As connection-craving humans, relationships are necessary in our lives because they are one of the ways we mentally and emotionally bond with others. Because these connections are so important to us, we get hurt when they don’t work out. But what specifically makes romantic breakups so difficult to endure? Heartbreak is known to cause different negative psychological effects like an increase in loneliness and loss of one’s self, according to the American Psychological Association. Regardless of how the relationship ended, whether it was mutual or one-sided, both parties are sure to feel the aches of a broken heart.
Sophomore Lucy Hebner described how the separation made her feel lonely, because she was used to spending so much time with her partner. “One of the biggest things I struggled with was my sense of self,” Hebner said. “I've been dating someone for so long and I forgot what it was like to just be with myself all the time.”
Sophomore Amanda Broemmer felt that the healing process took a toll on her both mentally and physically. “My whole body felt like it was in pain, I felt nauseous and my chest physically hurt,” Broemmer said. “It took me a very long time to get back to normal.”
Physical symptoms of a breakup can actually be backed by science. Social rejection “may lead to various physical pain disorders, highlighting the role that somatosensory processing may play in this process,” according to a 2011 study done by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Monmouth University professor of psychology Gary Lewandowski is an expert in the relationship field, with numerous academic articles on the topic, conference presentations and a TedTalk with over 1.7 million views on YouTube. His advice? Write your feelings out and explore yourself more.
“Some of my own research suggests that writing about the breakup is helpful, especially if you focus on the positive aspects, likely because people aren’t as likely to focus on that themselves,” Lewandowski said. “I’ve also found that rediscovery of the self, by doing things your previous relationship held you back from, is helpful.”
Hebner agrees that from the ashes of her past relationship, she grew into the woman she is now.
“I definitely don’t think I would have changed so much if it weren’t for that, and I really think I’m a very different person now,” Hebner said. “I think I’m a lot more independent and a lot more self-aware, and I also think I’m more selective about where I’m putting my emotion and time towards.”
If you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, don’t sweat it. A few breaths and some words on paper, and you may learn more about yourself than you ever have before.