Back to the Body


On Break Ups, Heart Break and Relationship Death

Here's the thing. You're not 15 anymore. And you know all about break ups, broken promises and failed expectations. It's not your first time at the heartache rodeo. You understand that not everything lasts forever, and you can recite about 1000 poems about creating space for better things to come. But maybe you thought that this time, you had a keeper and your heart hurts like your teenage self with no class ring. Your dreams for the prom crushed. Only now, you should be handling the rejection better or the leaving better. Instead, your heart is broken and every sad love song is about you.

After a relationship ends you may find yourself standing at the edge of a relationship coffin. You may invite your friends over for a wake and viewing. Please bring whiskey, red meat and cookies. Please leave all gluten free objects at home. This wake is not a paleo event. We ask our friends;

"Did they really love me---ever?"

"Why wasn't I good enough?"

“What did this person bring to my life?"

"What did this person take from my life?"

"Why Couldn't I See This Coming?"

"What Have I Learned?"

and "Do You Think I'm Sexy?"

You may call in a love and relationship expert (like me), or get your Tarot Cards read. I can give you some good referrals

Sometimes we learn that your ex lover's flame simply went out. Or, maybe they were just not THAT into you (isn't there a book with that name? See? It's a THING.) Or, maybe you just cared more about the relationship then they did. Or, they wanted different things from the relationship than you did. Or, you just spoke two different love languages and the translation was diminishing both of you. Or, maybe they are moving to Hong Kong and want to simply move on.

Now, It's possible that you cannot get through this awful grieving process without turning you ex-lover into a warring nation where everyone makes a mad rush to find their allies and build their team. Ever play color war? Who is on the red team and who is on the yellow? There might even be debates and meet up groups around the demise of your relationship among shared friends. Of course there will be people that will shake their head and tell you that they knew all along that it would fail, right along with the people who simply cannot believe that such an amazing couple are over. Everyone will have something to say.

Don't be surprised if you feel your pot bubbling and anger rising.

Can you feel your love turning to hate? Why does that happen? Does something go wrong in the relationship autopsy? How can you turn this heart break into "Happily Ever After"? Can you? And if the relationship was killing your self-esteem while you were in it; do you really want to keep it at all in any form?

Here's what I think is true:

Two people could really be heart centered and be absolutely heaven to most people around them with the best of intentions; while still be feeding each other emotional toxins. Two people could really want what the other person has to offer and have to make choices to keep other parts of their lives whole. Two people can really love each other fully and leave each other. Lovers may choose other priorities in their lives and it has nothing to do with you. Still sucks huh?

In the end, you are standing looking at a coffin and trying not to make your ex-lover into the executioner of the relationship even if they are the one that ended things. Or, maybe you want to turn them into the axe waver because that helps you grieve. It's complicated. Maybe you were happy enough and they weren't. So that makes them the great destroyer who is obviously out to ruin your life.

Pass the whiskey please.

If you work hard enough at hating your ex-lover and have done a great job of circling your allies; your ex-lover has now reached the status of ICONIC HORRIBLE EX-LOVER and you have moved the coffin to the burial ground where you alone want to use the shovel to dig the grave because you must be taught a lesson that this MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

If you wear mascara it's now running down your face, and your hands must bleed in the digging because you must learn the error of your ways in believing in someone the way you believed in this person.

You are broken and they are bullshit. By now the whiskey bottle is empty and you have moved onto Oreo cookies while you are deleting all of their pictures with you on Facebook. Damn social media can suck. You guys are everywhere. And you look so happy. Weren't you happy?

What if you put down the shovel, don't reach for the Mint Thins and M & M's, and take another look.

You are in the midst of relationship death. And it burns no matter how old you are; or how many times you have gone through this. And I get it; we all grieve in our own way; and even the person that calls the relationship is going to have big losses. You can count on it. Remember they found you too for a reason. And you are gone.

But people change and so do their needs. Perhaps you were never meant to be in each others long range plans. Or maybe you were; but something else was shinier and brighter right now. Maybe you each make each other happy and unhappy. You know, both things can happen at the same time.

Maybe what you are attached to, a whole lot of stuff, simply does not mix with who they are and their great big basket of stuff. Maybe you have ways of doing things that just ruffle their feathers and you are not going to stop doing those things because they are ingrained in you. Maybe your ex-lover has the same pile of habits. Maybe the moments of fabulous union wasn't worth the hassles, or was not worth the trouble--- so it became toxic.

Listen cookie eater, I have some big news for you. Any or all of these emotions are not unique to you. Blow your nose. This happens all the time. The couples who stay together decide that they want each other enough to work it out and sometimes one wants it more and that doesn't work at all.

Relationships are a team sport.

And there we are staring at the coffin again. There are all sorts of ways of finding our way to the relationship grave: money, personality differences, power needs, needs for attention and sex can put your relationship into hole. The list is quite endless.

Somehow someone's fundamental needs are not being met, and worse still, those fundamental needs turn into pain, suffering and conflict. And someone says "over".

Are you sure that Whiskey bottle is empty? Please check.

There can be nothing worse than looking at your beautiful beloved relationship and all of your dreams of what might have been" if only" broken into 1000 pieces of cracked glass so sharp and ready to cut you.

So, maybe you build your fence and learn your lessons about what you will never do again. And maybe your ex-beloved (you know the one), the one that broke your heart--- didn't actually set out to do that.

Maybe it just wasn't working for them and their way didn't really work for you. Is that possible that no one was intentionally trying to hurt the other one? Could it be that no one is the big bad wolf? Is it possible for there to be no crimes against humanity here? And yeah, maybe how the relationship ended could have been a lot better. I get it. Maybe texting a break up isn't the best way. Maybe a lot of things could have been handled better for you, but we all handle relationship discomfort differently --- and blame is just a buffer for the pain.

So can you remain friends with your "exs"?

It's time for some introspection here. Are you just going to somehow keep them in your life in the hope that you can become lovers again? You know, if you just hang around, maybe things will come around again? I wouldn't do that. That's a trap. And if having them around is going to put you into a state of constant re-triggering of the wound of "why wasn't I good enough?" then you need to protect yourself and get the fuck out of there.

And if you really want to stay connected, remember what hurt before may very likely still hurt for a long time And it might get worse before it gets better. Those habits and rejections and communication styles will still be there. Maybe you can learn how to let in what has always been wonderful to you about this person without the stuff that made you crazy. Maybe you will get past the hurt and confusion. Sometimes, not pouring salt on the wounds and giving things time to heal is what is needed. I know that is old advice; but it may be sticking around for a reasons. Time can heal.

I have seen people do it. I have seen people move through all of the damage and become friends. Maybe now or at some point. So maybe for you it might be possible. You never know.

Pamela Madsen is the author of Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure...and Somehow Got Home in Time To Cook Dinner and creator of Back to the Body: Sensuous Retreats for Women.  Her work can be found at

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Pamela Madsen