Put The Pen Down: Writing About Your Breakup Actually Makes It Harder To Get Over

December 5, 2012  |  

It took me 17  months to get over “him.” I know because I counted the number of months between the first emotion-laden piece I’d written about him (when I suspected he may be trouble) and the last (long after I discovered that “trouble” was a gross understatement).

He was the worst thing to ever happen to me and, in the words of The Decemberists, I wrote pages upon pages trying to rid him from my bones.

In the recap of that disastrous relationship, I don’t paint myself as blameless because I wasn’t. However, isn’t it true that “we all righteously recreate our self-image, diminishing our moral lapses and shabbier behaviors, in order to live with ourselves”?

I know that I made mistakes with him, the chiefest of which was falling for him in the first place, but through my writing I was able to analyze every aspect, question every moment, reimagine happier endings, finally accept the inevitable and ultimately gain closure – all without seeing him for months.

But what if I had never spent all of that time writing about him? Would I have been able to get over him sooner? A new study says yes.

According to The Atlantic, researchers at the University of Arizona hypothesized that focusing creative word vomit into narrative form could help patients with the highest tendency to ruminate about the past to pull themselves together and move on following divorce.

Instead, what they found was that scrawling out one’s feelings post-breakup can actually cause greater emotional distress months down the road, especially for people who already tend to overthink their relationships.

Once they got over their surprise, the researchers were able to go back and see how their findings actually make a lot of sense (or at least, they were able to spin it that way). “If you’re someone who tends to be totally in your head and go over and over what happened and why it happened, you need to get out of your head and just start thinking about how you’re going to put your life back together and organize your time.”

Darn. I was doing it wrong!

There were times that I suspected that my constant cryptic Facebook statuses, heavyhearted Facebook notes, heartsick poetry and the entire secret blogsite (55 despondent entries in total!) that I wrote about him weren’t as therapeutic as they were reinforcing negative feelings, but it definitely felt cathartic at the time.

What I find especially ironic is that though writing about him didn’t necessarily help me get over him, it did help me become a better writer. In fact, when I finally stopped writing about my pain – because I didn’t feel that pain anymore – I found it difficult to find inspiration.

As Adele, Keyshia Cole, Mariah Carey, Candace Bushnell and the fictional Carrie Bradshaw illuminate, sadness sells books, blogs and records. Heck, even Rihanna found mainstream fame after her highly-publicized incident with Chris Brown.

However, if you’re not interested in profiting from your pain, not encouraged by the knowledge that you’ve written something some other miserable girl can relate to, nor have any desire to prolong your suffering, then there is a tried-and-true way for even the most over-analyzing and obsessive woman to get over a guy.

Pretend he doesn’t exist.

It seems so basic, but it truly works. If you’re serious about letting this guy go, now is not the time to text him feigning interest in how his cousin’s neighbor’s dog is doing. Shut him out of your life. Stop wondering where he is, what he’s doing or who he’s with. Stop checking his Facebook page, hide his updates on your newsfeed and quit reading his Twitter timeline/mentions (unfollow or mute anyone who retweets him into your timeline!). Stop following him on Instagram, stop checking his location on FourSquare and remove him from your Gchat list. Stop asking about him. Stop listening to music that makes you think about him or watching movies that make you miss him. Tell your friends not to speak his name to you. Notice whenever you’re unnecessarily and obsessively thinking about him (whether out of anger or sadness) and immediately will yourself to stop. Oh, and quit writing about him.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded? When you look up one day and realize you’ve created a happy life for yourself that doesn’t include a single thought of — or word written about — “him”.

What do you think? Are you surprised that researchers found writing about a breakup doesn’t help you move past it? Do you think pretending a guy doesn’t exist is the best way to get over him?

 Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

 Photo courtesy of Shutterstock 

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