Why It’s So Hard to Move On After a Breakup
When someone dies most people understand the well-known process one goes through. It has to do with the 5 stages of grief and the rewiring of the neural mapping in your brain. When a relationship ends, whether it be in 1 year, 6+ years, or 15 years, the process is very similar.
When my last long-term relationship ended I realized something crucial. In my mind, my partner was gone and yet still very much alive. I struggled to make sense of this dichotomy. Though I chose to end the relationship for good reasons I was still left with the devastation of trying to pick up the pieces of my life and create something new from scratch — all while processing the loss of love.
I waded through seemingly endless amounts of reading in my search for an answer to what I was feeling. I wanted it to go away — FAST. No such luck. What I found, however, was some science, coupled with psychology, that allowed me to at least understand and accept the process I was entangled in. I had an enormous rewiring job ahead of me which explained the seemingly unending grief. I was going to have to gain new lived experience and repetition of that experience to rewire my brain to make sense of his absence and move forward into a new reality.
When a long-term relationship ends, the person gone is still very much alive in our brains. We’ve encoded the connection as “everlasting” when we initially bonded with them. The more important the bond, the deeper the encoding. It’s this bond or neural map, we’ve created that must be rewritten. It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of acceptance of oneself to redraw your “map”. The entire process is ten times more difficult if the loss changed major aspects of your life such as moving to a new home or finding a new job.
For me, I not only lost the dream of cozy home life with my partner, but I also lost the connections I had created living with his kids and dog, all the shared fun experiences, and the joy in planning the next adventure to name a tiny fraction. I had to literally pack up my entire life and move to another state and create a new existence. In doing so, I lost my home, a wonderful environment I had built with him, and felt like an untethered balloon. It was an enormous undertaking and scary to boot because I didn’t know…