morning. “It inspired me every day I was Governor, and I hope it inspires you.”
In the video, after saying he’s “sure you want to hear me read Lincoln’s speeches in my Austrian accent,” the former California governor recites the famous final section of Lincoln’s first inaugural address:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Tom and I broke up a few weeks before he was due to start medical school.
Our relationship had been a whirlwind. We had known each other since childhood but had been dating for just 10 days before he moved down from Connecticut to Pennsylvania and into my small one-bedroom apartment. A few months later, we were planning our wedding, deliberating what guest favors we would choose (DIY terrariums were under consideration), and stopping in at jewelers to try on engagement rings. I was elated, effervescent, convinced he was “the one.”
Then all of a sudden, we were on the rocks. Arguments interrupted even the briefest phone conversations. Weekend trips ended in tears and yelling.
One afternoon at the end of my workday, eight months after our relationship began, I found myself sitting in my parked car, dialing his number in a moment of panic and confusion. “I’m not getting what I need,” I told him.
In the nights that followed, I had the dramatic push-pull experience that everyone experiences immediately following a breakup: on top of the world and triumphant in my decision one moment, certain that my ex would come crawling back, confident that I had made the right call, and then suddenly heartbroken, afraid, and completely numb, somehow all simultaneously. I cried into his voicemail. I sat by my window and listened to “A Case of You” on repeat. I wallowed.
When I spoke to Brian Boutwell, an evolutionary psychologist at St. Louis University, he gave me some insight into the science behind my sadness. He said that being in love involves the same neural circuitry as a cocaine addiction.
“Falling in love presents very much like an addictive process,” he told me. “You have this drive to get that fix in the form of being around the person that you care about.”
So my breakup was a cocaine withdrawal? Boutwell says yes.
“We have this pervasive idea that, ‘oh, it’s just a breakup, it’s not that big of a deal,’” he said. “Whereas emotionally it can be quite a big deal, and [breakups] can be a risk factor for depression, which is no clinical condition to take lightly. There is a real analogy of the, quote, broken heart. There’s some physiological rationales behind that thinking. [Breakups] can jeopardize one’s health.”
This description rings true to me: After the breakup, I felt physically ill, exhausted, and devastated. One of these particularly low moments, I scared myself into anger — at my ex, at myself, at this entire stupid situation. How dare he not fight harder for this relationship? How dare something end that was so promising and beautiful? But most importantly, how dare I — an outspoken feminist, constantly touting women’s independence, glory, power, resilience — betray women by behaving like my life was over because of something as trivial as a breakup? What had really happened here? I had lost a man, a friend, a partner, but I hadn’t lost myself.
So I embarked on a quest to reclaim myself, to turn this breakup into an opportunity for renewal and self-discovery, rather than an excuse to feel sorry for myself. I tried all sorts of things, from reconnecting with old friends to blocking my ex on every single social media channel imaginable.
Here’s a list of everything I tried, along with an honest assessment of how each one worked for me. I also wanted to know how my experiences lined up with the scientific consensus on what helps people get over breakups, so I asked relationship researchers to weigh in on my list.
1) I said yes to every social invitation
For the first few weeks following the breakup, I vowed to accept every social invitation that came my way. This was the best decision I could have possibly made. I bought myself new bathing suits and went to the beach. I took selfies in the sun. I went to cast parties and had a snuggle pile on a damp lawn with other tipsy theater kids. I kissed my co-stars and crooned along to Sara Bareilles and played Never Have I Ever around a fire pit. I went clubbing for the first time since I started seeing my ex. I found my freedom.
The clubbing was especially liberating. After the breakup, I reveled and rebelled. I went out to gay bars and embraced my bisexuality, distancing myself from my previous relationship and reasserting my queer identity. I danced on the tops of bars and on club stages. I wore my shortest skirts, highest heels, and reddest lipstick. I dove into my Snapchat story with gusto. I got number after number, smiled as widely as I could, and left the clubs exhausted, sore, satisfied, and solo. I slept starfish on my bed and gave myself permission to take up all the space.
The experience of accepting these invitations not only allowed me to create new friendships but also reminded me that I could be single without being “alone.” I am the kind of person who gets lost in their partner — I plan my weekends and evenings around them, I try to reserve my free time to spend by their side, and, in doing so, I neglect my own friendships and relationships. I forget how to effectively self-care. I allow myself to become isolated and dependent.
After my breakup, I extended friendship feelers in all directions. I let myself be swept along to late-night karaoke and cozy taverns, polo matches, and long walks through Newport. I basked in new people, and found myself feeling more and more at home in my own skin.
Downsides: During the beginning of the breakup, accepting these invitations probably won’t feel genuine. You may feel guilty for going out, or you may go out only to obsessively check your phone for the night, convinced your ex will text you. You might feel dirty for dancing with new people. You might feel ashamed for having fun, while the sad parts of you try to suck you back into the dark hole of Netflix and order-in pizza. Go out anyway. That old adage — fake it ’til you make it — rings true.
Expert opinion: Grace Larson, a researcher at Northwestern University, told me that this desire to accept invitations was likely driven by my need to regain self-concept after the breakup. Going dancing was a reclamation of my independence.
According to Larson, “One of the things we found in our study was that when people were able to really agree with statements like, ‘I have reclaimed lost parts of myself that I could not express while with my partner’ … that predicts people being less depressed. That predicts people being less lonely. That predicts people not ruminating on the breakup anymore.”
2) I nourished by body with healthy food and exercise
The farmers market became a weekend staple. I went shopping with my aunt and bought myself lush greens, miniature summer squash, ripe orchard apples, frozen lemonade. I gave my body what it wanted. I planned recipes. I made mug after mug of green tea and French-press coffee. I absolutely spoiled myself. If I saw a bar of chocolate I wanted at the grocery store? It was mine. Those vegan marshmallows? Why not? The world was my oyster.
Going to the farmers market and creating a treat-myself food mentality was delightful. Coming home and realizing I would have to eat these bounties by myself? Not so much.
Fortunately, my attempts to be good to my body didn’t stop at food. I bought a beginner yoga pass at a local studio, and the entire experience was incredible. I breathed slowly, stretched, shook, and repeated the mantra: I am the only person on my mat. The practice of yoga became a way to ground myself in my own body and my own presence. It was about taking care of myself and healing after an emotional trauma. It allowed me to recognize the way I was hurting without indulging in it. It was glorious. I left the studio feeling powerful, calm, and whole. Even if the feeling only lasted for five minutes, those five minutes were beautiful.
In addition to the yoga practice, I joined a gym close to my home and started attending group workout classes. My ex was a personal trainer and a football player: strong, hard-bodied, and confident in the presence of other athletes. I was a curved, uncoordinated gym-phobe who preferred to work out in the safety and privacy of my living room. I had balked at each one of my ex’s gym invitations.
Now I went to spin classes, barre classes, and a gym boot camp. I met with a personal trainer and planned out a way to reach my fitness goals. I supplemented my gym classes with long walks and choreography rehearsals for the show. I started to see progress. On the days when my motivation to exercise just wasn’t there, I forgave myself. Breakups suck. Sometimes they require lazy nights in front of Netflix and some order-in Chinese food (extra duck sauce and the largest order of lo mein I can get, thanks). My progress wasn’t rapid-fire. I didn’t go vegan. But the trainers at the gym recognize me, and a few even know me by name. That’s something.
Downsides: If you choose to use food as a means to cope with a breakup, do so with a friend. Eating kale by yourself and trying to stay happy is just a bummer all around. Additionally, it is really tempting to grab excessive amounts of sweets and junk to treat yourself. DO NOT. I repeat — do not. You will feel sick and crampy, and you don’t want to make things harder on your body when it is already coping with a massive emotional blow.
As for the workout component of this, there will be days when you think about the gym and you Just Can’t. On those days, you might feel worthless or lazy or like nobody will find you attractive ever again. Forgive yourself, give yourself a rest, and treat your body in other ways. Take a bath with some essential oils. Spend the night giving yourself a pedicure, complete with freshly lotioned legs. Take a long walk through the park and practice mindful breathing. You do not have to sweat every day. You only need to be kind to yourself.
Expert opinion: Grace Larson told me that it’s important to create healthy physical rhythms after a breakup. Breakups, she said, throw our daily routines into disarray: “In order to counteract this chaos and disorganization, it’s even more important to eat regular meals. It’s more important to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. It’s even more important to set a new, steady schedule for when you’re going to exercise.”
3) I reconnected with old friends
Effectiveness: 10/10 (MOST IMPORTANT)
My best girlfriends live in Maine and Massachusetts. Before Tom and I broke up, my relationship occupied most of my time. My lady loves fell to the wayside as I basked in the bliss of romance.
After the breakup, I was able to reconnect. I spent weekend after weekend taking long drives to binge Netflix and wine, snuggle, cry, and process my heartbreak out loud with people who loved me. I made the women in my life my priorities. I spent hours on the phone, catching up with the people I had lost touch with. Nothing feels like home quite like being barefoot on your best friend’s couch with a glass of red wine and a handy box of tissues.
These women reminded me that there were pieces of my past unburdened, or possibly even strengthened, by the breakup. Marie took me on long walks with her puppy, and the two of us sipped mimosas over brunch. She rooted me to my most loving self. She reminded me that I was still (and always had been) lovable. Olivia pulled me out of my comfort zone. She brought me rock climbing and to Walden Pond. She helped me celebrate my independence. She talked me through asking my ex for my things back. Marie and Olivia helped me rebuild a foundation of my strongest, happiest, and most present self. They reminded me that all was not lost.
Downsides: If you’re going through a breakup and live a long distance from your best friends, using these visits as a coping mechanism may be more challenging. If that happens: SKYPE! FaceTime. Plan phone calls. Make sure to hear their voices.
Also, when you’re in a heartbreak space, it can be challenging to remember that your friends have other commitments — partners, jobs, social lives — that they also need to tend to. When they are unavailable, remind yourself that it is not because they don’t want to help you feel better. It’s impossible to pour from an empty glass. Your biggest supporters still need to recharge between snuggle sessions. It’s not because they don’t care. It’s because they want to care most effectively for you AND themselves.
Expert opinion: Larson told me that breakups disrupt what psychologists call our “attachment systems.”
“In the same way that an infant child is reliant on their mother or their primary caregiver to soothe them … adults still have a strong need to connect deeply with one other person,” Larson said.
“And normally there is this process, when you go from being a little kid, your attachment bond is with your mom or your dad, grandparents, a close caregiver. When you transition into adolescence, that attachment bond becomes your closest, most intimate friends. And then when we become adults, our primary attachment is likely to be to a romantic partner.”
The question, as Larson put it, is this: What happens after a breakup, when you can no longer rely on your partner to be your primary attachment?
“What happens for a lot of people is they switch that attachment back to those people who in an earlier stage of life may have been the primary attachment. Your attachment might snap back to close friends, it might even snap back to your parents, or it might snap back to an ex-lover.”
4) I cut off all my hair
I went through the panicked must change everything impulsivity soon after the breakup. I made the decision to get a dramatic haircut, and chopped off about 10 inches. The new look upped my confidence and gave me back some of my sass. My ex had loved my long hair. Getting it cut off felt like reclaiming my body as my own, asserting my autonomy, and taking a risk. I left the salon feeling as glamorous as Rachel Green.
Downsides: The 30 seconds of panic after looking in the mirror for the first time post-haircut. But only those 30 seconds.
Expert opinion: Larson put this impulse in the context of both evolutionary biology and identity reassertion. She said, “Everybody knows you’re newly single. You’re going to try to be attractive — that makes perfect sense. In light of the research, it makes sense that you would try really broadcast this new, strong identity.”
5) I blocked my ex on every social media channel I could think of
I’m a Facebook stalker. I’m a rabid Instagram follower, a Snapchat checker, and a general social media addict. Immediately following a breakup, this quality was poison. I was thrilled to be able to show off my new life and my happiness, but a single update from my ex would leave me devastated and confused and missing everything about him.
The day he started posting pictures of himself with other women, I spent the afternoon feeling ill, angry, and betrayed. So rather than give up my social media accounts and the small comfort they brought me, I blocked him. On. Everything. I blocked his snaps and his Instagram feed. I blocked him on Facebook. I deleted his email address from my address book. I removed his number from my saved “favorites.”
The blocking was a very wise move. Not only did it stop me from seeing any potentially heart-wrenching posts, but it also kept me from posting unnecessary fluff, to make my life look exciting and rewarding on the off chance that my ex decided to look at my profiles. My life is exciting and rewarding, and not feeling the need to prove it helped me to actually participate in and enjoy it.
Downsides: Not being able to see what your ex is up to is actually really challenging. When you’re used to being a part of someone’s every day — when you care about their happiness, how successful they are, whether they are reaching their goals — the sudden disconnection of social media removal can feel overwhelming.
But I promise it helps in the long run. You can’t dwell on whether they are seeing other people. You can’t go through all of their recently added friends, or check to see who might be liking their photos. The pain of not knowing hurts much less than the pain of constantly obsessing — trust me.
Expert opinion: When I spoke to Larson about this habit, she referenced the work of Leah LeFebvre, a professor at the University of Wyoming who studies dating and relationships. Larson told me, “When you post glamorous pictures as evidence of your exciting new life, LeFebvre and her colleagues would call this ‘impression management.’ In contrast, they consider blocking or unfriending an ex as part of the strategy of ‘withdrawing access.’”
According to Larson, “These researchers argue that they are both part of the process of dictating the storyline of the split ("I’m the one who is winning in this breakup!"). … These tactics serve to demonstrate — to yourself, your ex, and anyone else who’s watching — that you are self-reliant and flourishing in the wake the breakup.”
6) I downloaded Tinder and started dating again — casually
This was the scariest part of my post-breakup revolution. I vowed not to have a serious partner for at least a year after Tom and I broke up. However, he was the last person I had kissed. The last person I had shared a bed with. The last person who had played with my hair and warmed my (always, always) cold toes. When I thought of intimacy and flirtation, I immediately thought of him. It made the concept of dating an absolute nightmare, which is precisely why I (re)downloaded Tinder and started talking to new people.
At first, I felt cheap and guilty, as though I were betraying my ex or making false promises to these new matches. But after a few weeks, I met some wonderful people. I went for coffee and out to lunch, and got to know men and women who were brilliant, accomplished, ambitious, affectionate, warm, whose company reminded me that I myself was bright, charming, and desirable. These people treated me like I was exciting, and so I felt exciting.
Downsides: You will feel guilty. You will feel confused. You will feel unsure of yourself. You might feel dirty, or ashamed, or cheap. You might feel like you’re using other people. You might feel dishonest. Dating again after a breakup, especially soon after a breakup, is not for everyone. Having sex with someone new after a breakup, especially soon after a breakup, is not for everyone. Listen to your body and your instincts. If you feel gross or uncomfortable during a date, it is okay to cut that date short, go home, get in the bath, and listen to Josh Groban until you feel cozy again.
Expert opinion: St. Louis University’s Brian Boutwell says that dating after a breakup is a good idea because it’s almost guaranteed to result in one of two options: It will make you realize there are other fish in the sea, and therefore help you get over your ex; or it’ll inspire you see the good things about your old relationship, and therefore lead you to the decision to get back together.
“There is the potential for an evolutionary payoff in both respects,” he said. “You might either regain your old mate or you can move on, acquiring a new, maybe more promising mate.”
7) I threw myself into my work and career
The breakup might have hurt my heart, but it helped solidify my career and my professional goals. Since the breakup, I’ve been offered two competitive jobs in public health and a fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have been motivated to study for graduate and law school entrance exams. I have been able to dedicate myself to my work, with no distractions.
The freedom of not needing to consider another person’s aspirations has been a saving grace for my self-love, as I’ve enthusiastically fed my ambition. I accepted a new job with a better title, and transitioned back into a field of work that I am passionate about, gender-based violence prevention. At 22 years old, I gave my first lecture to university students, on sex trafficking and wartime sexual violence as human rights abuses.
I’ve submitted presentation proposals to three academic conferences, written several papers, and co-authored a book chapter on sexual violence prevention. I have joined the Toastmasters public speaking group, improved my rhetorical skills, and explored opportunities in political journalism. In short, I have achieved, in spite of — and because of — the heartbreak. I have learned never to underestimate the power of a woman in love, or the power of a woman recently out of it.
Downsides: There are no downsides here!
Expert opinion: “Breakups make you feel out of control,” Larson said. “They take agency away from you.”
As a result, she said, “Not only are you going to feel more attractive and more valuable if you’re really kicking ass in your career, it’s also an area where you can exert total control.”
These were the steps I chose in order to feel most empowered and soothed during my heartbreak. This is not to say that I am completely over it. When you truly love someone, I’m not certain there ever really is an “over it.” But I am confident and happy. My life feels gloriously like my own, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to have gotten to know myself even better.
Katie Bogen is a senior clinical research assistant in psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital.
Few things knock your emotional world off its axis like a breakup. When my first long-term relationship ended, I woke up for several days in a row not quite remembering that my ex and I had split. This lapse would only last one or two seconds, but each time the reality hit, I switched from my usual cozy contentment to cold, sickening shock all over again.
And I was far from alone in how I reacted to my split. Breakups aren’t just unpleasant; for young adults, they are one of the most common risk factors for clinical depression. My understanding of this topic doesn’t come only from my own experience: I’m a relationship psychologist, now in my fifth year of doctoral study at Northwestern University. In addition to investigating how people bounce back from breakups, I study how people begin and maintain high-quality relationships.
At the time of that first split, I was supervising an ambitious project at the University of Arizona that followed young adults as they moved on from painful breakups. This study used a smorgasbord of tools to gauge recovery: surveys and interviews, heart rate monitors and sensors that could show us if participants’ hands got even the tiniest bit sweaty when they thought about their breakup. By the time the study had wrapped up, I’d heard more than 200 college students and community members tell the stories of their splits.
Since then, I’ve been involved in studies looking at whether our bodies provide hidden signals showing when we’ve moved on from a split, how social loss could affect something as basic as how our DNA expresses itself, and why writing about a divorce could actually keep us stuck.
Breakups fascinate me in part because they can affect each of us very differently, and leave their mark on so many aspects of our lives. Before we fully move on, we might find ourselves sobbing hysterically in bed some days and drained of emotion on others. We might long to be around friends 24/7 or retreat into isolation, struggle to sleep or never leave the bed, crave casual sex or watch as physical desire becomes a distant memory.
I now see these diverse consequences as a result of just how broadly breakups change our lives. Everyone knows that splitting with a lover means losing a huge source of physical affection, intimacy, and mutual care. But breakups also have a range of subtler effects: reshuffling our identity, throwing off our internal biological rhythms, and forcing us to revamp assumptions about our future.
The perspective offered here is based in research I’ve conducted and research conducted by colleagues whose work I deeply admire. In essence, I’ll be walking you through a greatest hits tour of what I think is the coolest, most enlightening, and most useful research on breakups and how to get over them
Why are breakups so painful?
They change the way we see ourselves
One of the most blissful parts of falling in love is getting so close to someone that you feel as though you are almost merging. And research confirms that as a relationship grows, the psychological boundaries between the two members of a couple blur in several different ways.
Every late night pouring one’s heart out and every adventure exploring new parts of town is an opportunity for partners to share and swap their traits, skills, and perspectives like two chromosomes during meiosis. Perhaps she grows to share his love for the quiet Ohio town where he grew up; perhaps he can now tell the difference between a malbec and a zinfandel after the countless bottles she’s brought home. And the more committed couples become, the more they do tend to think in terms of “we” — what’s best for us, what do we want, what does our future hold.
This process is thrilling and rewarding. Experiencing it in reverse, however, is disorienting and distressing. The end of a relationship calls into question many of our beliefs about our selves. (“Do I really love weightlifting? Or was I just trying to make him happy?”)
Research by Erica Slotter, a professor of psychology at Villanova University, and her colleagues confirms that this uncertainty is psychologically stressful. Slotter and her team tracked the relationships of 69 college freshmen for six months, asking every two weeks about the status of the relationship and about whether the students had a clear sense of who they were. When Slotter examined the scores of the 26 students who broke up within those six months, she saw that their level of clarity about who they were nosedived in the testing session immediately after their breakup. Moreover, their scores continued to decline over the remaining weeks in the study — and the more confused they were about their identity, the more they showed signs of depression.
They alter our biological rhythms
As we become attached to a partner, he or she starts to have a powerful influence on our thoughts, our feelings — and our physiology. David Sbarra, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Arizona (and the head of my former lab) and his collaborator Cindy Hazan, a professor of human development at Cornell, argue that close partners help keep our physical systems in balance: They calm us down when we get agitated, energize us when we start to lag, and help set the pace of our daily lives (like signaling when it’s mealtime or bedtime). In essence, in addition to being lovable, a partner also acts like a combination alarm clock, pacemaker, and security blanket. And whether a relationship is wonderful or lousy, partners still become deeply accustomed to each other’s presence, physically and psychologically.
Consequently, a breakup throws both partners out of whack, like a caffeine addict suddenly deprived of her morning red-eye. Sbarra and Hazan note that adults going through a breakup show many of the same signs of physical dysregulation that infants do if separated from a caregiver: physical agitation, disrupted sleep, irregular appetite, and so on.
Strikingly, these are also quite similar to the symptoms you’d see if you deprived someone of natural light, thereby disrupting her circadian rhythms. So if you’re mourning a breakup and tossing and turning in bed at night, it’s likely not just due to sadness; instead, your partner may have been part of what kept your internal cycles on track.
This physical disorganization isn’t just unpleasant but can also contribute to health problems. When thinking about a painful breakup, people will show signs of stress like elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, having your body in this amped-up state could cause gnarly wear and tear, with real effects on health. Indeed, people who divorce and don’t remarry are at a higher risk of early death.
Breakups are even harder when the relationship was highly committed
Commitment is an invaluable resource for a relationship. It motivates partners to take care of each other, it encourages forgiveness and sacrifice, and it provides a sense of security. Commitment involves not just intending to stick with a loved one but also feeling deeply attached to the person and automatically incorporating them into your thoughts about the future.
Yet commitment also poses risks. Very committed couples are much less likely to break up, but when they do, the emotional fallout is substantially worse. Indeed, while the length and happiness of a relationship doesn’t necessarily affect how devastating the breakup is, people show sharper declines in their life satisfaction after a breakup if they had made a concrete commitment to their partner, including moving in together or planning to marry.
Just as it hurts to give up aspects of your identity, it also hurts to abandon plans for the future. And if you had been assuming you would spend the rest of your life with another person … well, a breakup could mean suddenly being forced to give up the idea of several exotic getaways, a few dozen future family holidays, and perhaps even some imaginary tots with names like Ava and Jayden. This kind of large-scale mental revision is confusing, draining, and difficult.
What can we do about it?
Give yourself permission to get angry
Breakups almost never trigger just one emotion. If you are facing an unwanted breakup, you’re likely grieving because you lost something precious to you — but because a split is rarely irreversible, you may also be hopeful, wondering if there’s some way the rift between you and your ex can be repaired. You may feel the dejection that goes along with having little control over a painful situation, but also the anger of having someone specific to blame for your suffering. And, of course, you may still have lingering love and desire for your ex.
Of course, most of us want to stop feeling any kind unpleasant emotions about our breakup as soon as possible. Counterintuitively, the best way to do this may be to embrace your anger, rather than indulging in bittersweet feelings of tenderness and affection.
In one study that closely tracked young adults’ feelings about a breakup over the course of a month, researchers found that on days when participants reported especially strong love for their ex, they tended to show a rise in sadness the next day.
In contrast, when the participants said they had felt unusually angry, this predicted drops in both sadness and love. This pattern was especially strong for the participants who ended up recovering the most, and the researchers speculate that these emotional ups and downs could actually prevent us from getting stuck in the rut of cycling between sadness and longing.
Think (and talk) it out
One perfectly reasonable reaction to a breakup is to try to think about it as little as possible (a goal often made easier by a few mezcal shots or a marathon screening of Friends). Most people wouldn’t want to repeatedly rehash the details of their split, and they certainly wouldn’t want to do so with strangers.
But recent research my colleagues and I conducted at the University of Arizona suggests that this uncomfortable-sounding scenario could actually be therapeutic. We recruited 210 young adults who had split from their partner in the past six months and were still struggling to recover. We asked half of this group to come to the lab for what you could call the “no sweat” version of the study: two sessions nine weeks apart, each a half-hour, in which the participants simply completed questionnaires about their recovery.
We asked the remaining participants to give us much more of their time, returning to the lab four times over the same nine weeks. These sessions were substantially more in depth, lasting an hour or more and including interviews and physiological assessments (like heart rate and blood pressure tracking) on top of the questionnaires.
When we compared the groups’ scores on their final questionnaires, we saw that the people whose recovery was intensively monitored in fact showed more of a specific type of recovery: Their sense of identity was significantly clearer. They were more likely to agree with statements like “I have rediscovered who I am,” and they even used more “I” language and less “we” language when discussing the breakup. And, replicating prior research, this stronger sense of post-breakup identity in turn predicted being less lonely and less distressed about the breakup.
Although most people don’t have the option of joining a research study when they split from a partner, we think some aspects of our study can be recreated at home.
Part of the benefit of coming in for repeated lab visits may have been rehearsing, over and over, the “breakup story” — but in a setting that encouraged thinking about the experience in an analytic way, rather than wallowing. So if you are mourning a breakup, whether you choose to mull it over on your own or talk about it with a friend or therapist, it’s probably best to try to keep your thoughts organized rather than cycling through the same painful ideas again and again.
And as odd as it sounds, you may even want to imagine how the entire story of your breakup would look from a third-person perspective. Researchers at Berkeley have found that this technique, called self-distancing, can help people bounce back from distressing events like rejection.
Similarly, repeatedly completing a set of questionnaires could have allowed our participants to track their own recovery. While it’s no fun to toss and turn for a few hours each night obsessing about an ex, it might be comforting to recall that only a few weeks ago you were barely getting any sleep at all. Keeping a diary where you track key aspects of your healing process — sleep, mood, longing for your ex, etc. — could help you spot improvement. You may even want to enlist a trusted person, like a friend, family member, or therapist, to check in with you and give you a heads up if they see signals of progress.
Avoid your ex — strategically
The urge to keep in touch with an ex can be powerful. About half of people try to stay friends with their ex-partner, and about 90 percent of young adults keep tabs on their partner in some way (including monitoring them online, like making furtive visits to an ex’s Instagram).
If you succumb to this impulse, however, know that it may come at a cost. When people see their ex-partner, they tend to feel more sad (not fun!) and also more in love with their ex (possibly fun, but not useful for moving on). Even cyberstalking can be toxic: Facebook surveillance of an ex is linked to distress, longing, and less personal growth.
There are important caveats to this pattern, though. Ashley Mason and her collaborators at the University of Arizona found that if you’ve really, truly accepted the breakup, you are actually likely to feel better if you’re in touch your ex. (The contact has to be nonsexual, though — sorry to disappoint!) They propose that because people who are truly over a breakup don’t rely on their ex’s comfort and support anymore, seeing the ex isn’t likely to trigger yearnings for closeness that then go unsatisfied. Instead, these folks can simply enjoy the pleasure of their ex’s friendship.
On the other hand, for people who still haven’t come to terms with the breakup, sex with an ex-partner (but not G-rated contact) is actually better for soothing distress. Because these folks still wish they had the intimacy and security of their old relationship, seeing an ex platonically can rouse a desire for closeness without fully satisfying it. The researchers speculate that actually having sexual or romantic contact allows someone to truly feel intimate with their ex, which (at least temporarily) quenches this desire and relieves their pain.
You will move on eventually
Even with all the tips, tricks, and Ben & Jerry’s in the world, breakups can be agonizing. But there are a couple of reasons to be optimistic.
First, the distress will usually fade long before you expect. Paul Eastwick, a former graduate student at Northwestern University and now an associate professor of psychology at UC Davis, and Eli Finkel, a professor of psychology and management at Northwestern, found that when they asked people to estimate how upset they would be if they split up with their partner, those asked predicted a level of devastation far beyond what actually occurred when they did later break up. In fact, the pain that people actually felt immediately after the break was equivalent to the pain they predicted they would feel an entire two and a half months after the split.
And breakups can be an opportunity for growth as well as a source of suffering. In reflecting on a breakup, we often begin to recognize how we can improve as people and as partners. We may fumble our way back to parts of our identity that had been neglected and set aside because they didn’t neatly mesh with our partner’s personality. We can even find that it’s suddenly easier to achieve our goals: If a partner used to be particularly unhelpful in facilitating your success, your progress may actually accelerate following a split.
Have compassion for yourself: Even if a breakup is the right decision, disentangling the complexly intertwined lives and minds of two people is rarely easy. But if we’re lucky, we can rediscover a clear sense of who we are, and want to be, now that we’re on our own.
Grace Larson is a PhD student at Northwestern University studying close relationships. You can find out more about her research here.
There is a ton of confusing, often contradictory information about what diets work and which ones are healthy. This video breaks down many of the misconceptions about various types of diets.
The video, from ASAP Science, explains how different categories of diets work. For example, calorie restriction diets aim to lose weight by simply limiting the amount of energy you take in. If you follow this method, you could eat whatever you want, as long as you limit calories. CRON (or Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition) diets, on the other hand, also aim to limit calories, but with a focus on getting the best nutrients you can from the food you eat. Under this kind of diet, you wouldn’t get most of your calories from junk food. Check out the full video for a lot more information on high protein diets, or more risky total restriction diets.