6 Scientific Reasons Breakups Suck Worse Than You Think
In the days or weeks after breaking up with the love of your life, you probably thought things couldn't get much worse. And that's why we have science to let you know that, well, they actually can.
Yes, as if it's not bad enough that you're losing the one person who will remember to inform the singing waiters at Olive Garden that it's your birthday, it turns out that ending a relationship can actually have other awful, long-lasting effects on your life.
You Might Be Ruining Your Friends' Lives Too
As we pointed out in this article, the people around you can influence your behavior in bizarre ways. The choices your friends and family make in their lives, good or bad, end up influencing the decisions you make as well. And it seems that this is even more true when it comes to the ends of relationships: There's an excellent chance that your breakup is going to somehow cause the breakup of someone else in your circle.
"We need some time apart, now if you'll excuse me, I have to destroy my friends' relationships."
How Bad Can it Be?
When a couple breaks up or divorces, their immediate friends and family are 75 percent more likely to break up as well.
Kind of like how the breakup of the Beatles eventually caused the breakup of Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
On one hand, that's sort of expected in that humans certainly like to imitate each other (for that is the stuff fads and fashions are made of). But not when it's something bad, right? After all, when your friend gets fired from his job you don't go get fired from yours. Unless you secretly hate your job.
So there's a fascinating dynamic here, because it almost implies that everybody around you is just waiting for an excuse to break up with their partner, and just need you to give them permission by breaking up with yours first. Especially if whatever conflicts broke up your relationship (money problems, personality) are present in theirs as well.
Money, personality and clowns are just three common conflicts that can lead to breakups.
You've set the precedent that these things can be considered deal breakers. You've given them their excuse.
Of course, there's also the pressure that suddenly-single guys put on their not-single friends. They want to live life as a single, swinging dude, and press their friends to tag along. They reluctantly agree, and then suddenly that single lifestyle starts looking like a pretty sweet alternative to watching one's old ball and chain cut her toenails on a Saturday night.
You Go Into Withdrawal
Half of the world's movies, songs, raps and vintage wine cooler ads revolve around people saying, and totally meaning, that they would die for someone they love. This all seems very noble, but the sad fact is this partly happens because love is one seriously powerful drug.
A drug that Meatloaf would do just about anything for.
It's science. When shown a picture of someone you are in love with, the centers of your brain responsible for motivation and reward (the same that are stimulated by other addictive substances like drugs and alcohol) become more active.
And that is part of what makes being in love so great: You get an actual physical high from being around the object of your affection.
How Bad Can it Be?
Like anything that makes you feel good, studies have found that humans can actually get addicted to the high they get from relationships. That's right, you might as well face it: You're addicted to love.
A surprising number of Robert Palmer songs are based on scientific theorems.
While that addiction makes being in a relationship all that much better, the very bad side of this comes when you break up. Have you ever seen anyone try to quit smoking or drinking? Without knowing it, you have been putting your body through the same thing after breaking up with someone you love. If you breakup and go "cold turkey," part of the pain you feel comes from actual withdrawal symptoms. You're not getting your regular hit of sweet, sweet lovin'.
You Get Poorer or Lonelier... For YEARS
Hey ladies, thinking of leaving your guy? Awesome. Prepare to be poorer. After a breakup, a woman's financial situation becomes much worse than when she was in a relationship. That's not really so surprising though, even in this day and age women make less than men. Oddly enough, men actually have 20 percent MORE money in the years after a breakup. We're sure there is no completely stereotypical reason why.
But you won't enjoy your Jimmy Choo-less existence for long, guys. While you may be rolling around in piles of money, you're going to need it in order to pay for all the Popov you'll be shotgunning. Men tend to get lonelier than women after a breakup, and are statistically more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol.
If that sounds obvious, understand that we're not talking about the rough few weeks after the relationship ends. We're talking years.
How Bad Can it Be?
Both men and women were found to be unhappier four years on than people in similar unhappy relationships who didn't break up. An entire presidential term later and women were still two percent poorer. A year after the breakup, only 29 percent of men surveyed said they felt satisfied with their lives.
To be fair, they said it between doing lines of blow.
And 29 percent of men who were still single reported feeling sad and lonely four years after the breakup. Ending a relationship can send shock waves that even years of healing can't fix. Geez, why are we even bothering with this dating thing in the first place?
You Go a Little Bit CrazyWe all know those vomit-inducing couples who finish each other's sentences and seem to be attached at the hip.
"Get a room!"
You'd be surprised if either of them could bounce back to normal after a breakup. After all, can they even remember where their personality ends and their partner's begins?
Well, it turns out it's not just the disgustingly clingy couples who have to worry about this problem. Any loving relationship, no matter how short, completely messes with your sense of self. There's a reason why ending it feels like waking up in a bathtub full of ice and finding one of your kidneys has been stolen.
How Bad Can it Be?
Three different studies have found that after a relationship ends people tend to go through a serious identity crisis. No matter how strong or independent you think you are or you were before the relationship, your ability to know who you are gets thrown totally out of whack after a breakup. Whether you realize it or not, in your brain your significant other's personality started to merge with yours. Despite the terrible cliche, they really are "your other half."
To put it in the nerdiest terms possible, they are the Spock to your Kirk.
So why does this even matter? "Self-concept clarity," while not something you've probably ever thought about before, actually affects your life in massive ways. People who don't really know who they are tend to be more depressed, think less of themselves and are more likely to make rash decisions or changes that might not be good for them.
Sometimes this can lead to good things after a breakup, like a decision to lose weight. Other times it leads to rushing into rebound relationships, career or school changes, or drastic image changes.
Pray that you only wind up with a tattoo.
You Can Actually Die of a Broken Heart
Sure, breaking up sucks, but any annoyingly peppy optimist knows that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Too bad for them then that breaking up really can break your heart. And not just in a sappy metaphorical way; in a real, honest to god, kill you dead way.
Just another way that love is like being pounced on by a lion in the savannah.
Yes, scientists have found that it is actually possible to die of a broken heart.
Breakups are high stress situations. Your body reacts by releasing a huge surge of adrenaline, its typical fight or flight response. That's fine though, because thousands of years of evolution means your body totally knows exactly what it is doing, right? Well, not really.
How Bad Can it Be?
Too much of that adrenaline can overwhelm your heart muscles and lead to spasms and some pretty serious complications. And that's when you get admitted to the hospital with all the classic symptoms of heart attacks: intense pain on your left side, increased blood clotting, high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Scientists have finally figured out that losing a loved one through death or breaking up is a main cause of these phantom heart attacks.
"Carl, we need to see other people... Carl?"
They even gave it a name fit for a fairy tale: broken-heart syndrome.
Victims can only be revived by love's true kiss. Or a defibrillator.
The initial effect of all that adrenaline and heart spasms isn't actually a heart attack, but if it goes on for long enough the pressure on your heart could cause one. All because your body thinks that breaking up with Chad from the Apple Store requires the same physical exertion as running from a goddamned tiger.
It Can Give You Freaking Cancer
Even if your heart doesn't explode, it's normal to feel a little under the weather after a breakup. After all, you just went through some pretty traumatic emotional stress. However, that sadness you're feeling might lead to actual sickness. It's not all in your head: As we get more depressed, our immune system reacts in really weird ways, leading to an increased chance of getting sick.
But the worst-case scenario isn't just puking all over your ex when you run into her.
How Bad Can it Be?
Just a little thing called cancer. You heard that right. On top of the normal sniffles that can result from a suppressed immune system, scientists think that depression can cause and/or exacerbate cancer, arthritis and osteoporosis.
Which means listening to Johnny Cash sing "Hurt" probably causes some form of osteo-cance-ritis.
And it turns out that breakups are more likely to send you spiraling into depression than just about anything else. Apparently this is because we are more likely to fixate on events that are painful and hurt our self-esteem than on events that are just emotionally difficult. So, according to the study, the death of a close family member actually affects you less than someone dumping you.
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For more reasons to get in or stay in a relationship, check out 5 Reasons Being Single Sucks Even More Than You Thought. And learn about some iconic romances that are doomed, in 5 Movie Romances That Won't Last (According to Science).
Make sure you stop by Linkstorm (Updated 08.11.10) because we promise there's stuff there that will cheer you up.
Those of you of who you actually do secretly hate your jobs should check out our friends at HuffPo for ideas on the best way you can quit.