When you are in love your brain thinks about 500 times a day about that person, it releases dopamine and oxytocin and that makes you create an attachment similar to when you’re using a drug. Of course, love is more complex than that, and so it’s your brain reacting on the contrary: a heartbreak.
It’s really weird the way our brains work in different situations in life. I don’t know if this is normal to you but I use to talk to myself all the time. You’re never sure if it’s your conscience, your soul, the crazy schizophrenic inside you trying to get out but this is a capability only humans seem to have. By the time you stop a relationship and the contact with that special person, your brain activates stress symptoms, your emotional pain actually becomes physical (no kidding*), and on top of that, you’re getting over an addiction so you feel withdrawal.
You remember that person saying things like «I love you», «You’re not just another person in my life, I want to marry you», and your brain tries to cope with that version you had and the new version you’re perceiving now, during the heartbreak and even after that. That seems really contradictory: you see them going on like nothing happened, maybe already flirting or dating with someone else and meanwhile you are just trying to be yourself again and forgive so many things that hurt you. You think it’s not fair.
But it’s complex, I’ve been on both sides of the situation: I had a relationship for 4 years, the most beautiful and rich one, with the kindest man I’ve ever been with. I loved him, I truly did, I know he loved me and we gave everything. We had 3 amazing years and then one last year that was difficult because we realized we were at such different points in life that it just made sense to end things. Of course it hurt, but it was really peaceful: we said goodbye like «since I love you we’re better off». For me, it was really easy to move on. Sure, I cried and felt bad for a bit, but my brain and heart were at ease with the situation: it all made sense. I had the occasional rebound (mindless sex, no attachments), and after that, I found someone else and I fall hard men. Real hard.
So hard that it is the second example: A relationship that lasted a year, that was as loving, crazy and hurtful as you can imagine. It was supposed to be my «I do» relationship, I was ready to move to another country and that person even managed to shift my concept of marriage from «I’ll never» to «I will when it’s right». The ending was hard, painful, and there are many things I haven’t been able to forgive yet: I trusted like a puppy, but the puppy never really knows whether they are taking him to the park or abandon him on a side of the road.
Sadly, there’s not a mathematical or really logical rule on how much time will take you to get over a person/relationship/situation. You’ll think the length is the key: the longest one will take you years to get over. Not really. Then you think the amount of love will determine it, but no: you can’t quite compare how much you love people. I loved Mr. Klein with all my heart, and I still do (as a friend), and I loved Mr. Perfect even more than myself. So I’ve come to the conclusion that it depends on an equal mix of:
- how bad was the relationship,
- the way things ended,
- and how much of an asshole are you deep down at that moment.
Maybe you’re feeling ok, doing whatever you’re supposed to, and Bam! You find a photograph, you talk to that person, or you see something you’re not supposed to (oh social media, we love and hate you). Your heart skips a beat and your brain activates the Somatosensory Cortex: the area that’s responsible for pain. Why the hell? would you think. How many ways can your heart break? Why would you allow yourself to feel bad for something that’s out of your control? Why would this happen even though you know being with the other is not what you want?
Well, it turns out that closure it’s as important as having stitches when you have a deep cut: if you do it alone it will take more time. If you do not put any stitches at all there would be a chance of something hurting forever. Not that your ex is a surgeon, but when the other acknowledges what happened, apologizes or takes responsibility for all the wrongdoing, and shows they have actually learned from that, it’s easier for you to move on.
So there it is. Since there are two sides to the story, you can’t possibly expect others to manage the situation as you do. It’s hard though, to think that you were not as important to the other person as they were for you, that they never really loved you as you thought or as it seemed, or to feel that it’s unfair that the person who behaved the worst or hurt the most is the one who can just move on the easiest. You can feel betrayed by your own heart and brain for a while but that’s fine. We cope differently, when you feel pain it’s not because your heart is trying to be a sadomasochist: your brain is showing you a sign of alert, to stay away from the danger and that you need to do something about it: learn.
As long as you understand what’s happening and where you are at, it will be ok. It’s always darkest before dawn. If you truly learned from what happened, the next thing will be great.
You’ll be ready when you’ll be ready.
Notes: *Studies have shown that if you have a heartache you can take Ibuprofen and it helps, since the brain processes emotional pain as if it was physical. Same as working out releases endorphins and chocolates will make you feel better.