Ahh…relationships. When we get and receive love, attention, affection and emotional connection by being in a relationship, we can experience some of the happiest moments of our life.
By the time you are in a relationship with someone, you have invested your time, effort and energy into another person. And when you do this, they start to become part of your everyday life. You two start to have routines, rituals, inside jokes. They become the person you call when you have news….the person you know you will be bringing as your +1….the person you want to spend your time with more than anyone else.
When you invest in someone like this, they start to have meaning in your life. And, over time, you start to form an identity around being with this person, too. You become “so and so’s significant other”…you get introduced as a couple…and are someone’s “baby”, “honey”…whatever “pet” name you use for each other.
This person who was once a stranger…now holds a space in your life….has become part of your life… an important part of your life…..and then….
You break up.
Now, all of that time, effort and energy that you typically would spend on that person and on your relationship in the day has nowhere to go. You once knew a daily routine with this person…you got used to them being in your life.
You got used to having the morning kisses….the warm body lying next to you as you fell asleep at night…their name flashing across your phone calling at the same time every day like clockwork just to say hi….to having them be there when you needed to cry…..and suddenly, when you realize that you will never, ever have any of those things again…when that reality hits…….
You just lost so many, many things that trying to make sense of it all and take it all in can be too much to handle. Not only did you lose this person who meant so much to you…and the identity you had from this relationship….but so, so much more. And it all starts to hit you as you start to try and go about your daily life and even feel lost!
Of course this feeling of loss is felt much more if you never saw it coming and were blindsided.
But even if you weren’t and were even the one who did the breaking up, there is a certain level of hurt and loss felt. But why? Why does it hurt so very much when a relationship ends? Why do we feel such a loss? Such an emptiness?
Well, by nature, we do not like change.
We like stability. In biological terms, this is called homeostasis. Even if that stability is not necessarily the best for us, the reliability and predictability of it gives us some level of comfort. When things get blown apart, breaking up our homeostasis, entropy (or chaos) occurs. We don’t handle this very well. We simply do not know what is to come next and we crave stability once again.
Just the thought about never having any of those things again with that person—especially if they did not see the break-up coming…can send most people into a desperate panic. They feel a sinking feeling in their stomach. At it’s worst, their every thought will be about the relationship. They can’t eat…they can’t sleep. They feel sick….can’t function. May not get out of bed or go to work. They just don’t know how they can go on without this other person. They don’t know who they are or what their life will be like if they are not in this relationship.
It is at this point that most people romanticize their ex or their relationship, only remembering the “good” times. Somehow any negative characteristics about an ex or about the relationship seem to be forgotten. We so desperately want to feel stable and out of the chaos that this is where so many question if they should try to get their ex back.
And, some people do decide to call the other person incessantly and beg them desperately to come back.
Others will sit at home and be frantic, hoping that the other person will come running back.
Most, however, will need to come to terms with and heal from the loss. And, it is painful.
Now, there is no way to sugar-coat this. During the holidays, going through a break up is especially painful.
This is a time when family and loved ones get together, and going to holiday parties and events alone when you have been used to going as a couple can really highlight the loss of your relationship and of your identity when you were with that person.
It can also be hard because you may only see certain people at the holidays, and you may get asked several times over “where’s _____(insert your ex’s name)?” , or “So, what happened to you and ______?” Or get sympathy like “I am so sorry to hear about you and ___ breaking up.”.
It is wise to be aware of these things because when you are experiencing loss, in order to heal and get back to feeling stable again, you need to feel in control….not in chaos, right?
Feeling out of control is anxiety-provoking, but over time, can also lead to depression.
Now, some people try to control their feelings by numbing them out…avoiding them. This is NOT what I am talking about. Using substances to numb out is only going to temporarily give you some relief from your pain. When you sober up, everything is still going to be there waiting for you to feel. And, if you are unfortunate to have done anything while intoxicated or high that could have potentially embarrassed you or that you now need to pay consequences for (i.e. drunk driving, having unprotected sex with someone else, saying things in anger to someone that you cannot take back, etc..), then you have even more to deal with than before.
When I suggest trying to feel in control, I mean doing something constructive that will help you start to feel like you are rebuilding your life without this person.
- Fill the time you would have spent with your ex with loved ones or friends so you don’t feel their loss so deeply.
- Get back in touch with hobbies or doing things you did before you two met.
- Get into therapy to talk about how you are feeling and help prevent anxiety and depression.
- Journal your feelings so you are not just having your thoughts incessantly run through your mind.
- Exercise. Mild exercise not only gets you out of the house, but improves your mood!
The great news is that you can and will get through the loss of a relationship. It may take some time, but you WILL survive it.
We have a variety of blog posts on breaking up and how to survive it. They include: