Inside Out

Clean out the closet—of your unconscious

5 Myths of Recovery After Your Break Up

How to respect and experience illogical feelings in the aftermath of breakup

Think you "should" feel better? Think again.
We’ve all been in that horrible place when a relationship comes to an end. It can be painful and difficult as you struggle not only with your feelings of loss, but also with the pragmatic void the end of this relationship leaves in your life. 

During this painful time, you struggle to make some sense of the loss and attempt to reassemble your day-to-day routines into a life that no longer includes that lost person. It can be a time of intense emotional vulnerability.

There’s no roadmap that can take you from where you are to the place you want to be. But below are 5 detours or dead ends that, with awareness, hopefully you’ll be able to avoid. Keeping these myths in mind will help you remain compassionate with yourself as you go through this difficult process.

(For simplicity I used the pronoun “he,” though please substitute whichever pronoun feels most appropriate to your situation.)

Myth #1: If the breakup was for the best, you shouldn’t be sad

As much as we would like our emotional reactions to be logical, they’re not. The part of our brain that governs emotional reactions doesn’t care whether or not the breakup was for the best. It just knows there’s been a loss. As shaped by your previous experiences of loss, the emotional center of your brain may still react negatively even when the logical part of you knows it’s positive. This is especially true when our histories with loss did not include a caregiver who helped us process our feelings about past losses or abandonments.  

Myth #2: If your ex was a jerk, you won’t miss him

Many times I hear patients say, “I know he was a jerk and I’m better off without him, but I still miss him and want to see him. It doesn’t make sense!” Again, when we experience loss or changes in our lives, we have emotional reactions. Something made you attach to this person, so he couldn’t be a complete 100 percent jerk-wad. When you miss your almost-total-jerkwad partner, what you’re really missing is the good parts of the relationship and the person you fell in love with, which actually does make sense. You also may be missing the fantasy of who you hoped your ex could be or who he once was.

Myth #3: If you miss him, it means you should be together

Just because you miss someone—even if a long amount of time has passed since the break up—does NOT mean you should be together. And yes, it’s that conflict between the emotional and logical sides of your brain at work again. When you’re attached to something, destructive or not, when you lose it, you miss it. This is normal, but definitely not an indication that anything has changed about the feasibility of your relationship. Some recovered alcohol and drug addicts miss their drugs, even years later. Missing the drug doesn’t mean they should drink or use.

Myth #4: You need to stop being sad and get over it

This is an important one. Many people get frustrated with themselves for feeling sad and not just “getting over it.” I tell them that sadness (even a large amount) is a normal reaction to a break up and I don’t cure normal. The thing is, I know you would happily “get over it” if you could. And you will. But right now you’re feeling sad or whatever else you’re feeling. Try not to fight it. Letting yourself feel your feelings will help you move more quickly into “over it.” And remember that the way you’re feeling now is not the way it will always be.

Myth #5: Getting over it will happen quickly

Are you impatient with yourself, or maybe just sick of feeling miserable? Friends, I don’t blame you. Whether fast or slow, the process takes as long as it takes. I know you hate hearing that as much as I hate saying it. But there really is no other answer than to let your recovery run its course. Please be patient with yourself and keep in mind that losing your partner might not be the only thing you’re grieving—this breakup may be stirring up other issues from your past that are also very painful. 

Breakups, rejection, loss, grieving—it’s all pretty yucky! None of us like it, but we’ve all been through it. If you’re going through it right now, try to keep some of these myths in mind as you navigate through this process. Remember, if you let yourself feel all the feelings associated with the break up, you will eventually move on. 

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Twitter: @JenKrombergPsyD

Facebook: www.facebook/Dr-Jennifer-Kromberg

Jennifer Kromberg, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in California.

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