COPING with a BREAK-UP: a report on
by Janet Jacobsen
Last issue we reported on a study that looked at peoples strategies
for break-ups. We covered an array of possible methods for leaving your
lover. This issue well report on what the study had to say about
coping with being the leavee.
Researchers asked 61 college students what methods they used to cope with
the end of a romantic relationship. In particular they looked at whether
leavers had different strategies than lefts.
Turns out the leavers are somewhat more likely to rely on what the researchers
called self-enhancement strategies aimed at self-understanding
and self-improvement - things like spending more time with friends and
family, putting the word out that they are available for dating, or becoming
introspective (spending time alone; reflecting on the relationship).
Lefts also relied most on self-enhancement, though they used somewhat
different strategies within the category, including more time with friends
and family, but also keeping busy with work or hobbies; changing their
perspective on the relationship (such as concluding it was for the
best); and changing their outward appearance, such as getting a
new haircut, or making sure that I look good.
Unlike leavers, however, about 11% of lefts also used cost-escalation
strategies, such as bad-mouthing the former partner to other people, and
being intentionally mean (I flirt with them just so I can refuse
them when they express that they want me back).
Some break-up and coping strategies actually overlap. Avoiding the person
is part of breaking up, but its also a way of coping. Spending more
time with family and friends is part of ending the relationship, as well
as dealing with the ending of the relationship.
The article concludes that its helpful to develop personal rituals
to use in dealing with break-ups. Perhaps your preferred pattern would
-setting aside some time for introspection,
-adjusting your perspective on the relationship,
-becoming more self-focused (such as making more time for a hobby, or
trying a different hairstyle),
-and getting more in touch with your social networks. Having a pattern
of activities that you use for coping can make each process less traumatic.
A necessary part of dating is breaking up. Not all relationships work
out. For some we have high expectations, others were surprised that
they last as long as they do. This research suggests that having a ritual
of activities that you use as part of the coping process - whether you
are the leaver or left - will help ease the transition.