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Are You an EXaholic?

Are You an EXaholic?

When You Can’t Get Over Your Breakup…

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.

How do I know so much about the anatomy of breakups? As a marriage counselor and relationship coach I’ve helped literally hundreds of people repair and rebuild their relationships. But some couples show up at the door with situations that can’t be repaired. They’ve waited too long, or they are fundamentally incompatible. In these instances, one partner often stays in counseling with me to work through the loss. We walk through their divorce recovery or breakup recovery process together.

Love: The Mother of All Addictions

Through this work I discovered an important concept that has revolutionized the way we think about breakups and their recovery. I’ve written about the science behind relationships and breakups extensively in my award winning book, Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love,”  but here’s the punchline: Love is addictive. (Want more? Read Polly Drew’s article about Exaholics on Recovery.org).

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:

  1. You cannot stop thinking about your Ex, even though you want to
  2. You fantasize about getting back together, even if you know the relationship was bad for you
  3. You crave their love and approval, even through you know you don’t want to care
  4. 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).
  5. You have intense and persistent feelings of anger, hurt, regret, guilt that don’t get better with time.
  6. Other relationships, even good ones, don’t feel the Ex-shaped-void in your life
  7. You feel like your friends and family don’t understand why you feel the way you do
  8. 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:

  1. You didn’t feel that intense of a connection with that particular person
  2. 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.

So here’s my question for you? Who are your “safe” people that you can turn to for non-judgmental support? Make your short list, and plan to be in contact with them regularly for the time being. If no one readily comes to mind I sincerely hope that you take positive action on your own behalf and get some. You can try the free online support group available at www.exaholics.com, google “divorce support groups” in your area, or consider getting involved in supportive therapy. Breakups are isolating, and it will be worse for you if you try to go it alone. Be brave, reach out, and let caring people help support you on your journey.

All my best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

For more information and advice on handling your breakup, check out this free Q & A Webinar from exaholics.com:

 

 

How To Recover From a Breakup

How To Recover From a Breakup

Heal Your Broken Heart

It’s a bit embarrassing for me to say this, as a marriage counselor, but I know a lot about how to help you recover after your breakup. In fact, I’ve worked with many people as they walked through the anguish of rejection and loss. I’ve walked alongside countless clients as they manage the anxiety, the depression and the obsessions that always come after a cherished relationship is severed. I’ve even written a book on the subject of how to recover after a breakup.

I know what you’re thinking: “She must be the WORST marriage counselor ever.”

The truth is that many, if not most relationships can be mended if both people are willing to try. But the fact is that if one person is simply done, the best marriage counselor in the world can’t put it back together. In these situations the best we can often do is provide comfort, support and guidance to the person who is left sitting on the therapy-couch, alone.

And that is exactly what I’ve done for many, many people over the years. Now, I’m something of an expert on the subject of how to recover from a breakup. On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve learned about why it’s so hard to get over your Ex, why most people feel like they are going crazy after their relationship ends, and simple things that you can do to help yourself recover from a breakup.

Because I have a book coming out on this subject in November called, “EXaholic: Breaking Your Addiction to Your EX Love” I’ll be discussing this topic over the next month or so. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter, “The Love, Happiness & Success Express” if you want to get a round-up of all the articles send to you.

How To Recover From a Breakup: Listen Now

Are You Obsessing About Your Ex?

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