4 Things You Should Never Do After a Breakup (And 1 You Always Should)
Facebook surveillance? Not a good idea. But a rebound? Science says it might help.
It looks like Khloé Kardashian is finally ready to move on from estranged husband Lamar Odom. On Sunday, the reality star shared a long Instagram post about "letting go" of a troubled relationship, which we assume is a reference to her marriage: "You can't force someone to be the person you need them to be," she wrote. "Letting go with love takes great strength."
That's because even when breaking up is for the best, it's still really hard to do. But fortunately, science has your back. Here, four things you should not do after you uncouple, according to research—plus, one strategy that can really help you cope.
Don't go on Facebook
A social media cleanse—or at the very least, clicking the "unfriend" button—may help you heal. Research published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking suggests that Facebook-stalking your ex can seriously impede your ability to move on. "People who engaged in Facebook surveillance of their ex-partner, [meaning] people who more frequently looked at their ex-partner’s Facebook page and friends list, reported delayed emotional recovery after a breakup compared to people who engaged in less surveillance," said study author Tara Marshall.
Don't write about it (maybe)
Although recording your feelings (à la Kardashian) is commonly thought of as helpful, it may actually have the opposite effect for some people post-breakup. In a 2012 study from the University of Arizona, researchers recruited participants who had were recently separated or divorced into three groups. Those in the first group were asked to describe their feelings in a journal. The second group completed "narrative expressive writing" exercises. And the third group simply chronicled their day-to-day activities. It turned out that participants in the first and second groups who also happened to be "high ruminators" (i.e., people who tend to dwell on upsetting subjects) reported greater emotional distress eight months later. The researchers suspect that for high ruminators, writing about their painful emotions may actually prolong the agony.
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Don't let it hurt your health
Along with rom-coms and retail therapy, indulging in Ben & Jerry's feels like an essential post-relationship rite of passage. But try not to completely lose track of your diet and fitness goals: Experts agree that focusing on your health during this time can really help. "One of the things you are losing [in a breakup] is a sense of control," MJ Ryan, author of AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For, previously explained to Health. "Think of something you can do physically or mentally that is completely in your control like getting stronger and lowering cholesterol. These [types of goals] will help restore a sense of control over your life."
Don't knock the rebound
They tend to get a bad rap, but rebound relationships may not be so terrible after all. A 2014 study from Queens College at the City University of New York found that among the recently uncoupled, people who spent less time between partners experienced greater well-being, higher self-esteem, and more confidence in their desirability.
Do ask yourself the important questions
When getting over a breakup, the type of self-reflection you do can make a difference. In a 2015 study, researchers divided newly single people into two groups. Both completed a survey designed to determine how they felt about the split. One group was dismissed afterwards, while the second group returned four additional times over the next nine weeks. During each session, the participants were asked the same four questions:
When did you first realize you and your partner were headed towards breaking up?
What do you remember about the separation itself, the actual time when you and your former partner separated?
How much contact have you had with your former partner? What kind(s) of contact?
How has the breakup affected your thoughts and feelings regarding romantic relationships?
Nine weeks later, the participants who repeatedly answered these questions showed greater emotional recovery, and had a better sense of their identities as single people. "The process of becoming psychologically intertwined with the partner is painful to have to undo," lead study author Grace Larson pointed out in a news release. But what she calls "self-concept repair" may help you get through the agony faster—and emerge stronger for it.