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Heartbroken After a Break Up? 3 Steps to Ease the Pain

Heartbreak made ​​of curled red paper on wooden board

Remember when you held me tight

And you kissed me all through the night

Think of all that we’ve been through

And breaking up is hard to do.

– Lyrics to Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” (1962)

Many of us have been there. We thought this relationship would last forever. We envisioned a future with this person, we trusted this person, we invested in this relationship, and there were really good times. But now, for whatever reason, the relationship hasn’t worked out. And we’re back to square one, single, lonely, and longing. Often we feel miserable, and heartbroken after a break up. How can we make the break up easiest on ourselves, while dealing as much as we need to?

Some say there is nothing more painful than how it feels after a break up, and that healing takes time. One has to mourn the good times, and allow the feelings of loss and pain to come. There is no better way through this process than to feel your feelings. And yet, sometimes people come to my office feeling stuck. They can’t stop feeling the pain of being heartbroken after a break up. They can’t seem to let go, even if they want to. I have found a key contributor to keeping them stuck is how they are thinking about the relationship, and how actively they fantasize about what they have lost.

Mourning the good times is a completely normal part of grieving the end of a relationship, however, thinking only about the good times can actually make getting over the relationship harder. In thinking so much about the good times, and fantasies of what might have been, one’s thoughts about the relationship can become skewed, sometimes allowing fantasy to overtake reality. Moreover, this fantasy reverie can become a go-to salve for the painful reality feeling heartbroken after a break up, making it more and more of a part of one’s thoughts. Indeed, just as people flock to feel-good movies to dull the pain of reality, people will often flock to their fantasies about their relationship as a respite from their pain, even if temporary and fleeting. Many people do not realize  that every retreat into fantasy comes at the price of keeping us attached to the previous relationship, stalling us from moving forward after a break up.

The eventual goal is not to fantasize – a kind of “just don’t go there” – but that’s easier said than done, especially at the beginning. So here are some step-by-step suggestions to wean off the fantasies, grab hold of the realities, and ultimately feel empowered to move on. 

Step #1: Notice Your Fantasies And Their Emotional Impact

Start to notice when you are thinking about the relationship, and track your thoughts on being heartbroken after a break up. Where do your thoughts go? How often are you finding yourself playing the “highlight reel”, thinking about what might have been? And most importantly, how is it making you feel? If you notice that your thoughts about what could have been are making you feel worse, this is a signal that these fantasies might be getting in your way of healing. The more we think about something, the more ingrained it becomes.

We know that brain circuitry strengthens with use, and likewise, atrophies when not used. “Use it or lose it” is often a term neuropsychologists use to describe how our brain works: What we “use,” or think about, becomes stronger and more efficient, and what we don’t use loses strength and efficiency. The trick here is to be mindful of which thoughts you are “strengthening” in order to maximize your healing from being heartbroken after a break up.

Step #2: Focus On The Hardships To Let Go

One of the most overused phrases well-meaning friends say in situations of loss is “let it go,” or sometimes, “get over it.” For starters, this advice is sometimes experienced as insensitive. After all, if you could “let it go” so simply, you would, right? And yet, many of us want to do just that. Let go. But we simply don’t know how. The best way to promote the process of letting go is to become more aware of the ways you actually want to let the relationship go.

To facilitate letting go, start by reminding yourself of the painful parts of the relationship. What didn’t work in the relationship? What was ineffective, emotionally difficult – perhaps even abusive – about the relationship? As you start to think about this, consider writing your thoughts down. Making a list will help bring these realities to the forefront of your mind and help clarify your thoughts – studies even show improved  memory – about these issues.  After you have written your list, read it over, and notice how you feel. Chances are, you are beginning to feel yourself not want the relationship, and this is the beginning of detaching and letting go.

Step #3: Look to Rebalance Your Thoughts Between Fantasy and Reality

 The next step is to place this truthful negativity into some of your fantasy scenes, and see how it plays out. This honest combination can provide you a more grounded view, providing a welcome, ideal setting for closure. Focusing your thoughts on a more truthful narrative sets the stage for recognizing the choices you have, rather than the choices you wish you had, allowing you to move forward in an adaptive way. As soothing as the “highlight reel” can be, it seldom encompasses the realities that likely played a key role in the relationship ending. Focusing on what was negative about the relationship allows you to begin integrating the relationship as a whole.

So, when feeling heartbroken after a break up, if you catch yourself drifting into the dreamy state of the highlight reel, bring to mind instead the aspects of the relationship that were problematic. Literally pair these negative realities with your positive thoughts, as often as you can. Honing in on what didn’t work in the relationship, especially when you feel mentally pulled to the “highlight reel,” is the most useful strategy we have to let go, and find closure.


Step #4: Even If You’re Not Ready to Move On…Set The Tone for Your Next Relationship

 The ultimate test of letting a relationship go is being ready for a better one. At the same time, you don’t have to wait until you are ready to set the tone. You can take advantage of the above process to consider what you’d like in a future relationship, even if you aren’t ready to start dating again yet. Here are some ideas for doing so:

  • Make a list of what you learned from the previous relationship.
  • Write out how you would like to behave differently in your next relationship.
  • Detail the type of person who is a good fit for you, and who you would prefer in a relationship.
  • Write out anything else you’d ideally like to have in a relationship, in light of the fantasies and realities from the previous relationship.
  • Make it real by talking it out with a trusted confidante.

Yes, dealing with the pieces falling after a break up is hard to do, and it is a process of re-balancing your heart and your head that takes time, and effort, and believe it or not, you will be able to let go of feeling heartbroken after a break up. As much as falling in love has to do with losing our awareness of our beloved’s faults, falling out of love has to do with just the opposite, clarifying anew those faults and recognizing just how untenable they were. Working through fantasies and being honest about realities will ultimately lead you to be stronger in yourself in general, and specifically prepare you for your next, better relationship.

 

For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out my new book, Hack Your Anxiety, register for my free mini-ecourse by signing up for book bonuses here, or check-out my anxiety and relationships blogs.  

 

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

53 Comments

  1. Toni Trexler on January 31, 2018 at 12:57 am

    I was divorced after a 23-year marriage, started dating a coworker 2 years later, we were together for 8 years until today. This last year has been the hardest as we have been long distance and before the long distance, he became withdrawn, little intimate contact always on phone/text and would always “go to the bathroom” with the phone where ever we were.
    on new years day, discovered another woman, before that a meeting before my eyes with a “girl”. (would have to explain). I think because of that, I had insecurities about him being in colorado me in texas and him cheating. when we would have time together, it was platonic in feeling. not much intimacy. we broke it off today. I feel deeply in love with him, the first 2 years were incredible, did and went places I’ve never been and he was so attentive. Now, I am shattered. I am 57 years old and feel hopeless.
    thank you for your advice. I will try it.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on February 21, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      Toni, thanks for your heartfelt comment. I am so sorry to hear your situation and pain. I hope you are continuing to heal, and are being gentle with yourself as you rebuild your life. All the best, Alicia

    • Sally on February 10, 2019 at 10:31 am

      Wow….This has been my experience too, almost exactly except that there isn’t a new woman, but a need to go off on a six months trip. I haven’t retired and need to work still. We fight constantly. I wasn’t heartbroken at all to end my marriage, but I am hurting a great deal with this relationship. He seems almost cold to it.
      We’ve had the time of our lives……yet, he must go on this trip. I’m fine with his travel without me. I could even go for a month in the summer….but he’s emotionally left the relationship. I must figure out how to move on.

  2. Jodi on February 21, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Ugh I’m feeling so heartbroken. I mess up in the worse way. I cheated on my boyfriend.I don’t deserve his forgives or his trust.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on February 21, 2018 at 11:02 pm

      Jodi, thanks for your comment. Feeling and facing such powerful emotions is difficult, but being honest with yourself and your partner is how you rebuild and earn back trust. Getting clear on how you are feeling, and what went wrong, will help you feel more control over the healing process. Wishing you courage, Alicia

  3. PamH on March 24, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    Hi… I’m up and down. My beau and I dated for 6 months. Great conversations,bike riding, hiking, dancing, cooking together… we flowed. Noticed he was condescending sometimes. I talked to him about it. Seemed that was the foundation of our disagreements. He shared about past girlfriends. Something happened they exploded, he left and blamed them. That happened here. I rhetorically mentioned that I was stupid after some snarky comment that he made. He agreed and I was devistated. I gave him plenty of opportunities to walk it back, he didn’t. I said FU…twice. Next morning he wrapped his arms around me and apologized. Sorry too I said. I love you. Me too. Text to remind him about dinner with my friends in 2 weeks. Texted back that he was looking forward to it. Didn’t hear from him. Day of dinner he apologized that he couldn’t make it. He ordered some stuff for me and in the same text promised to bring it by. I Mentioned that i got his message. He has nice clothes, coat and shoes at my place. We should swap so that I can move on. It’s been radio silence for another week. I know we’re done. I’m heartbroken. I stood up for myself maybe I that was not the right way, but if our love was real, he wouldn’t have left. I have not reached out to him. Not that girl. Not accepting unacceptable behavior. Still love him and miss him. Too many clothes to mail. Narcissistic?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on March 26, 2018 at 7:01 am

      Hi Pam,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience. Being heartbroken is an important part healing, and letting a relationship go that wasn’t meant to be. I agree that if your love was real, you both could have worked through your differences and used them as catalysts to grow, together. Unfortunately, it only takes one person to decide it’s over, and for whatever reason he wasn’t willing to work through your challenges. I’m sorry this was the case for you, but am glad you have seen this side of him and can start thinking about him and your relationship in totality, warts and all. This is how we get smarter at love.
      Wishing you all the best in your journey ahead,
      Alicia

  4. Mia on March 26, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    Recently, my boyfriend of about 2 years finally broke things off with me. We have been broken up since November due to college long-distance, but during those 5 months after that, we stayed friends after one month of no contact, but soon grew to an on-off relationship that was never made official. Nevertheless, we still loved each other.
    These past two months have been great. We were waiting till the summer to officially get back together since it didn’t make sense to get back together while we were still long-distance and at school. Everything was perfect and we were talking about the future often. We visited each other often and talked on the phone often. He was supposed to come visit me on Friday for the weekend, when he suddenly out of the blue called me and told me he had started having doubts a week ago about having a future with me. He told me that he knows if he comes down to see me, the doubts will go away, but if they came back, then he would have just wasted more of my time and so it was over.
    He knows my biggest dream in life is to start a family. This was a dream I realized about a year ago when I was still with him, so I guessed that dream morphed into having a family with him. We both wanted the extra same future, down to the number of kids. He told me that being with me made so much sense and he had no reason to be doubting all of this, but he still is.
    I don’t know what to do. My heart hurts so much, but I know there is no possibility of getting him back and that he doesn’t want me anymore. I told him that I wanted to enforce no contact until I was ready. I’m trying to stop myself from hoping that we’ll one day get back together because we did fit so well together. I don’t know whether to get rid of all of our memorabilia, our pictures, our memories, and I don’t really know who to talk to anymore. He was my best friend. He came into my life at a time period where I was discovering who I was and creating an identity for myself, and he became a part of that identity. I don’t know what to do.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on March 31, 2018 at 8:04 am

      Hi Mia,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m so sorry to hear your story, and the heartbreak you are feeling over your boyfriend abruptly breaking things off. It is so hard to lose a relationship, your best friend, and the future you were envisioning together – even harder when you don’t see it coming. I know it feels like the pain might never end, and you don’t know what to do, but you will get clarity and heal. Lean on your friends and family for support, and don’t be shy about seeking professional help from your college counseling center if you still aren’t feeling like yourself. Breakups are hard, and getting support can help.
      Take care,
      Alicia

  5. Dina on April 2, 2018 at 12:03 am

    So many of these things are great but no one talks about when you spent over three years with someone and had a baby in those years only for him to decide he wants out and within four weeks is madly deeply must proclaim the fact he has never felt such love for another woman. Mind hadn’t spoken to me for more than those four weeks. He didn’t leave me he broke our family. My two other girls saw him as a step father figure. First time for them since their dad and I split more than five years ago. That’s the tricky part of those types of break ups.

    Appreciate this read. Still useful, just more challenging to do when having to be civil with this person for our daughter is almost impossible because he refused to look you in the face or speak. He is no good for me. But I loved this man. Too bad he failed to understand commitment.

    Thank you again. ?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on April 4, 2018 at 10:28 am

      Hi Dina,
      Thanks for taking the time to respond. You are absolutely right that sudden, and unexpected, breakups are so very painful and difficult. Even moreso when there are children involved. So hard all around.
      Hope you are healing, and continue to do what you need to take care of yourself and your family.
      All the best,
      Alicia

  6. Mai on April 8, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Good Day Alicia im from philippines when I read your advice I feel some relief anf eased some pain I been break up with my boyfriend 2 days ago in short the pains was newly I don’t know what to do he cheated me we were living together for 4 years I invest a lot of time and everything to him in 4years of relationship this last argue was won’t he hurt me physically and the most hurt me so he did not ask an apologize even he did not return back to me and he did not love me anymore if he ask forgiveness I will forgive him. Do you advice me to move forward and forget it? How can I heal from this sudden part of my life? Rhank you so much really appriciate what ever your advice is.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on April 11, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      Hello Mai,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond, and I am sorry to hear of your heartbreak.

      Moving forward and healing from heartbreak is not about forgetting, but remembering. Sometimes accepting the truth of someone’s behavior is so painful that we try to find ways to ignore it, wish it away, or make excuses for it. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they are trying to heal and move forward. If your boyfriend has cheated on you, and hurt you, the most important thing you can do is REMEMBER that. My best advice is to avoid making excuses for someone you love, and setting yourself up to be hurt again.

      You deserve to be with someone who respects and loves you. Letting go of relationships that aren’t healthy is a key step in preparing for a healthy relationship.

      Wishing you all the best in your journey ahead,

      Alicia

  7. Brooke on April 25, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    I met the one man I love more than I ever knew was possible. He is perfect in every single way, I never want kids and is hard to find someone who is okay with that. He is my best and my love. However he lost his job recently due to cutbacks and although he could easily find something here local as we live in a big city, he has decided to move to NYC instead and find something there. I feel as that a whole chunk of me has been ripped away, I’m so lost. I can’t believe he’s leaving and I know he will never come back, it seems impossible for me to let go. I’m literally in physical pain and suffering from extreme panic attacks all the time now. I wish it was easier, I wish I could be more understanding of his situation, but I’m hurt and abandoned.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on April 26, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      Hello Brooke,

      There is nothing harder than dealing with heartbreak, especially when it is unexpected and unexplained. I’m so sorry you are going through this emotional and physical pain, and that panic has set in. I hope you will consider seeking some professional support. Your doctor can talk to you about options to help your symptoms. I have also written a few posts on panic that might be helpful as well.

      How to Stop a Panic Attack Now https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/stop-a-panic-attack-now/
      Answering Your Question: What is an Anxiety Attack https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/what-is-an-anxiety-attack/

      Hang in there, and know that as painful as it is, you can handle this.

      Warmly,
      Alicia

  8. Vinnie on May 5, 2018 at 4:47 am

    A guy at work place was interested in me . We used to casually stare at each other now and then . For some reason i found him attractive and familiar . But never had a chance to talk to him . He quit office one day and messages me in social media after few days . With a few conversation I could easily figure out his background and I knew it won’t suit me or my family . I tried to keep conversations low but eventually we exchanged numbers , started meeting and started liking each other . He liked me from the beginning and i somehow conveyed that I can’t marry him . As time went , I felt bad that I am getting close to him and won’t end up with him . He also understood it and we reduced talking or meeting . He got married . It’s almost a year now. And it’s hurting for me to accept reality . We text occasionally , like wishing on festivals or just an extended conversation once in these 10 months . I am worried that I am still not over him . I am in the lookout for an alliance for me . Caught up in a situation where I am yet to meet a guy. When I get thoughts about my ex , it’s painful. I do tell myself , because of so many factors which won’t suit me or my family I did not commit to him. Also I have to accept him for what he is and not expect him to change according to how I want my partner to me . Even after all this consolation , I still go through pain at times . My ex was my hero. He looks the same to me .I never thought someone would love me that way . Sometimes I wonder if it’s just lust . If it’s love I ‘ll accept him for what he is . I am hoping that I meet the guy through alliance and Things work out for the good . How to deal when I have pain ? Will it go away in time ? I had a conflict between my mind and heart and somehow thought my mind had more practical reasons to win .

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 5, 2018 at 8:30 am

      Hi Vinnie,

      Thanks for commenting, and describing the difficult process of letting love go. It is so hard to wrestle with the conflict between your head and your heart, as you said. Between what you wish could have been, and what actually is.

      This conflict is what I call the “highlight reel,” that can keep your heart pining for love that simply couldn’t be. Playing this highlight reel too much in our heads can hold us back from moving forward. With self-compassion, keep working your way into the reality of why you let him go, and look for a partner who is a better fit for you, and your family.

      As you said, “If it’s love I ‘ll accept him for what he is” which is very true. Love is about acceptance of who someone is, warts and all. It’s not that we don’t see the warts, it’s that they aren’t deal breakers. When the warts are deal breakers, our anxiety kicks in to grab our attention and keep us protecting what we care about. Love shouldn’t feel conflicted: When anxiety about a relationship simply will not let up, it is sign of trouble. If your head can’t sign off on your heart’s choice, it probably shouldn’t, even as you may desperately want it to.

      For more on this idea of anxiety in love, here is the link to another article that could help: https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/3-ways-relationship-stress-can-bring-ways-turn-feelings-around/

      Wishing you courage as you put this relationship behind you so you can move forward in love,

      Alicia

    • Vinnie on May 6, 2018 at 3:03 am

      How to deal with this. Is it ok to have such feeling . Will it gradually reduce and fade ?

      • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 6, 2018 at 11:13 am

        Hi Vinnie,

        Yes, your feelings are of course ok, but you have more control over them than you may think you do. If you keep your mind focused on the reasons you let him go, your feelings for him will lessen and fade. However, if you focus on what could have been, how he looked at you, what you miss about him, etc – the “highlight reel” as I call it – your painful feelings will linger longer.

        The trick seems to be noticing when you are thinking about the “highlight reel” and immediately redirecting your thoughts back to why you left the relationship, or what didn’t work. Over and over and over. This helps the brain build new, healthier associations that are more in line with reality, so that you can move forward and heal. To keep missing and pining for what could have been, but never was, only keeps people stuck and miserable.

        Hope this helps you as you work to let him go,

        Alicia

  9. Denise on May 6, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    Hi, my boyfriend of 22 years old broke up with me because his family didn’t want him to date me because of my country of origin. We were both international PhD students and we met on the first day of the orientation. We spent perfect days together, we were so compatible at every level. Then suddenly, he mentioned me that he was not telling his family that we were dating because his family would probably disapprove me because I am from a country they didn’t like. I was shocked when I heard this kind of people still could exist. I asked him to tell them because I was hoping that he could have answered them like “it is my life I can date whoever I want”. He told them, and they said that they are disapproving and he came to me crying and we broke up. It hurts me so much because he couldn’t put the smallest effort. However we bumped into each other and I realized actually he has a really scary relationship with his mum. She is calling him all the time when it is 4 am locally at her country and he can’t stop himself from answering because she is threatening him by saying she’ll be sick if he doesn’t obey her. But the thing is he can’t say no and I am genuinely feeling stressed for him because I feel like it is an abusive relationship. And since we are bumping each other and we both are still in love, I can’t forget him. I am too stressed and I can’t refrain myself from seeing him. I don’t know what to do I am hoping that one day he can be strong enough to say her that this is his life but at the same time I know I am delusional and it is not gonna happen. I just can’t let him go and I can’t move forward, and I can’t get mad at him because he couldn’t even try. I just wanna forget and don’t wanna care about him. But I am finding myself thinking about how I can rescue him from this pressure. I know I am not a therapist to anyone but I can’t stop caring.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 7, 2018 at 10:40 am

      Hi Denise,

      Your struggle sounds so painful. Love so often isn’t fair, and our “heart” doesn’t always listen to our “head” when it comes to romance. Certainly for your boyfriend this is true, and perhaps also for you – he is not available to you. While I know his mother seems to be the hurdle, and all you want to do is “rescue” him, I would urge caution. Anytime we try to “fix” a situation, we are trying to change a reality that is often beyond our control. And it can be a painful trap that keeps us stuck, and miserable.

      As you mentioned, you are not a therapist, you are his ex-girlfriend. You broke up for a reason, and YOU deserve someone who is available and loves you proudly, not in the shadows. You also deserve an ex boyfriend who will let you go if he can’t commit to you. It is HIS job to solve his hurdles, not yours. Thinking about how you can fix his situation, and continuing to see him, is only making it harder for you to move on. If he loves you enough to take the issues with his family seriously, and seek professional help to solve them, he will. But you cannot make him do this.

      It is reasonable to care for people we love, of course, but we must always balance caring for ourselves as well. Allowing ourselves to fall into the trap of trying to force a relationship into the “highlight reel” of what we want or what-could-be is dangerous, and ultimately holds us back from being able to find the love we want and deserve.

      Wishing you courage as you let him go,

      Alicia

  10. Vinnie on May 6, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    Okay . Thanks . I Will try it . I want to come to a position where I see him or his family pics and still feel okay and not think of the past . Though initially it might be difficult , a regular meditation may help me achieve that . This Will also help me to accept my life partner for whatever he is and not compare him to my ex

  11. Fine on May 7, 2018 at 5:54 am

    I dont know from where to start. Five months ago i had crush on one of my colleagues and I was so happy when he came into my life. We talked directly about marriage since we are in conservative society. We talked day and night on phone on social media. He isolated me from the world and became my only world. He used to call every hour. After three months he told me he is leaving for the army and that our plans should wait we had an argument. But we still was OK .. Then suddenly he started changing his calls dropped , he wouldn’t call me for hours if I don’t call.. I asked what’s wrong he keeps saying we are OK. We met five says ago and talked, the next two days he started caring for me as before! Then started ignoring me again… I don’t know what’s happening is he breaking up with me? I am so hurt and worried I think about us all the time and I am having panic attacks too. What should I do.. I love him so much and it hurts how he changed suddenly.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 7, 2018 at 10:50 am

      Hi Fine,

      Thanks for your story. Few things are harder than navigating inconsistent behavior from someone we love and supposedly loves us. This can happen, and be especially painful when it is a change in pattern.

      Our anxiety always signals something important – something we care about that is danger. I would urge you to listen to your feelings and consider other explanations beyond what he has said, and what you want. Behavior doesn’t lie. Even if we don’t want to face it, bravely listening to it allows us access to truth.

      You deserve to be able to count on someone’s love and to be treated respectfully. Wishing you strength as you face these disappointments, and forge a stronger path ahead.

      Warmly,
      Alicia

  12. Ks1989 on May 13, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    I dated a girl for 6 months. She had never been with a irl before and she had just gotten out of a 5 year relationship with her only boyfriend. Everything was great, although her family didn’t know for the first 5 months of dating. In those five months she had lied to me about not talking to her ex two times and said it was only so her family wouldn’t find out. She even asked him to stay with her in their old apartment for a week before she told him no again. She has left me twice before saying that she didn’t love me anymore and always happened when we had fights. Last night she left me again, she said that she doesn’t love and is not going to be with me only bc she feels sorry for me. (Her parents already knew about us bc she told them a month ago) I tried to call her and write to her but she ignored me and when she answered she was short and cold. Wished me good luck and that’s it.

    What can I do? I work with her so I am bound to eventually see her. I wanna call her or go look for her but I know I shouldn’t. Please I don’t want to feel like this everyday until time heals it all :’( help.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 27, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      Hi Ks,

      Thanks for your comment. Heartbreak, especially the sudden unexpected kind, might be one of the hardest things to face in life. Everything in your body aches to have your relationship back, and yet you know you somehow have to move forward without it. That love with this person simply isn’t possible.

      I see that it has been a while since you wrote in, so perhaps you are able to see a broader perspective. While I can’t know the details of the dynamic between you, the fact that she left you already twice before is concerning, and suggests she may never have been available in the first place. These are particularly tough situations where there are mixed signals, and you have to believe her behavior rather than her words, or what you had hoped you had together.

      You said you work with her, and it can be challenging to keep seeing someone when you are trying to heal from heartbreak. I hope you are starting to see what was doomed between you, and with time, will be ready to find a relationship with someone who is available and can treat you how you deserve to be treated.

      Wishing you all the best in your healing,

      Alicia

  13. Ks1989 on May 13, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    Forgot to mention that I am a girl who dated a girl in the previous comment

  14. Steven on May 17, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    Hello there. I have been dating for 6 months an amazing single mom that I have fallen in love with. Recently her young child went to go spend the summer with her dad and we have been basically living together. This is new to us because she had 90% custody with her child. In this time I have figured out we are not very compatible. I dislike how we fight and then take days to recover. I think it’s time to pull the plug on the relationship but I am so concerned about hurting her. I know she would be willing to try anything to stay together but I don’t feel that way anymore. What can I do to let her down respectfully?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 27, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for your comment and question. It is never easy to be honest when we know our words will be hurtful, and yet honesty is exactly what the people we care about deserve from us. Stick with your feelings, rather than your thoughts, and use “I” statements tp keep you focused on your experience rather than the situation, including your desire not to cause her unnecessary pain. This will help her be able to hear you as clearly as possible. Of course, be prepared to listen to her feelings as well, and convey empathy. Expect to have a mix of feelings all around: even broken relationships are hard to end.

      All the best,

      Alicia

  15. Glen on May 19, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    My ex is undiagnosed bpd .. i just wana die without them. She didnt even let me say goodbye . Im the only dad hes
    Ever known.. every cell in my being told me she was it .. how was i so wrong?? Wheres my happy ever after. Not in the cards i suppose

  16. David Phillips on July 23, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Good afternoon,
    I’ve been dating this woman for @ 5 months and we broke up this morning. It started out as a long distance relationship and she was head over heels in love and I quickly followed suit. It continued along as a long distance relationship with sketchy plans for a future together that we both said we wanted. Those types of relationships are difficult to maintain without sacrifice and I was the one that was going to give up everything. I was willing and as we got closer to that next stage, I started to grow cautious when I noticed a shift in her demeanor. It started after talking to her over the weekend about her providing me with some additional emotional support as we moved into this situation. The plan was for me to move hours away from my home to her place where logistics was going to be a problem. At the same time she was preparing to work on a construction project that started today at one of her rental properties that was going to take her away for long periods of time. She was minimizing my scrafice and comparing it with her work plans. I wasn’t asking for a lot, just that she not forget I’m there. She shut down saying she could never fulfill my emotional needs, and it was like trying to fill a bottomless pit. I wasn’t pushing but just talking and being honest. During the entire time we were together she talked the talk but that’s all it ever was with her, talk. I bought the cards, flowers, trinkets, those little indicators that helped demonstrate my love. I wasn’t buying her love, just showing my level of commitment. I really never felt a similar commitment from her even though she said she felt the same. Over this past weekend, I lost that strong emotional love attachment due to a few small but telling incidents and I felt it tear me apart. It hurt badly because I wasn’t able to articulate my feelings in a way she would understand and as a result she came away thinking I was an emotional vacuum and she wasn’t willing to put up with that. I admitted I was a little needy at times but long distance relationships can do that and she said she understood. Knowing it’s the best thing, to go our separate ways after having such a strong bond even if it was a short time, is difficult and heartbreaking.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on August 13, 2018 at 1:43 pm

      Hi David,

      Thanks for sharing your story, and heartbreak in losing your relationship. It is always difficult to cope with an ending, and especially when it is unwanted. I hope with time and a positive mindset, you are healing.

      The right relationship should make you feel loved and accepted, not inadequate. I hope you will keep looking to find this.

      All my best,
      Alicia

  17. Travis on August 9, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    I can’t cope with the pain of my break up. Can’t eat or sleep, I feel depressed. Can’t sleep without the sleeping pills. And to make things worse I think I’m getting addicted to them. How can I make myself feel better and sleep better?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on August 13, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Travis,
      Sleep is SO critical to coping and getting through any sort of transition, especially the heartbreak of a relationship ending. The best advice I can give you is to talk to your doctor about non-habit forming sleep aids. There are some great ones on the market. Additionally, I would pay attention to your “sleep hygiene” or the habits you engage before bedtime. Tweaks to how you try to sleep can make a big difference. Here’s an article to check out on why it’s so important and a few tips to try. https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/enough-sleep-and-mental-health/
      All my best,
      Alicia

  18. Rob on August 27, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Great advice, thanks!!

  19. Alison smith on September 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Hi. I am crushed. My SO and I have known year other since elementary school. We’ve been together, on and off for the last 10 years. One year ago we relocated to another state. Moved from the East coast to the Midwest. He knew people there I didn’t. I thought it might be good to start over as I’d recently been laid off after 17 years with my employer. For awhile things were ok. We moved into a nice house and I found employment that I liked and paid well. I tried to make the best of being away from family and friends. Sadly the work that was promised him was sporadic at best. Initially instead of looking for more employment he spoke of returning home. He was in daily phone contact with a woman from home. He started staying out all night too. It was too much. I was stressed as I tried to get acclimated to my new job..we were having issues which we couldn’t address/resolve and I was very lonely. I told him I was going home.he didn’t try to work things out. I drove home alone. Now I hurt like hell. The relationship is over. I have to find work and housing (we’d lived with his father for several years before moving). He stayed in the Midwest and rumor has it that he is seeing multiple people. Its been three weeks. I don’t know how to stop this pain

  20. janny on November 26, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    how should i feel that my ex who recently broke up with me wanting to get back with his ex. and my bestfriend is dating my ex that i still have feelings for and she knows that. im just so confused and dont know how to think or feel

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on November 29, 2018 at 7:02 pm

      What a horrible betrayal by both of them. No doubt you are feeling horrible. Hang in there, and lean on the people you can trust.

  21. Jennifer on December 14, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Hi, I’m 44 and have had a hard time finding love. I finally found someone I really connected with 4 months ago. We spent a lot of time together but I always felt a lot of anxiety…attributing it to me just being insecure because I was so scared it would end and i would be alone again. I’m fairly certain some of that insecurity showed but overall we just had fun together and he expressed how nice it was to have a drama free relationship. However, he talked constantly about his ex girfriends and I always sensed he found passion in the drama. I sensed that had a connection with them that we didn’t have. But every time I felt doubts (like when he would say we were moving too fast?!), he would randomly tell me how i was the best thing in his whole life, how he was happy and wanted to be with me. then the next day i would feel dread again. For the entire month of November I felt like he had turned a corner…the midlife crisis was gone and he was all in. We spent thanksgiving together (when he told me he wanted to be in a serious and committed relationship with me), combined all our xmas ornaments and got a free, planned a vacation….then a few days later he seemed distant. so of course i felt dread…and sure enough, he broke up with me. said we should be in love by now….that he knows himself and he doesn’t think he will get there with me. imagine my shock/trauma after we had just gotten a tree (and told our families about one another)…he texted later that night to check on me (jerk). I picked my stuff up from his doorman and decided to end all contact. (even though we live next door to one another and will inevitably run into each other someday). I was feeling (slightly) better when out of the blue i got a text that he didn’t realize we were never going to talk about and was I open to talking. i couldn’t risk getting hurt anymore because i think he’s just trying to assuage his guilt. so i texted that i need time to myself. but now i feel worse. i don’t know how to accept emotionally so i can feel better. it was only 4 months but i feel so traumatized by the ups and downs of the relationship. i feel stupid, i feel used, i feel like i didn’t deserve it. and now i’m so sad i can’t get over it. why is he texting me? what does he gain from talking more? why do i care so much?

  22. Eva on January 20, 2019 at 5:22 am

    I was falling inlove with the man that already taken, we dated few weeks but relationship is up and down because of his gf. He love his gf and he can be with me but he dont want to loose me either that we will keep as friends… i love this guy and i am hurt i am heart broken now…

  23. Misty on January 20, 2019 at 10:56 am

    I was in 5year relationship
    On5th jan i came to know that my bf is cheating on me for 1.6 yr by his sister
    The worst part is i was physically active now I’m feeling like i had cheated my parents for him and he had cheated on me for someone else
    He had take A lot of money from me thay why he is continuing hiding from me
    And last he blamed me that i had not understood him and that girl understand her so he left me

    • Wendy on January 31, 2019 at 1:57 am

      The same thing happened to me. I had dated the guy for 5 years and found out he was cheating on me.
      To make the matter even worse he had come to see my family last year in NOV for official engagement.Poor thing. Anyway time is a great healer.

  24. Anonymous on January 26, 2019 at 4:23 am

    I was in a very toxic relationship with a guy whom I wasn’t in love with, but settled because he made me believe that there wasn’t better out there for me. He cheated on me (multiple times) and stupid me, chose to stay with him. He told me about all his infidelities a week after taking my virginity. I always felt very strongly about the ‘no sex before marriage rule’ but that led to many arguments because he wanted to. I told him I wasn’t ready, but he just got upset with me. Then one day I just gave in..

    I sound pathetic…

    Anyway, that completely broke me. But because I didn’t want to be with more than one guy in my life and I still deeply cared for him.. I stayed. Looking back at all of this now I realize how dumb I was. I slowly started losing my mind. (Forgot to mention, my dad cheated on my mom when I was 2 ..with her sister. I always buried my feelings about all of this because my family never speaks of it ). I did not trust him AT ALL. I also become very insecure. I reached the point where I didn’t even want him to watch movies with nude scenes because I didn’t trust him to be looking at other girls. I realized that the relationship was breaking me so I tried to leave a few times, but he simply said no. Then he would show up everywhere..even at my classes.. he simply persisted until I just couldn’t stand strong anymore and fell back into our toxic patterns.

    This went on for a year then I met someone.. It wasn’t love at first sight (literally, the first thing I thought when I saw him was ‘ew’), but once we started speaking there was no going back. We fell in love the first day (as crazy and american romance movie like as that may sound). The next time I saw my boyfriend I immediately ended it. He didn’t take it well. He would phone me all day and at night he’d phone me drunk and a mess and he’d yell and swear at me. He even phoned all my friends and told them stories about me to turn them against me (it didn’t work). Eventually I blocked him.

    Things happened really fast between me and the new guy. We didn’t want to rush into things but still ended up doing exactly that. The thing is, I played myself, I thought I was okay, for the first few months I felt like myself again. The insecurities were at rest. I was fine with him watching movies with sex and nudity. I would even point out girls to him who I thought were beautiful. I genuinely thought I left all my issues behind with my past relationship.

    I WAS SO WRONG

    The thoughts, insecurities and mistrust slowly crept back in. It was like the more I fell for him, the more afraid I became that I was going to lose him so the more the ‘crazy’ would manifest inside of me. I became so awful to him. I was always accusing him of wanting other girls. I didn’t want him to watch anything with girls that would make me feel insecure. I would even get upset with him about girls on the posters outside of stores (if they were under dressed). He has a past, he’s been with multiple girls sexually before he met me. And I always felt like I’m not good enough compared to them.

    All of these thoughts and worries and self-hatred has become so debilitating that I have to avoid certain places and things because I know I won’t be able to deal with it. for example, I love the beach. We used to take my dogs to the beach, but now we can’t go to the beach anymore because I will actually go all crazy-psycho on him about all the girls in their bikini’s.

    I tried speaking to the psychologist on campus, but it didn’t really feel like it was helping. It did help me to work up the courage to finally confide in my closest friends about this.

    I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t know what to do or how to heal. I’ve become depressed and lost interest in people and just life in general. I’ve considered suicide a few times…

    And yesterday, he broke up with me (we would’ve been celebrating our 16-monthaversary but hey, plot twist). He said he’s exhausted and he can’t deal with this anymore. Which I understand, because I feel the same way, but unfortunately I’m stuck with myself. I’m a mess. I can’t stop crying. I miss him so much. I’m fighting the urge to call or message him. I can’t lose him. I love him.

    I don’t know what to do anymore. I need help. Please…

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on February 4, 2019 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks for sharing your compelling story. Break-ups are so very painful, even physically so.

      It sounds like you are really hurting, and understandably so. But also that you are doing a beautiful job of articulating where you are and how you are feeling. I hope you will continue using words to process how you are feeling, both to yourself and to your trusted friends.

      I’m glad to learn you went to see a psychologist at your campus counseling center, and am sorry it didn’t feel as helpful as it could be. I hope you won’t give up on the therapeutic process, especially if you are struggling to heal. Processing and healing a relationship loss takes time, and can often be helped by a professional if it feels too overwhelming to manage alone.

      If you are still struggling with thoughts of hurting yourself, or feeling hopeless, call 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone, and people are available right now to help.

      Wishing you courage as you face this new chapter,

      Alicia

  25. Adelia on March 2, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Hello from indonesia..
    I’ve been dated with my ex bf for 10 months and yesterday we’re broke up. His family doesnt want him to date with me because my religion(im an moslem, and my bf is christian), we spent perfect day together even we’re only met once a week because of his job. In the first month after we dated he asked me to go with him, and suddenly he brings me to his family. His family was very nice to me.. they accept me very well especially his mom and his lil sister.
    But than a few days ago he text me that his parents didnt want him to date with me anymore, than he told me that his dad got a feeling that our relationship cant stay forever because of our religion, he just believe what his dad said, and he couldnt do smallest effort to protect our relationship. Than we broke up just like that.
    And now im feeling so heart broken.. i can feel the pain around my body, i even cant eat well, i wont talk to anyone, all i can do just crawling in my bed and re-read our conversation then crying all day..
    I love him so much, we talked about our future often, and last year he told me that this year he planed to propose me. And now i know that it wont happen to me..
    I just really in love with him.. i dont know what should i do now..
    Please help me..
    And im sorry if my english is bad

  26. Sun on April 10, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Thank you for all this sharing. I just bake up from my ex. But i can not adapted to move on. Before that last brake up, i have been forgot him. But he’ve wanted me again. I am so closed to for get him. But he dump me again. And i am devistated again. I can not work, sleep etc. Thank you again.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 6, 2019 at 4:54 pm

      Hang in there, and give yourself time to regain your confidence and strength. No one should make you feel so badly and you made a brave choice to end things before they got worse.
      All my best,
      Alicia

  27. Celine on May 6, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I don’t know what to do. I’ve only been dating my boyfriend for a short while, but he broke up with me after we have been fighting for a bit. We go to the same college and live in the same dorm. I kept trying to get him back and tell him I love him but he told me he didn’t love me for the past two weeks. He kept confusing me and he wanted to be friends and as much as I love him and want to be with him, it hurts so bad thinking of him just seeing me as a friend. I’m in a lot of pain and I hate my college and I don’t know what to do. I. D.o.n.t want to let go but I know I have to, but I just love him so much. What do I do??

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 6, 2019 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to reach out and posting your comment.

      Nothing is harder than having to let a relationship go that you want. It’s grueling, unfair, and tempts you to think of what else you could possibly do to win him back. And while this is understandable, it is mental trap that keeps you stuck clinging to something that wasn’t working. You deserve to be with someone who wants to be with you. Pure and simple. If he doesn’t have feelings for you in that way, he isn’t good enough for you.

      It sounds like there is a lot going on for you, and it is also a busy time of year on college campuses with exams coming and summer break looming. I’m sure all of this is on your mind, and I’m sorry to hear you hate your college on top of this loss. This is tough, and it’s normal to feel horrible for a bit. But if you don’t start feeling better soon, I would recommend you seek out someone at your college’s counseling center to talk to. An unwanted break up can be a terrific catalyst to gaining more clarity about yourself and where you are headed next.

      I would also recommend you get a copy of my book, HACK YOUR ANXIETY, which lays out much more about how to move through anxiety, and has two chapters dedicated to relationships. Here is the link to the book page

      https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/books/hack-your-anxiety/

      Feel free to check it out, or browse my website for more resources.

      Wishing you all the best,
      Alicia

  28. Dwight on May 21, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Hey i am a male in my late 20s. My ex broke it off with me after two years. She would give me the silent treatment now and again and i would always apologize and conform, she didn’t usually talking about how she felt or the issues in our relationship. When she broke up with me she said the relationship was stagnant and she was done. I tried everything to get her back and for 3 months she would reject me. She would be so cold towards me but then out the blue says happy birthday and happy valentines. When i finally got the courage to give her the break up, when my pride and my anger got so great. she eventually came around and said she missed me. During the break up she travelled where ever she wanted partied with her friends and i thought there was someone else. She got mad at me asking questions about what she was doing while she rejected me and why does she miss me now that i’m trying to move on. The break up got really ugly because i felt so low i went to seek validation from someone else and it backfired. Because of this she now has totally discard me i have apologized for the stuff i did during the relationship during the breakup….but she ghosts me. Its been 6 months since the break up and 2 since the last discard.

    I seem to cant get a hold of my feelings i know its done but i cant get my mind and my feelings of missing out in order. i feel like i will never find someone that i love and comfortable with again.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 26, 2019 at 10:25 pm

      Hi Dwight,

      Thanks for taking the time to post about your difficult break up. Your relationship sounds confusing in the mixed communication, and particularly painful in the last few months since she has stopped communicating all together. That she occasionally communicated after long bouts of silence may be making this most recent break hard to accept as final. She seemed to always come back.

      It is hard to imagine finding love again when we are facing the devastating loss of heartbreak. But love again you will. Be patient with yourself, and steer your thoughts toward the future, rather than the past whenever you can. The pull to find connection will drive you toward love.

      Wishing you all the best,
      Alicia

  29. Raman gupta on June 9, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Hi. I had been in love with one of my friends for 3 years. I confessed around 2 years back. She said she won’t breakup with her current bf still we kept talking and my love for her just kept on growing. Finally, around 4 months back, she broke up with him and we entered into a relationship, although she had already cheated on him with me. Now she broke up with me and says she is not over him and wants to get back with her ex. I am absolutely gutted. She was my life and I sacrificed everything to keep her happy and close. I feel sad all the time and nothing makes sense anymore to me. Please help 🙁

  30. Jessie Mendoza on July 10, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    I miss my two dog’s more then my husband of 22yrs. We are divorcing & I had to leave my pets behind. I can’t have a pet where I am at .it hurts so so much..

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