Get Over the Pain of a Breakup on Your Relationship

There is a literal pain that comes with the loss of a relationship: a sharp, palpable pain that most people feel at the point that their lower ribs connect. It’s a pulsing, weepy pain that digs into your diaphragm, and takes your breath away. It’s a pain that defies distraction, repels food, and throbs even through sleep.

For many broken-hearted people, this physical pain is one of the worst parts of going through a bad break up or divorce. For one thing, it scares them. They can’t make it go away, so they wonder when it will ever stop, or whether they will ever feel better.

Furthermore, maddeningly, it feels like contact with their ex is like the only thing that will stop the hurting. This is true even if they know intellectually that the relationship with their ex is toxic, and any contact will only bring more pain in the end. They still crave the temporary relief it might bring.

If you are in this aching, confusing place here are some tips to help you get through it:

1. Stop beating yourself up.

Most people who are going through this experience believe that there is something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. This is because there is a powerful, and false, myth circulating in our culture that you should just be able to “get over” a relationship without such massive pain and devastation.

Not true. Everyone who has lost a deeply cherished relationship goes through what you are going through. The people for whom breakups were easy simply weren’t bonded to that particular person as deeply as you were to your ex. You hurt so badly because you loved so deeply.

But ironically, the people who experience this sort of devastation often feel ashamed and like there is something wrong with them. So they hide / numb / suppress the pain, and try to get through it alone. You are not alone. And there is nothing wrong with you. On the contrary — you are good at bonding and attaching to others. That is a wonderful thing, in the context of a healthy relationship.

2. Reframe this as withdrawal.

Human beings are built to bond, and form extremely powerful attachments. There are physical systems in your brain and in your body that emotionally weld you to other people. These systems have a great deal in common with the physical systems of addiction. When your attachment bonds are broken, you go into withdrawal.

Heroin addicts, deprived of their fix, writhe sweating on their beds in physical pain, craving the only thing that will make it stop — even though they know, intellectually, it could kill them. They often literally trade their lives for the hope of a few more hours of peace in the arms of Morpheus.

Similarly, heartbroken people lay curled on their beds like shrimp, in the grips of pain that feels like being slowly impaled through their solar plexus. In their agony, they crave the temporary peace of contact with their ex, even though they know it will almost certainly only lead to more disappointment, rejection, and shame.

The difference is that heroin addicts know that they’re in withdrawal. And they know that if they can make it through a few days, it will get better. People suffering through the pain of a breakup have no such assurances, and just feel scared and helpless.