Recovery from Rejection and Breakups — by Darlene Lancer, LMFT

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Romantic rejection hurts. Feeling lonely and missing connection share the evolutionary purpose of survival and reproduction. Our reaction to pain is influenced by genetics. If we have increased sensitivity to physical pain, we’re more vulnerable to feelings of rejection. Moreover, love stimulates such strong feel-good neuro-chemicals that rejection can feel like withdrawal from a drug, says anthropologist Helen Fisher. It can compel us to engage in obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior. This proved true even for tsetse flies in lab experiments.

Most people start to feel better 11 weeks following rejection and report a sense of personal growth; similarly after divorce, partners start to feel better after months, not years.  However, up to 15 percent of people suffer longer than three months. (It’s Over, Psychology Today, May-June, 2015) Rejection can feed depression, especially if we’re already even mildly depressed or have suffered depression and other losses in the past.

Codependency and Break-ups

Many codependents have an anxious attachment style, feeding obsessions, negative feelings, and attempts to restore the relationship. If we have a secure, healthy attachment style (unusual for codependents), we’re more resilient and able to self-soothe.

Rejection can devastate us if our self-worth is low. Our self-esteem affects how personally we interpret our partner’s behavior and how dependent we are upon the relationship for our sense of self and self-esteem. Codependents are more prone to being reactive to signs of disfavor by their partner, and tend to take their words and actions as a comment on themselves and their value. Additionally, many codependents give up personal interests, aspirations, and friends once they’re romantically involved. They adapt to their partner and their life revolves around the relationship. Losing it can make their world crumble if they’re left without hobbies, goals, and a support system. Often their lack self-definition and autonomy beforehand prompted them to seek someone to fill their inner emptiness, which not only can lead to relationship problems, but it resurfaces once they’re alone.

Internalized or “toxic” shame causes us to blame ourselves and/or blame our partner.  It can foster feelings of failure and unlovability that are hard to shake. We might feel guilty and responsible not only for our own shortcomings and actions, but also the feelings and actions of our partner; i.e., blaming ourselves for our partner’s affair. Toxic shame usually starts in childhood.

Break-ups can also trigger grief that more appropriately pertains to early parental abandonment. Many people enter relationships looking for unconditional love, hoping to salve unmet needs and wounds from childhood. We can get caught in a negative “Cycle of Abandonment” that breeds shame, fear, and abandoning relationships. If we feel unworthy and expect rejection, we’re even liable to provoke it. Healing our past allows us to live in present time and respond appropriately to others. (Read how shame can kill relationships and how to heal in Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1616495332.)

Healing Tips

For optimal results, start making changes in your relationship with yourself and with others; first, with your ex. Experts agree that although it’s difficult and may be more painful in the short-run, no contact with your former partner will help you recover sooner. Avoid calling, texting, asking others about or checking up on your ex in social media. Doing so might give momentary relief, but reinforces obsessive-compulsive behavior and ties to the relationship. (If you’re engaged in divorce proceedings, necessary messages can be written or conveyed through attorneys. They should not be delivered by your children.)

Read the full article on Darlene Lancer’s website blog: www.whatiscodependency.com. For a free PDF with 23 additional strategies to deal with rejection and break-ups, email: info@darlenelancer.com

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