For years well-meaning therapists and close friends have claimed that dwelling on a breakup is a bad idea, but a new study has turned that conventional wisdom on its head. It is easy to see why people think that dwelling on a failed relationship would be bad. After all, that resentment and those grudges can really eat away at you, and they can even stop you from moving on with your life.
That is what makes the new study by a graduate student at Northwestern University is so surprising. That study, by Grace Larson, a graduate student studying at the Department of Psychology and a co-author, flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which urges people to move on immediately after a breakup and put their ex-boyfriend or girlfriend in the rear-view mirror.
The new study focuses on the results of a long-term relationship and how the lives of the two partners intertwine and intermingle. Almost from the start, a serious romantic relationship involves a deep commitment with another person, and it can be extremely hard to untangle those connections. Reversing that process can be extremely difficult and quite painful, and the more committed the relationship the harder it is to reverse.
That is why dwelling on the relationship and the breakup is so important to healing. As part of his research, Larson and her co-author found that talking about the relationship and its demise is actually good for people. The study involved some 210 young adults who had experienced the breakup of a serious romantic (but non-marital) relationship within the prior six months.
As part of the study, the two participants were divided into two groups to determine the effects of talking about and otherwise dwelling on the failed relationship. One group was simply asked to complete a survey about the relationship and the breakup. The first group of participants completed one survey immediately and another follow-up survey nine weeks later.