Letting go is never easy.
Your whole body goes into shock. What just happened? Where are they? How am I supposed to go on without them?
While the initial breakup can feel like a slap in the face, there are various different speeds and tempos for how people are able to recover from such impactful splits. Some people are able to do it quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid. There’s a brief moment of pain and then… they’re fine. Or at least they’re on the road to being fine eventually.
But we all know someone who simply can’t seem to recover from a major breakup. (OR we’ve been that person ourselves.)
Why is that? Why do certain people struggle so much to get over relationship breakups?
Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman gathered a panel of relationship experts to debate this very topic. In the above video, Moshe Ratson, Helen Fisher, Dr. Rita DeMaria, and Samantha Burns break down many of the key reasons why some people always cling to failed romances.
You can see their full discussion in the above video, but, to give you a taste, here are 5 reasons they think that breaking up and letting go of a relationship can be such a very hard thing to do.
1. Love is an addiction.
It’s true. Studies have shown that, when you fall in love, the addiction centers of your brain become activated — the exact same centers that ignite when a person gets addicted to heroin or cocaine. Keep that in mind when you mock a friend for not being able to go “cold turkey” after a breakup. They might literally be experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
2. Love distorts your reality.
Strong emotions can act as a perception filter for your entire existence. You know the phrase “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses”? That’s what love can do to you. It can completely distort how you perceive reality, so, when that love goes away, it can change how you see your whole world. And that can be a painful reality check to deal with after a breakup.
3. Love was supposed to be forever.
This is a cruel little association that our brains can make after a breakup. If you truly believed that your love with another person would last forever, when that person rejects you, it’s hard to process that what you once thought was eternal has now apparently ended. Oftentimes, our brain then takes that “forever” concept and applies it to our breakup pain — i.e. your love was supposed to last forever, but it didn’t, so that must mean that your pain will now last forever. It’s a mean trick we play on ourselves.
4. Love has deep evolutionary roots.
We have deep ancestral memories in our DNA, memories that shape our attitudes towards things like rejection. Back at the dawn of man, if your tribe rejected you, it probably meant that you were going to die, which is one reason why being rejected by a loved one can inspire such feelings of desperation and panic.
5. Love hurts… literally.
Scans have proven that people who have just experienced an emotional breakup show increased activity in the pain centers of their brains. That means that love can’t just wound you emotionally, it can actually cause you to feel physical pain. And, when you’re experiencing that pain, you might do almost anything to make it stop, even if it means swallowing your dignity and trying to win back the heart of the person who broke up with you in the first place.
But there is an important thing to remember if you’re experiencing any of these breakup symptoms — time heals.
Despite love’s ties to addiction and our evolutionary make-up, there is also evidence that shows that the parts of your brain that become so enflamed during a painful breakup eventually become less active over time. That means that, as you get more distance from the split, those intense feelings and impulses will lessen and you’ll eventually start feeling like yourself again.
And it’s worth keeping in mind that, often times, the best way to truly let go of a bad breakup is to start a new relationship and get the whole wonderful cycle started again.
Be sure to watch the experts' full discussion in the video at the top of the page. If you know someone who’s having a hard time dealing with the aftermath of a breakup — or if you’re experiencing those emotions yourself — please visit the websites of our panel members and contact Moshe, Helen, Rita, or Samantha directly. They’re here to help.