Knowing the kind of romantic pain you are feeling can help you understand how long it will last.
We all hate being dumped by a romantic interest, and the reason is that there is pain involved, at least for a while.
And regarding romantic endings, have you noticed that sometimes the pain isn't that bad, and then other times it's pretty bad. Also, there are the basket-case causing, heart-ripping, long term suffering sort of pain that comes when a major relationship ends? Ugh, I have.
Well, I'm the sort of person that analyzes stuff like that. I don’t know why I’m wired to be obsessed with understanding relationships and everything about them, but I am. I just have to understand and make sense of the questions that inevitably come up. I must find out why people do what they do, think like they do and feel what they feel.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked in my practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist has to do with the feelings that come when a romance fails that almost all of us have experienced. Every person who feels the pain of relationship loss wants to know, "How long will my suffering last, when will it end?"
Well, the good news is that I have come up with a way of answering this important question by searching all over … I have my own personal experience, clients I’ve worked with, I’ve looked at the research and I’ve talked with fellow therapists about it. And I think I can pretty much tell people how long their emotional pain will last.
But before I tell you the answer, it is absolutely crucial that you are aware of how normal and OK it is to feel terrible after a relationship ends. Not only is it OK, it is necessary. It is extremely human to feel such emotional pain, to grieve as we disconnect, and for someone to not feel pain in such circumstances would worry me much more.
Also, it is vital that we not beat ourselves up for feeling sad. I do have some tips that may help you feel better sooner, and the first is to head straight into the emotional pain, feel it and experience it, look beyond it at the message the pain is trying to convey. Do not try to hide, suppress or numb any negative feelings. The fact that you are miserable is indeed a reflection of something healthy, that your feelings are working and are intact. So as crazy as it may sound, accept that the suffering is unavoidable and necessary. Know that when negative emotions are stuffed they will only stay down so long. Eventually they will reappear, usually as depression, anxiety, anger, or physical pain. So don’t do it!
Another important truth is that emotional healing can’t begin until you move forward and out of the relationship that caused you the pain. One thing that gets a person on their way is to cut off contact with the person who hurt you as much as possible. If you have children with the person, keep the conversations to child-related subjects only and refuse to engage on any other level. Also, embrace that the inevitable anger stage of grief will arrive and will be a crucial part of your recovery. It is the stage that serves to sever the caring attachment that keeps us emotionally connected to the person who caused us the pain.
Note to people wanting to date a person who is recently out of a painful relationship: It's OK to be a friend, but stay away from dating people who are recovering from something like this … why? These people are not in a state of mind to focus on you and the new relationship, and there is a huge potential for you to be used as a human band-aid to help distract them through the break up.
Now, back to what we all want to know, how long will I hurt after a breakup? The answer is, it depends.
The pain felt from romantic breakups fall into two major categories—heartache and heartbreak. Here is the difference between the two:
• Heartache. Usually occurs after a short-term relationship ends. Leaves light bruises. Feeling is acute, short-term, pain. First month is intense obsessing and emotional pain, second month also difficult, but at the end of the second month relief is arriving, obsession lessening. By the end of the third month you are rarely thinking about it.
• Heartbreak. Occurs mostly after a long-term relationship. Feels like you've been run over by a bus, and acute pain and dysfunction can last from 12 to 18 months. A person in heartbreak will obsess about the past relationship and become self-absorbed. The ability to be a friend, mother, or father will be diminished. At its worst point a person may be barely functional. Often people gain or lose weight. Coming out of it, people often report that they did not feel like themselves again for two years. Psychologists have suggested that it takes one year of recovery for every five years of a relationship. I agree that a two-year recovery time is critical before embarking on any new relationships.
And speaking of new relationships, how do you know when it is safe to step back into the dating ring after a major break up? The answer is when you aren’t thinking about it often, your anger and sadness are not major distractions, and you are actually feeling in the mood for attaching to someone emotionally again, that is the time.