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Why You Should Think Carefully Before Taking Relationship Advice From Your Friends

Why You Should Think Carefully Before Taking Relationship Advice From Your Friends

When you have relationship issues, who do you turn to?

Most of us tend to seek relationship advice from other people when we have problems in our love lives. We are particularly likely to ask for our friends’ opinions, since we trust them to act in our best interest. The media encourages us to turn to our closest friends too, promoting the idea that our pals are there to offer their input whenever we hit a romantic roadblock.

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But is relying on your friends for guidance really the smartest option? Even though asking our friends for advice feels like a natural and sensible course of action, it may not be the best move. Here are five reasons why you probably shouldn’t value your friends’ advice over your own intuition:

1. It’s impossible for them to truly know all the details.

Even if you talk to your best friend several times a day, there are bound to be details you have overlooked or left out when talking about your relationship. There just isn’t enough time to tell your friend every little thing that has happened between you and your partner. Whereas you are processing your relationship with full knowledge of the relevant facts, your friend is working with incomplete information. Bear this in mind before accepting your friend’s assessment of the situation.

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2. They have their own issues to deal with that you may not even know about, and this may color their opinion.

If you know that your friend has recently been through a bitter divorce, you might as well cross them off your list of potential relationship counselors. However, consider the possibility that even a friend you consider to be well-adjusted may have baggage that you do not know about, and that this may shape their opinion in a way that reflects their past experiences rather than your current predicament.

3. They do not have as much invested in the relationship as you do, so they won’t give their advice as much thought as you would hope.

Even your very best friend does not care about your relationship anywhere near the extent that you do. Ultimately, we all place our own concerns above those of our people. Remember that the fallout of your actions will not affect your friend, whereas you could suffer the consequences for years to come. If your friend were actually in your situation, rather than looking in from the outside, they would spend a bit more time thinking through their options. Keep in mind that the emotional investment is different, so make your decisions accordingly.

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4. They may say what they think you want to hear.

Sometimes a well-meaning friend will tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear. This means that their advice may be based on an overly optimistic or rose-tinted view of the situation, and they may hold back because they do not want to see you upset. Likewise, they might have feelings about the relationship that don’t match yours, but won’t let you know their true honest beliefs out of fear that it will jeopardize your friendship.

5. Their values may be different to yours.

Before you take advice from a friend, make sure that you are working from a similar set of values and assumptions about how relationships can and should work. Otherwise, you may be following advice that does not apply to someone who operates from your perspective. For instance, your friend may be working with the assumption that lots of one-on-one time is important to you in a relationship only because it is important to them. They may therefore tell you that your partner doesn’t care about you unless they want to spend a lot of time together without acknowledging that some couples prefer to lead very independent lives.

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Friends can be a wonderful source of emotional support, but it’s wise to think very carefully before acting on their advice when it comes to your relationship troubles. Have the confidence to believe in your gut feelings and past experiences, and learn to balance the opinions of other people with your own.

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Jay Hill

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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