Home | Flourishing in Life | Flourishing Relationships | After the Love has Gone
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 2013 (edited December 14, 2021)
Healing and growing through the pain of a divorce and ending relationships.
When love dies, we hurt. Typically, the death of the attachment isn’t an unexpected blast but a slow decline, from inattention, we become accustomed to the connection, take for granted being loved and forget. The spikes of excitement from freshness of a new relationships excites, releasing chemicals that pleasure. Our system enthusiastically leaps when attracted. After a connection is lost, we hurt. Our bodies grieve the loss. An escape into a new relationship provides a temporary rush of excitement that dulls a painful loss; but is often welcomed too soon, interfering with healing, learning and recovery.
Pain has a purpose; it’s not a random nasty feeling to needlessly invade our psyche. Pain is a physical response to stimuli perceived as threatening—to our survival and well-being. We intuitively and biologically know relationships are good for us. An intimate partner provides support and care. A close bond adds to financial, time and emotional resources. When we lose a partner (or trust in a partner), we feel loss, fear, anger, and sadness. We feel pain.
Sometimes in response to a shocking event, other times gradually but in a flash of recognition, we grasp the loss of love, feeling the pain of losing trust; trust in a partner, trust in the relationship. The frightful realization initiates change; perhaps the beginning of the end or maybe the beginning of concerted efforts to mend, making the relationship whole again.
When a relationship continuously disrupts, stirring painful feelings, we may be enticed by the possibility of an alternative partner, one who brings the wonderous feelings of romance from a long ago past. Relationship jumping is a dangerous game. Whether the current relationship has been formerly terminated or not, an immediate new romance often impedes healing from proper grieving. Grieving is essential to healing, allowing for gentle self-explorations.
A failed relationship offers great wisdom; a school master to those who take sufficient time to ruminate. We glean priceless insights after the emotional ashes settle. If we compassionately examine the behaviors, patterns and emotions, priceless clues emerge about own character and behaviors that contributed to the failure. Until we recognize our role, we’ll likely repeat it.
Jumping to a New Relationship
Running from a crumbling relationship by jumping into a new romance distracts (and feels good) but doesn’t heal. The pain is only temporarily postponed. Broken relationships don’t disappear without psychological marks; but distracted by the dominant feelings of new love, we miss the healing powers of the hurt, missing the opportunity for necessary healing. Some spend a lifetime avoiding painful self-discovery. But wounds compound, eventually knocking us further off center, creating instability and a path scattered with broken relationships.
Relationship jumping reveals possible character flaws, suggesting inability to process the nastiness of intense emotions. Instead of working through problems, examining self contributions, the abandoning pattern represents escape from discomfort. The lack of emotionally mature processing, soothing and learning from emotions hampers attachments with premature fleeing. A pattern precluding the runner from the richness of intimacy.
Relationships and Vulnerabilities
Bonds create vulnerabilities. And vulnerabilities magnify fears. When committed, our security is tied to another person’s actions; they can damage our well-being. Our sense of safety relies on the strength of the trust. With a fearful disposition, our bodies respond to slights with emotional force. Avoiding vulnerability—dismissing trust—also limits connection. These protective limits impact closeness, inspire powerful suspicions (no trust), and significantly contribute to relationship failure.
Sharing feelings and examining fears overwhelms juvenile emotions. The emotional core is our essence; opening tender spots on our soul to possible ridicule or rejection is an experiment in trust. True love is tested with these brave journeys of openness. Many suffer traumas from the past that magnify the fears, making openness too risky, fearing the increased vulnerability as an open invitation to hurt; not the avenue to connection. If we protectively dodge intimacy, our relationships will struggle, and closeness will be riddled with anxiety.
After a relationship ends, the feelings are still raw and the causes still salient. We momentarily have opportunities for insightful investigations into our souls. But self-exploration is unpleasant, revealing personal flaws. But only through acknowledgement of the insecurities, self-hatred, unreasonable expectations, and poor social skills can we address and improve the bugaboos of our connection abilities. With guided attention, our personal growth increases chances of a future successful relationship.
Old Relationship Problems Return
The sparkle of newness fades, and the challenges of developing a relationship return; should we flee again? Fueled by another bout of relationship decay are the underlying anxieties, angers, frustrations multiply. The problems loom larger with each failed relationship. Our fears encourage another escape and another romp with romance, evading the grief through another unsoiled relationship.
We can grieve, process, and grow or avoid, suppress and stagnate. We can make a lifetime of escape. But life may catch up; when our attractiveness wanes, and our finances dwindle, we may find ourselves alone and afraid.
New relationships bring excitement. I’m tired of excitement. Mature relationships flourish with trust and securely wrapping us in the joys of connection—intimacy. Treasure the wonderful feelings—wherever they may come. But before jumping ship, escaping to newness, slow down. Don’t postpone healing. Appropriately grieve the loss, integrate the lessons, and then move forward with wisdom.
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