What Is Lovesickness?
Whether it is unrequited love, a separation while being very much in love or after a long relationship, almost everyone knows how a broken heart feels. This condition is called lovesickness.
When we become aware that our love is not reciprocated or when a great relationship is over, we suffer. We feel rejected, helpless, powerless, vulnerable and alone. The world is no longer a warm and beautiful place. All of a sudden, everything is grey and empty. It involves an interplay of hormones, so that the body suffers, as well. It is often accompanied by insomnia, increased or decreased appetite, stress and inner restlessness. Especially after a long-standing relationship, those involved lose not only a loved one, but usually also a good friend and confidant. Joint plans for the future disappear into thin air. The shared identity as a couple no longer exists. With such deep pain, it is hard to look ahead.
The Different Stages of Heartache
Depending on the situation, the degrees of pain vary and everyone deals differently. In principle, however, researchers assume that one can divide lovelorn into four different stages.
Stage 1: Denial
The first stage is determined by disappointment, hope, anger, fear and self-doubt. At this stage we try to deny the separation. We cannot believe it is over. We are in denial that the relationship is over. We simply cannot accept it. In this phase, one‘s thoughts revolve around the ex-partner. In such a situation, many people try to contact the ex and to fight for the relationship. Only when we realize that the separation is final and irreversible, we enter the second stage.
Stage 2: Violent Emotions
In stage 2 we finally realize that the relationship is over and we are alone again. Now the pain of separation is upon us. In this phase we reach our low point. Similar to depression, the level of dopamine, the so-called happiness hormone, is very low during this phase. We feel listless and sad. Nothing seems worth doing without the ex-partner. In addition, there is anger, disorientation, self-doubt and fear. The good news: at this point, things can only get better!
Stage 3: Reorientation
And that brings us to the third stage. We are beginning to realize that things are going uphill again. We become confident and find new hope. The pain is still there, but it loosened its grip. We have learned to deal with it and to accept the situation as it is. It is easier to let go. We realize that the end oft he relationship is not the end oft he world. Life goes on. We are able to soberly analyze the reasons for the separation. Was everything just perfect or were there bad moments in the relationship, as well? Now we are able to identify more clearly the strengths and weaknesses of our ex-partner as well as our own. Maybe we are even open for a new relationship.
Stage 4: New Balance
In the fourth and final phase of heartbreak, we made it out of this dark place. We found our inner peace. Maybe sometimes we are still a little sad about the end of the relationship. Perhaps now and then we still feel alone and hurt. But the violent emotions from the second stage are gone. We have accepted the loss and are full of hope and confidence for the future. We got over the heartache. Even though for many of us it is difficult to imagine in such a situation: At some point we will fall in love again and we will be ready for our next relationship.
How Long Does Heartache Last?
There is no rule as to how long the heartache lasts and how much time we need to go through its four phases. Each person mourns the lost love for different lengths of time. The important thing is that we do not allow ourselves to be captured by our grief and do not lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Because the good news is: As bad as the heartache may feel, it will pass. Even if it seems hard to believe: Time heals all wounds.
How to Deal with Lovesickness
Every person is unique and therefore everyone deals with grief, sorrow and pain in their own way. There is no panacea for heartache. Everyone has to find their own way to deal with it. The following 10 tips can help make the heartache more bearable and overcome it:
Tip 1: No Contact with the Ex-Partner
No matter how difficult it may be, especially shortly after the break up, it is important to avoid the ex-partner as much as possible in order to be able to overcome the loss. Meeting with the ex fuels hope, and creates stress and pain. The more we look into the past, the longer we cling to the hope of a reconciliation, which usually does not occur. It takes longer to accept the separation and complete the first phase of the heartache. And we suffer longer. As tempting as it may be to call the ex, just to hear their voice, when we feel lonely: stay strong and do not do it. Give yourself and your ex-partner time to get used to the new situation. After the wounds have healed, contact or even friendship may be possible again at some point. But for this to happen, both parties need a break.
Tip 2: Allow Yourself to Grieve
In order to overcome our grief, we must first admit it. It doesn’t help to just suppress certain feelings. Because the grief will not disappear, just because we want it that way. Therefore, it is perfectly okay to indulge in heartbreak and sadness in the first few days or weeks after the separation. You can allow yourself to cry, to scream, and to wallow in self-pity. It is very important that we let our feelings out. Because only then can we deal with the separation properly.
Tip 3: It Helps to Talk About It
Especially in the first phase of the heartache, many people do not want to talk about the separation and tend to shut themselves off from others. It can be immensely helpful to talk to firends and family about the frustration and grief. Usually it’s enough to realize that someone is listening.
Tip 4: Find New Hobbies
In a relationship both partners have to make compromises and tob e considerate of each other. They are not free to do whatever they want in their free time. So look at the bright side: Now we have time to do things that were could not do with our partner around. Now we can devote our time to things that we have neglected or to finding new hobbies. This way we find distraction, have fun and gain new self-confidence. What did you want to do for a long time? A cooking evening with the girls? A pub crawl with your best friend? A dance class? Learning a new language? Or maybe a canoe tour? Just go ahead and do it!
Tip 5: Relax And Pamper Yourself
All the things that do us good are now at the top of our priority list. Take some me-time and do yourself something good. There are so many things you can do. You can go to the sauna, have a soothing massage, visit a hairdresser or a beautician, go shopping, or enjoy a great meal in a good restaurant. Spoil yourself! Pampering body and soul eases the pain and helps us recover. That’s exactly what we need now!
Tip 6: Exercise
Working out is a good way to distract yourself from the pain and clear your head. Let off some steam. It does not matter which sport you choose. The only important thing is that you are active. It helps against depression; and after a while the brain releases happiness hormones.
Tip 7: Write Down Your Thoughts And Feelings
It helps to write down your thoughts and feelings. Tell your diary about your heartache. A diary is good for our mental hygiene. That way we can get rid of our depressing thoughts. It also makes it easier to look at things from a different perspective. Especially when thoughts whirl wildly in our heads, writing helps us bring some order into the emotional chaos.
Tip 8: Get Rid of Painful Memories
When dealing with the end of a relationship, it also helps to banish all memories of the time together. Get rid of photos, anniversary or birthdays gifts as well as of all other items that bring up memories of your ex-partner. You should put everything that reminds you of the relationship in a large box and store it in the basement or in the attic. The fewer items that remind you of your ex-partner, the easier it is to distract your mind from the pain.
Tip 9: Go Out with Your Friends
It’s good to be distracted. And what is a better distraction than our friends and the things we enjoy doing. How about a spontaneous holiday? You can go with your best friend to a beautiful beach and enjoy a few sunny days. Or you can try out mountaineering or skiing. A change of environment distracts us from depressing thoughts and can work wonders. Do not just stay at home, do something!
Tip 10: Self-Analysis And Insight
A basic requirement for happiness is to be at peace with ourselves. Therefore, it is important that we learn to value ourselves again. It can help if we analyze our own behavior. When the pain lessens a bit and we are able to evaluate the relationship in a more rational and objective way, we may even learn something from it. Take a critical look back at your last relationship and think about what how you want your future relationships to be.
The Differences between Men And Women When Eexperiencing Heartache
As in many other areas of life, when dealing with lovesickness, there are gender-specific behavioral norms, which of course can vary from person to person.
Women Want to Put behind the Pain, Men Want to Suppress It
Most women need time for themselves after a separation, regardless whether they were the ones who broke up or the ones who were left. They want to mourn and analyze the failed relationship. And they want to deal with the pain. Only when they have accepted the separation and put behind the pain do they feel able to enter into a new relationship.
The way men deal with a separation depends very much on whether they were the ones who broke up or the ones who were left. After a break-up men often seek distraction. They exercise, bury themselves with work, got to parties or look for a new partner. Men who were left, on the other hand, are usually in shock and suffer greatly. Often they view themselves as a failure in such situations. However, they do not want to admit how much they suffer, not even to their best friends or family. Even though heartache can be almost unbearable, it does not last forever. Quite the opposite, if a new woman enters their life, it can vanish as quickly as it occurred. Unlike women, most men do not properly put behind old relationships, but just move on. In general, women emerge emotionally stronger from a separation than men. A recent study by Binghampton University in New York shows that women suffer more from lovesickness, but men suffer longer.