Breaking up isn't hard to do. It's getting over the breakup that's tough. Sometimes the recovery period after a failed relationship lasts as long as-or longer-than the relationship. Such is the case for Tina, 30, from New York, NY. She briefly dated Samuel a few summers ago. When he abruptly called things off, she was confused and hurt. She still is.
"I only dated him for a few months, so I know it sounds crazy," Tina says. "But years later, I feel the same anger about what happened."
Andrea, 28, of Hoboken, NJ feels the same way, except her long-term relationship had more history. She and her ex dated for three years, lived together, and adopted a puppy before splitting up.
The circumstances in every relationship may be different, but post-breakup emotions are as universal as the stages of grief. And oh man, is it a long journey from denial to acceptance. When asked how long it usually takes them to get over a breakup, 55 percent of respondents in a recent YourTango survey said it takes them months and 18 percent said it takes them years.
As part of our "Break Up With Your Ex" initiative, geared at helping readers finally let go of past loves, we asked YourTango Experts to answer the big breakup questions we've all asked. Love may come and go, but this advice is worth committing to.
Why do breakups hurt so much?
Falling in love is a chemical reaction. Your brain runs on a cocktail of dopamine, the natural amphetamine PEA, and the bonding hormone oxytocin. Eventually, you develop a tolerance for these chemicals. But when you break up, they surge again.
"Dissolving feelings for an ex is equivalent to withdrawing from a cocaine addiction," says Dr. Denise Wade, a relationship coach and couples counselor.
Like any other threat to our well-being, emotional pain fires up adrenaline and cortisol. The result: nausea, increased blood pressure, loss of appetitie and accelerated heartbeat. Breakups aren't just emotional-they physically hurt.
Then there's the psychological aspect of it. Surviving the fallout of a broken relationship isn't entirely different from being in a car crash or losing a loved one. It often results in post-traumatic stress disorder.
Even your childhood plays a role. Our attachment to romantic partners is generally a reflection of our attachment, or desired attachment, to our parents. "We tend to transfer the surrogate parental role onto our partners," says Dr. Wade. "This makes for relationship enmeshment and a difficult detachment during breakups."
How long should it take to move on after a breakup?
Some people say that healing from a breakup requires half the time spent in a given relationship. If only it were as simple as a mathematical formula! The amount of time it takes to move on varies, whether you dated your ex for 10 months or 10 years.
Unsurprisingly, your role in the breakup determines how quickly you move on. Dumpers recover more quickly than dumpees. The length and intensity of a relationship, as well as the identity and support system you had outside the relationship, are other important factors.
Dr. Lee Bowers, author of Divorce-Proof Your Marriage Before You Say 'I Do'-Seven Essential Conversations, thinks the biggest factors to moving on are ego and self-esteem.
"If a person recognizes that it's better to learn sooner rather than later that a relationship is not going further-and that differences don't mean that either party is a bad person-then he or she will move on much faster," he says.
Why can't I get over my ex?
Yes, it's hard to get over a breakup, but it does happen. And if it's not happening for you, you might be holding yourself back. To get over a breakup, you have to take some personal responsibility, even if you were wronged.
"If I see myself as the innocent victim that got cheated on and dumped, then I'll never move from the place of unforgiveness," says Dr. Wade. "But if I take some responsibility for ignoring bad behavior when I saw the signs, or for trusting too easily, then I'm empowered. I know I was at-choice with my ex. I just didn't see it at the time."
Relationship Coach Catherine Behan co-wrote The Breakup Cleanse, which encourages a 28-day emotional detox after a breakup, starting with ending conscious "couple-esque behavior."
"To move on, you need to do everything differently," she says. "You can't be the same person you were with your ex. It takes time and effort to stop checking your cell for messages, looking at your ex's Facebook page, or driving by his house."
Is there a golden answer for getting over an ex?
Unfortunately, no. We would've told you a long time ago if there were.
In a breakup-related survey YourTango conducted last year, 71 percent of respondents (including those who were married) said they think about their ex too much and 50 percent had called, texted or IMed an ex "when they shouldn't have." Experts agree unhooking one's physical and digital connections to an ex are important steps on the path to being "over" him or her. As Break Up With Your Ex Day (February 13) approaches, we are encouraging readers who are hung up on exes to take the following steps:
-Break off contact (email, phone, or social networking) with your ex or his family and friends. -Get rid of (or temporarily store away) items, including pictures, that remind you of your ex. -Stop having sex with your ex (as if you didn't already know this!). -Give yourself a "breakover"-i.e. cut your hair, plan a trip, see a therapist, start an exercise routine, take up meditation, date that guy who's not entirely your type-in other words, do whatever you need to feel whole, happy and positive again.
YourTango Experts unanimously agree that it's important to give yourself time to grieve after a breakup. Go through the stages of denial, anger, and loss at your own pace. Sweat, talk, and cry the pain out. Don't feel pressured to date immediately, but don't feel discouraged to pursue love again.
And know you're not alone ... even when you're newly single.
Do you need to break up with your ex? Tell us about it for your chance to win "breakover"-themed prizes, aimed at helping you get over your ex for good. Find out more: Contest: Tell Us Why You Need To Break Up With Your Ex-And Win!
Break Up With Your Ex Day is February 13. Learn more at BreakUpWithYourEx.com.
Written by Amanda Green for YourTango.com.
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