Most people who have experienced a breakup know how painful they can be, especially if you were not the one who decided to end things. Along with the feelings that already come with a breakup - sadness, loss of motivation, obsessive thoughts - we tend to make ourselves feel guilty, angry, or embarrassed by our feelings. You may think to yourself, ‘Why can’t I just get over this?’ or ‘If they ended the relationship, I shouldn’t want to be with them’. Unfortunately, our brains are not wired this way and your feelings are usually warranted. It may make you feel more validated to know that there are legitimate reasons as to why breakups are so difficult.
1) You’re mourning
Going through a breakup means that you are grieving the loss of your relationship and the future you planned. People tend to give themselves a short window of time to go through the grieving process, which can make the breakup even more difficult. Giving yourself time to process your emotions and grieve the loss is going to be more beneficial in the long run than trying to rush into a new relationship or ignoring your feelings.
2) Love can feel addicting
It has been hypothesized that romantic love can feel like an addiction. Romantic love floods the brain with feel good hormones, such as dopamine, which rewards the pleasure centers in the brain - similar to a potent drug. When we feel these remarkable feelings of euphoria, it’s no wonder why we can experience withdrawal symptoms when the relationship ends.
3) Your brain is starved
When you are with someone you love, your brain’s reward system is frequently being satisfied. When you no longer see this person, your brain is still expecting this reward. Even though logically you understand that you will not be seeing your ex or getting that similar reward feeling, your brain is attempting to play catch up.
4) You can’t see clearly
When we fall in love, we tend to have an inability to see the flaws in the other person, which is believed to be biologically rooted in the need for attachment in order to reproduce. This blind euphoria typically last for about 18 months, which is our body’s way of giving us a ‘deadline’ to reproduce. If the relationship ends during this phase, your brain is still disabling your ability to spot flaws, which can leave you idolizing your ex, despite the negative qualities of the relationship.
5) The parasympathetic nervous system is activated
Some scientists believe that the sensation we identify as heartbreak has to do with the hormonal triggering of the parasympathetic activation system, which controls the rest and digest response. When faced with rejection, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which leads to the feeling that there is a pit in our stomach, that our airways are constricting, and that the beating of our heart is slowed.
If you are struggling after a breakup, it may be time to work with a therapist who can help. Click here to begin your journey of healing.