The paaaaaaaaaaaaainnnnnnnn. The MISERY.
Your stomach is in knots. Or it feels like someone punched you in the solar plexus. You can’t concentrate. Your head hurts. Breathing hurts.
I feel you. I wish I didn’t know how all that feels, but I definitely do.
Allow me to paint a picture. (Maybe you’ll get the sense that I’ve really been there.)
You make it through the workday. You get home. Good, you didn’t blubber into your shirtsleeves on public transportation. You didn’t kick any small dogs, out of your way, either. You’re still pulled together. You want to clean up a little bit before you decide to either 1) workout, or 2) indulge yourself on the couch. Both of which are totally legit goals right now (at least for the short term).
So you spray some air freshener to dispel the odor of stale pizza boxes. (That qualifies as cleaning, right?) In my case, it was Mrs. Meyers lavender room air freshening spray. Was this my boyfriend’s cologne? No. Did it smell at all like my ex-boyfriend? No.
BUT, I bought it and started using it around the time we went on our first VERY romantic vacation. The very whiff of it evoked a memory of me, surrounded by suitcases, excitedly packing my various bikinis and other gear. As well as returning from the trip six days later, on Cloud Nine, dumping said suitcases and collapsing into his arms for a sunburned snuggle. *GAG* *STABBING IN HEART* *WHERE’S THE WINE??*
You’re an EVIL SLEEPER AGENT, Mrs. Meyers room spray! Just . . . . EVIL!
Or maybe, you want to listen to some music. If you aren’t a total newbie, you recognize the peril here. Obviously, “your songs” are off limits right now. So . . . should you turn on the radio? Go ahead, just try it. AAAGH! EEK! It’s recent songs! They either remind you of
- The two of you making fun of stupid radio songs
- Riding in the car with her/cooking a meal with her/ making love with her/ cold chilling with her, while this song was playing
- The two of you flirting or making out to this song
- Or hearing this song when you were away from her, and planning the next time you were going to see her
- Being part of a secure couple in general
ABORT!! ABORT!! ABORT!!!
There is no other remedy at this juncture. Turn the music off, for God’s sake. I’ll give alternative tips to what TO DO at the end of this article. But for right now, DON’T get sucked into the whirlpool.
Am I Imagining This Pain?
No, don’t worry. You aren’t being dramatic. In medical studies, researchers took brain scans of people who had gone through recent breakups, and discovered that the emotional pain of a breakup and physical pain both activate the same neural pathways. Even more interestingly, when study participants recreated their feelings of breakup rejection and sadness, and took Tylenol (a pain reliever) those neural pathways were much less active than in participants given placebos (fake Tylenol.)
All this means that the hole you feel in your chest? It’s real, son. Wrap yourself in a nice warm blanket, listen to some Enya, and take it easy for a day or two.
Why Does a Breakup Hurt So Much?
Well, my dear, it’s Science.
No less than six brain systems are affected by breakups, including our bonding system, which runs on oxytocin and vasopressin (neurochemicals.) After a breakup, these neurochemicals go into overdrive and act to push us back toward our Exes.
Additionally, your reward system has been trained to emit dopamine and serotonin (more happy neurochemicals) when you interact with your Ex. When you break up, you crave those interactions again so that you can get the “reward” and the release of those neurochemicals.
And you know what else? After a break up, the stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine, are released at higher levels. Over the long-term, that can be very unhealthy, so you need to come up with a plan to manage that.
How Do You Make This Breakup Hurt Less?
You would do anything to make this feel better.
- Including sleeping all day.
- Eating your feelings.
- Listening to the Cure, a la Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer. Or Morrissey.
Here are some more practical tips to get you through the worst of the pain:
Get It Out On Paper
There are five stages of grief. DABDA. Which stands for Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.
When you get to that “Anger” stage, go ahead and write your Ex a letter. Call her names, point out her flaws, bring up all the cruddy ways she let you down and all the great things she never noticed about you and don’t forget to point out her short sightedness in wasting your time together by throwing away your relationship. Feel better? I certainly did. Now put that letter away somewhere, but feel free to take it out and read it once in awhile, if you need to. Don’t send it, though! Alternatively, you can burn it, safely.
Create a New Playlist
You need new music. Not just different music, like “the old me from back in the day” music, but something new and totally different. Forge a new neural pathway. There are several streaming music services that suggest new music for you to listen to. Try it out! Or, get out of the house and go see a new musical group in person.
It was during a breakup decades ago that I discovered the happy and inspirational sounds of the “Lion of Zimbabwe” Thomas Mapfumo. His tracks, to this day, are the ones that I listen to while working in my office most days. Such a cheery sound with cool, plinky instruments, and great call and response vocals.
However you go about it, design an audio cocoon for yourself that you can retreat to anytime, anywhere. Which leads nicely into the next, obvious tip.
Remember those stress hormones I mentioned up above? That’s right. You need to exorcise them. Hee hee. See what I did there?
Well, The Exorcist was this movie about exorcism, which is when you cast out demons.
But I’m actually talking about exercising. It was a pun. Geez. Lighten up. I’m going to prescribe you humor therapy next.
Okay, back to business. Whatever you decide to do- walk, run, play racquetball, swim, lift weights, sweat to the oldies – it’s going to reduce your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) AND have the added benefit of producing magical endorphins! Endorphins are your friend. They make you feel so good, and happy, and give you a temporary high. That’s a reprieve you need right now.
Know what else? I just so happen to notice, when I’m at the gym dressed in my gym clothes, slaving away on the Stairmaster, or Treadmill, or Elliptical, that me and the other girls frequently catch the guys stealing glances at us. So- go be one of those guys! Enjoy some eye candy!
If there’s a pool in your vicinity – go swim some laps, and then lay out and soak up some rays afterwards. Maybe you will get lucky while you are hiding behind your shades and you can catch a glimpse of a nice bikini clad babe. Relax your muscles in the hot tub and ask her what her major was. Cry on her shoulder about your awful breakup. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)
Other benefits of exercise? You’ll sleep better. You’ll wake up more rested. Your appetite will naturally correct itself into healthier patterns. Your metabolism begins to even out. The list goes on. You know these things. Get out there. Even if you have to start small, it’s worth it, and now is not the time to neglect yourself.
Find A Way to Laugh
They say laughter is the best medicine, and there is no better time to employ this particular cure than after a breakup. You need to distract yourself, and smiling releases more of those endorphins. If you have a friend who always makes you crack up – that’s the friend to be calling right now.
Stand-up comedy special you’ve been waiting to check out? Throw it on.
Looking for an activity to do with a group of friends? Go to your local improv theater. You can always get beers afterward and mock what you just saw at the show.
And, in general, try to take life a little less seriously. It’s not always easy, but with practice, you’ll get better at it, and it will make you feel better.
Life After the Breakup
There IS life after a breakup. And, for the majority of the lovelorn, it arrives much more quickly than they anticipated. I’m talking within days. Most people in a breakup spend the first couple of hours absolutely stunned, and in denial.
You come up with some coping techniques, and employ these for a period of time, which is different for everyone. Eventually, whether it’s days or weeks, your life has to return to some semblance of normality. Bills have to be paid. Tests must be taken. Children have to be dressed. Dogs must be walked. Mothers must be called. Your chosen coping techniques allow you to get through that initial pain and get back to a functioning level where you can complete these tasks meaningfully.
The New Normal will eventually set in. In the New Normal, you aren’t running your thoughts, decisions, stories, or plans by your Ex anymore, or asking her for her opinion. You aren’t sharing space with one another, either. In many ways, this is very freeing. You have space now, to reconnect with yourself, and even to reinvent yourself, if you wish to do so. Sometimes, relationships hold us back and pen us into someone else’s definition of us.
The New Normal is what moving on looks like, and it can be beautiful. It can be difficult to get there, but you should try to make it as healthy as possible, because let’s face it- you are an awesome human being and you deserve to have the best relationship with yourself possible!
But I Still Love Her
I know. You might not stop anytime soon. Loving someone and being compatible with them are often not the same thing.
Some people are put on this earth to teach us things about ourselves, or just about life. They will always have a place in our hearts, and that is incredibly special.
How to Move On
Moving on is different for everyone. Only time can really heal someone from a breakup so that they can say they have truly “moved on,” and these timelines vary according to several factors: the length of the relationship, the reason for the breakup, your personalities, your ages, and other factors. Be patient and be kind to yourself.
One of the most tried and true methods for moving on is to date other people. Don’t rush into anything serious. However, spending time with other women can be very helpful in raising your spirits and allowing you to see that there are other possible matches for you out there, and this breakup was not the end of the world.
What If I Can’t Move On?
If you have tried to move on from your Ex for a long period of time, and it is affecting your work, your health, or other relationships, you may want to consider whether you are depressed.
Healthy and normal reactions to a breakup are:
- Anger and frustration
- Crying and sadness
- Fear and insomnia
- Loss of interest in other activities
However, if you experience five of the below symptoms for over two weeks, you should talk to a mental health professional:
- feeling sad, empty, or hopeless for most of the day nearly every day
- loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- weight loss and loss of appetite, or increase of appetite and weight gain
- sleeping either too little or too much
- an increase in movements like pacing or hand wringing, or having significantly slower speech and movement
- feeling as if you have no energy for most of the day
- feeling worthless
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- thoughts about death, also called suicidal ideation
- Those neurochemicals that your Ex triggered in you are no joke, my friend. Withdrawal is no fun. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one appreciates a mope.
Is It Possible To Get My Ex Back?
It might be possible, and it depends on several factors. If you want to get your Ex back, EGR has outlined a very specific program which has helped many men successfully get their Exes back. The first step in this program is a healing period to allow any negativity associated with the breakup to die down. During this period of time (called the No Contact Rule), you focus on yourself, and self-improvement.
Then, you transition to re-establishing rapport and rebuilding attraction. You can’t and probably shouldn’t try to get your old relationship back. Kiss it goodbye and say good riddance. But if you really still want the girl, and she’s worth it, you can build a brand-new, healthy relationship with her.
SO, LET’S REVIEW
You’re not crazy, it’s just the neurochemicals. You’re in withdrawal, so take some Tylenol, wrap up in your Snuggie, and watch a comedy. But don’t be a hermit. Make plans to get some fresh air, exercise, and adjust to the New Normal. You need to keep your stress levels down, and stave off depression. If you want your girl back, you need to be your most attractive self, and be ready to build a new, healthy relationship.
Good luck, we are here for you!