It would be so much easier for people if, when a relationship ended it came to a full stop and everyone got out of the car and went their separate ways. That is not what happens though. Very often, couples continue to coast along for months after the engine stops turning. Sometimes years. They hook up, hang out, and sometimes even cohabitate, all while officially broken up.
Let’s face it: Even after you break up or divorce, your Ex still feels like your person even though you know in your head the relationship is over. Everything about them is familiar, and it can be very easy to fall back into old patterns… or fall into bed.
In the aftermath of a breakup, many people continue on with their Ex in quasi-relationship “situationships.” Living with their Ex, having sex with an Ex, being hang-out buddies with an Ex, or texting back and forth with an Ex are all common.
Sex With Your Ex is Understandable
When your heart is broken, maintaining contact with your Ex — sexual or otherwise — feels like the only thing that will stop the pain, even for a moment.
Especially if you’re not the one who initiated the breakup, any time spent with your Ex is the only thing that feels normal. The rest is just a nightmare you can’t wake up from.
Human beings are built to bond, and these attachments don’t turn on and off at the flip of a switch. When you are hoping for reunion, any sign that your Ex still cares is what you live for. If your Ex invites you over, texts you, or is okay with you still living there, it feels like hope is possible.
Sex With Your Ex is Always Destructive… To One of You
However, hanging around in extended post-relationship limbo, or having sex with your Ex is almost never a good idea. As a therapist, marriage counselor, and breakup recovery expert, I have had a ring-side seat to many, many relationships, divorces and breakup recovery situations. I’ve spoken to the broken hearted, as well as to their Exes and have learned a lot about why.
On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m sharing my perspective on:
Why people going through breakups often do self-destructive things in order to maintain their connection with their Ex
Why having sex with an Ex is always damaging (but only to one of you)
The power dynamics at work in every breakup
How your Ex really feels about hooking up with you
What post-breakup purgatory is really about… and what it does to your self esteem
The magical thinking that people going through breakups are vulnerable to
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For years now, it’s been a personal passion of mine to help people recover from heartbreak. I know that when you’re going through a bad breakup or divorce, it can be absolutely overwhelming emotionally. Most people describe feeling “obsessed” with matters related to their breakup: Thinking about their Ex, or plagued with incessant thoughts about what went wrong in their relationship, why the breakup happened, what it means about them, and — most importantly — when they’ll ever feel better.
A bad breakup or divorce can turn your world upside down. The life you’ve known feels shattered. The pain seems bottomless. It can feel hard to function, or “be normal” when you’re so sad. And the swirling questions often have no answers, but gnaw at you constantly nonetheless.
I’ve found for many people dealing with heartbreak, the unanswered questions, or confusion about what to do in different situations, are on their minds constantly. I get many questions from people in the process of trying to get over heartbreak, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to answer some of them today on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
We’ll be talking through the following breakup questions:
“I was blindsided by my breakup, and feel totally confused about what happened. Should I try to have a ‘closure talk’ with my Ex?”
“I was getting past my breakup, but then learned my Ex started dating someone else. Now I feel devastated all over again. Why do I feel so upset by my Ex’s new relationship, and how do I move on?”
“My Ex moved on quickly. Now I’m struggling with low self esteem after my breakup, and I can’t stop thinking about my Ex. How do I move past this?”
“I have to work with my Ex, and see him flirting with his new love interest who is also a co-worker. I have been feeling anxious and depressed as a result. How do I cope with this terrible breakup situation?”
Listen now to get some advice for how to cope with a breakup, get your confidence and self esteem back, start feeling like yourself again. If YOU have a question for an upcoming episode of the podcast, you can leave it in the comments section of this post, or call 720-433-1110 to leave me a voicemail that I may use on an upcoming episode.
P.S. Did you know that I host a free, online breakup support group on Facebook? This is not a therapy group, but simply a space for you to connect with other people going through a painful breakup. Breakups can be so isolating, but you don’t have to go through this alone. This group is a secret, private group, so no one can see that you’re a member except other members, and your posts will only be viewable to the group. If you’d like to join, please message me via Facebook, and we’ll add you to the group.
Dealing With Heartbreak? Your Breakup Questions, Answered.
by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success
Have you been struggling with intense pain over the end of your relationship? Maybe for longer than your friends and family think you ought to? In my experience, many people struggling with heartbreak worry that something is wrong with them for taking it so hard and “not being able to get over it.” Some breakups are easier to cope with than others. Sometimes, it’s just a break up. Sometimes, you become an “Exaholic.” Learn the difference and how to help yourself move on from an unwanted attachment to another person…
Why Relationships End
Regrettably, relationships end. Neglected marriages can be overgrown with the relational equivalent of cancer, festering malignant hurts so deep that not even the best marriage counselor in the world can restore the trust and goodwill. (Though like cancer treatment, early detection plus prompt treatment with evidence-based marriage counseling can often blast it into remission). Other times couples with great chemistry, over time, discover insurmountable fractures and persistently grinding fault lines between their personalities and core values. Sometimes, for mysterious reasons, one person is just less “into” the other. They apologetically leave, guilty and relieved, while their blindsided partner is left to cope with the devastation of the rejection, and their suddenly empty life.
The stories and circumstances of everyone’s relationship are unique, but the core cause of breakups is always the same: One person stopped believing that the other can ever be who they need them to be. The rest is details. When hope of improvement is lost, the relationship is over — even if the couple is still going through the motions of cohabitation and daily life for the time being.
It makes sense, when you think about it. Nature has built us to bond, fiercely, to one “irreplaceable other” just as we must attach deeply to our children (and they to us). The literal survival of our species depends on the strength of these attachments. This is powerful, primal stuff. We have survival drives that compels us towards love and bonding. And when those bonds are broken against our will, the pain is unlike any other. It’s like every cell in your body is protesting the disconnection, screaming for reunion.
What Are Exaholics?
I think of “Exaholics” as people who have bonded, at a deep chemical and emotional level, with someone in the context of an unsustainable relationship. There is nothing necessarily wrong here, except the circumstance. When two compatible people become fiercely bonded to each other in the context of a healthy, sustainable relationship it’s an epic love story that lasts a lifetime. But sometimes people become intensely bonded to people who can’t be good long-term partners. (Read: Are You Addicted to a Toxic Relationship?) When the relationship inevitably ends, they have the harrowing experience of being thrust into a biological / emotional / psychological state that has a lot in common with the withdrawal from other addictive substances: Obsession, craving, and compulsions for a “fix.”
Signs You are an Exaholic:
You cannot stop thinking about your Ex, even though you want to
You fantasize about getting back together, even if you know the relationship was bad for you
You crave their love and approval, even through you know you don’t want to care
You do things you know you shouldn’t to maintain your connection to them (stalking them online, pumping friends for information, accepting “friends with benefits” arrangements).
You have intense and persistent feelings of anger, hurt, regret, guilt that don’t get better with time.
Other relationships, even good ones, don’t feel the Ex-shaped-void in your life
You feel like your friends and family don’t understand why you feel the way you do
Your self-esteem has been damaged, and you feel ashamed that “you can’t just get over it”
But What About “Normal” Breakups?
Here’s the confusing part: Not everyone goes bananas during every break up. Why? What’s the difference between an “Exaholic” and someone going through a “normal” break up? We all know lots of people who rationally decided a relationship was wrong for them, collected their toothbrush, returned the key and went on their way. You’ve probably done that yourself at least once in your life. Yes, you may have spent some time feeling sad, eating too much ice cream, daydreaming about the past, and feeling the absence of your once-present companion. But you also thought about how “it’s better this way,” and knew, in your heart, that this relationship really needed to end. You didn’t feel like you were slowly dying in the flaming pit of unrequited love.
There are lots of reasons why not every one descends into Exaholic madness with every single breakup, but I’ll distill it into the two big ones for you:
You didn’t feel that intense of a connection with that particular person
You came to terms with the need for the split (and grieved the loss) before the relationship ended
Again, neither of these circumstances is better or worse, or more emotionally unhealthy or more virtuous than bonding deeply. It just is what it is. It’s not your fault that you felt that way when you did the breaking up, and it doesn’t mean anything terrible about you if your Ex is inhabiting this space either. (Even though I understand that it might feel like it). Similarly, being an “Exaholic” doesn’t mean anything about you except that you cared deeply about this person.
You CAN Get Over Your Breakup
The good news is that healing and recovery is possible. You can stop hurting, get your life back, and rebuild your self esteem. While this doesn’t necessarily get better with time (as your well-meaning friends and family tell you earnestly, I’m sure) there is a path through heartbreak and into peace. The first step is establishing connection with a safe person or group to help you process your pain, and support you in the deeper work of healing.
I’ve been a marriage counselor for a long time. My experience has taught me that when both people in a relationship are committed to doing what it takes to improve it, relationships can nearly always be made whole. Even better, most couples can use their troubles as a launching pad for amazing new growth. At the end of the process, believe it or not, they often describe feeling grateful for the problems that brought them into marriage counseling because their transformation would not have been possible without them. That’s the happy ending.
And. Not all relationships can be saved. Not all relationships should be saved. When one or both partners have simply stopped believing that the other person can be who they want or need them to be, and the costs of staying outweigh the benefits, relationships end. Often, in the aftermath, one partner will be left alone on my therapy-couch. Then we do the work of recovery together.
What I learned through this work is that people can suffer for a very long time; stuck on an Ex who will never love them the way they need to be loved. I also learned that attachments don’t just turn off like a switch. Breaking your bond to another person is very hard work, and it must be intentional. Time does not heal. Time + intentional effort + self awareness sure can though.
When I realized how many people are suffering, and feeling so helpless to extract themselves from unhealthy emotional attachments, I became a passionate advocate for people on the path of recovery from failed relationships. So much so that I wrote a book on the subject, “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love.” Since then I’ve been getting lots of questions from readers and listeners. Today, I decided to devote a podcast to answering them.
On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, we’re talking all about breakups — particularly how to deal with the hardest parts, and serious dilemmas like:
How do you know when a relationship is really over, or whether it’s worth trying again?
How to handle friends and family who may be getting frustrated with you in an on-again, off-again type situation? Or how to set boundaries with well-meaning people who have very definite ideas about how you should handle things, when you feel differently?
How to deal with the enormous emotional pain of a breakup?
How to cope with regret over the mistakes you made that may have led to the ending of your relationship?
So if you’ve been stuck on your Ex for too long, and wondering how to let go, listen to this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to get some new ideas and guidance for how to let go and move on — for good.
Are you craving contact with your Ex, even though you know it's bad for you? Are you "stalking" your Ex through social media? Are you awake at night rehashing old memories? Are you feeling stuck in sadness, anger, or guilt, and wishing you could just let go, and move on?
Help is here.
Heal Your Broken Heart: The Online Breakup Recovery Class
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is a breakup recovery expert, and she has helped countless people all over the world heal their broken hearts. Now her guidance is available to you through an affordable, online class.
Heal Your Broken Heart teaches you how to:
Decide If You Should Try Again • Release Your Emotional Attachment • Find Forgiveness • Repair Your Self Esteem • Stop Obsessing • Restore Your Inner Peace • Trust Again • Love After Loss