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What a Neuroscientist Says to Do When Regretting a Breakup!

Some couples have to “learn to love” each other, and those relationships don’t always last. Separations, however, are rarely simple. People frequently express sorrow to me as a sex therapist and relationship specialist turned neuroscientist about ending a relationship. I call it the “breakup hangover” when we can’t help but be overcome by sadness after ending a significant relationship.

While it’s normal to feel some pangs of remorse after a breakup, that doesn’t imply you have to rekindle things. The end of a relationship always leaves us feeling sad, even if we were the ones who decided to part ways. Feelings of longing, melancholy, and grief are intricately hardwired into our emotional instincts, and they can encourage us to put out the effort required to develop as individuals. What wonderful news! I’ve found that a breakdown usually signifies a breakthrough, and regret is a natural part of the grieving process.

How to Recognize if You Have Regrets

Quick answer: we engage in inward reflection.

The longer explanation is that we tend to reflect on past losses in the same manner that we do on new connections.

The positive side of falling in love is that our minds are constantly circling that person, which can be both thrilling and satisfying. But even when we’re feeling particularly smitten, our inner monologue may echo with doubts and apprehensions about potential dangers to the connection. Humans are social, emotionally invested beings, and the prospect of separation causes us great anguish.

It’s common to feel this way after a breakup, especially if you’re not yet satisfied with your life or feel like you have unfinished business. It’s natural to feel bad about ending a relationship, especially if you were the one who initiated it. It turns out that mending relationships, even if they don’t go on, is something you have to accomplish on the inside.

How to Handle Breakup Regrets

1. Get curious.

Was the decision to split up made on the spur of the moment? Or has it been simmering for a while? Is it better now that you’re single? Worse? Unchanged? Could it be that your partner’s mistreatment of you was the main cause of the relationship’s failure?

Try not to be shy about asking close friends and family for their opinions. In what ways did they see you mirrored in the partnership?

2. Take a relationship inventory.

There may be answers waiting for you in your past experiences. Are there any warning signals that the relationship isn’t healthy? Consider, without placing blame, the factors that contributed to your unhappiness in the relationship and ultimately caused you to end it. Did either you or your partner tend to be harsh critics of others?

Did you two not bother to give each other a chance? When it came to the relationship, did you not speak out for what you wanted? Did you often try to prove your partner incorrect, even though most of the time, disagreements between partners boil down to differing points of view? Own yourself to the role you played in the dance.

During counselling sessions, I always remind partners that they are equally responsible for their contribution to the state of the relationship. That’s fantastic news because it means we have the power to make improvements in our own lives moving ahead.

3. Don’t beat yourself up.

You should expect to feel some sadness after a breakup, even if you know it’s the right decision. Realize that your emotions are natural and do not necessarily indicate that you have chosen the wrong choice. Stop being so hard on yourself.

Present circumstances call for nothing less than total surrender. Tolerating our emotions, especially unpleasant ones, is an indicator of psychological well-being and a vital skill for thriving interpersonal connections.

suffering from breakup remorse

4. Get analytical.

Are you typically a worried, self-doubting person? And if that’s the case, is it regret about the relationship’s end or doubts about your own judgement?

Or, if you want to get down to brass tacks, can you identify any consistent themes in your romantic partnerships? Is it common for you to let your doubts and concerns influence your choice? If this sounds like you, it’s important to learn more about your attachment style and how you see your own needs and the willingness of others to assist you in meeting those needs. Learn how to understand and control your own attachment wiring by reading my book, Why Good S*x Matters.

5. Use this energy to develop yourself.

Check out these relationship skills that are common among successful people. The bright side is that one can acquire these capabilities with practice and study. Every connection is a chance to grow as an individual and as a partner.

6. Break it down and breakthrough.

You can grow into a more whole person by learning about the landmarks on your relational road map. One useful method is to consider the cultural norms that inform our expectations of one another and ourselves. Conflict in relationships is fueled by outmoded ideas of what each gender is “supposed to be like” in terms of behaviour and expectations, and this is true regardless of a person’s gender or s*xual orientation.

You may feel resentment, for instance, if you believe it is your duty to be nurturing (a traditionally female role), but you aren’t taking care of yourself. Similarly, if your partner believes it is your responsibility to provide for the family (a traditionally male function) and you don’t, they may get resentful of you.

You may be too fast to give up on a relationship and move on if you are prone to acting on impulse. Hence, apologies. The “passive” role, or the capacity to observe oneself and others with interest and insight, without immediately acting or reacting, is a facet of our interpersonal selves that could use some work.

The bottom line is that the better our relationships are, the more we can be aware of and flexible with our expectations of ourselves and each other.

suffering from breakup remorse
suffering from breakup remorse

7. Get closure.

Now that you understand what went wrong, you can start thinking about how to have a talk with your ex about what needs to be fixed so that you can both feel satisfied with the end result. Try to let love help you let go.

If that is not possible, writing out your feelings and implementing what you’ve learnt might help you reach closure with your relationship and move on. This letter can be mailed (or not). Identifying how you have changed as a result of this experience is crucial if you want to find love that lasts.

Neuroscientist, relationship specialist, and AASECT-certified sex therapist Nan Wise, PhD, wrote Why Good S*x Matters: Understanding the Neuroscience of Pleasure for a Smarter, Happier, and More Purpose-Filled Life. Just tweet her questions to @DoctorNan.

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