Tell Me About It: The heartache that comes with romantic rejection can last a while
PROBLEM: I was romantically rejected in a very cruel way two years ago and it still hurts so badly that I cry about it a few times every day. I have tried talk therapy with two counsellors and several medications, but haven’t seen much improvement.
I feel the pain as if the event was happening fresh every day. I haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, just to add further information. I have been on about 10 first dates, had a short relationship, and slept with three people since the event.
What is wrong with me?
Do other people go through this?
Is it possible for an emotion to last forever?
ADVICE: Although no one has passed away you are suffering from grief, in this case due to the end of an important relationship, and many people would say that two years can be a short time in terms of dealing with such a loss.
When we are very attached to something, or someone, we experience heartache on the loss of that item or person. Sometimes that heartache comes in the form of intense grief and desolation if the loss is something extremely valuable to us – such as a relationship. If it has been a long relationship, then the heartache can last quite a while, and this can be appropriate and demonstrative of the value of that person in our lives.
After a breakup we go through the grief process, which usually lasts longer than we think. With grief everything is affected, from our ability to sleep and concentrate to the ability to find joy in anything. With time and support, from friends, family and colleagues, healing comes, and we begin to engage in life again. We need to allow this grieving time, and not just pretend to have healed, so that we are actually are in a position to engage fully with life again.
One difficulty can be that we suffer heartache for someone or something that is not actually deserving of it, for example when it is a loss of a future possibility or the relationship was on a sliding slope for a long time. In these cases, we need to learn to let go and accept that it is not to be. Withdrawing into yourself at such a time will not be good for you and every effort you make to engage with the world will be rewarded.
Sometimes we get into a relationship and act like we own it forever, but this is not true. Loving someone means we want what is best for them and if our relationship is causing damage then we need to act on what is best for both parties – even if this is difficult. If your love turns to possession or revenge, then you’d have to question whether you felt real love in the first place.
The capability for letting go of attachment is a life-long skill that benefits from the very small things to the very large. For example, if you lose a piece of jewellery of strong sentimental value you still need to accept what happened and if you can do this with grace then you will have gained freedom. However, you continue to suffer acutely and believe that you expect to be feeling differently now that two years have passed – medications and therapy can help us to deal with our grief, but grief is something that needs to be gone through and accepted.
In your case, accepting that your heart is broken is the first step. Then find comfort from those who love you and occupy yourself with small but satisfying things. Give yourself the right amount of time to withdraw from social life and when your friends encourage you to come out again, trust them and keep turning up until you are finding some happiness again. You cannot simply replace your lost love with another person, so dating too soon is often not productive as you are not actually emotionally available at this time. You will know when you are ready for another relationship when you feel a genuine interest and drive in discovering more about someone attractive. You cannot fake this; it will only come with healing. Crying every day suggests that you are stuck in grief but before you rush to “fixing” it, be compassionate with your sadness and spend time with people you find comforting and have faith that time will soothe your heartache.
You don’t say how long your romantic relationship lasted but that the ending was cruel and, indeed, you present as someone who is traumatised, and it may well be that both these things may be playing a part in the “stuckness” you now feel. Perhaps you tried therapy before you were ready, and it might be an idea to reconsider this as you recover your life and slowly connect again.