Breakup pain: why does it hurt me so much?

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Breakup pain: why does it hurt me so much?

No one is spared the pain of separation. Almost everyone experiences a separation in the course of their life. In Germany, the divorce rate in 2019 was around 35.8 percent. In 2005 it was even 51,92%.

Overcoming the pain of separation takes one thing above all: time. It is an emotional wound that must first be allowed to heal. Nevertheless, you can actively contribute to overcoming the pain faster. Or at least that you feel you can breathe easier day by day. 

Breakup pain: why does it hurt so much?

The separation from a loved one is one of the most drastic experiences in life. I'm sure you still remember vividly your very first Heartbreak and/or your first breakup. But you may also be in this situation for the first time. Either way, the pain cannot be avoided. To overcome it, you have to live through it.

But why do we actually suffer so much during a breakup? This has to do with several factors. When a loved one leaves us, the entire worldview is shaken. A breakup means so much more than the mere loss of a partnership. All the dreams and plans for the future that we have attached to the respective relationship suddenly go up in smoke.

And also our image of a relationship - depending on how you got it from your parents - is shaken. Or you can hardly detach yourself from the idea and the desire to no longer be able to spend your future with this person.

But it's not just the future that is suddenly uncertain: your everyday life changes too. People tend to cling to habits and routines. This gives us security. On this topic, the Economic Psychology Society has published a interesting contribution published.

Change throws our soul into chaos

The desire for routine extends to all areas of life, including the partnership. After a separation, the usual routines are disrupted. This can lead to Uncertainty and deep despair. You literally feel as if your (mental) survival is threatened.

The fear of this feeling alone is often so immense that many people prefer to remain in a partnership that no longer works than to separate. By the way, it makes no difference whether your partner has separated from you or whether you have initiated the separation: The pain is usually the same.

However, the person who made the decision has a small advantage. By being active, one feels less like a victim. The partner who was surprised by the breakup usually has to struggle longer. Not least because the thought of a breakup often doesn't mature overnight. After all, it's usually a gradual process. Maybe you know this - you've noticed the first signs months before, but haven't really admitted them yet, Yet the feeling remains in you that tells you: "Something's wrong here, something's changed."

Phases of separation

The pain of separation is comparable to the grief one feels after the death of a loved one. Surely you have heard of the 5 stages of grief according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. These can also be applied to the end of a relationship.

Phase 1: Denial

In the first phase after the breakup, you don't want to admit what happened. You desperately cling to the idea that it was a big misunderstanding. You deny the fact that your partner will never come back. This is a reflexive protective mechanism of your soul to keep the pain away.

The denial phase can be expressed in two ways. How you behave depends on your personal mentality. Some people fall into blind actionism and try to win back the partner. The fact that the person no longer wants to be with you is ignored.

However, the opposite can also occur: Some people pretend that they have the Separation does not mind at all. However, this is also just a protective mechanism to avoid admitting the pain of separation. It is vehemently denied that there has been a painful loss.

Phase 2: Anger

The denial stage is over. You've faced the facts. Now the anger is flaring up in your soul. You are angry at your partner who did this to you. But you may also be angry at yourself or at those around you who are making things worse with well-meaning advice.

Anger is an essential part of the processing process. So don't suppress it! Allow yourself to scream out loud or punch a pillow. Exercise can also serve as an outlet. Anger helps you wake up from numbness.

Phase 3: Negotiation

What would have happened if ...? This question is typical for the negotiation phase. You try to find answers as to why all this could have happened. You play through different scenarios in your head: What would have happened if you had behaved differently in certain situations?

You are still struggling with the breakup and trying to find ways to ease the pain of separation. Some people are now inclined to act rashly. For example, quite a few rush into a new relationship, although they are not yet ready for it. Some also change their environment (circle of friends, change of job, move).

The desire to somehow find a way out is immense. Lazy compromises or escape attempts, however, do not lead to the goal. As soon as you realize this, the fourth phase of grief begins: depression.

Phase 4: Depression

All attempts to stave off the pain of separation have been in vain. You realize with all clarity that your relationship is over and there is no way to change it. This realization triggers deep sadness. Maybe you even put the meaning of life in question. Life without your partner seems unimaginable. You are plagued by doubts and Fears of the future plagued. Possibly also play failure and Guilt a role.

The undoubtedly painful phase of depression must be lived through in order to finally be able to look forward again. If you try to skip this phase, the longer you remain in deep sadness. Allow your pain, perceive it and accept it. After the loss of a loved one, it is okay to grieve.

Phase 5: Acceptance

With the term Acceptance many people find difficult. Acceptance is often mistakenly equated with resignation. However, this is not what it means at all. Accepting the end of a partnership rather means letting go of the past and making inner peace with the separation. It will never be the same again - and from this point on you will be able to deal with it. 

 Because behind every breakup, there may also be a wonderful new beginning. For you. That you may now put yourself first. And it can also be the chance to finally attract the perfect partnership into your life that you have always wanted.

You no longer fight the facts or waste your energy trying to win back your partner. Instead, you are now devoting yourself more to your own Needs. So slowly you open up to new life themes. Some people now enjoy their single life. Others are gradually ready for a new partnership.

How long does the pain last after a breakup?

The grieving process is rarely linear. It is common for the stages of grief to overlap or for you to fall back into the previous stage of grief after a period of subjective improvement. This is perfectly normal. For this reason, it is not possible to give a time indication as to which phase lasts how long.

There is an old saying that once all celebrations must pass before the pain of separation subsides. The first Christmas without your partner, the birthday, your anniversary or wedding anniversary, the holiday season, etc..

Accordingly, the acute mourning period lasts on average one year. In individual cases, however, the period can be longer or shorter. Coming to terms with the end of a long-term marriage usually takes longer than coming to terms with a holiday fling or a brief affair. And even more so if there are still children involved.

5 tips on how to recover from a breakup

As hard as it may sound, you have to go through the pain of breaking up to get through it. The following 5 tips can help you make the grieving process more bearable.

1. find an outlet

Emotions run high after a break-up. As we've already discussed, it's extremely counterproductive to let your Suppressing feelings. This only leads to them breaking out uncontrollably at some point. Short-circuit reactions often cause a lot of damage. To avoid this, you should find an outlet to express your feelings.

Enclosed are some examples:

Writing: Short stories, poetry, journaling - whatever you want. When you put your emotions on paper, they lose their power. Another proven method is to write a letter to your ex-partner and then symbolically burn it.

Cooking and baking: a rather unknown outlet. However, there are some people who can best unwind at the stove. There is something very meditative about kneading dough and arranging cookies on the baking tray. Your troubled thoughts come to rest.

Sport: The best-known outlet par excellence. To let off steam physically has a very liberating effect.

2. confide in someone

You don't have to go through the pain alone. Talk to someone you can confide in, like your best friend, your sister, or your mom. Sometimes just talking to someone who understands and listens to you helps. Also, words of encouragement from loved ones are a balm for the soul.

3. clear away everything that reminds you of your ex-partner

This tip is especially important when the breakup is still fresh. The sight of all the things that remind you of the (happy) times with your ex-partner, tear your wounds open again and again. This way you won't get any emotional distance.

The motto is therefore: Get rid of it! Pack all photos, gifts & Co. in a box and store them in the basement or attic. Also avoid visiting places where you have been with your ex-partner. The same goes for your favourite films and music.

4. take time for yourself

In addition to the excruciating pain of separation, the end of a relationship often triggers Self-doubt off. Was it me? Am I not good enough? Stop. Detach yourself from this emotional self-defeat. Instead, start with loving self-care. Especially when the soul is suffering, you should do good to yourself.

And if these thoughts do come up again and again, then question them honest! Is that really true? Since when do you believe that? Was there possibly already a situation in your early childhood, where you got to hear from your similar. The origin for this thought can lie really far back - and is now thrown again before your feet to look consciously. Now you may decide anew: Do you want to continue to believe the old thoughts or is it time for a new, positive belief set?!

Separations are a part of life. The fact that a person has separated from you puts your Self-worth not in question. Take time for things that do you good. This already starts with small things. Prepare your favorite meal, read a good book or take a long bubble bath.

5. be patient

There will be good days and bad days: That's normal. So don't be angry with yourself if after a good period you find yourself sagging and crying over the broken relationship. The grieving process has its ups and downs. It takes time for the soul to heal. Don't put yourself under pressure! You'll do the opposite. It's okay to have a bad day.

It's time to take care of yourself

To overcome the pain of separation, the readiness for personal development plays a decisive role. If you stay stuck forever, you won't get rid of the pain. Replace your sadness with productivity. Look at your personality structures and find out why things went differently in the past than you would have liked.

Are you really living each day the way you want from the bottom of your heart? Or do invisible forces seem to keep you from making your goals a reality? And do you perhaps frequently encounter difficulties with your fellow human beings who always show the same patterns?

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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