Now that the cuffing season is coming to an end, you may be going through a heartbreak. And boy do I feel you.
Listen, I’m a girl that along the way became a way too nice person and went from ‘that b*tch’ to caring about others more than herself. Does that get you anywhere? No way! But chances are you might be going through something similar to what I'm going through right now, and we're here to support each other. So, let us discuss heartbreak and how to deal with it. Or, at the very least, try? There is no one way that will work for everyone, but talking can help. Or so they say.
Long story short, I met a boy I liked and assumed he felt the same way. I mean, we did speak pretty much 24/7 since we met. I ignored some red flags along the way, and a few weeks later I was crying on my bed, drinking wine and stuffing my face with Wotsits. It reminded me of how many times I've been let down by boys, leaving me feeling as if I don't deserve to be loved or happy. So I drank a few too many glasses of wine and made an idiot of myself, typical.
I've found myself in an unusual situation with this boy, unable to deal with it like the mature adult I always claim to be. It was a confusing mess of unfamiliar feelings and out-of-character behaviour on my part, and I ended up hurting pretty badly as a result. I eventually realised that, yes, I may have reacted better, but I am not the only one to blame for this mess (for the most part at least). Either way, they have done me wrong so here I am pouring my feelings out after I’ve been ghosted by what feels like the 100th guy.
You’d say that after a few too many heartbreaks, you eventually learn. But if you’re anything like me (which I really hope you aren’t), you don’t. Relationships are rarely a straight line. I always give my friends advice, and very sensible advice to say the least, but fail to listen to myself when I’m going through a similar thing.
So I wasted no time (like boys usually waste mine) and instead contacted some relationship experts, and we have some tips for you on how to deal with heartbreak or that sense of disappointment when you have to go through yet another failed talking stage.
Dealing with a heartbreak
Having a broken heart is perfectly normal and most of us have or will experience it at least once in our life (ditto!). The Relationship Guy, John Kenny, who coaches single professional women to get into a healthy intimate relationship, says that “you will experience some level of loss when a relationship comes to an end and so you need to grieve, which is a process. And like all grief, it gets easier over time.
“So when you are struggling, know how to self soothe, to tell yourself that this hurts right now, that for the time being it will be a painful process, but it will be ok and you will be ok,” he says. “If you know that there will be an end to something painful, it helps you to manage the moments that are the worst.”
Charisse Cooke, an online therapist with 14 years of experience as a relationship therapist, describes relationships as one of the least understood subjects on the planet. She recommends feeling the heartache instead of avoiding it.
“Heartbreak can be brutal, but surrendering to the pain and really feeling it, allows us to learn the lessons we need to learn and recognise how deeply we loved,” she says. “As we do this, we see our own resilience and realise we aren't broken, we're grieving. Make time every day to really feel into the pain. After that time, get on with your day and try to be as supportive of yourself as you can.”
Avoiding/preparing yourself for the worst
“Often we're too scared to see the writing on the wall,” Cooke says. “We bury our heads in the sand or rationalise incompatibilities away. When we're dating, or seeing, or even living with someone, we're in research mode. We can really challenge ourselves to collect all the research: the good and the not-so-good.”
The point is, there isn’t a sure way to avoid heartbreak. Kenny says that it is quite hard to see it coming, especially when there is no explanation. You know, when someone seems fully into it, wants to see you and talks to you all day, every day, but then it stops. Just like in my case.
“If you do notice that someone is going cold on you, doesn't do the things they used to, picks on you or criticises, won't talk about issues or talking turns to arguments then amongst other signs, it could be time to expect this not to work out,” says Kenny. “We all want to recreate the good times and when we start to lose them we can try and get them back. But if the other person isn't in it any longer or has changed, and likely showing their real self, then you can start to prepare yourself for the ending. It may not be what you want, but detaching yourself emotionally will help when the end comes.”
Looking out for the red flags
Maybe if we had all this information before getting into any of our previous relationships, we would have avoided so much unnecessary pain and sadness, and potentially seen some of the red flags that the other person might have had.
Kenny says: “ I always suggest that you give someone the 'benefit of the doubt', if they do something once, obviously depending on the severity of their actions, but once is enough.
“If you address something you aren't happy with and it doesn't change, or there are repeated behaviours that are really not what you want in your relationship, then walk away. You don't owe anyone anything, especially in a new relationship.
“If you keep wanting or expecting them to change, then you are just setting yourself up for failure, disappointment and likely self recriminating thoughts. This will just add to your heartbreak as it brings in so many more negative thoughts and emotions,” he says.
Cooke describes red flags as stop signs, such as addictions, debts and/or toxic past relationships. “They show no interest in learning from or doing anything about, are clear signs sharing a future could be deeply problematic. We owe it to ourselves to take heed,” she says.
Red flags are such a discussed topic, especially on social media, but we don’t actually take them seriously. Should we really be getting involved with someone who has many many red flags to give? Aren’t we just willingly choosing to eventually have our heart broken one way or another?
The physical pain
Cooke says heartbreak is many things in one, such as “feelings of disappointment, a loss of an imagined future, a return to aloneness and often a sense of rejection or abandonment - even if we're the one doing the leaving.
“As social animals, this is all agony. We are not built for going in and out of each other’s lives the way we do nowadays. This is still a relatively new phenomenon in our human history. It goes against all our drives and instincts, so it really hurts,” she says.
Often, when you’re going through a heartbreak, you can physically feel it. That’s because your brain tells your body that you are in physical pain.
“You enter the 'stress reaction' (fight or flight) and these hormones impact on you physically. Creating tension in your body, making your 'heart hurt', stopping you from eating and so forth,” says Kenny. “As you don't use these hormones for their intended purpose, you are left with a massive hormone dump that can actually make your muscles ache.
“It is also believed that these hormones can 'stun' your heart causing what is known as broken heart syndrome. When you were in love, oxytocin was released, creating a connection, a sense of closeness and safety. When this has gone, you feel more insecure and even worse, it strengthens your emotional memory of the good times you have experienced, making the break up even more painful.”
Finding a rebound to get over the loss
It’s not unusual when people try to get over their failed relationship by getting into a new one as quickly as possible. Even I thought that would “fix me”, but that definitely isn’t recommended.
Kenny doesn’t recommend getting into dating to get over a broken heart at all. He says that we need to process the lows, just like we would in any other situation when we are grieving.
“Understand why it didn't work out. Were there decisions you made that stopped it working? Were they part of a pattern of relationships that you follow? What do you want next time and will you allow yourself to have it? Moving into a new relationship too soon is just a distraction to avoid what you are going through right now,” he says.
“Spend time with positive people, who love and care about you. Ones that will hold you in your sad space until you are ready to get back out into the dating world again. Maybe flirt with someone or engage in conversation to help rebuild any loss in confidence - but steer clear of dating!”
Cooke on the other hand says that “dating can help us move on, but only if we feel ready to genuinely let someone else into our hearts again.
“The danger is, we put ourselves out there to date, potentially meeting people who we can end up hurting because we're not ready for closeness yet. It can become a vicious cycle of heartbreak all round,” she says.
The most important factors of a successful relationship
To end on a more positive note and prepare yourself for the next big thing - the best relationship you’ve ever had, both Cooke and Kenny agree that good relationships have people with similar values and life goals.
“They fundamentally respect each other and are kind, forgiving and respectful. It's amazing how rare this is,” says Cooke.
Kenny also emphasises the importance of good communication, which is “essential when you want to have the best type of relationship possible” and staying invested.
“To be able to talk and listen to each other, work things through together and create an understanding of how each other ticks, leads to a deeper connection and the ability to empathise, even if you don't necessarily agree,” he says. “Consciously be present in your relationship, keep the sparks flying, don't lose your curiosity about each other, learn their love language and show them you care.”
When I think back on what led me to this, it wasn't so much a heartbreak as it was a sense of loneliness and not being good enough. And, to be honest, that does break your heart a little. There is no such thing as a small or big heartbreak; everything we go through and all our feelings are valid - remember that.