Break-up couple in the sunset
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How to get over a break-up: a proven technique

By Sarah Moses Saturday, April 9, 2016 - 02:00
Broken-hearted after a break-up? The story you tell yourself about how it ended could help you get through the post-relationship blues, according to US research.

You and your girlfriend called it quits six months ago. There are days when you feel you’re finally over her, but the truth is you’re struggling to move on. You play back the moment you knew it was finished again and again, trying to figure out what went wrong.

But what if you shift your thinking to what went right instead? Of course, looking at the good stuff might not be the easiest thing to do when all you want is to forget your ex. But focusing on the positive moments and what you learned from them could actually help you move on, and fend off the post-break-up blues while you’re at it, according to the findings of a recent study.

Happy ending?

The study included 146 men and women who’d recently broken up with a partner. First, the newly single participants answered questions that showed whether they were depressed. Then, the researchers asked them to write a short story about the most significant event that happened in their relationship. The story could include different details, such as what happened and what they and their partner were feeling and thinking at the time.

Once all the stories were written, the researchers read them carefully to see what information the participants included. They were especially interested in whether the stories had positive or negative endings.

The stories people tell themselves about a past relationship can affect their well-being after they break up, the researchers found. People whose stories have positive endings are less likely to be depressed. And chances are better they’ll enter into singledom in a more healthy way.

Top two stories

But which elements of a story lead to a positive ending? The researchers found two storytelling patterns linked to putting a positive spin on things. People who told their stories using these approaches were more likely to be doing well once their relationship had come to an end.

  • The first approach focused on different ways the person had been intimate with their partner. It might have included descriptions of physical and emotional closeness, being able to say what was on their mind, and moments when they trusted their partner. Importantly, people who wrote this kind of story focused on how they’d grown as a person.
  • In the second approach, what mattered was not dwelling on what went wrong or whatever was missing. For example, instead of focusing on the reason a relationship ended, participants might have written about what they’d learned from the break-up.

Rewrite the story

So if you’re coming out a relationship, this study could just help you transition into being single. Think about the story you’ve been telling yourself about your break-up. Is it making the difficult process of getting over your ex even harder?

If so, try rewriting the story. Tell yourself about the intimate experiences you shared with your partner. Instead of dwelling on the bad things that brought your relationship to an end, try to think of positive effects the relationship had on your life. That might also help you consider what you’d do differently in the future.

What matters most for ‘moving on’, say the researchers, is not focusing on what went wrong with your love, but on what you learned from the relationship.

Source: Making meaning of significant events in past relationships: Implications for depression among newly single individuals (2016). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

Need help coping with a break up? Find advice on our Let’s Talk forum.

You and your girlfriend called it quits six months ago. There are days when you feel you’re finally over her, but the truth is you’re struggling to move on. You play back the moment you knew it was finished again and again, trying to figure out what went wrong.

But what if you shift your thinking to what went right instead? Of course, looking at the good stuff might not be the easiest thing to do when all you want is to forget your ex. But focusing on the positive moments and what you learned from them could actually help you move on, and fend off the post-break-up blues while you’re at it, according to the findings of a recent study.

Happy ending?

The study included 146 men and women who’d recently broken up with a partner. First, the newly single participants answered questions that showed whether they were depressed. Then, the researchers asked them to write a short story about the most significant event that happened in their relationship. The story could include different details, such as what happened and what they and their partner were feeling and thinking at the time.

Once all the stories were written, the researchers read them carefully to see what information the participants included. They were especially interested in whether the stories had positive or negative endings.

The stories people tell themselves about a past relationship can affect their well-being after they break up, the researchers found. People whose stories have positive endings are less likely to be depressed. And chances are better they’ll enter into singledom in a more healthy way.

Top two stories

But which elements of a story lead to a positive ending? The researchers found two storytelling patterns linked to putting a positive spin on things. People who told their stories using these approaches were more likely to be doing well once their relationship had come to an end.

  • The first approach focused on different ways the person had been intimate with their partner. It might have included descriptions of physical and emotional closeness, being able to say what was on their mind, and moments when they trusted their partner. Importantly, people who wrote this kind of story focused on how they’d grown as a person.
  • In the second approach, what mattered was not dwelling on what went wrong or whatever was missing. For example, instead of focusing on the reason a relationship ended, participants might have written about what they’d learned from the break-up.

Rewrite the story

So if you’re coming out a relationship, this study could just help you transition into being single. Think about the story you’ve been telling yourself about your break-up. Is it making the difficult process of getting over your ex even harder?

If so, try rewriting the story. Tell yourself about the intimate experiences you shared with your partner. Instead of dwelling on the bad things that brought your relationship to an end, try to think of positive effects the relationship had on your life. That might also help you consider what you’d do differently in the future.

What matters most for ‘moving on’, say the researchers, is not focusing on what went wrong with your love, but on what you learned from the relationship.

Source: Making meaning of significant events in past relationships: Implications for depression among newly single individuals (2016). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

Need help coping with a break up? Find advice on our Let’s Talk forum.

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