Fresh heartbreak sparks a common montage: hibernating, thinking the world has ended, and keeping Kleenex in business, for starters. In a close relationship, you think of your partner as a part of you. “So when he or she pulls away, it feels like a part of your body was ripped off,” says Arthur Aron, a psychologist at SUNY at Stony Brook. The most reliable saving grace is time: As the days pass, activity diminishes in brain regions that register attachment.
Brain // Can’t stop checking your ex’s Facebook profile? Looking at photos of someone who recently let you go activates subcortical areas related to addiction - the same regions that make addicts crave cocaine. You pine for your partner, so seeing him feels rewarding.
Eyes // When everything reminds you of him, the crying spells don’t quit. “We’re built to hold on, not turn away,” says Lucy Brown, a neurologist at Einstein College of Medicine. Forming bonds is a deeply embedded need that was - and is - essential to our survival. The tears point you to what’s wrong so you can repair it, and, you know, keep our species alive.
Mouth // In a way, food is a substitute for your former flame. Hunger and the romantic drive share common reward systems in the brain, so when you feel empty, you may turn to two other men in your life: Ben & Jerry.
Heart // Feeling like you’ve been socked in the chest isn’t just a metaphor. After an extremely stressful situation, a days-long surge in adrenaline and other stress hormones can temporarily “stun” heart muscles, mimicking an actual heart attack (think chest pain and shortness of breath). Thankfully, your ticker should recover without long-term damage.
Limbs // When panic and anger subside, lethargy sets in. You can’t get out of bed and you withdraw from friends. The listlessness is a protective mechanism: It turns you into a shut-in so you can regroup mind and body.
Do couples know each other less well as time goes on? Pairs who had spent an average of 40 more years together than younger participants were significantly worse at predicting a partner’s food, film, and kitchen-design preferences, a Journal of Consumer Psychology study found.
Researchers say older, long-term couples may pay less attention to each other, either because they view their relationship as already solid or because they think they know their partner well. Ask your honey what she’d like to do tonight - the answer may surprise you.