Have you ever been rejected in a relationship and felt physical pain from the experience? A study conducted by psychologist Ethan Kross from the University of Michigan published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that a romantic breakup activates regions of the brain that are involved in the sensory experience of physical pain. The USA Today writer Nanci Hellmich quoted Mark Leary, a professor a psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, “We’re motivated to maintain good relationships and try to repair them when problems arise because breakups and rejections hurt.” In my practice, working with couples everyday and seeing the grief caused by marital strife, separation, and divorce, I’m convinced that the impact is both emotional and physical. In some ways going through a divorce is more difficult than coping with death since the ex-spouse is still around even though the marriage is dead. This can make it more difficult to let go, achieve closure, and move on with life. Even when divorce is the best option or a person’s choice grieving still occurs and pain is experienced. The healing comes from confronting the emotional pain you have (such as anger, sadness, hurt, guilt, etc.), forgiving your partner and yourself, and moving forward. Often times, suffering and healing occur simultaneously. Ideally, relationship failure results in personal reflection, growth, and positive changes. On the negative side, some individuals avoid dealing with their pain and carry their baggage to the next relationship. This is why divorce rates climb for second and third marriages. When a relationship ends, take responsibility for your contribution, deal with your pain, and let go of the need for retribution. This will increase your chances of a successful relationship in the future.
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