The Ex-Factor


You and your ex have split. Your heart is torn in two and the only thing you can bare to watch is horror films. Public displays of affection make you want to vomit into your own lap and you’re plagued by visions of dying alone without even a cat to mourn over your lifeless body because they bring you out in hives.

The pain we feel in our chest and the pit of our stomach is literally heartache, even science has shown that paracetamol dulls the pain we feel when we are grieving a relationship.

No amount of self-help articles, chocolate, or fish in the sea to quell the pain in your heart and to top it all off you’re cutting up his clothes and he’s been in the pub for a week. But does this really need to happen, can there ever be an amicable breakup?

According to private clinical hypnotherapist Naomi Harvey from Brighter Day Therapy in Bristol: “Many people simply drift apart and become more like friends than boyfriend and girlfriend. In these circumstances, it can be an easy transition as often the sexual attraction has gone on both sides.”

But it’s the fatal attraction, the relationships that have the most passion, the ones to become the most toxic, which are the ones we can’t get over and lead to the most destruction afterwards.

Harvey says love is like a drug addiction, and breaking up with someone is a physical withdrawal: “Love is literally a crack to our brains. The high doses of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin that are kicked out in our brains when we spend time with a loved one gets our brains literally hooked on the high. We become addicted to love.”

Still, after three years of being together having just signed for a house, you wouldn’t expect to be dumped by text. Which is exactly what happened to pharmacist Melanie, 25: “He ended the relationship by text message saying he ‘didn’t love me anymore’. I found out around a month later that he had been seeing someone else behind my back and she had fallen pregnant.”

As break-up stories go, this one was something quite spectacular, and Melanie found it quite easy to go from upset to angry, even with her ex-beau’s father standing in the door of her house with her stuff. “I had thoughts where I wished he would die or something terrible would happen to him. I wanted revenge but also I felt guilty, so guilty that these things had happened right under my nose.”

Stopping yourself from sifting through the years you spent together, collecting evidence, data and results as to why the relationship went so sour can seem like an impossible task. Those of us who have been brutally dumped can be desperate to find some kind of closure. “After a couple of weeks I started to find out information about him and things that had happened during our relationship,” says Melanie. He had been coming onto her friends and even her younger sister.

According to Psychology Today, women initiate breakups more often than men, and when it comes to cheating partners, gender doesn’t play a role. So no man-bashing going on here, folks. “I feel he led a double life. I have fully dealt with what happened now, but I will never forgive him, or forget,” Melanie adds.

Often the exes that we never really get over are the ones who can push every one of our buttons. This level of emotion usually ends in a rollercoaster relationship and a lot of negativity, but this can be remembered as passion. “Passion is great but is often part of those relationships which are the most turbulent and are worst for us,” says Harvey.

Then we get down to the break-up sex, says Harvey. That earth-shattering, bed-rocking, one for the road. It’s like putting a plaster over a knife wound and hoping it heals. “Having ex-sex is likely to take you back to that high you had when you first got together. It’s safe, familiar but with that added excitement that you know it’s probably wrong, it’s a temporary fix and real life will kick in.”

Then there are the stereotypes to deal with. Women are more emotionally open, it’s acceptable to see them cry and see them vulnerable. “I have personally known a fair few male bunny boilers. Men do not tend to let it all out in a cathartic way and sadly this can often end in severe depression, anger outbursts or as we have seen, a high male suicide rate,” Harvey says.

For sales coach Danielle, 51, the end of her relationship led to unexpected – and unbelievable – consequences. She met her partner Jon at work, they were both newly divorced and she was 14 years younger than him. He was very charming and they got married within the year, “I think his narcissistic tendencies wanted the hottest new female on the sales team,” says Danielle.

Jon, however, had a problem with alcohol and he started to mentally abuse her, he spent all their money, running them into the ground. She decided to leave despite how much Jon protested, threatening her with his own life.

One night she received a call from the police asking is she was safe. “They said there’d been an incident at the house, the neighbour had been around and found an electric chop saw and Jon’s hand on the living room floor, but no sign of Jon. He went home, called the police and because his wife was a nurse she went round and found Jon having a cigarette on the back doorstep. It turns out he’d wrapped the stump up in plastic,” says Danielle.

Not all relationships end this dramatically, even though there is a lot of anger and hurt you can get to a place where you move on. Those that are good at self-compassion are usually the ones to move on quicker, like any grief you need time to heal and rehabilitate.

“They’ve sewn his hand back on,” says Danielle. “He’s moved to another town but we still get veiled threats and even my mother gets letters from “a concerned friend” threatening to tell everyone how I left him to die.”

***Names have been changed to protect identity***

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