Do you know the poem, “Who Went?” by Murathan Mungan? In my opinion, it is the poem that best summarizes the issue with breakups. He starts, “Who went, who stayed, is it always the one who goes that is blamed?” and ends by stating that the one who stays is to blame at least as much, or maybe even more. I made Mungan’s ears ring many times while reading this month’s ‘Psychology Today’ magazine. I want to share the scientific findings mentioned in an article on breakups in the magazine with you.
It is difficult to end relationships; because when you tell someone you want to break up, what that person actually hears is that “he/she is not worth loving.”
According to a survey carried out recently, 24% of juveniles between the ages of 13 – 17 find no objection in sending a written notification of a breakup such as an e-mail or a text message. Sociologist Clifford Nass of Stanford University points out that it is difficult for people to announce a breakup to a person’s face, especially if they have limited social skills.
It is claimed that the best breakup is the one which arouses acceptance and causes minimum spiritual damage. Minimum spiritual damage means sadness at a level not high enough to ruin happy memories of the relationship. The most complicated part of separation, at this point, is not to let the person who satisfied your deepest needs a short while ago feel worthless, or feel that you are worthless. If the person feels rejected and more and more worthless, brain functions start reacting much like the withdrawal symptoms of an alcohol or drug addict.
Helen Fisher of Rutgers University is a name who has done extensive research on this subject. Her findings indicate that, in persons who start thinking of their old love in the days and weeks immediately after the separation, the parts of the brain that are activated when cocain and nicotine addicts cannot find these items start giving unusual reactions. These parts are also activated during commitment and during great sorrow.
When “commitment” is involved, the “rules of commitment” shouldn’t be overlooked. We usually consider commitment in two subcategories, “secure” and “insecure”. Since babyhood, if your caregivers (your mother, your nanny, etc.) have established a secure relationship with you, have met your needs and have given you the assurance that they will be at your side whenever you need them, the foundation for secure commitments have been laid. Persons who have had the opportunity to grow up in secure commitments from babyhood, do not find breaking up with their loved ones terribly painful or something that destroys their self confidence. Naturally, the ending of a relationship is saddening, but it is not the end of their lives, the breakup does not leave them paralyzed.
Persons who have insecure commitments face breakups with extreme rage, and never accept any responsibility for their role in this breakup. Most of the time, they can’t just let go, and continue their lives independently. They either try to go back to the same loved one time and time again, or find themselves another lover with no questions asked.
In the February 2011 issue of “Psychology Today”, Elizabeth Svoboda has mentioned the 12 rules of the best way to break up. I really can’t say if there can be a ‘good’ way to break up, but I will summarize them for you, to keep in a corner of your mind:
1. Accept the responsibility for wanting to end the relationship
2. Talk about breaking up face to face
3. End the relationship honorably
4. Be honest
5. Stay away from clichees
6. Stop listing mistakes
7. Make it a clean break, do not leave any doors open
8. Remember the good times you shared
9. Do not protest or oppose his/her thoughts. Be respectful
10. Do not make him/her into the most horrible person on earth
11. Do not try to hide the pain of the breakup
12. Stay away from thinking that you’ve lost your soulmate
We always think that it is difficult to start a relationship. However, if we look at all that we have been talking about, ending one in a healthy way is even more difficult that starting.
With the wish that all endings provide opportunities for beautiful beginnings…