Bad romance: When relationships fall apart, negative emotions lead to difficult situationsFERGUS FALLS, Minn. - As her second marriage fell apart, Tammy Murdock remembers very well the overwhelming emotions she felt at the time. “You get your mind set that you can fix it,” Murdock, of Fergus Falls, said. “And you can’t. And then you’re so angry, so depressed.”
By: Sam Benshoof, INFORUM
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - As her second marriage fell apart, Tammy Murdock remembers very well the overwhelming emotions she felt at the time.
“You get your mind set that you can fix it,” Murdock, of Fergus Falls, said. “And you can’t. And then you’re so angry, so depressed.”
With a divorce already in her past, the ending of Murdock’s second marriage made her feel even more like a failure.
“I went off the deep end,” she said. “I hit a depression that was a black hole.”
But it wasn’t just herself that she was angry at. Murdock recalls vividly the frustration and the rage and the anger directed at her ex-husband, who she felt was ruining her family.
“I hated him. I absolutely hated him. I couldn’t stand the sight of him,” she admits.
Although Murdock never acted on or gave in to those emotions, some spurned lovers do.
In Fargo-Moorhead recently, several extreme bad breakups have made headlines in The Forum.
In one case, a woman sold her ex-boyfriend’s car for $80 after he was charged with assault. In another, a man defecated in his ex-girlfriend’s purse and presented it to her at her work.
Gail Nelson, of Journey Counseling in Fargo, sees troubled relationships on a regular basis. It’s no secret or surprise, she explains, that people overreact when relationships are involved.
“When you’re talking about love, it’s real,” she said. “It overwhelms your whole system. People do irrational stuff.”
And, as with the recent examples in the news, those irrational actions include revenge on one’s ex, or on something one’s ex owns, said Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson.
“It can be that, because they have this relationship, they believe that by doing a certain action, whether it’s toward a particular item of property that they know a person values highly, that they can make an impact,” Jacobson said.
And when alcohol and drugs are added to the mix, a person who is already upset will only think less clearly.
“Your brain is hijacked even more,” Nelson said.
And the fact that many extreme cases of breakup-related incidents have occurred within the past few months may not be a coincidence – studies show that our bodies are more agitated during the warmest months of the year.
According to Jon Ulven, a psychologist at Sanford Health, our heart rate and blood pressure both increase during extreme heat.
In that way, because of its physical effect on us, Ulven said extended periods of heat becomes a source of stress that can affect how we think and act.
“Any time we have a chronic stressor on the body, our ability to manage our emotions becomes compromised,” he said. “It’s harder to manage how we feel and how we act when we’re dealing with chronic stressors, heat being one of them.”
Of course, that’s not to say that heat alone is to blame for relationship breakups. But people might be more prone to stress buildup in the summer than during the rest of the year, Ulven said.
Throw in some rage, anger and frustration with that built-up stress, “if we don’t get intercepted, we may do some rash things,” Nelson said.
Finding help In difficult times
A decade after her second divorce, Murdock’s third marriage almost fell apart as well, after her husband was convicted of a felony that she said affected their entire family.
But unlike her first two marriages, Murdock was resolved that this time would be different.
She and her husband have gone through marriage counseling, which she said has helped.
Most importantly, though, Murdock says that she learned from her first two marriages what she needed to do to find help for herself to be able to manage her own emotions.
She sought out people in the community who were willing and available to listen, ranging from counselors to religious officials at her local church.
“What got me through was my faith,” Murdock said.
Oftentimes though, Nelson said finding help in such situations is easier said than done for people experiencing overwhelming emotions.
This is because we as people just don’t have the ability to cope with extreme stress, Nelson said. With everything else going on in our lives, it just ends up being too much to handle.
“Our whole coping ability is impacted because of this other stuff that we’re not trained to cope with,” Nelson said.
The key, then, is to recognize when we feel stressed or overwhelmed and remove ourselves from that situation.
“When we’re in a stressful, compromised situation, the more awareness we have of that the better,” Ulven said. “Try to avoid some of the common triggers, because the ability to regulate yourself is compromised.”
And especially during summer or other periods of chronic stress, Ulven said that people should realize they’re just not able to easily manage their own emotions.
So, in situations like a breakup, sometimes people just can’t do everything on their own.
“If you can get yourself willed into seeking out help, it’s not far away,” Nelson said. “But that’s the hard part.”