The Biological Reason Humans Long For Their Partner — Even After The Love Is Gone

Dr. Helen Fisher shares how your body's physiological reaction makes it almost impossible to move on without longing for that bond.

woman saying no to proposal Fotosparrow - Shutterstock / TikTok 

I once heard someone say, “You can’t heal in the same place you were hurt”, and it's stuck with me.

It feels like common sense, yet, time and time again, you’ll see people circling back to the person who broke their heart, leaving them in shambles. You spend so much time making sure your broken heart doesn’t break you, only to desperately long for that ‘love’ you lost.

Missing and wanting to be with the person that caused you unimaginable pain might seem counterintuitive, but doing so does not necessarily make you co-dependent or mean that you have an anxious attachment style. It simply means that — like all other humans — there are scientific reasons you want to circle back to your place of pain.


In a video shared on the ‘CNN’ TikTok channel, Dr. Helen Fisher explained that people who want that old (toxic) thing back are not needy and have a neurobiological reason that they desire the person who broke their heart.



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The neurobiological reason we long for people who broke our heart, even when we no longer love them

When we are rejected by the person we love, “A brain region linked with feelings of romantic love, the ventral tegmental area, remains active. You don’t fall out of love with somebody just because they dump you. As a matter of fact, you can even love the more,” said Fisher.

She went on to say that when our brain region that is associated with deep attachment, the ventral pallidum, becomes active, you remain connected to that person, whether they are around or not. Then there is the part of our brain attached to physical pain, the anterior insula, that is activated when we are rejected, Fisher says. But in addition to those areas of our brains, we have three others that are linked to craving and addiction. Those regions are the mid orbitofrontal cortex, the middle frontal gyrus, and the nucleus accumbens.

The nucleus accumbens is activated with any sort of addition, according to Fisher. Whether it be gambling, food, sex, or drugs, that same region is activated, keeping you in need of what is creating turmoil in your life. So, throughout your brain, you have particular places that are preprogrammed to long for that connection, despite its dysfunctionality.

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In ancient times, the mental and emotional toll on those who were rejected was much higher

Fisher explained that we suffer because in ancient times being unable to keep a person around made procreating and passing your genes down to your descendants impossible. It meant that your DNA might die with you and that recognition alone can lead one to hold on tight and never let go, even when it hurts.

“No wonder we suffer so much,” Fisher said to end the video. So, longing for the people who broke our hearts is not new or something specific to a certain type of people. Everyone does it and now we know that it is totally natural and normal. You just have to know why it is happening and make sure that the part of your brain with willpower is stronger than the rest.

Dr. Fisher explained our innate need to stay attached to a person that has shown they are not good for us. Outside of the physiological reasons we can’t seem to say goodbye, some believe that there are other reasons you might not be able to get over a toxic former partner.

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You may be longing for something that they provided   

TikToker, ‘Kylelashay Draper’, who is known for her videos that encourage self-awareness, shared that she had been broken up with her partner for three months when she suddenly missed him. She stopped, took a moment to talk to God, and found that she was not missing the person, but needed to get connected to her higher power.



What Draper meant by that is that when we miss a person, it might not be them that we want. We might be missing things they gave us like acceptance, love, and safety, she explained. For those who believe in a higher power, it represents all of those things. Draper ended her video by saying, “When you’re starting to starve for something like you’re missing something, get into the presence of God because there, you will find your wholeness. There you will find restoration. There you will find peace, comfort, acceptance, love, and all of the things you might be looking for out of the person that you think you miss”.

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It’s hard to let go of the bond that you formed

‘Devin White’, a popular self-acclaimed “Clarity Coach” had similar beliefs to Dr. Fisher when it comes to romantic attachments. He introduced the topic by saying, “Missing a person that is not good for you does not make you stupid. It makes you human.”



He went on to say that any person that you spent time forming a bond with is going to be missed, whether they treated you properly or poorly. According to him, “When that bond has been severed, it’s the body’s natural instinct to mend what has been broken.” He clarifies that we should not take this as a sign that the person who left you was ‘the one’. White says that the feelings of longing are the body’s way of accepting their absence.

Growth can be painful but on the other side of it is triumph and if done right, your ability to be more selective when choosing mates, recognize relationship red flags and warnings to yield upfront, and be willing to walk away from a romance that does not serve you with your head held high and a motivation to heal.


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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington. She covers lifestyle, relationship, and human-interest stories that readers can relate to and that bring social issues to the forefront for discussion.