Breakups can be difficult. The more love there is in a relationship the more painful it can feel when it ends. There is nothing wrong with this. Grief is normal, and understanding that grief is normal helps us to be kind to ourselves as we go through the end of a relationship.
Breakups are particularly hard because they don’t only involve emotional pain and suffering. There is also a physiological component. It is the opposite of the high we feel when we are falling in love. During the beginning of a relationship, we are flooded with neurotransmitters and hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. These hormones make us feel amazing. They clear our minds. We become immune to our insecure thoughts and feel on top of the world. The brainwave patterns of people in the honeymoon phase of a relationship look like the brainwaves of people on cocaine.
When we are going through a breakup those same hormones and neurotransmitters are negatively impacted. We experience neurological withdrawal. As a result, we can experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. We can feel lonely and isolated and in our suffering find ourselves focusing on our ex and wanting them back no matter how unhealthy the relationship was or how clear they are about the breakup. Getting back together feels like it is the only thing that will end the suffering. This isn’t personal. There is nothing wrong with you if you feel this way. You aren’t desperate. Your brain just feels desperate. There is a big difference.
It is so easy to judge ourselves as pathetic when we feel this way. Remember, there is nothing wrong with you. You are going through grief and experiencing physiological withdrawal. What is most important is to look at how you are going to take care of yourself and ride out this experience. You will stabilize. Your brain will come back into equilibrium. You are designed to settle. Who you are at your core is not lost or damaged.
One of the ways to take care of yourself is to remember that this is not the time to dwell on your low mood thinking. It is so easy to get gripped by negative thoughts when we are suffering. Thoughts like I won’t be okay. I will never meet someone new. What did I do wrong? If only I hadn’t done x, y, and z then we would still be together or If only I had done x, y, and z then we would still be together. But we can have our feelings without focusing on the distorted narrative. This makes a difference between bouncing back or prolonging misery.
We can also seek to avoid our suffering by engaging in activities that aren’t good for us looking for short-term relief. These distractions stimulated the reward centers of the brain, but there is always a downside when we engage in unhealthy behavior and the decrease in suffering is fleeting.
Another reason why breakups are so painful is when we are in an intimate relationship our sense of self can merge with our partner. We feel that they are an extension of who we are. They feel like a part of us. It can be hard to enjoy activities and friends without them. When we lose a partner it can feel like we are losing a part of ourselves. This is a temporary experience who you are can never be lost, but identifying with our painful thoughts can make it feel that way at times.
In the pain of a breakup, we can also confront negative misunderstandings about ourselves and experience self-loathing. This is common and normal. It is an opportunity for deeper healing to occur as these misunderstandings reveal themselves. It is important to recognize that the end of a relationship does not mean anything about you. The breakup is not evidence that you aren’t good enough or lovable. It is painful, but it doesn’t mean you are unworthy. It just means that the relationship match didn’t work with this one person. Nothing can be generalized from this.
Do your best to not indulge in negative, critical thinking about yourself that judges you as too much, not good enough, not attractive enough, and focusing on all the mistakes made. When you are in a low mood, this is the time to be kind and gentle with yourself and to reach out for support from others who love and care about you.
When you are more neutral and have clarity, this is the time to reflect on what you have learned from the relationship. It can be really helpful to have support in this reflection to help you see your own growth and wisdom emerging. There are no mistakes and everything is in service to our upliftment and awakening in consciousness.
The past does not predict the future. We learn from our experience and bring that learning into our lives and relationships. When something ends it opens up possibilities for new beginnings. See if you can find the hope in your heart and let it guide the way. Your deeper knowing is your compass. It is living you. You can relax into the unfolding of your life and be open to the love and possibilities that are available to you.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In the first season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couple's intensive retreat programs that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.