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How to Fix a Broken Heart

Breaking up is never easy, but there are ways to make it more bearable.

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Lovelorn columnists hear all the reasons couples break up.

Maybe the meeting with the parents didn't go as planned. Maybe one person has expectations the other just can't fill.

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Or, perhaps one party is beginning to feel anxious about where the relationship is going – or the other person expects it to go.

Reasons Hearts May Break

There are so many reasons people get together, sighs Elayne Savage, PhD, a relationship coach and author of Breathing Room-Creating Space to Be a Couple. "They may need to fill a need in their life. Whether or not the person fills that need, half of the couple may continue to see the world through rosy glasses. Thus the couple may stay together longer than they should," she says.

Having unrealistic expectations also can doom a relationship, Savage says. "Some people will want certain things, not find them in a person, and sort of make the person a 'fixer-upper' and try to create those qualities in the person. Pretty soon, the person resents it as does the person doing the fixing."

Savage also says some people confuse nurturing with intimacy. Cuddling or a backrub, she says, may be caregiving more than intimacy.

Who suffers more, men or women?

"More men commit suicide over a lost relationship than women do," Jean Cirillo, PhD, a psychotherapist and consultant to TV reality shows in Long Island, N.Y., tells WebMD. "It's harder for them, when they have formed an attachment, to leave on terms other than their own."

"Women take a breakup easier," syndicated columnist and psychologist Joyce Brothers, PhD, tells WebMD. "Women are more tuned to their feelings and know it's coming. It doesn't hit them like a ton of bricks.

"Also," Brothers notes, "women have more people to talk to, their hairdresser, aunt, even a taxi driver. "Women get over a breakup -- but never get over comparing themselves to the woman the guy ends up with."

"It's harder being the dumpee," Sandra Reishus, MHS, a clinical sexologist and relationship coach and author of Oh NO! I've Become My Mother, tells WebMD. "If you are the dumpee, your self-worth comes into play."

Cirillo says she agrees, but adds that if the reason for the breakup is that the person is physically or emotionally abusive, you should be the dumper for sure. "Mutual agreement is best," she says. "Each person should feel he or she got something from the relationship." But, she adds, "The dumpee can usually negotiate more and get more from the breakup."

Savage says that your past history and age can be a gauge of how much a breakup hurts and how long the recovery period will be. "Hurts stockpile over the years," she says. "You feel victimized if you are the dumpee," she adds. "It hurts more if you are the victim."

But, "Just because two people can't get along, Cirillo says, "doesn't mean there is anything wrong with either of them."

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