Science Helps with Breakups

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Science Helps with Breakups

We’ve all been there: the week in sweat pants, balled up tissues on the couch, a book of bad poetry in our lap, gallons of empty ice cream cartons all around (wine bottles too) and tearful moments wondering how you’ll ever get over the loss. Breakups are one of the most painful moments in life. Certainly wallowing in misery is not one the most healthful thing you can do. Reflection on the other hand can help the healing process along. That’s according to one study published in the in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The difference between helpful reflection and wallowing is the point of your ruminations. How long has it taken place? Are your thoughts severe? If you are reliving moments over and over again, just making yourself sick then it’s time to stop and shake yourself out of this funk. If you are looking at it in a somewhat detached manner, to see where mistakes were made, learning about yourself and vowing to do better in the future, congratulations; you are truly helping to facilitate your own healing, and making sure your future endeavors in the realm of love will not be fraught with misfortune and peril.

Graduate student Grace Larson at Northwestern University conducted the study. She found that a period of asking one’s self questions and deep reflection as she told NPR, “…helped them develop a stronger sense of who they were as single people.” But this isn’t the only science-backed method to employ after a breakup. In fact, there is a rather impressive body of evidence on how to recover. We say we have a physical ache in our hearts and that’s literally true, according to one 2011 study. Participants underwent brain scans while gazing upon a photo of their ex and suffering a breakup. Neurologists found that the same areas where pain is received lit up when the person was longing for their lost love. Another study suggested Tylenol might help relieve such pain. A breakup affects you in other ways physically too, not just being heartsick. When people are in a long-term relationship their biological rhythms synch up. When you break up with someone and are living alone your heart rate, sleep pattern, appetite and even your body temperature is out of sync and must readjust. That means post-breakup, instead of letting yourself go you should go out of your way to take good care of yourself.

Once your body has readjusted, it’s time to take stock of your psychological state. After a breakup your sense of self and identity is in flux. Reestablishing a sense of who you are and what you want out of life is the key to moving on, experts say. Some calm reflection on the relationship is in order. But avoid dwelling upon it. Adaptation is the best route. But adapting to a new environment sans significant other is not easy. A good portion of our lives revolves around our partner. When they are gone a portion of our life goes with them. The good news is we also have a tremendous opportunity to learn from our mistakes and make plans for our future, one better suited for us. One study using brain scans likened breakup pain to cocaine withdrawal. This may be why some of us act a little bit nuts after we and our lover have split. Just ride it out. Most research finds that the first estimate of how long it takes to get over a breakup is far too long. In the aftermath, when the emotions have cleared most people feel they’ve learned something, that the experience helped them grow and made them more goal oriented. That’s according to a 2007 study. People who survive a tough breakup come out stronger in the end, find purpose in life and learn to move on their own power. What may feel like a painful extraction at first turns out to be liberating. For more pick up a copy of, Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You by Susan J. Elliott, JD Med.

Finding Happiness Post-Divorce

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Finding Happiness Post-Divorce

After a divorce, your life will change forever. It’s a monumental pivot. But just like any other metamorphosis in your life, how you choose to see it is really up to you. It can be devastating and leave you a husk of your former self, bitter, depressed and alone. Or you could see it as a brand new start and springboard yourself into the life you’ve always dreamed of. The choice, as with any other choice when it comes to perspective, is up to you. Lots of people experience a divorce as a positive chance in one’s life. Lots of people in a recent Reddit thread talked about how divorce had had positive aspects in their life. Some were even happier years after the divorce took place. Some people talked about higher self-confidence, a sense of inner peace, the ability to pursue their dreams unencumbered. Sure sadness would creep in now and again, just like for anyone else. But the good days outweighed the bad. It seems tough to look at the positive aspects of a divorce while you’re going through it, especially if it’s a long drawn-out process with lots of painful things brought up, revenge tactics or a tit-for-tat mentality. But there is light on the other side of the courtroom door.

There are lots of couples who stay together for the kids. They think the children don’t know that they fight. But it turns out the kids always know somehow all along. A high conflict relationship is definitely not good for the kids. Studies have shown that having children of divorce fare much better than those living in a high conflict household. Even in a low conflict household, children can also sense when the parents aren’t happy. Pursuing happiness isn’t only important for you, it’s also a great lesson to teach your children. Would you want them to wallow in an unhappy marriage in order to make you happy? So don’t put this undue burden on them. In fact, you may have a better relationship with your ex and your children’s parent than you would when you two lived together. There are some couples that are great but just can’t live together. It has something to do with their personalities. The fighting over little things goes away once you are divorced and you can begin to focus on what’s important for the children and on what other decisions you have to make together. Remember to take it day to day. You choose how much you can handle each day. Go through your own healing process but make sure you come out stronger, happier and better adjusted at the other end. For more advice read, Growing Through Divorce by Jim Smoke.

The Best Support to Offer a Child when telling them About the Divorce

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The Best Support to Offer a Child when telling them About the Divorce

Parents often see divorce coming down the pike from a long way off. But to children, the news can seem sudden and can rock their very foundation. It’s important for children and parents to talk openly at this time. You should be supportive, loving, honest and approachable not just on the day you tell them, but every day afterward. Otherwise, the impact on the children can be serious and long-lasting. Talking to the children and letting them know about the divorce is one of the hardest things you can do as a parent. Co-parenting from this point on is one of the best things you can do, to counteract problems. It depends on how well you get along with your ex. But telling the children about the divorce together, establishing the same rules and consequences at both houses, and making sure schedules like school, sports and extra-curricular activities carry on can help iron out problems and send the message that just because a divorce is occurring, doesn’t mean life ends. Though there will be some changes, many things will stay the same and that should be of great comfort to them.

Plan out how you will tell the children and keep their feelings in mind. There are parents who pull nightmare scenarios on kids. For instance, when a child finds out about the divorce after one of the parents has already moved out, or when a child is told without anyone available to console them. How the divorce is presented to the child often sets the tone for how present and available the parent will be as the divorce unfolds. Although a divorce is hard on everyone, being there for the child, responding to their needs and giving them love, support and perspective can help them cope and come through healthy and well-adjusted. The one silver lining in a divorce may be that it can deepen your relationship with your children. It’s important to let the child know that it isn’t there fault. Lots of children at any age blame themselves for the breakup of their parent’s marriage. Moreover, this message may need to be reinforced from time to time.

Another significant message to send is that just because you and your ex’s marriage didn’t work out doesn’t mean the child’s future relationships are doomed. Show them through love, support, nurturing and caring how loved they are. Build a supportive home life and your child’s future love life won’t be tainted by the breakup of their parents. Some parents take particular care breaking the news. But then they think that once the child is informed that they can move on. In fact, children do better when parents have follow up conversations with them about the divorce and how they are doing. Sometimes the parent’s own guilt, confusion, anger, pain and loss can preoccupy them.  Children’s pain mainly comes from feeling abandoned and having their emotions minimized.

Parents can counteract this by being there for them, being open, asking the child how they are feeling and working through those feelings with them. Each child will respond to the trauma of a divorce in their own unique way. Parents have to learn how to support the children in their response. Certainly not all of the problems with the marriage or the impending divorce should be shared with the child. But neither should they be cast aside, as if the divorce has nothing to do with them. It affects their lives. So they must be let in, in an appropriate manner. Listen to your children. Let them know that you understand and that you care. One of the best things you can do is let them know that you get them. You understand how they are feeling and empathize. You understand why they reacted how they did and why they are acting the way they are. You “get them.” There is nothing more comforting than to be fully understood. Then let them know that you will always be there for them and will always love them. Nothing is going to change that. To learn more read the book, Your Child’s Divorce: What to Expect…What You Can Do by Marsha Temlock.

You can come through Divorce a Stronger Person

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You can come through Divorce a Stronger Person

Going through a divorce can be one of the most heart wrenching and financially burdensome periods of one’s life. How could it ever make you happier? You’d be surprised. The brightest light is only witnessed after dwelling in the darkest places. Remember that divorce is only one part of your life, an interlude between your married life and your single life. It isn’t your complete life. Your existence isn’t defined by it. It’s merely something that happened to you. You can come through divorce a stronger person if you choose to. Of course you have to grieve for the marriage. That’s a natural part of healing psychologically. But too many people wallow in self-pity after a divorce. Or they are overwhelmed with the question, “What do I do?” It’s time to start looking at things bit by bit. Learn to become more self-sufficient. You don’t need your ex, even if they did provide or help to provide a certain amount of financial or other type of stability. You can do that yourself. Whether you have to figure out how to pay the rent or when to get the oil changed, it can be an adjustment. But in the long run you’ll learn how to do each and every thing you lack. You will become more independent. You’ll learn that you don’t have to rely on anyone for anything. You can do it all yourself. The most important lesson you’ll learn is that you can be with someone if you want to be. You won’t need to be. That very fact will attract much higher caliber people your way.

You will also develop a clearer identity. Before your identity was confined to that of the marriage. But now you are unencumbered. You merely represent yourself and come as yourself. If your ex used to embarrass you in public places you know what a joy this can be. But you aren’t overshadowed or compared to or even associated with another person. You can control completely what is reflected upon you. And you don’t have to worry about that person you were with messing it up. You look so much better without them pulling you down. And why not explore the other relationships you have? Work on your work relationships and improve them, you family relationships, those with your pets, your mentors and more. Spend some time working on you, and just you. What is something you’ve always wanted to try but never had the opportunity? Well, you don’t have a terrible spouse weighing you down anymore. You are free to make any decisions you see fit. If you have children you still have to keep them in mind. But you are the captain of your own destiny. And without a bad marriage in the midst, you can focus on strengthening the other relationships in your life. With having stronger relationships and being more capable you’ll gain confidence. And that’s really the sexiest quality of all. For more on getting stronger after a divorce read, Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, 3rd Edition by divorce expert Bruce Fisher.

Signs your Child is Coping Well with the Divorce

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Signs your Child is Coping Well with the Divorce

Divorce is not only difficult for parents, it’s hard for children too. A recent study out of the U.K. however found that children growing up in single and step-parent families were just as well-adjusted as those growing up in dual parent households. Your child can come out the other end happy, healthy, well-adjusted and secure. You as their parent however have to mitigate the situation as best you can. Make sure they are protected. See that they can come to you and talk about the divorce, ask questions and air any concerns. Shield the children from the anxiety caused by divorce conflict between you and your ex-spouse. Make sure all of your decisions are with the children’s welfare in mind. If you and your ex-spouse have done these things, your child should get through the transition and be okay on the other side. You’ll have to watch them carefully however to make sure they make the leap and land on the other side without any serious problems. Here are some signs your child is coping well with the divorce. First, note your child’s behavior. Do they act as they usually do? Do they talk the same, look the same and go through their normal schedule without any outbursts or hiccups? If so this is a very good sign. Children of any age can endure powerful emotions during divorce such as anxiety, guilt, hurt, anger and more. But if your child interacts and behaves normally they are adjusting well.

When you spend time with your child, do they smile, laugh, and act in a positive manner? Some kids withdraw into themselves. Others act out. They can be spiteful, angry, even belligerent. But if your child is happy and wants to be with you and spend time with you, this is a positive indicator that they are doing alright. Your child may want to ask a whole bunch of questions surrounding the divorce. Be open and honest with them. Yet, share the information you are going to extend with their age in mind, a simpler version for younger children and you can add more details for children who want to know, because they are older. Make sure you are open and even ask them to ask you questions. You don’t want them bottling their feelings up inside where they will fester and cause more problems. You want them out in the open so you can both deal with them. If they feel comfortable asking you questions, feel good about it. It means they are doing okay and grappling with the situation as they should, in a psychologically healthy way. Don’t force them to open up. Just be there for them and encourage them. A gentle asking or prodding would suffice. They may come around later and ask questions after they’ve finished processing the information they already have. Some kids withhold information or a story from one parent or another. But healthy, well-adjusted children aren’t afraid of sharing their stories and experiences with both parents. Let them know you want them to maintain a healthy relationship with both their parents and never guilt or shame them for enjoying their time with their other parent.

Talk to the counselors at school and your child’s teacher or teachers. How are their grades? What is their behavior like? Have they been acting out? If your child has had signs of aggression it may be time to consider counseling. But if they have been maintaining their grades, spending time with friends, behaving properly and taking part in extracurricular activities, they are adjusting well. How does your child treat others? Are they sympathetic to the problems of others? Do they show compassion or empathy? A sign a child might be in distress is if they’ve lost their compassion for others somewhere along the line. This is a good time to check in with school counselors. Does the child talk about exciting things that will happen in the future such as summer vacation, theirs or a friend’s birthday party, an upcoming trip and so on? Children get excited about events happening in the near future, and this enthusiasm illustrates a positive outlook about the world.  But those who have lost their enthusiasm are having trouble emotionally and should be listened to, to find out what the specific problem is, how they interpret things and what can be done to make things right or better. If a child is affectionate and takes and gives hugs and kisses, or gives words of encouragement, this child has adjusted fine. Look for the aid of a professional if your child needs some assistance. With the proper care even a child who has difficulty can be redirected and will soon enjoy a happy, healthy, well-adjusted life. For more on this topic pick up a copy of, The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive by Robert Emery.