If you’ve ever had a relationship end, then you have probably also experienced that feeling of regret where you wonder, “Why aren’t so-and-so and I together anymore? What went wrong?” After a breakup, when you’re feeling particularly lonely, sad and nostalgic, it always seems like you look back on your relationship and remember only the good times. You know, all those times you two cuddled in bed and made up cute nicknames for each other, all of the inside jokes, the super romantic dates and the sweet gifts that were given. It just seems so easy to wrap yourself in a blanket and cry over the wonderful things you’re now missing out on.
What you probably aren’t thinking about? All of the reasons you two broke up in the first place. You probably aren’t thinking about all of those times your BF or GF made you feel like the smallest person on the planet. You’re probably not thinking about all of those fights that made you so angry you could throw something, or any of the times you fell asleep crying.
And why not? Wouldn’t focusing on those bad things make you realize that your relationship is better off being over, and thus make it easier for you to move on? Yeah, it probably would. But unfortunately for us, it turns out that we kind of can’t help but remember only the good times. One study says that it can be more difficult for our brains to remember negative memories than it is to remember positive ones. The study says that inhibition promotes this unfair bias in our brains. In psychological terms, inhibition is the conscious or unconscious restraint of a behavior, thought or impulse. Basically, whether we realize we’re doing it or not, our brains sometimes decide not to remember negative things.
As soon as I read that, I was like, “Huh. Well, that makes sense.” When you think about it, the finding is really a pretty obvious one: who wants to remember the times that made them feel miserable? Most people don’t enjoy looking back on the past and thinking only about the things that were difficult to get through or the things that made them cry. Most people want to look back and remember only the times that made them happiest.
When it comes to applying that to relationships and breakups, it makes even more sense to me. A few months after I dumped my ex-boyfriend of five years, I started feeling doubtful. Suddenly, I couldn’t really remember why we had broken up in the first place. I mean yeah, there was some fighting. But I was mostly thinking about the good times we had: the vacations, the cuddling, the cute pictures we took. Why was I torturing myself like that? Because when I really let myself think about the hard times we went through that ultimately led to our split, I felt even more sad.
I know I’m not the only one who’s experienced this before when it comes to a breakup. I’ve listened to countless heartbroken friends go on and on about all of the things they miss about their ex. In the beginning stages of getting over a split, I think that’s pretty common – and that’s what makes people want to get back together with their exes. They’re looking back with rose-colored glasses and only seeing the good things. Of course they want to try to work things out! It’s easy to feel that way when you conveniently can’t remember all of that fighting that happened.
So here’s a little bit of advice on how to prevent this from happening to you – or how to deal with it if it’s happening to you right now: the next time you’re feeling particularly angry about your breakup, do yourself a huge favor and write down all of the things that sucked about your relationship or your ex. Look back and try to remember every bad thing that happened between you two. That might sound scary, because I know you don’t want to think about those things, but it will help you in the end. The next time you’re feeling nostalgic, sitting on your bed looking at pictures and crying over what you think you’re missing, pull out that list and read it. It will help you remember all of the reasons things ended in the first place, and that will help you move on.
Do you think this study is right? Have you ever done this after a breakup? Do you find it easier to remember good things rather than bad things in general? Tell me in the comments!