Ever tried walking along the street in the midnight with only lights from the buildings by side, just because your partner (ex-partner now) told you to break up?
The end of a relationship always causes heart broken. When a romantic relationship is ended, it’s more than common to feel sadness, anger, and shame. But such dissolutions can also lead to insomnia, poor immune functioning, broken heart syndrome, depression, and even suicide.
Because remaining love feelings for an ex-partner are negatively associated with recovery from a romantic break-up, researchers wonder whether it may be helpful to decrease those love feelings.
The results came out that negative reappraisal of your ex is the best way of decreasing your feelings of love for your ex. And although distraction won’t help you forget him or her, it can make you more pleasant.
How the study was done
Love regulation is the use of behavioral or cognitive strategies to change the intensity of current feelings of romantic love. Three regulation strategies were evaluated in the study:
(1) Negative reappraisal of the ex-partner
(2) Reappraisal of love feelings
The two researchers, Sandra J.E. Langeslag and Michelle Sanchez recruited 24 participants, 20 of them women and 4 men, aged 20 to 37. The participants had all been in a long-term relationship (2.5 years in average) that had ended.
Langeslag and Sanchez wanted to see if the three regulation strategies could change:
(1) The feelings of love for the ex-partner
(2) The valence of affect (i.e., feeling more positively or negatively)
(3) Motivated attention for the ex-partner (i.e., attention paid to emotionally significant stimuli)
The participants were asked to provide digital pictures of their exes including scenes of them in various non-intimate situations and with different facial expressions. Researchers made these pictures in real-life-mimicked situations like on the street or on social media.
Four groups of participants were set in the study: the negative reappraisal group, the love reappraisal group, the distraction group, and a control group.
Participants viewed their batch of pictures of their exes four times. In between looking at each image, they were instructed to engage in one of three strategies to decrease love feelings, while the control group was instructed not to think about anything specific. Then they were asked to rate how “in love” and how generally positive or negative they felt.
At the same time, the researchers also recorded their electroencephalogram (electrical brain activity) for reference.
Results of the study
Here’s what the researchers found:
Negative reappraisal decreased love feelings and made participants feel more unpleasant.
Love reappraisal did not change how in love or pleasant/unpleasant participants felt.
Distraction did not change love feelings, but made participants feel more pleasant.
According to the results of the electroencephalograms, all the strategies in question decreased participants’ motivated attention for the ex.
Reappraisal of love feelings
Feeling of love for the ex
Feeling of pleasant
Motivated attention for the ex
How you should face your previous love
The findings of the study suggest that when dealing with a romantic breakup, negative reappraisal is an effective strategy to decrease feelings of love for an ex-partner, although you may feel more unpleasant doing so.
If you want to be more pleasant, you can think of something else to distract yourself.
Reappraisal of love feelings doesn’t help you in either way, but it can help you think less about your ex.
Researchers are not sure whether the strategies would work for a long term yet, but they can help you release your emotional pain for a short time. Next time when you are upset because of a romantic breakup, try distracting yourself or criticizing your ex.
Of course, no breakup is the best. Hope you all have a warm and nice romantic relationship.