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4 Scientific Reasons Why People Fall out of Love

Scientists Dug Into the Reasons Why People Fall Out Of Love, Finally!

We know that romantic breakups are an inevitable and difficult part of living, but this doesn’t make it any easier to actually experience them, especially when there’s still a lot of love left. Not only do they awaken in us a wide and unpleasant range of emotions, from anger to sadness and shame, but breakups can also bring plenty of health problems.

It is truly shocking and astounding at the same time how much of an impact saying goodbye to someone can have, especially since it is such a volatile subject. In comparison to the grand scheme of things, what does a breakup mean, right?

You’re supposed to shake it off and be glad you’re not dead, or at least that’s how we choose to look at it. Truth be told, we can suffer from heartbreak on a visceral level, as it induces insomnia, reduces our immune functioning, causes depression, and even causes “broken heart syndrome”.

Some of us experienced heartbreaks to their fullest potential, while others breezed their way out of them. This doesn’t make anyone weaker or stronger, because there are many factors that affect the way a breakup takes place and feels.

Going back to the symptoms we’ve just listed, it is worth mentioning that the severity of those symptoms depends on the strength of the relationship and how traumatic the breakup was. Moreover, there’s a triangular theory of love discovered by psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, which says that passion, intimacy, and commitment can easily interact in various ways to form different types of love experiences.

Probably the most famous ones are good old infatuation, the passionate love we’re all desperately seeking throughout our lives, and attachment, which is companionate love. All romantic couples can progress through different stages of love over the course of a relationship. For instance, passionate love is generally seen in the early stages of a relationship, right before it settles into something more stable.

The feelings that usually derive from infatuation, whether they are mutual or one-sided, could be awfully different from what people in a long-term relationship feel. In fact, it also means that the emotional pain that appears after each and every breakup is very different, too.

Even if dealing with a breakup can actually take a huge amount of time and effort, research has discovered certain strategies most people use to overcome heartache, and some of them seem more effective than others.

In fact, according to a recent study published in the “Journal of Experimental Psychology: General”, there are three coping strategies invented from the neuroscience perspective. For the purpose of this kind of study, Sandra J. E. Langeslag and Michelle E. Sanchez of the University of Missouri decided to focus on these strategies when it comes to dealing with romantic breakups:

relationship love
Photo by Tero Vesalainen from Shutterstock

Negative reappraisal of the relationship.

It seems that haters are going to hate, but they’re also going to feel better. Focusing on the negative qualities of ex-lovers makes you feel better. What a surprise, right? If you start thinking that they were “too clingy”, “too cheap”, or “too old”, you might reduce the love and feel better after the breakup.

As an alternative, it could also help to start thinking about the negative features of the relationship itself. If you realize that it wasn’t meant to happen or that it wasn’t going anywhere, it will be easier to move on.

Unfortunately, this might also imply dwelling on negative thoughts that could ultimately make someone feel worse, at least in the short run. However, in the long run, it seems that negative reappraisal is an effective coping strategy.

Reappraising the emotions themselves

Another efficient way to cope with a breakup is to learn to accept the emotions that come along with it. In this case, it could imply recognizing that those famous “post-breakup blues” are just an inevitable aspect of a breakup.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you still have feelings toward your ex. Learning to accept those feelings without judging yourself will ease the process. Oftentimes, we try so hard to look through everything in front of everybody else and even ourselves that we deny our own reality and feelings.

But the thing with emotions is that even if you deny them, it won’t make them go away.


In many cases, the simplest and easiest way to deal with heartbreak is to throw yourself into a myriad of activities to fill your free time. You might try to work harder and longer than you used to, start a new hobby, or even binge a new series.

Whichever it may be, it can distract you from negative rumination and brooding, at least in the short run. As distraction is more of a short-term coping strategy, it could still help control the blues long enough to eventually move on.

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Details of the study

In order to test these three strategies, researchers chose 24 participants (20 women and four men), ranging in age from 20 to 37, who recently experienced a breakup and were still heartbroken. Each participant came up with 28 digital pictures of their ex-partners.

They also answered a couple of questions about their relationship, including how long it lasted, how good it was, and how much they loved and still loved their former partner on a scale from 1 (not in love at all) to 9 (very much in love). Then, participants took a questionnaire meant to measure how much control they had over their own love feelings.

In the next chapter of the study, scientists measured the brain waves of each participant with electroencephalography under four different conditions:

  • negative thoughts about their ex-partner;
  • reappraisal of love feelings;
  • distraction;
  • a control condition.

During each and every trial, participants were briefly introduced to a question or a statement meant to simulate one of the coping strategies under study. For instance, let’s take the negative reappraisal condition: they were presented with questions about negative qualities in their ex.

They had to recall an annoying habit of their ex or something awfully disrespectful that they did. Next, in the reappraisal of love feelings condition, some prompts included other statements like “There are plenty of people who still love their ex”, or trying to acknowledge the fact that it is alright to still have feelings for your ex.

The distraction strategy included other questions like “What’s your favorite song? It’s important to point out that participants had to answer these questions mentally. Lastly, the control condition didn’t imply any regulation strategies. All conditions were simply given in a random order.

After the initial EEG readings, participants were presented with a picture of their ex and the results of their EEG, which measured the level of arousal. They also used a specialized slider to show how much they still loved their ex-partners, but it also showed the valence of affect and how positive or negative their feelings were.

After the task was completed, all participants had to complete a questionnaire to measure the likelihood of using any of these strategies in their personal lives.


As it turns out, results indicated a very strong correlation between the amount of love participants had for their exes and how upset they felt after breaking up. In weighing the individual strategies, negative reappraisal seemed to have the best results in decreasing love feelings, even if it also made people feel worse, at least in the short run.

Despite these disadvantages, it was the strategy participants preferred to use after a breakup.

In case you’re going through something, then I deeply recommend you read “Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey” (well, it’s the audiobook version, but you got it), by Florence Williams. It helped me a lot.

If you’re interested in reading other articles, here’s what we recommend: 7 Impressive and Life-Changing Things You Didn’t Know Were Invented by Women!


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