This post was updated on Apr 22, 2023
If you’ve been in love before, you probably know the feeling of being on a “high.” However, if your partner left you and the romantic relationship ends abruptly, then you may experience extreme “lows,” which are physically and emotionally painful. On the other hand, perhaps you have chosen to end the relationship. You will still experience the same pain and at times have a strong desire to be in the relationship however you know it needs to end. In either case, this is withdrawal from love.
Why Do People Experience Withdrawal From Love?
The reason for the emotional withdrawal is that when you fall in love your body experiences a chemical reaction – the body releases endorphins and dopamine that are associated with pleasure. This leads to what some describe as addiction-like intense feelings of reward and relief from stress, like any mind-altering experience. And when you’re in love you experience this type of “high.”
This is why it is such a powerful experience. For some, these intense feelings can be an intensity that is mistaken for intimacy.
For people who have had trauma or neglect in their past, primary relationships can lead to attaching anxiously to heal unmet longing. If you have abandonment wounds of the past, trauma, addiction (even if you are in recovery), or a mood disorder, you are most likely going to have a painful relationship withdrawal. It is a destabilization that affects you emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, physically, and often financially.
Simply put, derailing the Crazy Train is no easy task.
Physical and emotional symptoms can manifest. You may experience several of the following:
- Obsessive thoughts
- Difficulty thinking or functioning
- Loss of appetite
- Problems sleeping
- Flu-like symptoms
If this is happening after a breakup, then you may be experiencing emotional withdrawal from an addictive relationship.
A Painful Experience
Love withdrawal and addictive relationships are one of the most painful withdrawal experiences.
Because a unique connection is made between the person affected and their unmet need for love due to childhood challenges. Often, during withdrawal from love, people psychologically go back and feel the losses they felt as a child and/or adolescent without fully understanding that their nervous system is in complete overload. Unfortunately, the more neglected they were as a child, the more they suffer.
What can lead to seeking unbalanced, unfulfilled, and addictive relationships is having unresolved unhealthy childhood relationships. We are drawn to what is familiar regardless of merit.
Keep in mind that you can also have an healthy childhood and go through extreme withdrawal due to having relationship challenges in adulthood. If you have had a really bad divorce, have been betrayed by a partner, or have suffered the loss of a loved one, you can also experience extreme withdrawal.
This becomes a survival pattern (aka defense mechanism) because you want to heal childhood abandonment wounds. What makes the pain worse is that addictive relationships are colored with conflicts, emotional abuse, and at times, even physical violence.
The Severity of Love Withdrawal
Think about the pain evaluation they give you when you are rushed into the ER. The ER doctors simply say, “on a scale of 1-10, 1 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you have ever felt, what are you feeling?”
Love Withdrawal is typically a Level 10
When someone triggers old pain of abandonment and neglect by abruptly ending a relationship, the pain inflicted on the partner who is not prepared – is usually a 10. This immersion into what we call an Attachment Storm can hijack your nervous system into a complete shutdown.
Shortness of breath and panic attacks can be present. This is typical when someone is abruptly thrown into withdrawal – broken up with, discovery of betrayal, pulled apart by an intervention of some sort, etc.
When you are in a challenging relationship, many don’t realize how important choice is. You can either choose withdrawal or wait to get thrown into it depending on if you are willing to end an unhealthy relationship or not.
Understand this. If someone is left by another individual and the break up is abrupt, the abandonment and neglect of the past trigger a level 10 on the pain scale, and that individual who was left will most likely do anything to not feel this excruciating pain.
Usually getting the relationship back immediately or being engaged in the process of trying to get the relationship back is the only way to temporarily soothe oneself. If going back is not a choice after you have tried everything (calling a thousand times, pleading, begging, manipulating, making false promises, etc.) then often other survival patterns are engaged to help dissipate the pain and manage and tolerate feelings.
Drugs, alcohol, food, sex, a new relationship, overspending – anything to manage the pain. Relationship withdrawal is how many addicts in early recovery relapse from other addictive behaviors.
Love Withdrawal at Level 8
If you wait and choose withdrawal, often you are looking at pain that would be evaluated at an 8. This is when you are finally ready to make a change because you have had too many consequences and have hit your bottom.
You are aware that the pain will get triggered and will feel temporarily destabilized however you have had an opportunity to prepare yourself for withdrawal. This empowerment by making the decision yourself will be beneficial in the long run.
Love Withdrawal at Level 7
If you stay in an unhealthy relationship, you typically live life every day in a pain evaluation at a 7. This energy is familiar therefore you can tolerate it. Remember, we are drawn to what is familiar regardless of merit, see also the familiarity principle.
If you are used to being hyper-vigilant because you grew up with an alcoholic or mentally ill parent, you will most likely be comfortable in a relationship with conflict. It may not be a good relationship to friends and family who are witnessing the relationship dynamics, however, you look at the relationship like it is normal behavior.
If you were to choose to leave the relationship, you will feel the painful wound of abandonment and neglect. So you stay. And you tolerate it. You don’t want to feel the pain. However, you have a muscle for the pain. Most individuals do not know how to prepare to end a relationship. So they stay.
Preparing for Love Withdrawal
To prepare for withdrawal, you must start with the simple concept of choice. If you are trying to get out of an unhealthy relationship the BEST approach is to choose to leave and prepare for it. If no plan is in place and you leave because of pressure to do so by family and counselors, most of the time, you end up going back or engaging in a new similar relationship. This is where hiring a good relationship coach who is training in a process to help you get to your truth is essential.
Preparing for withdrawal is similar to preparing for a marathon. It takes time. The steps below may seem simple as you read them, however, if you follow them – the success rate of not going back is quite high. If you simply break up every time there is a fight that escalates with no plan in place, then usually you will get back together and you find yourself in a “here we go again” spin.
If you are in an addictive, toxic relationship and you do not make a plan to leave, you may eventually get thrown into withdrawal when they leave you. And, withdrawal is typically much harder to overcome when they leave you.
This is the choice and, it is yours. Do you stay or do you go…
Managing and Tolerating Love Withdrawal
To heal in withdrawal, it is best to start by understanding the relationship from a place of reality. How was this relationship supportive to you? What was your day-to-day life really like? Were you happy often or did you spend a lot of time wishing things could be different? Were you financially responsible? Understanding your withdrawal process is crucial to being able to begin to calm down your nervous system.
If you are experiencing withdrawal from an addictive relationship, then you can take these steps to move through it and start your healing process:
Step 1) First, start with sitting with the pain. This is the hardest step for most people. It is especially difficult to be present when you are in deep pain. Surround yourself with safe people and try not to stuff the pain down or use unhealthy behaviors to try to drown it out. It will come out sideways if you do.
Step 2) Try to not judge your feelings, thoughts, and wants. Be aware of them and breathe with them. Get help and have someone who guides you through this process if you feel you need additional support beyond your friends and family.
Step 3) Remember, you are worthy of love. And the most powerful love comes from within you. Spend time increasing your love for yourself. Love your uniqueness, your views, your personality, and your gifts.
Step 4) Identify ways you would like to express the best in yourself and take actions that reflect your best self. Remember, you deserve to be treated with respect.
Step 5) Be open and willing to change. Real recovery starts with healing and repairing yourself. This means dealing with feelings, grieving, and healing from past wounds. Healing allows you to reconnect to yourself with self-compassion and self-love.
Step 6) Begin making those changes… work on self-love and healing yourself. This process is about your recovery. You may need to begin a workout routine, eat healthier, and possibly move to a new house or apartment. If you are ending a long-term relationship, there are often many moving parts to beginning your new life.
Step 7) Once you have started to heal yourself, then you can empower yourself with understanding the wants and needs that are unique to you to engage in a new romantic relationship. Stay true to YOU!
If you think you are in withdrawal from an addictive relationship, you must give yourself time to heal.
This is also the time to build up your confidence and self-esteem. Take time to read inspirational books, try new activities, or change your routine and your life. The important thing is not to blame yourself for the relationship ending, as this prolongs the emotional withdrawal period.
Remember, you are worthy of happiness and love, and a healthy relationship. Stay optimistic and know that with the right support and self-care, you too can have a secure attachment and a healthy loving relationship.
Withdrawal With A PIVOT Coach
At PIVOT, we understand how difficult it can be to cope with the effects of love withdrawal. We offer evidence-based strategies and techniques to help you start your healing process. Our experienced coaches work collaboratively with you to identify healthy ways of dealing with unbalanced, unfulfilled, and addictive relationships.
We will help you to identify patterns in your love life, build self-confidence and self-esteem, learn healthier ways of connecting with others, and establish healthy boundaries. We also provide tools to manage emotions more effectively and work through the pain of abandonment or choosing withdrawal.
Reach out today and our team will help you build a game plan to navigate the pain that you are experiencing. We are here to support you. Contact our admissions team today!