How to Recover from Relationship Withdrawal

The familiar cliché that “love is a drug” has a basis in physical reality. Romantic love produces dopamine which stimulates the mesolimbic reward system in the brain. People in love become dependent on their lovers much as addicts become addicted to drugs. When one person in a relationship decides to break-up with the other, the rejected partner goes through a period resembling withdrawal. They may suffer from depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, obsessive thoughts and cravings for the love they have lost. If you’ve recently been spurned, there are several things you can do to help ease the withdrawal symptoms and accelerate the recovery process.

Avoid Any Attempt at Contact

Once you have tied up loose ends in the relationship and recovered any of your possessions, cease all contact with your ex. Do not phone, text, email or drop by their house. People who have been rejected often go through a period of denial, even when their ex has left them for someone else. They convince themselves that if they say the right thing in a phone call or email, their lost love will come rushing back to them. In their desperation, they interpret a distantly polite, mildly annoyed response as a cause for hope. This only sets them up for further disappointments. The sooner you cut off channels of communication, the sooner you can begin to heal a broken heart.

Get Rid of Reminders

Gather together all the gifts given to you by your former lover and give them away to charity. Burn or shred any Valentines or love letters. Do not play albums or songs that you used to enjoy together. Avoid places you went together on dates. Surrounding yourself with bittersweet reminders of what you have lost will only prolong your agony. Letting go of love tokens will help you to convince yourself that the relationship is really over.


When you’re depressed, you’re naturally inclined to curl up on the couch, but try to motivate yourself to exercise. If you find yourself sitting around thinking gloomy thoughts while waiting for the phone to ring, get up and go for a walk around the block. Plan outdoor physical activities to fill up your time at the weekends. Arrange a game of badminton or a bike ride with friends. Exercise produces mood-lifting chemicals in the brain which will make your situation seem less desperate. In addition, it will help you to lose weight and gain muscle tone. Your romantic future will seem brighter when you feel more attractive.

Try New Activities

Do something you’ve never done before. Sign up for an art class, learn a foreign language, join a choir or take ballroom dancing lessons. Choose any activity that interests you and will help expand your horizons. You’re less likely to dwell on your lost love when you’re fully engaged with something the two of you never did together. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet new people who never knew you and your ex as a couple. Finally, you’ll have a chance to discover hidden talents, acquire new skills and gain self-esteem.

Contemplate a Better Future

No matter how much in love you were with your former sweetheart, there must have been things about them that occasionally got on your nerves. If you were really perfect for each other, you would still be together. Accept your former relationship as a learning experience meant to prepare you for the next one. With your ex’s faults in mind, contemplate your ideal partner. Write down a list of traits you’ll be looking for when you return to the dating scene. Imagine what it will be like to find someone who adores you and appreciates you for who you are. Looking forward to a better future will help you to get over the past and begin to move on.

As you build a new active life for yourself, discover new interests and meet new people, your withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside. It may take weeks or months, but there will come a day when you stop obsessing about your ex and what went wrong in your relationship. Your energy will return and you’ll feel healthier both emotionally and physically. At this point, you’ll be ready to fall in love again when the right person comes along.


by A.C. Anschuetz