10 Science-Backed Facts About Breakups

Updated: Dec. 28, 2020

The end of a romantic relationship can seem like the end of the world. Post-breakup, you may spend all your time just trying to make sense of what's happened, while binging on Ben & Jerry's. Sometimes, it helps to have the facts. Here are 10 science-backed realities of breakups—and the things that can cause them—that may just help you mend your broken heart.


Facebook-stalking your ex could make it harder to move on

After all is said and done, it’s natural that you may want to keep tabs on your ex. Since you can’t just pick up the phone and chat, you may find yourself doing something equally bad. In your darkest, weakest moments, you may browse his or her Facebook page for instant relief, but is it actually doing your any good? The short answer is no. “Exposure to an ex-partner through Facebook may obstruct the process of healing and moving on from a past relationship,” writes Tara C. Marshall in her study, Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners. According to the results of the research, the more people stay connected with their ex on Facebook, the more upset they will be over the breakup. Unfriending your ex is like ripping off a bandage. The faster you do it, the less it will hurt.


Facebook use may have CAUSED your breakup

Now that you’ve unfreinded your ex on Facebook, it may surprise you to learn that the social media site may have been the cause of your relationship meltdown in the first place. Many of us are utterly addicted to checking our messages, uploading pictures, and playing the most annoying of games on FB. But, according to research by Russell Clayton from the University of Missouri, those who use the social media site too often are more likely to have arguments with their partners on a regular basis. There are two major reasons for this: First, people may reconnect with exes on Facebook and perhaps even attempt to rekindle what they once had. Second, if your partner is an excessive social media user, you may start to get suspicious about what he or she is up to. (Related: Check out these 11 signs you can totally trust your partner.)


Twitter might cause your breakup too

Twitter use may lead to arguing, too, found a study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. No surprise, the reasons that both Facebook and Twitter can impact your relationship are similar. The research suggests that people who Tweet regularly were likely to have “Twitter-related conflict,” which could lead to cheating, arguing, and, you guessed it, an eventual breakup. (Never do these 15 things to get over a breakup.)


It’s normal to struggle with your identity post-breakup

After months, years, or decades of being one half of a couple, rediscovering your post-relationship self might seem like mission impossible. After a relationship ends, you may wonder who you are now or feel as though you have to suddenly reinvent yourself simply to regain control over your image. “When the relationship ends, individuals experience not only pain over the loss of the partner, but also changes in their selves,” explain the authors of a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. (Related: Feeling blue? Here are unusual ways to find happiness.)


Breakups may hurt women more initially, but men take longer to recover

While women endure more physical and mental pain at the time of the breakup, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for women. According to research from the Binghamton University and University College London, women are initially hurt more by the end of a relationship, but it’s men who struggle to get over it. The reason for this divide of the sexes is entirely logical. “Women are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than men,” explains lead researcher, Craig Morris. “The man will likely feel the loss deeply and for a very long period of time as it ‘sinks in’ that he must ‘start competing’ all over again to replace what he has lost—or worse still, come to the realization that the loss is irreplaceable.” Here are some tips on how to move on from a relationship.


Women are more likely to issue divorce papers

While there’s little to no difference between who ends non-marital love affairs, there is a striking trend when it comes to divorce. Professor Michael Rosenfeld from Stanford University published research that found it’s women who initiate 69 percent of divorces. That is to say that more than two-thirds of the time, when the marriage is in trouble, it’s the wife who opts to call it quits. Rosenfeld suggests that the reason is that marriage as an institution has been slow to catch up with gender equality. “Wives still take their husbands’ surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare.” If women don’t feel supported on the home front, they may want to opt out of the marriage.


Couples are most likely to fight about money

You may not feel like you have enough or you may disagree on how to spend (or not spend) it. One study published in the Family Relations Journal found that financial issues are the number-one thing that causes couples to have arguments. What’s more, it doesn’t matter if you’re living the life of luxury or debt collectors are knocking at the door, you may still bicker about finances time and time again. Researchers hypothesize that people put a strong emphasis on money and its power; in our culture, money is synonymous with everything from luxury and stability to authority and our egos. When couples argue about their finances, it may not be the physical dimes and cents that bother them so much. There are actually many underlying issues that may be at the root of the problem.


When women make more money, a breakup could be in the cards

When women are the primary—or sole—breadwinners, it can put a relationship off balance, suggests one study published in Sociology. Researchers from the University of Basel tested how married couples’ incomes affected the longevity of their relationships. The research found that when the woman was the sole provider for the household, the relationship was twice as likely to be headed to divorce. There’s no doubt that the strains of providing for a family are multiple, but when it lands on the shoulders of the wife, couples need to be extra careful to respect each others’ needs.


You may be tempted to bash your ex online

While it can be normal to fantasize about crafting the most heinous of messages for your former partner, some are daring enough to click that “send” button too. According to a recent British survey a massive 48 percent of respondents said their ex had sent or shared an online message about them that was nasty. It doesn’t stop there: 34 percent of respondents said their new partner or a family member had also been the recipient of similarly hurtful messages. Heartbreak does strange things to people, but needless to say, it’s better to find other outlets for your anger.


There are two major “divorce seasons” each year

It sounds bizarre to suggest that there is a season for divorce, but that’s exactly what a recent study from the University of Washington found. According to the results, divorce filings peak at the very start of the year and during the fall. “[These times] represent periods in the year when there’s the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life,” explains one of the researchers, professor Julie Brine.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest