A reader recently emailed me: “I’ve been involved with a married man for seven months. He says he loves me, but he won’t leave his wife and two kids. I can’t just walk away. I’m stuck, and I need some help.”
We all know that love can be addicting. We have crushes beginning in grade school. Years later, the hot lab assistant in Chem 10A is the object of our lust. We may even fall for someone who’s abusive, has a criminal record, lies or is a cheat. The intense feelings are remarkably similar.
Scientists now understand there’s a physiological connection between love and addiction. Research reported in the November 2012 issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology shows a significant overlap in the regions of the brain that are responsible for both emotional attachment and drug addiction.
Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult to leave a bad relationship.
Rationally, we realize we’re headed for a train wreck, yet we’re unable to alter our self-destructive path.
Guilt alone doesn’t end the relationship. In fact, forbidden, angst-ridden love can be more attractive than the safer, more predictable version.
Breaking free takes much more than willpower. It takes commitment and major life changes.
TIPS ON HOW TO END A BAD RELATIONSHIP
Cut off all communication. You can’t end the relationship if you maintain contact with the other person. Call it quits today. Don’t wait for a final conversation. And don’t worry about hurting your lover’s feelings. This relationship was bad from the beginning. It doesn’t merit a post-mortem.
Block phone calls and texts. It’s impossible to end a relationship if you keep getting messages on your iPhone. It’s also smart to take a break from Facebook.
Prevent physical encounters. If you work together, change jobs. If you belong to the same gym, join another one. Keep chance meetings to a minimum so emotional wounds can heal.
Develop a contingency plan. Decide beforehand how you’ll handle inevitable, difficult moments. You may tell yourself, “If I’m tempted to call him, I’ll call my best friend instead.” The more you rehearse these strategies, the more available they’ll be when you need them.
Join a new social circle. Actively seek out friends who don’t know your ex. They’ll fill your calendar with fun events. They also offer a chance for healthier relationships.
Be busy in the evenings. Nights can be long and lonely. They’re the times you’re most likely to relapse. Take a painting class, join a book group or help a buddy remodel his kitchen.
Create a support team. Now’s the time to lean on family and friends. Tell them what you need: “Can I call you when I’m lonely?” “Can we have lunch together once a week?” Allow them to pamper you. Be open to their advice.
Take a relationship break. DO NOT get involved in another relationship right away. A new fling may help mask the sadness, but it prevents you from addressing the issues that caused you problems in the first place. Resist the temptation and remain single.
Be patient. In the beginning, you’re apt to be lost and lonely, but those feelings will dwindle over time. Look ahead to next year when this attraction has faded and you’re feeling better about yourself.
Make better choices. Analyze what went wrong. Do you repeatedly fall for married men? Do you meet women in bars? Prevent future heartache by carefully testing the water before diving in.