Alas, people break up, and not everyone manages to live in perfect harmony before some kind of diamond wedding. Over the years of work, I have accumulated enough observations to make a kind of TOP 5 main mistakes people make when breaking up.

Psychologist's commentary 5 main mistakes when breaking upPsychologist's commentary 5 main mistakes when breaking up

Let’s get started.

1. Breakup is the end of the world

It seems to many that a break with a loved one completely nullifies all the pleasures of the world. Now the white light is worth a pretty penny, you want to hide under the covers and it seems that you will never, ever get out of there, because it is still useless, and there is nothing to live for.

Good to know – we are very bad at predicting the duration of our emotional reactions and tend to overestimate it.

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In fact, both pain and joy pass faster than we expect (although the pain passes more slowly). There is a lot of psychological research on this topic, you can read it yourself (see, for example, Sieff et al., 1999, or Gilbert et al., 1998).

In reality, the pain of parting passes quickly enough – especially if the relationship did not last very long. On average, half a year is enough to fully recover (the average period is exactly the average; for some it lasts longer, for others it is shorter).

2. I’m nothing, I can’t do anything

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Many people begin to get involved in self-flagellation. It seems to them that parting is an assessment of them as a person, as a person. The logic is not without elegance – if they broke up with me, it means that something is wrong with me, because they only part with those with whom something is wrong, they don’t part with normal ones.

This is, of course, an illusion. They leave different people for different reasons. And in order to make a diagnosis “I am a nonentity”, we need more serious evidence than a simple “I broke up with me”.

A breakup in and of itself is not proof. This is just a fact that can be interpreted as you like. And interpreting it as evidence of your insignificance is a bad interpretation, worthless. Don’t do it.

3. Forget your partner by force of will

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Sometimes people try to forget a person simply by an effort of will. Like, I will not think about him / her, and everything will work out. Alas, the American psychologist Daniel Wegner has shown that this approach does not work. He called it the polar bear effect (later, by the way, including it in the ironic boomerang effect).

The bottom line is simple – the more we try not to think about something and not do something, the more we think about it (the effect of the polar bear) and the more often it is done (the effect of the ironic boomerang).

The way out is not to forbid yourself to think about the person. Yes, you broke up, yes, memories cause pain, but you don’t have to drive these memories away from yourself. You just have to watch them!

Watching, but not immersing yourself in experiences, is the best way to deal with memories of a loved one at parting.

4. Immediately look for a replacement

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For many (especially men), it seems that you need to find a replacement right there – and the sooner the better. And then another change, another, another, and another, and another, and another. This is an attempt to knock out a wedge with another wedge, and a way to prove one’s own attractiveness, and an attempt to get distracted.

Alas, it doesn’t work well. The thing is, attachment doesn’t go away quickly. The invisible strings of emotions that connected you with your partner do not break very quickly. And the other person does not help tear them at all, on the contrary, when it turns out that the replacement did not relieve the pain, the situation worsens – it seems that now nothing will help. Feelings that are already hard become even harder.

The way out is in friends and relatives. Chat with them, do something useful. It’s better for everyone to get together and go to another city for the weekend to look at architectural sights than to try to frame someone in the nearest bar.

5. Prove something to the former / former

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Sometimes I really want the ex-partner to understand the deepest fallacy of his decision to leave. I want to do something like that – lose weight, buy a car, take a picture with a celebrity. Like, look what a treasure floated away from your hands, suffer!

Since the ex-partner, as a rule, does not understand the fallacy of his decision, the pain of parting intensifies. It only gets worse.

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What is the way out? Use the situation for so-called post-traumatic growth. Post-traumatic growth is positive changes that have occurred in a person after encountering some kind of difficulty, crisis (see details here – Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G., 2004).

I often say that only divorce cures men. And it’s not really a joke. Indeed, many men only after a divorce realize that they were not very good spouses and are trying to improve – personally, so to speak, grow. They learn to be more attentive, to negotiate, not to swear, to satisfy not only their own interests, and so on. The same thing happens with women.

These changes are called post-traumatic growth.

A break with a partner can also lead to post-traumatic growth, if, of course, everything is done correctly. For example, to avoid the errors described in this note.


Pavel Zygmantovich

Psychologist. Making the complex understandable