Breakups Aren’t As Bad As You Thought

Does anyone out there think your current partner is the love of your life? If that person were to break up with you, would you be devastated? How long would it take for you to get over it?

Last week the subject was housework (or the lack thereof); this week the focus is a study that says “breaking up may not be so hard to do.” Basically these researchers took a group of college students, had them fill out questionnaires every two weeks, and drew conflusions from those who broke up with their girlfriend/boyfriend during the six month time frame.

[They] studied young lovers — especially those who profess ardent affection — to see if their predictions of devastation matched their actual angst when that love was lost. […]

“People who are more in love really are a little more upset after a breakup, but their perceptions about how distraught they will be are dramatically overstated when compared to reality,” Finkel said.

“At the end of the day, it is just less bad than you thought.”

What bothers me about these studies is how they take one group of people, and without telling us the kind of questions that were asked or how long these people had been in their relationship (it had to be a minimum of two months), they conclude that breaking up with someone isn’t as difficult as you thought it would be. College students are notorious for maintaining short relationships. If they wanted to make such a conclusion, shouldn’t the data have been drawn from a more representative sample?

Sure, we’re human, and humans are known for our ability to adapt. But every situation is different. Not only every situation, but the people involved will feel differently, based on their personality and how committed they are to their relationship. The study said that a person’s perception of how upset they’re going to be after a breakup is usually worse than the actual reality. I’m sure that can sometimes be the case. For example, maybe there’s a female who likes to go from one relationship to another; the safety is in having someone — anyone, not so much the man himself. That kind of person would be less likely to despair after a breakup, knowing there were other opportunities right around the corner. But there are just as many people who are in despair for long periods of time after breaking up with someone.

[Read the rest of this post at BlogHer]

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  • Reply LJ September 17, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Hmmm depends on the break-up. When I was younger, I would say they would tend to be worse than I’d imagined. It just killed me. Now, typically in longer relationships, I would say you usually see it coming or leading that way. It still hurts, but I think the lack of surprise makes it sting a little less.

    I definitely don’t believe in attaching timeframes to recovery. So many variables there, can’t even begin to estimate!

  • Reply sunchaser September 17, 2007 at 11:00 am

    I just read this interesting post at Cracked, and it kind of puts a different spin on the topic: 7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable

  • Reply jen September 17, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    that’s what i keep saying: all these media-driven pseudo studies are dumb. for one thing, how hard the break up is will totally depend on who did the breaking up, don’t you think? it’s a lot easier to break up with someone than to be broken up with.

    and of course, a study about college students doesn’t say anything about actual grown ups. although it’s good to hear that these college students they studied didn’t take their break ups too hard — when i was that age i was so angsty and melodramatic.

  • Reply Kate September 17, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    My one bad breakup was way, way worse than I’d imagined it. I lost about 20 lbs (dropping me under 100 lbs at 5’9″!) in the recovery, and I’m not sure I’m truly truly over it yet, and it was almost ten years ago! I ran into the guy in question (and this was a very bad, toxic relationship) two years ago, and had to go have a cry in the bathroom. I’m not a cry-in-the-bathroom type.

    My last big breakup, though, as an adult, went smooth as silk. I had one minor freakout, mainly about my finances and how living on my own would affect that, and I didn’t sleep for two nights reordering my statements, but I’m not sure I cried at all during the final moments, or afterward. I just felt like I’d done the right thing, even though it was hard. I probably overestimated my devastation before it happened though, since there WAS no devastation.

  • Reply Ron Southern September 17, 2007 at 4:12 pm


    That’s a confusing term, all right!

  • Reply Mark September 17, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    I think each break-up is unique. Relationships are dynamic, and break-ups are dynamic also. It also depends on who wanted to end the relationship.
    Surveys such as these can be manipulated on how the question is formulated. I agree with you, they did not have a representive sample.
    Thank-you so very much for quoting my writing and linking to my blog!

  • Reply Jennifer September 18, 2007 at 1:47 am

    Sometimes breakups can be harder than you imagined. I was in a relationship for a year and because we went to different colleges we were fighting all the time. It wasn’t that we fell out of love, we were just in different places, metaphorically and literally. That breakup was almost a year ago and it seems like my life is still hindered by it. The relationships that I have been in since (there were two very short ones) have both been affected by it, even though I tried everything in my power to try to stop it.

    Breakups are hard no matter what. Unless you are lying to yourself, I think that it is rare that they are ever less painful than you think they would be.

  • Reply Enny September 18, 2007 at 4:35 am

    My first breakup was fine because I’d been trying to break up with him for a while (he wouldn’t hear of it).

    My second breakup was harder than I thought – I was fine for the first few weeks then doubted myself and did the whole pathetic thing that you never should do.

    My last breakup was based on a gut feeling – I knew the guy was sad and I felt terrible for upsetting him, but I was so relieved and happy for doing what I knew was the right thing.

    Besides – College relationships don’t really count, do they?! :o)

  • Reply Molly September 18, 2007 at 11:33 am

    I think break-ups always are terrible to get over, but I don’t go into break-ups with expectations and thereby not sure how to quantify if it is better or worse than expected. I think they take varying amounts of time/levels to get over depending on the type of relationship that it was, but is never easy, not even when it was the best thing you could have done, it is still hard in my opinion!

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