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"Why I couldn't let go of my ex" (and you probably feel the same): A trauma bonding experience

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Breakups can be incredibly challenging, and I know first-hand what it feels like to struggle with moving on from an ex-partner. Personal disclosure: years ago, I was in the throes of a trauma bond and although I could "see it", I couldn't seem to let go. I knew the relationship would eventually end (and by end, I mean it would have either been a simple break up or I was going to take my own life because I could no longer handle it). Thankfully, I got out of it alive despite it being a very painful breakup.

What was most challenging was that even though I felt relief that the relationship was over, I still could not let go of the relationship and found myself yearning for it again. I was actually WANTING to engage in self-sabotaging behaviour by entering back into the toxic cycle. It was almost like I was wanting to revive it beyond the grave and couldn't see past it. As much as this was true for me - I bet it is true for some of you too.

In this blog post, I aim to explore the psychological aspects that contribute to our lingering feelings and provide insight into the question that many of us ask ourselves: "Why am I not over my ex-partner?"

  1. The Power of Attachments Styles: Our attachment styles play a significant role in how we navigate relationships, and if you have got an anxious attachment style - this can make it particularly challenging to separate yourself from your partner. Somehow you associate your self-worth with how someone is treating you. If your partner treats you well, you feel good about yourself and you believe you are worthy. If your partner treats you poorly, you believe you are not worthy of love - or that you have to work extra hard to be loved. The truth is - how other people treat you is down to them, not a reflection of your worth. When ending a relationship, we yearn for our ex-partner as a way of gaining validation for our self-worth, and if they are not there to validate it, we end up feeling lost and confused. So, I invite you to ask yourself: was this really love with the person in front of me, their characteristics and values, or was I attached with them to make me feel better, like I was valid and worthwhile?

  2. The Power of Emotional Attachments: Human beings form deep emotional attachments. The emotional bond shared, the memories created, and the love once felt leave a lasting impact. It's natural to experience a mix of emotions, including love, sadness, and nostalgia, which can make it challenging to move on. With this, we see the person through rose tinted glasses and we become more in love with the idea of the relationship, rather than seeing the facts for what it really is - how you feel, how you are treated, and how you interact. Check in with yourself: Did I feel valued, respected, and honoured in this relationship, or was I more in love with the idea of who my partner could be?

  3. Unresolved Emotions and Grief: Going through a breakup involves a grieving process, and it's important to acknowledge and allow ourselves to mourn the loss of the relationship. Like me, you might experience range of emotions such as heartache, disappointment, and a sense of loss. It takes time to heal wounds and find closure. Each person's journey is unique, and it's crucial to give ourselves permission to process our emotions at our own pace.

  4. Roles and Identities: When in a relationship (especially if you have either anxious, avoidant, or disorganised attachment styles), your identity becomes intertwined with the relationship and your partner. You change your behaviours based on their needs and what you feel would be important to making the relationship work. You may mute yourself and amplify your partner, or you may work harder to please them. Whatever it is you do, you slowly shift with respect to your roles and identity, making it difficult to imagine who you were outside of the relationship. Rediscovering your individuality and building a strong sense of self is vital in the healing process.

  5. Seeking Professional Support: Recognizing that your struggle to move on may significantly impact your well-being is vital. Seeking professional support from a therapist can allow you to to explore your emotions, understand the patterns at play, and you can receive guidance on how to effectively navigate the healing process.

Moving on from a past relationship is a personal and complex journey, and it takes time and self-reflection to heal. By understanding the psychological factors that contribute to our attachment, acknowledging our emotions, and seeking support, we can begin the process of healing and eventually find ourselves ready to embrace new possibilities. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and with time and self-compassion, you will heal and create a brighter future. If you found this useful, please do me 2 favours. Please have a look at my free e-book here which can help you improve your relationship and heal trauma bonding. Second, please share with other people who you feel would benefit from this - because the more people supported, the better our community can survive and heal.

As always, if you ever want to connect and gain support - I'm here.

All my love, Dr Sarah

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