When faced with a potential break-up, who among us hasn’t uttered the phrase, “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone?” Whether expressed as a threat or stated matter-of-factly, it is an all-too-familiar anthem for underappreciated dumpers and dumpees alike. Even if you were only bluffing when you said it, you can seek solace in the fact that whether they want to or not, your exs are indeed going to miss you when you’re gone.
Anna Kendrick’s soulfully sweet rendition of “Cups” reminded me of some interesting research on break-ups. In particular, when a relationship ends, we aren’t just losing a romantic partner; we are saying good-bye to someone who probably helped set our daily schedule, that is, a “social regulator.”1 Curious about what I mean? Well think about it…if you live with your partner, you likely wake up when they do (whether on purpose or by accident), you may plan your meals around each other, workout together, watch each other’s favorite TV shows, and even make joint decisions about how to spend holidays and birthdays. An unexpected consequence of breaking-up is that you lose your human timepiece. Research shows that people depend upon each other to help regulate their basic functions, both biologically and psychologically. Because they have been incorporated into our daily routines, the loss of a partner could actually leave us at a loss when trying to regulate basic functions, like eating, sleeping, working, and unwinding.2
In fact, those who have recently experienced a break-up often report disturbances in sleep, appetite, mood, and even scarier, immune functioning!3
Although this song may be climbing the charts because people like its cool hand-jives and cup tricks, don’t let that detract from the fact that Kendrick’s lyrics are spot on. “You’re gonna miss me by my walk. You’re gonna miss me by my talk. You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” Subtle cues that we may have taken for granted or that went unnoticed, like touches, smells, and looks can be important sources of information that guide us.4 Without our partners’ informative glances to tell us that we are talking too much or not enough, we may find ourselves in a state of confusion or disorganization (i.e., what do I do now?). So while your (or your partner’s) boots may have been made for walking, prepare yourself for the realization that post-relationship, you’ll likely be searching for a new stride.
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1Field, T. (2011). Romantic breakups, heartbreak and bereavement. Psychology, 2, 382-387.
2Hofer, M. A. (1984). Relationships as regulators: A psychobiologic perspective on bereavement. Psychosomatic Medicine, 46, 183-197.
3Wittstein, L. S., Thiemann, D. R., Lima, J. A. C., Baughman, K. T., Schulman, S. P., Gerstenblith, G., Wu, K. C., Rade, J. J., Bivalacqua, T. J., & Champion, H. C. (2005). Neurohumoral features of myocardial stunning due to sudden emotional stress. The New England Journal of Medicine, 352, 539-548.
4Sbarra, D. A., & Hazan, C. (2008). Coregulation, dysregulation, self regulation: An integrative analysis and empirical agenda for under-standing adult attachment, separation, loss, and recovery. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12, 141-167.
Dr. Sadie Leder – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Leder’s research focuses on how people balance their desires for closeness and protection against rejection, specifically during partner selection, goal negotiation within established romantic relationships, and the experience of romantic love, hurt feelings, and relationship rekindling.