"'There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." -- William Shakespeare
Breakups are kind of a taboo subject in the seduction community. We pick-up artists rarely want to admit that we had a breakup, because clearly we are all romantically infallible and should you choose to follow our path of mastery, you too can hold the secret key to nothing ever sucking. So splits don't get discussed nearly as often as the fun stuff like getting a really hot stranger to instantly find you attractive or using neuro-linguistic programming to get your target to think about having sex with you (um, guilty). But breakups deserve some discussion, because they are actually far harder to deal with than seductions: by the time you are in a relationship, there is far more investment at stake, and the pain of ending far surpasses the joy of beginning. So I'm going to be brave, take one for the team, and talk about why breakups suck so hard and how you can get through them in as chill a way as possible.
I can't really say that what happened to me earlier this week was a breakup, because there wasn't what you'd typically call a relationship there to begin with. What is more accurate is to say that I experienced a sudden and unexpected derailment of a path I was confident was going in a certain direction. But it sucked a lot because I really liked this person, and though I knew he had a lot of things going on in his life that were going to make forging a relationship Herculean at best, well... I'm me, and I'm stubborn, and I was determined to give it my best shot. And even though he expressed to me that his need to be alone came out of work he needed to do on himself and not any lack of awesomeness on my part, it is never not devastating to lose the rush of sexual and romantic intimacy with someone you dig so hard.
However, I don't have time to lie in bed eating ice cream and feeling sorry for myself, because frankly I have way too much shit to do. (Actually I'm not an ice cream breakup kind of girl; in these situations I'm a starver, not a binger. Silver lining: breakup diet! But I digress.) So I called up two of my friends who are brilliant dating/intimacy coaches -- Adam Lyons of Attraction Explained and Reid Mihalko of Reid About Sex -- and I said to them, "Please help me make this not suck so much." And they did. So I'm here to pass on some of their wisdom, and some of my own, to help you out should a sucky breakup one day befall you.
The first thing you need to know about breakups is the physical effect they have on your brain and body. During the course of your relationship, your brain has released a whole ton of happy feel-good chemicals to bond you to your partner. These range from infatuation-stage chemicals like phenylethylamine and dopamine, which are naturally occurring amphetamines, or uppers, to attachment-stage chemicals like oxytocin, vasopressin, and endogenous morphines, which act as opiates, or downers. This means that when a relationship ends, you are suddenly facing, on a very real physical level, the same withdrawals as an addict coming down from cocaine and heroin -- at the same time. Why love isn't regulated by the FDA is a mystery to me.
What makes it worse is that in the absence of your dopamine/oxytocin rush, your bitch of a body starts releasing stress hormones like adrenaline, which actually puts you in physical pain, because adrenaline impedes your heart's ability to function, causing chest pain and muscle contractions. There have actually been instances in which a breakup has caused the release of so much adrenaline in a person's system that it has put their heart into shock, made it stop pumping blood, and caused death. Yes, you can die of a broken heart.
Furthermore, Adam Lyons explained to me, while you were in your relationship you probably had some dreams and plans for the future that you were banking on happening at some point, and as you play out these scenarios in your mind, your brain registers them as memories, which creates new neural pathways. That means that in that awful stage after your breakup where you start to think about all the things you'll now never get to do together, with each scenario you imagine, somewhere in your brain a neural pathway rips apart. Ouch.
This all sounds like bad news, but understanding what your body is going through actually makes a breakup easier to bear. It means that the pain you're feeling actually doesn't have so much to do with losing the relationship as it does with losing the chemical attachment. This means that once you pass through the withdrawal stages, you won't actually feel like the loss was that bad. It would be kind of like a drug addict getting over their addiction and then missing the drug. (That might be a slightly harsh analogy, but you get my point.)
In fact, happiness expert Dan Gilbert (watch his TED talk, it's brilliant) claims that somewhere past the three-month mark, your breakup won't actually feel sucky at all. He describes the fallacy of what he calls impact bias, which is your brain's tendency to overestimate the effects of a certain outcome -- winning or losing an election, winning the lottery, becoming a paraplegic, or, in the case of our topic today, gaining or losing a romantic partner. Once an event is roughly three months in the past, our brains return to their default state of happiness and create a retroactive justification that everything was for the best. Or, as Adam Smith once said, "The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from overrating the difference between one permanent situation and another... Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others, but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice." Yes, that's right: the father of modern economics is entreating you not to call your ex and leave tearful drunken voicemails that might end up on youtube one day.
One of the first things Reid Mihalko posed to me during our talk was that my absconding lover was actually doing me a favor by bowing out. Most of you would raise a skeptical eyebrow at this notion, but this is something I've heard before and generally speaking, it is true. In most cases, when someone leaves you because they're just not feeling the relationship, they're helping you out by not letting you continue to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't want to be there. Seriously, even in the worst scenario kind of breakup, like a husband leaving his 30-year marriage for his bimbo secretary, would you really want a person to stay with you if they weren't willing to love you? No! You deserve to be loved, enthusiastically and without qualm! You are being done a favor by being opened to the opportunity to find the person who will love you unflaggingly. Like I said two blog entries ago, it is far better to be available to the right person than in a relationship with the wrong one.
In the case of my departed paramour, his reason for curtailing our involvement, so he stated, was not about a lack of interest in me but rather about work he needed to do on himself having just left a very long relationship. I am partly at fault for seducing someone so freshly on the rebound; this is where my eternal optimism does me in by causing me to think that I can surmount the apparent obstacles a relationship faces because I am so super awesome at this stuff. But the idea that he was doing me a favor still applies: in fact, one of the things he said he needed alone time to work on was learning how to not be a toxic person. (To which I dearly wanted to reply, "Are you kidding me?? Do you know how much amazing sex I have had with toxic people??") So in fact, it might be possible to go so far as to say that by spending time alone working on himself now, he may end up being a better partner somewhere down the road, and we may have the opportunity then to have a relationship that will have far greater odds of succeeding than the one we might have had now while he's still deep in his own trenches. I mean, when you think of it that way? It's like, wow. Awesome. Thank you.
The only thing that is truly unbearable is when we're afraid of the truth, when we try to cover it up or pretend it's something else. So often we're afraid to have the difficult conversations and to ask the questions that we're afraid of the answers to, or we try to persuade our lovers into staying with us because we feel that their departure will be a far worse outcome than their reluctant presence. But if you're in denial about the truth, you will spend your entire relationship in anxiety and misery, trying desperately to patch together something that just isn't working. Once you can accept both your truth and your partner's, you can weather anything that results.
So if you're in the midst of a breakup, even if it feels so awful now that you feel like you might die of a broken heart, realize that for whatever reason, it is for the best. No matter what, you don't want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't feel like they're capable of being in that relationship, even if you think you do.