Relationships break up for many reasons- you left them, they left you or god forbid they passed away. But it doesn’t matter whether you were the one to break it off or you were broken up with, it can be hard to get over.
You may know it was ultimately for the best but why does it take so long to get over?
Well I think Scientist, Dr Helen Fisher has part of the answer to this question. She did some ground breaking research around love and the brain. As part of this research she showed people pictures of their ex while scanning their brain and the areas of the brain that lit up are the same areas associated with addiction and pain. So the effects of love on your nervous system are as addictive as any drug. Think how hard people struggle to get off crack, meth or heroin and the effects it has on their life. It is no wonder that you struggle to get over an ex; a breakup does cause you real pain.
Dr Fisher says that, ‘Obsession is a real physiological response to a break-up’. Many of her study subjects reported an inability to function in their daily lives. All of the subjects reported thinking about their exes more than 85% of the time they were awake.
So much research suggests people are happier, healthier and wealthier when they are in love – it is no wonder that a break up is hard to bear. Not only do you have the chemical reaction, you also have the loss of the ‘idea’ of the relationship, letting go of the shared experiences, friendships and the company of a significant other. You also experience the guilt about what you could have done differently to save the relationship.
So we have established that losing someone is hard, but how do you get over it? Here are some tips to help you through:
- Accept that is it over! This is a big one and you will NEVER get over a break up if you don’t accept the fact. To move on you need to KILL hope – KILL the hope that you will get back together. This may sound harsh but it is the only way. I have SO many friends that have wasted years with on again/off again relationships that they hoped would work but, in fact, never went anywhere. They wished that they had moved on. It is a bit like picking a scab, it just about healing and you start to pick it again! The scar will never heal while you pick at it and in fact you are in danger of having a deep, ugly scar. Remember if you still have hope you will be prone to dreaming about getting back together, of wishing they would call, or text or that you will run into them.
- Don’t keep yourself busy! Ok this may sound contrary to most advice but if you were thirsty you would have a drink, you wouldn’t ignore the thirst thinking it would go away. You need to face the break and convince your mind it is over. You need time to grieve the relationship and feel the loss. It is a necessary part of healing. Grief in the short term is healthy – so if you need to watch a dvd series in your pj’s – go right ahead. Getting your emotions out is an important step in the healing process. But remember the key is – short term – don’t fall into the trap of wallowing or boring all your friends with the story of your break up.
- Avoid the person. Don’t look at their Facebook page, message them or try to bump into them. Stop looking at old pictures, text messages and things that they gave you while you were together. In fact put all the things that remind you of them and put them in a box in the cupboard until you have dealt with the break up.
- Avoid limiting thoughts. What does this mean – don’t keep telling yourself they were ‘the one’ and that you can’t live without them. What you say to yourself matters. What you think also matters – so chose your thoughts as carefully as you chose your clothes.
- Don’t idealise them. You know when someone doesn’t want to be with you and rejects you it is hard. Something within you wants a 2nd chance to fix what you broke. But what you also do is idealise them – they end up looking better than they really were. You overlook their negative qualities – you didn’t work out for a reason and it wasn’t all you!
- Stop going over what you did wrong. This is hard and relates to the previous point. I think there are certain relationships that are harder to get over than others – possibly the ones where you have messed up. But STOP analysing what you did wrong. You can’t fix what has passed and telling yourself you are useless and a waste of space will not help anything. Accept you make mistakes and learn from these and the patterns you have.
- Be with people who matter. You may have broken up but there are lots of people in your life who love and care about you. So don’t isolate yourself, get out and see your friends and family. Try doing things you enjoy.
- Exercise. I am not always a fan of the thought of exercise but like the effects afterwards. Now exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and help you overcome depression. So you will get the benefits of feeling better through exercise and you will also look better and feel healthier. Looking your best always makes you feel better.
- Meditate, don’t medicate. At this point it is easy to numb and avoid the pain you are experiencing. But stay away from overusing alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and avoid the urge to suppress your feelings through food – you may just create other problems. These things will just end up making you feel worse about yourself. Instead try deep breathing and quieting your mind with meditation. It may sound a ‘tad’ new age but research has shown quieting your mind has huge benefits.
- Try new things. Do something you have always wanted to and never had time to. Travel somewhere you have always wanted to go. Catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Set some goals and achieve them. Build a full life where you find out the things you love to do. At the end of a relationship it is easy to feel like a failure – so by setting goals and doing the things you have always wanted to you will give yourself a very real reason to feel good about yourself.
- Love yourself. Learn to love and value yourself – you are worth it. Know your worth and don’t accept 2nd best.
- Please don’t rush into a new relationship. This is all too easy to do – you fill the void with a new person who you hope will make you happy and take away the pain. What happens when you rush into a new relationship is you may hurt someone else and ultimately yourself. Beware too because you could end up attaching yourself to a person who doesn’t fit you at all. Don’t look for someone to validate you or make you feel like you are good enough – seriously work on loving yourself first. Give yourself time. This may sound cliché but time does heal everything and the pain you feel today will eventually go away. You won’t feel great straight away but by taking some of this advice you will start to feel better.