The book Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love does a fabulous job explaining why romantic relationships are addictive. If you’re searching for tips on how to break your addiction to a toxic relationship, your first step is to understand how love affects your brain chemistry.
“When you fall in love, it sets your limbic system ablaze,” writes Dr Lisa Marie Bobby in Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex. “You go through a process that essentially addicts you to another person on a primal level, in parts of your brain that are much deeper and older than your neocortex. This isn’t your fault and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you. This is what you were built to do. But its’ why you feel so powerless to control the feelings you have for your ex.”
Breaking your addiction to a toxic relationship is crucial to moving forward with your life. And, your willpower alone won’t heal your broken heart — or rewire your brain so you fall “out of love”! You need to understand what’s happening in your brain and body. Then, you’ll find it much easier to cope with the feeling that you’re addicted to your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband.
My most commented-on blog post is 5 Ways to Stop Obsessing About Him. If you read through the comments, you’ll see how difficult it is to break an addiction to a toxic relationship. And, you’ll see yourself in those stories. If you’re struggling to break your addiction to a toxic ex, you’ll find support and understanding here. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
3 Tips for Breaking Your Addiction to a Toxic Ex Relationship
“Love is a biologically rooted experience that exists beyond the influence of consciousness and outside of the direct control of your neocortex,” writes Bobby in Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex. “It is not verbal. The commands love issues from the irrational, primitive, and dark nooks and crannies of your brain can possess you entirely, without your permission or intention. Love has a life of its own. Love is a drive.”
1. Be aware of the power of addiction
Love is a powerful “drug” that affects your brain in deep, primal ways. You literally feel addicted to someone you love — especially if you can’t be with him. And, you know how difficult it is to break an addiction to anything (smoking, drinking, shopping, gambling, eating) — why would breaking an addiction to an ex love relationship be any different?
Think of all the support that is needed to break an addiction to eating, gambling, or drugs. Support groups, counseling, in-patient programs, certain types of food (eg, Nicorette gum to help people quit smoking), and even prescription medications are used to break addictions. That’s because addiction is powerful. It’s important to realize that falling in love, breaking up, and healing your broken heart — toxic relationship or not — is similar to breaking an addiction to any type of substance.
It’s painful and difficult to break your addiction to a toxic relationship because that person has literally changed your brain chemistry. Getting through a breakup when you’re still in love is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
But wait, there’s good news! Just because you feel addicted to your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband right now doesn’t mean you’ll always feel this way. Take heart, have hope! Maybe even dig into your faith and belief in God. That’s the love that conquers all.
2. Learn how love affects your brain
“Because love is so vital to every aspect of our reproductive success, we have love-inducing machinery hard-wired into our brains,” writes Bobby in Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex. “In fact there are old, deep, and specific structures and neural systems in our brains that are built for this very purpose, ready and waiting to flare into action…and when the light of romantic love begins to glow, it is very difficult to turn off.”
Understanding what’s happening in your brain chemistry after a breakup — even if you don’t feel addicted to a toxic love relationship — will help you heal. When you get a glimpse of the underlying biological processes, you’ll see that your feelings are a symptom. You feel addicted to your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband because your hormones are adjusting to the withdrawal of that person. You’re struggling to break your addiction because you wanted more than a relationship: you wanted security, comfort, and long-term love.
Even if you’re not recovering from a toxic breakup or relationship, you’re still grieving a very painful experience. Learning how love is addictive — how it affects your brain chemistry and wiring — will help you move on. You’ll feel more in control and empowered. You’ll understand what’s happening in your body, which will reassure that you’re normal. And that this, too, will pass.
3. Learn how to stop being consumed by love
This third tip on how to break your addiction to a toxic love relationship isn’t in Bobby’s book. It’s from my research and experience with healing your heart without relationship closure.
If you need help moving forward...
I’ve learned that when we pin all our hopes and dreams on one thing: a person, relationship, possession, job or child, we’ll be destroyed. That person or thing can’t hold up under the weight of all our hopes and dreams! We can’t make one person, relationship, or thing the center of our lives. They’ll fail us in some way — even if they’re a good person, even if they love us and would never do anything to hurt us. They simply can’t be everything to us.
Have you made a man or relationship the center of your life?
Don’t put that pressure on him, because nobody can bear the burden of being your “everything.” It’s not humanly possible for him to be everything to you, and it’s not fair to expect that from any person, relationship, or thing. This isn’t even about struggling to break an addiction to a toxic relationship. It’s about being a whole, healthy, smart woman whose life isn’t just about a relationship.
Your comments are welcome below! Are you consumed by a breakup, or struggling with addictive thoughts about a toxic relationship? Are you devastated by your ex-boyfriend or ex-husband’s betrayal or departure? Writing about your feelings and experience may help you move forward in your life.
Read Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex to learn more about the addictive effect of love after a breakup. Dr Lisa Marie Bobby does an excellent job of explaining the biological process of a brain in love. This insight will help you heal after breaking up with someone you love — even if it wasn’t a toxic relationship.
You’ll also find How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets and Practical Tips for Healing Your Heart After a Breakup helpful. I collected different types of tips for moving on, to help women of all ages and life stages heal after a breakup.
May you find hope and healing for your broken heart. May you listen to the still small voice of God, who is calling you to look upwards and outwards to Him. He is waiting — and He has the answers and peace you’re searching for. Jesus is the only truth that will set your heart free, the only source of love and joy that will lift your spirits.
Take time to hear God’s voice. Spend quiet time alone, searching your soul and listening for the Roar of Something Greater. You’ll find Jesus there, and you’ll never be the same.