What happens when you break up from a relationship?
It can be a nightmare that feels like it is never going to end. What occurs when your investment of time, energy and emotions come tumbling down destroying all your hopes, wishes and dreams? What are the physical and emotional ramifications of this disorder that leave you anxious, depressed and feeling hopeless, often losing faith and trust in the opposite sex?
Falling in love is risky business. To really love is to be vulnerable and accept the possibility of the risk of loss. The fact is no one goes through life without experiencing a break-up. It’s part of the human condition. To love, is to risk losing and the only way to avoid the loss, is never to allow love into your life. That would be worse than losing. Remember the adage, “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
There are differences depending on who made the choice to break up—you or your partner. If you were dumped, it can be devastating, not unlike losing a loved one to death. Grief has no boundaries. A loss is a loss, especially when you feel you had no control in the decision making, even worse if it came as a shock, as if the rug had been pulled out from under you. There are women in my practice who had no clue this was coming. Some may have suspected their partner may have been cheating, others fearful that their partner had simply lost interest in them. The love they once knew had vanished. Others were in denial, unwilling to acknowledge any suspicious behavior.
Here are some of the manifestations that may take weeks months and sometimes even years to overcome, especially if the essence of the relationship was a love addiction.
- The physical and emotional symptoms that accompany a broken heart are in fact an actual pain in the heart; a feeling that part of you is sick and even gone. A heart ache is a common effect and the pain is palpable. You are not crazy! It is very real! You can experience a “hole in your sole” a pit in your stomach accompanied by anxiety and even panic attacks. Inertia, lethargy and even depression are not uncommon.
- Sleepless nights, loss of appetite and weight, a devalued sense of identity and a diminished sense of self worth are all common effects of a broken heart. Crying spells when you least expect them, sudden outbursts, stomach aches, headaches, diarrhea, murderous rage, frustration, profound hurt and a feeling that this will never pass are also all normal reactions to a breakup. Asking yourself, “Did I ever really matter?”, along with wonder of “What did I have that I don’t have now?” are questions that keep torpedoing into your thoughts many times throughout the day and night. Nightmares too often interrupt your sleep. These feelings are synonymous with losing a loved one. Grief accompanies both and not unlike grievers, you become nocturnal, losing sleep. Grief does not make a distinction between the death of a loved one or the death of a relationship. However, unlike losing a loved one, a relationship can be replaced.
- Loss of interest in things that once were important to you and loss of motivation, poor concentration, and fatigue and even suicide ideation, are not uncommon. If any of these persist for more than six months, it is time to seek a therapist. If not addressed, you can be on a very slippery slope.
- Just getting by day by day is an all-out effort. Feelings of abandonment, loneliness, apathy, self-degradation, self-contempt are not uncommon. Immune systems can be compromised precipitating illness. Not everyone experiences it alike, but these are all common responses to a break-up.
- Acting out behaviors to seek a quick fix do not work. In fact, it just compounds the grief. Using and abusing drugs and alcohol or becoming promiscuous or trying quickly to replace the loss, can easily cause more pain, interfering with your recovery. These are all destructive behaviors to fill the void of the loss and cover up the pain that you must feel in order to recover. It requires embracing the pain—feeling the feelings and going into the emotional gauntlet. The only way out is through.
The feelings of the dumper are different than that of the dumpee. Both suffer, unless he/she is a narcissist, but with different emotions and experiences. The dumper, even with a sense of relief that the relationship is over, can experience some guilt, self-doubt, and shame. I think that most people have experienced being both the dumper and the dumpee during their lifetime.
There is an important distinction between losing a relationship that was based on healthy, adult love and one that was based on codependency. The pain that lasts longer than six months to a year, causing a clinical depression with need for an anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety medication is a sign of a codependency, often referred to as a love addiction.
Codependency has absolutely nothing to do with love. It is a compulsion stemming from a wounded part of you that has to do with your childhood and family of origin. It feels like love, with extreme highs and lows, that too often interferes with the quality of your life. Do not be fooled. It is not a healthy, mature love, but instead, a pathological addiction to a person that has mood altering effects with life threatening consequences, not unlike any addiction, whether it be a person, behavior, or substance. It looks, sounds, and feels like the real thing, but it’s not.
When you feel that you cannot go on without him/her and that he/she made you whole, that’s a red flag. If you feel that your world and happiness depend on the other, then you can be sure it was a codependent relationship. If your suffering is lingering more than six months, accompanied with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, you have all the signs of a classic love addiction.
If that is the case, you need help! There is a reason why your struggle in letting go is so interminable. It has to do with your history that you brought into the relationship hoping that it would make your past better in the present. That never works. You are the only one who can heal the past in order to make better choices in the present.
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success to be released October 11, 2020. To learn more about how Encounter-Centered Couple Therapy can renew and restore your relationship, contact Joan