The advice I needed to hear… By Yuen Yi Ying
Coming out of an eight-year relationship, my world was turned upside down. Suddenly, nothing was as it seemed, and everyone seemed different. If there was anything I could rely on, it had been my seemingly perfect partnership, and now that was gone.
Those nearest and dearest had opinions of course, whether I wanted to hear them or not. For future reference, “Just move on”, “You’re still young” and “What if you can’t find anyone else?”, are not particularly helpful or respectful phrases to either party in a relationship. Strangely, the one thing I needed to hear most came about while trawling scientific journals for story ideas – rediscovering your own identity will help to speed emotional recovery.
According to Grace Larson, one of the authors of the American study I found, those in close partnerships tend to feel like they’re overlapping and psychologically intertwining with their significant other, and having to undo that can be particularly painful. That was definitely the case for me, as I had spent practically all my adult life growing through experiences with this one person. The research suggests that finding out who I am, apart from the relationship, aids in “self-concept repair”, allowing me to nurture parts of myself I may have neglected, eventually leading to “improvements in well-being”. This advice may seem obvious, which is probably why no one has mentioned it, but when you’ve been marinating in smug coupledom for a while and say “we” in every other sentence, it’s really not the first thing that comes to mind.
The study also found that repeated reflection on the relationship would, rather than constantly re-open emotional wounds, also help to heal the heartbreak faster. Through tasks like speaking about the breakup into a voice recorder, regularly journaling emotions and completing questionnaires, those who are broken-hearted are given ways to think about what happened from a distanced perspective and build a stronger sense of self, posits the researchers. Hopefully, this assessment will help the downcast craft a narrative of what happened, says Grace, one that “includes the part of the story where [they] recover”.