‘Time heals all wounds’ is an age-old platitude used to help us deal with a broken heart. But is it actually true? Turns out, the best way to get over your ex isn’t to just ‘give it time.’ The most effective way to rid of any lingering feelings is to use that time instead to think about how much your ex sucks. It’s literally science!
Researchers at the University of Missouri – St. Louis recently completed a study in which they evaluated how different strategies affected love feelings for participants’ ex-partners. Participants were asked to focus on one of three strategies: negative reappraisal, reappraisal of love feelings, or distraction.
Negative reappraisal, a strategy in which participants focused solely on the characteristics of their ex and the relationship that they found annoying, was the most effective strategy for diminishing any remaining romantic feelings they might have.
Those who focused on reappraisal of love feelings (thinking positively about the relationship/person) and distraction (keeping yourself busy with other things) were both ineffective at reducing affectionate feelings for the ex.
Negative reappraisal isn’t perfect, though. Subjects reported feelings of unpleasantness associated with intentionally thinking negatively about a person whom they used to love. However, Dr. Guy Winch, the author of How to Fix a Broken Heart, says there are two strategies that can help deal with these feelings of unpleasantness.
First, he says, “we need to frame the task differently.” After a breakup, we are often left with an ideal image of who our ex was. This creates a misperception in our minds, where we only see the best memories and most admirable qualities about the person that broke our hearts. This creates an unbalanced view, which negative reappraisals can help correct.
Second, he continues, “negative reappraisals should include not just our perceptions and memories of our ex but of the relationship as well.” When we are newly single, we tend to think only about how nice things were while we were in the relationship. Kind of a ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ paradox. Focusing instead on any fights you may have had, emotional needs that were not being met, or compromises that you had to make can help alleviate these positive feelings for relationships past.
Long story short, breakups suck, but sitting around and waiting for your feelings to go away isn’t going to help things get any better. Instead, try focusing on how much your ex sucks for making you feel this shitty in the first place, and before you know it, you’ll forget why you were even caught up on them at all.