Poor, Gotye. Have you learned nothing from the heartbroken crooners before you? Sure, the heartache and gut-wrenching pain of staying connected to an ex-partner makes for Grammy-winning music, but did you really want to put yourself through that? I say, why not just thank your ex for ripping the band-aid off quickly, and keep moving forward?
We’ve all been there, and it is never pleasant. Love gone bad is enough to make us wonder why we keep putting ourselves out there. Not only does it hurt emotionally, but researchers have shown that break-ups can cause physical pain as well.1 Unfortunately, when it comes to the end of a relationship, there’s no Magic 8 Ball to tell us when the grief will subside. However, research shows that staying in contact with your ex-partner can prolong the pain and slow the adjustment process.2
As it turns out, having contact with a former flame leads to greater feelings of love and sadness, a less than optimal recipe for healing.3 Rather, time and distance tend to be good ingredients for mending a broken heart.4 Interestingly, having a negative evaluation of your partner also tends to be good for post-breakup adjustment.5
I get it, Gotye, it hurts when a former lover becomes “just somebody that I used to know.” However, if your partner made it a swift and “clean” break, that may actually have been a gift. You’re now poised for a speedier rebound that will allow you to find a new partner capable of fulfilling important belongingness needs,6 expanding yourself in interesting new directions,7 and finding the satisfaction that you seek.
Heed the advice of another artist, the great Willie Nelson, who said, “To all the girls who’ve shared my life, who now are someone else’s wife, I’m glad they came along, I dedicate this song, to all the girls I’ve loved before.” Say thanks and smile, because quite possibly something better awaits you both. Ladies, Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive” may be a better anthem for you!
1MacDonald, G., & Leary, M. R. (2005). Why does social exclusion hurt? The relationship between social and physical pain. Psychological Bulletin, 131(2), 202-223.
2Sbarra, D. A., & Emery, R. E. (2005). The emotional sequelae of nonmarital relationship dissolution: Analysis of change and intraindividual variability over time. Personal Relationships, 12(2), 213-232.
3Field, T., Diego, M., Pelaez, M., Deeds, O., Delgado, J. (2011). Breakup distress in university students: A review. College Student Journal, 45(3).
4Knox, D., Zusman, M. E., Kaluzny, M., & Cooper, C. (2000). College student recovery from a broken heart. College Student Journal, 34, 322-324.
5Fagundes, C. P. (2011). Implicit negative evaluations about ex-partner predicts break-up adjustment: The brighter side of dark cognitions. Cognition and Emotions, 25(1), 164-173.
6Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.
7Aron, A., Aron, E. N., Tudor, M., & Nelson, G. (1991). Close relationships as including other in the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(2), 241-253.
Dr. Sadie Leder - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Leder's research focuses on how people balance their desires for closeness and protection against rejection, specifically during partner selection, goal negotiation within established romantic relationships, and the experience of romantic love, hurt feelings, and relationship rekindling.