Why do some break ups hurt more and take longer to heal?

Relationships, where bullying, bickering, and fighting were common, have tumultuous healing processes.

Relationships where bullying, bickering, and fighting were common have tumultous healing processes.

What you need to know:

  • One of the biggest excuses you can give to return to a relationship that will end in another bitter breakup is that love heals all.
  • Getting dumped for someone else will hurt deeper than just getting dumped for the sake of it.
  • Breakups that take months or years to get over are the greatest evidence that the relationship was highly tumultuous.

It is anticipated that you can be ready to love again six months after a breakup. Within this period, you are expected to go through the stages of healing and overcoming a breakup such as reconciliation attempts, mourning the loss of your relationship, healing, and venturing back into the dating pool.

However, in given instances, moving on might be difficult. You may find that any relationship you get into ends in failure because you’re still emotionally attached to your former partner. Some break-ups hurt more than others and some take longer to heal. Why is this?

Impact on the brain

According to Dr. Guy Winch, a psychologist and the author of Emotional FirstAid, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on a heartbroken person’s brain shows a direct impact on the brain’s wellness. “fMRI scans on the brain show that heartbreak activates the same mechanisms in the brain that get activated when an addict is withdrawing from substances such as cocaine or opioid,” he says. The heartbroken individual suffers from an inability to focus, think, and function in the broadest terms. Once the brain is impacted, it will recycle intrusive thoughts that reopen the wound and the emotional pain you have sustained from your broken relationship. “The brain generates intrusive thoughts about your ex. These thoughts could be images, memories, or old conversations. When they pop up, these thoughts reopen your wound, reactivate emotional pain, and trigger withdrawal symptoms.”

The triggers

Breakups that take months or years to get over are the greatest evidence that the relationship was highly tumultuous.  “If you were in a relationship where bullying, bickering, and fighting were common, it is likely that your breakup and your healing process will be tumultuous and will take longer to settle,” says psychologist Suzzane Lachmann. This suggests that it is not relationships that were healthy and promising that will be mourned for months and years. “The tumultuousness that characterised the relationship will maintain your brain in a state of stimulation and intensity such that when you break up, you’ll find yourself going through intermittent periods of intense relief and heartache,” she says.

Being dumped for another

Getting dumped for someone else will hurt deeper than just getting dumped for the sake of it. A scientific study conducted by Cornell University says that you will feel more hurt after being dumped in favour of another lover because such rejections lead to an increased sense of exclusion and decreased belonging. This is echoed by psychologist Patrick Musau.  He says that once your spouse dumps you and immediately moves on with another partner, you will be vulnerable to the trap of self-deprecation. “Your healing process will be longer and more painful because, with self-deprecation, you will start to belittle yourself and your value as an individual. You’ll think you’re less and unworthy and will be unfairly reserved from moving on,” he says.

The rebound

After a breakup, you may quickly move on with someone else in a bid to ease the pain. In fact, if you were dumped in favour of another, you may start dating men your ex is familiar with just to hit back at him. This will be the wrong move. Ms. Lachmann says that even when you’ve started dating a new catch or gotten married, you can still relapse and start mourning your past relationship. If your spouse isn’t dating, your subsequent rebound dates might end up pushing you back to them. “The only trigger needed will be one bad date that will nudge your vulnerable emotional state into assuming that any other dating prospects wouldn’t be as good as your ex. As a result, you’ll start to view your ex more favourably, irrespective of how detrimental your relationship with him was,” he says. Once you go back, the issues that put you asunder will pop up again, causing another season of breakup and heartache.

Love doesn’t heal all

One of the biggest excuses you can give to return to a relationship that will end in another bitter breakup is that love heals all. Dr. Chris Hart, a psychologist based in Nairobi says that there are instances in a relationship where you become wrong for each other and neither love nor your feelings for each other can fix the relationship. “Such kinds of relationships have no give and take. Every issue becomes a fight, and there’s no more sexual chemistry even though you love him so much,” he says.

The depression factor

Couples who fall in and out of love can easily assume that their breakup and makeup cycle is a clear indication that their relationships are meant to be. ‘If you love something, let it go; if it comes back it was meant to be’ you might believe. But research from the University of Missouri – Columbia shows that routinely breaking up and making up with your partner can lead to anxiety and depression. At the same, the anxiety or mental anguish that may come from routinely breaking and making up will mostly be a catalyst for more breakups in future relationships. “Relationship patterns of breakup and renewal are linked to increased symptoms of psychological distress. This effectively indicates that the accumulation of relationship transitions can create added turmoil for individuals in their future relationships,” the research report said. This research is titled ‘Coming Out and Getting Back In’ and was published in the interdisciplinary journal of applied family sciences, Family Relations.

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