New Psychological Study: The ONLY Way You Can Forget Your Ex

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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

(3)    Distraction


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.



Negative reappraisal

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.


4 Answers

These messages are for mutual support and information sharing only. Always consult your doctor before trying anything you read here.
That has always been my failsafe -  I figure if my "loved one" were to do something really hurtful - ie:  abandon me, he probably wasn't who I thought he was, because someone I loved and entrusted my love to would never do anything so hurtful.   To sum it up -  I would live easier assuring myself that he was not the person I thought he was and I am better off without him - and begin looking for someone who actually met my standards of expectation.  Some might call that rationalization, and perhaps it would be, but it certainly would help me deal with a difficult situation in a "rational" way.
That's a good way. Maybe I can try it someday (hope that day won't come though). I had a girlfriend (I myself is a girl too) I loved her so much, staying up all night company with her. I was in Bath in the UK for univ then and she was in Raleigh, North Carolina. I don't want to think back of it really. She told me breakup one day like all of a sudden the world cracked and I was writing my essay and I couldn't help running to the bathroom locking myself in a stall crying for like an hour. Like a month later I started to hate her coz she wouldn't answer a single phone call from me. My emotion was really bad for the next half year and every time when I thought of her I hate her and my emotion toppled down. That's 3 years ago now I finally walked out of that terrible terrible memory. I do hope no one like me suffering from those love and hatred.
I had many years in love with someone, with this someone not holding the same feeling back to me. One day I realized I had to let it go, because it was too hard. Being with him was hard, leaving him was even harder, coz he's always so perfect. When I was struggling I said something unfriendly, I lost my mind, which I had never. He didn't respond perfectly. We argued. Then I was aware he's not the one deep in my heart, the perfect one in my heart was my illusion. I've let it go, and knowing he's not perfect makes it much easier for me.
Indeed. And don't forget to tell yourself that you deserve better.
Why do some break ups turn to obsession, years after the relationship has ended?
Sounds like my story. I didn’t even like him, but I thought about him constantly, for years. I felt like I needed him. Some can eventually move on. But some just can’t.
He called me stupid, unattractive, incompetent, an albatross around his neck, and came within inches of assaulting me. Yet, since he was my high school sweetheart some 30 or 40 years ago, and a very successful psychoanalist with two PhD's, it is hard to wipe our 4 year reunion relationship out of my mind. Every day when I do something stupid, I say, "Mark you were right; I'm incompetent." As I age and become less attractive, I say to myself, "Mark you were right." I keep a daily score card on how many times he was right in his criticisms— like when I make my bed and one of the sheets is crooked, or if I cook something and it doesn't come out just right, I say, "Score 1 for Mark." Or I say, "Mark 10, Lorraine zero." This has been going on since our most recent breakup in 2016. I can't stop these memories of all of his criticisms. Funny thing is that when we reunited after all those years, I didn't find him attractive, and only stayed in the relationship because I didn't want to move again. I never fell back in love with him. It was just a convenient way to save money and live in a comfortable place. After our very stressful breakup, I contracted two autoimmune diseases: Interstitial cystitis and SIBO. In addition to having 6 herniated discs, I'm in constant pain. Yet I blame him for everything and constantly keep the score card as to whether he was right about me. At 70 years old, it is hard to trust, hard to find anyone, and hard to have meaning in life. Son is away in med school and had to give up my dog as she broke two discs in my neck (German Shepherd)
I'm really sorry about what you have experienced, but I think maybe I'm too young to comment anything or comfort you, I'm only 24. But what I want to say is just trying to be happy and healthy. You live for your own, not anyone else. Having protection - good; having someone to talk to - good; feeling very emotional and stressed - bad. I always believe humans need to be "selfish." After all we all live for ourselves.
I met and was overwhelmed by a desire to be with him at age seven (he was eight)  but we only lived in the same resort community during the summers. Each June we reconnected as friends, swimming, playing sports, listening to music in groups but we did not date until I was 18 and he was 19. We were both in University and living away from home. We dated but not exclusively and during our second year of dating. we became sexual mates. I lost my virginity at 19; he claimed to have lost his at 14. We became engaged when I was 20 and married when I was 21 and he 22. He was an alcoholic but all the men I knew drank just as much so I did not realize it until we were parents and he could not control his drinking. I was 27 and he 28. After three children, I joined ALANON because I was so sad, without friends or family (We had moved for his job.). I learned to make my own happiness and no longer rely on him. I separated the man from the disease and detached with love. We had two more children and a miscarriage. I had taught school for five years before the babies so I went back to teaching at age 39. We loved each other and the children. I thought of us as a team. When he was 47 I, shepherded by a psychologist, had an INTERVENTION in which the five children ages 11 to 19, him, me, his boss and a good friend, participated. That night he went into rehab for three months. Over the next nine years, there were four more interventions. When he was 54, I put him out and told him that he could return if he stopped drinking. I also enrolled in a P.H.D. program (distracting myself and filling my time.) I let him back six months later but he began drinking again. Three daughters were married and two children were in college when he was forced to retire at age 56. I kept working for another 11 years, determined to have a decent pension and health care in my old age. When I was 58, while looking for a nail clipper, I found condoms and viagra in his nightstand. Cheating was not a sickness. Shortly after that, I moved out. A year later I filed for divorce. I was a few months short of 61 when it was finalized. That was eight years ago. We were friends for 53 years before we split so it was very difficult to negatively reappraise him, and I did not want my children listening to me do it. When he was 69 he was so debilitated from alcoholism (wet brain) and diabetes, that he had to move into an assisted living facility. While moving him my children found 40-year-old love letters from a woman he dated in the '70s when we had three babies. Now he is dying from pulmonary fibrosis and two children are disengaged from him entirely. Three children (all married with families) rarely speak to or visit him. None want our grandchildren to know him.  Certainly, after learning about the decades of infidelity it is easier to negatively appraise him and I can function well enough. Both distraction and negative reassessment helped me continue a meaningful, joyful life. But there are, nevertheless, painful scars that still hurt.
oh my god... I've never imagined there are relationships like this in the world. Thought all long lasted relationships are happy. I can only think of this: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. by Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.