At the start of any relationship, you are in the zone. Sex is great, your new partner can do no wrong, you can’t get enough of them. Soon you find yourself start craving that intense attention, with a hungry obsession of any junkie. So, when it ends—well, Elizabeth Gilbert puts it better than I can:
“When the drug is withheld, you promptly turn sick, crazy, and depleted.
Next stage finds you skinny and shaking in a corner, certain only that you would sell your soul or rob your neighbors just to have ‘that thing’ even one more time. Meanwhile, the object of your adoration has now become repulsed by you. He looks at you like you’re someone he’s never met before, much less someone he once loved with high passion. The irony is, you can hardly blame him. I mean, check yourself out. You’re a pathetic mess, unrecognizable even to your own eyes. “
A little dramatic maybe, but breakups are dramatic. Our hearts can literally break. Science has shown acetaminophen actually dulls the pain we feel when we are grieving a relationship. That’s exactly what we are doing as we sit watching our mascara stained tears rolling into our merlot, rehashing the relationship over and over in our heads (and thanks to social media, online) desperately looking for an explanation of what went wrong.
As if the emotional torment isn’t enough we are also going through physical withdrawal, because love is like crack to our brains. The high doses of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin that are kicked out in our brains when we spend time with a loved one makes us literally hooked on the high. We become addicted to love. Elizabeth Gilbert wasn’t being so dramatic with her analogy, as when those chemicals stop the withdrawal kicks in and our brains start to react as if we have stopped taking drugs. In fact a heroin addict’s brain and a heartbroken person’s brain show exactly the same symptoms.
So, why is there no Relationships Anonymous? Drug addicts and alcoholics meet fellow addicts at weekly meetings where they have a safe space to talk openly about how they feel without judgment, and they usually get a hot drink and a donut to boot! They mark their milestones and congratulate each other with rounds of applause. Yet, when we are left heartbroken we are on our own. Yes, some of us may have those great friends or family that listen, but realistically we know they all reach a point where they have heard enough. In the grips of grieving a relationship, we feel guilty admitting that we resent hearing about others’ happiness but come on—none of us want to hear about how great someone else’s partner is when you’re still sleeping in your ex’s shirt just to feel close to him.
We need RA. We need weekly meetings where the heartbroken can meet to share stories of what total a**holes our exes were or to admit how ashamed we feel to still love them. We need to have a safe space where no one judges because they are right there with us. We too should get tokens, for deleting his number off your Whatsapp so you can’t see when he is online, or one week without checking his Facebook page, or one month without driving past his house. These milestones should be celebrated and congratulated.
There may not be an RA yet but here are my 10 tips to help fix a broken heart:
- Go through it. Just like death, getting over the end of a relationship means grief and there is no way around it but to go through it. Allow yourself to feel it and know that it’s a process. Take it one day at a time.
- Stop ruminating over the if-onlys and whys. You cannot move forward in a book if you keep rereading the same chapter. You have to turn the page to see what happens next. It can feel scary but with time it will seem exciting.
- Give yourself a break. If you try to suppress how you are feeling or numb it, it will simply come out another way eventually. Everyone goes through it, we just forget how it feels once we are happy—otherwise we wouldn’t get into another relationship. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sad.
- Find a way to express yourself. Talk, write, sing, dance, draw and create–if you have a passion that you lose yourself in then use it to help you heal. A journal or a blog can be a great way to get all your thoughts out of your head without judgment from anyone.
- Find a way to forgive. It could be them or yourself but either way—holding on to hate and anger will prevent you from moving on and being happy. Success is the best revenge anyway.
- Get healthy. I am not suggesting you need to become a gym bunny or get on a kale smoothie diet but just take care of yourself. Once the initial binging on wine and Ben and Jerry’s is over get back to maintaining your body. A healthy body does lead to a healthy mind.
- Find your purpose again. Write down your ambitions and goals. If you don’t have any, it’s time to start thinking. Having something to work towards can be a great mood lifter and achieving it is the best anti-depressant.
- Avoid triggers. If you can, don’t go to the same restaurants, bars, or holiday cottages you went to with your ex. Part of you may be hoping to bump into him but that will not help you move on. Find new places that are yours and that nobody can take away from you.
- Surround yourself with people who will allow you to be you. Talk to people about what you are going through. It’s what friends and family are for—to help each other out. Do some fun things with friends and in groups.
- Do something completely for yourself. Alone. Having time to be on our own allows us to get used our own company again. I know many people who fill up their time with others after a break-up. It’s very obvious they don’t want to be alone. The only way to overcome being alone is by being alone! Enjoy your company. It’s better than you think.
Naomi Harvey, HND BA is a Clinical Hypnotherapist. She is a Solution Focused Clinical Hypnotherapist specializing in relationships, anxiety and low self esteem. SFH uses neuroscience , NLP and CBT to better understand ourselves and how our bodies and mind are linked. Once we have an understanding of why we are feeling or reacting the way we do, we can then learn ways to control it and also accept it. Her therapy is very much influenced by positive psychology and amazing inspirational teachings of people such as Brene Brown. She firmly believes that to live wholeheartedly we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and find the 3 C’s courage, compassion and connection. For further information on how hypnotherapy can help you, her website is www.brighterdayhypnotherapy.co.uk