Only a very hard method helps against a broken heart, says a psychologist
Separations hurt and are often not easy to cope with. Our heart then sometimes does not heal as fast as we want it to.
But why do we find it so difficult? Psychologist Guy Winch provides answers and also reveals how you can best deal with heartbreak.
It is important not to always look for a reason for the breakup and idealize the ex-partner. Instead, try to let go and fill the gaps in your life
Just about all of us have had our hearts broken at least once in our lives. It doesn’t matter if the breakup was amicable or if the relationship ended with a big bang – losing someone you’ve shared your life with over a period of time hurts like hell.
Whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, after a breakup we sometimes make sure ourselves that our hearts don’t heal as quickly as they should. We are still attached to the person, clinging to the last bit of hope or watching from afar as they become more and more distant from us.
Why so many of us find it hard to get over a breakup? Psychologist Guy Winch has treated numerous lovelorn patients of all ages in his 20 years of experience in private practice. In a Ted Talk last year, he explained why a breakup hurts so much and what the only right way is to work through it as quickly as possible.
Love is addictive – and you are on withdrawal
"Studies have shown that withdrawal from romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brains that are activated when addicts abstain from substances like cocaine or opioids," Winch says.
Have you ever wondered why you keep doing things that you know will make you feel even worse afterwards? Basically, after your breakup, you’re going through withdrawal. Your brain needs the drug, in this case the affection of the ex-partner, and for this reason recalls positive memories of the relationship. That tempts you, for example, to check to see if your ex has liked a picture on Instagram or made a new friend on Facebook. You tell yourself that you had a good reason – but in reality you are just giving in to your addiction.
"This is why it is so difficult to heal a broken heart: Addicts know they are sick. You know when to take your dose. People with broken hearts don’t know."
Heartbreak after a breakup: this really helps
1. Don’t look for the reason for the breakup.
Even if there is a simple and rational cause that led to the relationship ending, we tend to spend days, weeks or even months pondering if there could have been another reason. "There will be no explanation that will make you feel better. ‘Nothing will take away your pain,’ says Winch.
As hard as it may sound, it’s over. One of you made a conscious decision not to be in a relationship. Do yourself a favor and don’t waste your valuable time thinking about what was, but focus on what is ahead of you.
2. Try to let go of your ex-partner.
This is the Point you’ll read in every guidebook. It will probably seem almost impossible right now – but it’s still necessary to get away from your ex-partner.
"Accept that it’s over. Otherwise, your brain will cling to hope and set you back," Winch says. "Hope can be incredibly destructive when your heart is broken."
3. Do not idealize your ex-partner.
After a breakup, it often happens that we look back and only remember the good moments of the relationship. At the same time, it’s especially important now not to idealize your ex-partner. "That doesn’t do us any good, it just makes the loss more painful," the psychologist says. "We know that. And yet we allow our heads to play one big hit song after another, as if we were trapped in our own passive-aggressive Spotify playlist."
Winch advises bringing bad memories to mind in moments like these. You had a romantic dinner? Okay, but remember how you argued afterward and didn’t talk for days?
Make a list of all the things that bugged you about your partner. This list is best written down on your phone and pulled out every time you catch yourself thinking about the "good old days".
4. Fill in the gaps in your life
When your partner leaves, you are left with a yawning void. And that’s what you need to fill – not with a new partner, but with yourself. You have a chance to work on yourself now. Not to please someone else, but to find your way back to yourself. "You need to find those gaps and fill them, all of them," Winch advises. "And I really mean all of them. The gaps in your identity, you need to rebuild who you are, what your goal in life is, fill in the gaps in your social life, the missing activities and even the empty spaces on the wall where your pictures hung together."
But you will only succeed if you no longer look back. Every message you send, every fond memory you recall together, every click on the ex’s Facebook profile – all of it sets you back and undoes what you worked so hard to achieve after the breakup.
"Avoid the behaviors that cause your ex to play the starring role in your future, when he shouldn’t even be a supporting actor anymore."
You can watch Guy Winch’s talk here:
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This article appeared on Business Insider back in July 2020. It has now been re-examined and updated.