Science says break-ups can be good for you. Seriously.
When you go through a break-up, it feels like your heart has shattered into a thousand irreparable pieces and the need for ice-cream cartons and wine seems so very boundless. It’s a pretty undeniable fact that break-ups suck —regardless of who did the breaking. But sometimes, break-ups are exactly what we need in order to grow and thrive as a human person. So says scientist Dr. Gary Lewandowski, who gave a recent TED talk about relationships and how they “can lead you to a loss of self.”
Lewandowski conducted research by asking the most broken-hearted individuals (people who had gone through a break-up in the last three months and had been in serious relationships) if there was a silver-lining of some sort. He asked everyone the question: “Overall, how would you describe the break-up’s impact on you?” Cosmopolitan reports, “He found that 1 out of 3 people considered the breakup to be a bad experience, 1 out of 4 people said it was a neutral experience, but 41 percent said that overall the breakup was a positive experience.” Huh.
41 percent clearly doesn’t encompass the entire population of humans who have been through relationships bad or good, but it was significant enough of a number for me to wonder just how much we can benefit from a failed one. In the TED talk, Lewandowski talks about the possibility of holding one’s significant other back, and states that instead of expanding one’s self, a romantic partner may hinder growth, which isn’t healthy. And he may have a good point — sometimes we get so caught up our partner’s life, that we lose the person we once were before meeting them.
The words that some of his study participants used to describe what they felt after their break-up were: “Happiness,” “Calm,” “Relief,” Strong,” “Confident,” and “Empowered.” Those are pretty awesome feelings.
And Lewandowski’s findings aren’t the only ones that suggest break-ups can be a positive experience. According to She Knows, A 2003 University of Minnesota study asked 92 students about their break-up experiences, and it was concluded that many felt more confident in themselves post-relationship. Ty Tashiro, one of the authors of the study, stated, “Once the relationship ends, we no longer need to justify why we should be with the person, and this allows us to see some things with more clarity.”
Additionally, a Northwestern University study published in 2010 discovered one’s identity can actually become “lost” after a break-up, but that floundering isn’t exactly a negative thing. One of the conductors of the study, Erica Slotter, stated, “The specific change in the content of ‘who one is’ could be, on some level, positive. For example, becoming kinder after a breakup would be a positive change to the self.” It seems as though a break-up allows one to “re-boot” and give themselves a fresh start.
So, if you’re going through a break-up, and it hurts, and it feels like nothing will ever be even marginally OK ever again, don’t worry. It will. And you’ll come out a better, newer person ready to take on the world.
Watch Dr. Gary Lewandowski’s full TED talk here!