You sit silently while you hear those dreaded words “I just don’t think this relationship is going to work.” You know the time for pleas on giving it one more try is gone. There is no need to argue. You feel the certainty and finality of the words. And when you find the strength to stand up, you walk away knowing that you will never be with this person again. The beginning of the end is here. This journey you must walk alone. And it is a painful path.
You understand that while it will be painful for a while, the pain will eventually subside and a new love will be there waiting for you when the time is right. After a good cry, you begin to think about how you can get through the rough road ahead with the least amount of pain. You call your best friends and let them know what happened. You decide to take that judo class you’ve wanted to take for the past year. You are grateful that work is incredibly busy as it will help take your focus off your pain for major parts of the day. You settle into the grief and allow the process to unfold.
After the shock has passed, you find yourself suddenly panicking. “How will I live without him?” “Why is she doing this to me?” You start to bargain with yourself, your ex, and your god. If only you could convince him that he still really loves you. If only you can show her how much you really care. You go from anger to sadness to acceptance to panic and back again. You are now in throes of letting go and you the withdrawals come at you with unimaginable force.
Sometime, somehow, something goes awry. What started out as anxiety has now transformed into pure panic. You don’t want to be alone. You don’t want to be without this person. You are determined to feel the connection so that you assuage the angst of feeling empty and unanchored. You think about your ex all the time, going over again and again what went wrong and how you can make it right. You start to call but stop yourself. You decide to drive by his house instead and see if he’s home. You hang out in the same places you know she does in order to find out if she’s dating anyone new. You check your Facebook page 100 times a day, looking for anything that will tell you what he is doing and who he is doing it with. You start to send Facebook messages and texts to her in hopes that she will respond and agree to at least be friends. Anything is better than facing the loneliness and emptiness that looms over your heart and head.
As you continue to obsess over your ex, your friends and family take notice. They can’t listen to you talk about your ex anymore. They beg you to get help as they watch you drown in your helplessness and resistance to letting go. You start to withdraw from them as your need to focus on your ex exceeds that of appeasing your closest friends and family’s concerns. Your need to connect with your ex has taken on a life of its own.
You continue to find ways to communicate and connect, despite the response for your ex. As your ex begins to express annoyance at your persistency, your anger begins to rise. Eventually your ex ignores your communications. Your anger turns to rage and your desire to regain control over this relationship explodes. “How dare she not return my calls. Why is she torturing me like this—she could at least acknowledge my existence; don’t I deserve this after all I did for her?” “I can’t believe he’s not responding to my messages. I can’t believe he’s able to move on so quickly. What an asshole. Believe me, I will find a way to get him to respond.” Your obsession with getting him to respond intensifies. You’re determined to find a way to reconnect or at least feel like you are no longer “cut-off.”
All your energy is now spent on tracking your ex. Your ability to see things rationally has completely disappeared. Something else has taken over. You must have your revenge. You must get back the control. And you will stop at nothing in order to do so. “She will never be with anyone else but me. I will see to that.” “I’ll show him what it feels like to be played and toyed with.” Your behaviors begin to escalate. You call in sick and spend your days following your ex’s every move. You seek to intimidate and threaten her. You just want to be near him. You simply can’t help yourself. You are in full blown stalker mode.
Everyone can see themselves somewhere in the story described above at one time or another. How you deal with a breakup can vary from one situation to another. Sometimes you can move through an ending with emotional maturity and stability. Sometimes the need to stay connected results in less than admirable deeds. Sometimes you may be embarrassed at the things you did and how you tortured yourself unnecessarily. And sometimes you can cross the line into stalking behaviors.
If you find yourself struggling with an ending or are on the other side of someone who is becoming more obsessive, please contact me. When an ending hits you that hard, there is something very important for you to see and heal. Take advantage of the opportunity so that your next relationship can be the one that works.
As always, I’m here to support you in creating strong and powerful relationships.
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
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. Reprinted with permission from the author.