Written by Chelsea Ellithorpe
Why Do Certain Breakups Hurt More?
Attachment style also affects how people respond to breakups. Those with a secure attachment style often ask family and friends for support as they cope with a breakup (Davis, Shaver, & Vernon, 2003). They believe that their social network of family and friends is able to help them during such a time of need and were better able to cope with and adjust after a breakup when they believed their social network, apart from that romantic relationship, was strong (Moller, Fouladi, McCarthy, & Hatch, 2003). Those who are more anxiously-attached and clingy tend to feel more pain after a breakup than others (Sprecher et al., 1998). Anxiously-attached individuals often feel a wide variety of negative emotions after a breakup, including depression, anger, and pain, and often blame themselves for the breakup and may try to rekindle the relationship or obsessively think about the breakup and their ex (Davis, Shaver, & Vernon, 2003). However, those with avoidant attachment often react by isolating themselves and avoiding social connections.
How Can One Move Past a Breakup?
Wegner (2011) suggests a variety of techniques that may help one to forget about a bad breakup and an ex. Distractions of more positive activities and thoughts may help one to shift their thoughts from the painful experience to things that help one cope with the event. Avoiding stressful situations and an ex may allow a person to better suppress unwanted thoughts about the breakup. Temporarily avoiding thinking about an ex and the breakup is much more manageable and likely to succeed than permanently pushing an ex out of one’s mind. Therefore, avoiding seeing an ex or their social media posts for a few days rather than blocking them in general is more likely to help with coping. Finally, learning how to handle these painful thoughts, accepting their presence, and training yourself to eliminate the negative association and affective response are much more effective solutions.
Davis, D., Shaver, P. R., & Vernon, M. L. (2003). Physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions to breaking up: The roles of gender, age, emotional involvement, and attachment style. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(7), 871-884.
Moller, N. P., Fouladi, R. T., McCarthy, C. J., & Hatch, K. D. (2003). Relationship of attachment and social support to college students’ adjustment following a relationship breakup. Journal of Counseling & Development, 81(3), 354-369.
Poirier, M., Nairne, J. S., Morin, C., Zimmermann, F. G. S., Koutmeridou, K., & Fowler, J.(2012). Memory as discrimination: A challenge to the encoding–retrieval match principle. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 38(1), 16-29.
Sprecher, S., Felmlee, D., Metts, S., Fehr, B., & Vanni, D. (1998). Factors associated with distress following the breakup of a close relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15(6), 791-809.
Wegner, D.M. (2011). Setting free the bears: Escape from thought suppression. American Psychologist, 66(8), 671-680.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor