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How to heal a broken heart

Jesse Martin

August 12, 2012

In the sections on dealing with a breakup I gave you tools to survive the day-to-day challenges of a breakup. Now it's time to give you some tools to concentrate on how to heal your broken heart.

As painful as breakups are, not all relationships are meant to last. In fact, the younger you are when you get married, the higher the probability you will divorce later on. You have to cut your teeth on a few committed relationships before you are ready to settle down.

You have to cut your teeth on a few committed relationships before you are ready to settle down.

This will teach you what your type is and what your relationship criteria are. It will help you see if you have any history issues that need addressing. As you mature and really get to know yourself, you acquire a better dating radar and a greater capacity to be in a healthy love bond. That’s certainly something worth waiting for.

Why Relationships End

It is important to understand why relationships in general, end. It will help you analyze what went wrong in yours, and think about what you want or don't want in future relationships.

Understanding is the keystone of getting over a break up and healing a broken heart. Understanding yourself, but also understanding why your relationship ended. This will give you insight into what you do and do not want in future relationships.

There are a host of reasons relationships end, here are some of the most frequently occurring reasons:

  • Infidelity
  • Financial and career difficulties
  • Sexual and intimacy problems
  • Addictions
  • Disagreement over commitment timeline
  • Quarter life crisis
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Parenting stress
  • Growing apart
  • Falling in love with someone’s potential
  • Family enmeshment

For 16 years John Gottman studied the reasons why some marriages worked and others didn't. He claimed he could predict - when any of four key behaviors were displayed - the demise of any relationship.

  1. Criticism. Repeatedly attacking your partner’s personality or character rather than focusing on the actual behavior that bothers you and discussing it in a mature and effective fashion.
  2. Contempt. Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intent to cause harm. Openly disrespecting them. This includes namecalling and cursing, hostile behavior or body language and put downs.
  3. Defensiveness. Needing to defend yourself whenever you perceive your partner is criticizing you. Always disagreeing with what your partner is saying, or rebutting their complaint with one of your own.
  4. Stonewalling. Withdrawing from the relationship, refusing to discuss something, or physically disappearing.

Action Steps

Do any of these strike a chord? Do you recognize any of the above observations? If so, delve deeper and explore the history and underlying themes of your relationship.

Why We Love

Today it is widely believed that our personalities are formed based on three factors: biology, psychology and socialization. We are most impressionable  as very young children. During this period we were continuously defining our personality, being influenced by a combination of genetic, emotional and social/cultural forces.

As a young child you must develop a secure relationship with at least one primary caregiver for a healthy social and emotional development.

Absence thereof will cause psychological and social impairments that will affect how someone feels about themselves, who they choose as a romantic partner and how they operate in that relationship.

Your relationships with your parents falls within an attachment spectrum that encompasses three distinct styles in decreasing order of 'healthiness':

  1. Assured attachment: Close caring relationship with both parents
  2. Ambivalent attachment: Parents do not attach, connect or feel intimacy as easily
  3. Avoidant attachment: Disconnected, conflicted and chaotic relationship

Identifying which attachment style best describes your upbringing holds many clues. It might explain why you picked your ex as your love partner, how you behaved in the relationship, and your breakup behavior.

As we grow up we develop an orientation to new attachment figures, both friends and lovers, who have remarkably similar personalities or traits as our original caregivers.

When we search for partners, we unconsciously select those who have similar unfavorable traits that our ambivalent or avoidant parents had. We then hope to change them to fill the emotional void in ourselves. This is called repitition compulsion.

Why Hearts Get Broken: Bad Breakups

If you come from an ambivalent or avoidant family, your parents were not always there for you. When we are young and innocent and experience hurt or rejection from our parents, it is agonizing. This is our first experience with loss and we call it emotional abandonment. Because we are children and don't know how to deal with this, we dissacoiate ourselves from those awful feelings and push them deep down inside of us.

If you participate from repetition compulsion and have early unidentified early abandonment issues, you are primed to suffer a horrific double abandonment during a breakup. Namely, the old unresolved loss from your emotionally abandoning parents and the brand new abandonment from your current lover.

Thus your old wounds - which you might not have been aware of in the first place - are now ripped open and fully exposed. This is condition called abandonment depression and we know it as a broken heart.

If you feel you are suffering from repetition compulsion and abandonment depression, the best breakup advice I can give you is acknowledging your old wounds and allowing them to heal. This is the key to healing a broken heart.

Healing involves dissecting your emotional baggage and exploring the underlying themes in your relationship.

Support System

During a breakup it's important to take time to be alone and reflect on yourself and your relationship. The most important piece of breakup advice I can give you, however, is to spend time with friends and family that support you while getting over a breakup.

Spend time with friends and family that support you while getting over a breakup


Friends will help you blow off steam, improve your sense of well-being and provide distraction. Spending time with positive, happy people will have a contagious effect on you.

Reaching out to friends might involve getting disappointed. But this is a good opportunity to reassess your friendships and work on having healthier ones going forward.

Some friends are better for support, others are better for distraction. You need both!

Remember, asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness

Don't rely on one person too heavily and always thank your friends for their time. Friendship is giving and taking - try to reciprocate their interest and ask them about their lives too.


Another place to start building your support network is your family. Family ties can help you a lot with healing a broken heart. Again, this is a good opportunity to reassess your family relationships.

Try and understand why they reacted to your breakup as they did, and how that fits into the bigger picture. Understanding your role in your family, and the influence your family relationships have had on you, will be central to your understanding and a keystone to getting over a break up.

Parents don't always know how to respond or how to be useful during emotional distress - try and communicate clearly what you need from them

Action Steps

  • Reach out to one friend to be your pillar throughout the breakup. Someone you can call when you are feeling down or when you feel the urge to call your ex.
  • Reach out to three friends and take the opportunity to go out and reconnect with them

Understanding the Causes

Understanding is important, because it helps you become familiar with yourself. Once you're familiar with yourself, you can evaluate your mate selection and relationship behaviors.

Every breakup has certain 'official' superficial reasons. A specific incident or a certain fight that set things off. You and your ex are probably aware of this, but in reality, it's only scratching the surface.

There is also a real reason. An underlying motive. A theme that has been going on for a lot longer in your relationship. The breakup is likely only a symptom of this larger theme. Real growth comes from dissecting and understanding this theme.

Once you understand the dynamics of your relationship, the root causes of the breakup, the next step is taking accountability. Taking personal accountability for your part in your breakup is one of the most important steps towards fully healing a broken heart.

I hope this article has helped you heal your broken heart! Let me know in the comments, I LOVE hearing from readers!

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