Hailey and Stephanie have been friends since childhood; they have shared everything – all of life’s ups and downs. They stood beside each other at their respective weddings and snuck into hospitals to meet the new additions to their families. The two were so tight that their husbands knew their bond was unbreakable. One day Stephanie came home early from work. She heard a noise in the bedroom, and ran upstairs to find her husband and Hailey in bed together. This was something Stephanie would never have believed would happen.
Sally has been married to the love of her life for years. They have an amazing child together and are voted least likely to divorce. They each have good incomes and are quite ambitious. Sally recently got promoted at work, again. Her husband was not so lucky. Sally noticed a rapid change in her husband. She couldn’t handle it anymore and asked for a divorce. Everyone was shocked, but Sally had to make the decision for her health and well-being.
What is the one truth about relationships? Relationships have one thing in common – they ae unpredictable! Yes, we go into them with good intentions. We enter a friendship thinking it may blossom into a Facebook-worthy post about two friends being besties for 50+ years. The situation is similar with intimate, long-term relationships: we enter them with the hope that this will be until death do us part. Once tragedy strikes, the themes are common: people are blindsided; they did not see it coming; they were thrown for a loop. It’s no different than an unexpected death, which divorce is often compared to; you are in shock.
In the Psychology Today article, “The Neuroscience of Relationship Breakups,” author Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. discusses how our brains react to these sudden abrupt changes: “Our brains seem to process these breakups in the same area of the brain as pain”. I don’t think this should be a surprise, but it is something to consider. If we break an arm, we get a cast. If we cut ourselves, we get a Band-Aid and Polysporin®. But if our hearts are broken, we go through a relatively long process to heal. This particular article focused on college students; however, the timeline for the end of a friendship or marriage is really in the hands of the individual. The more sudden and shocking the incident, the longer it may be to heal the wound.
Human connection is something we all need and desire, hence why we grow up seeking a best friend, or wanting to get married one day. Even though there is pain if a friendship doesn’t grow or we don’t have a partner, having those connections in our lives can bring a sense of pride and joy. On the other hand, when seemingly binding relationships end, especially abruptly, we tend to navigate through them as if it was the first time we have heard or experienced these types of situations. The real question may actually be: are relationships unpredictable, or are we?