The essence of love never gets lost. Even when it dies, it transforms itself in the eternal dance of death and rebirth and rises like a phoenix out of the ashes.
But those of us who were broken up with, divorced, abandoned, cheated on, and narcissist-ized hold onto it firmly with both hands, stealing it away from death’s cold hands. We don’t let it die, we don’t want it transformed … we want it revived. So, we keep holding it in our arms, talking to it daily, pretending that it’s still alive — until it rots, becomes toxic, and poisons us.
I Was a Tragic Hero of Love
In 1992, two years before his death, ingenious filmmaker Louis Malle created the ultimate manifesto for romantic souls: “Damage.”
The movie portrays a high-ranking politician (played by Jeremy Irons) who falls in love with his son’s financeé. During the subsequent tragic affair, he inadvertently causes the death of his own son and gets dragged into an obsessive downward spiral of love, sex, and violence. Years later, he ends up in a small village, alone and degraded of all his titles, spending his last days looking at a life-sized image of the woman he loves, depicted on the wall of his one-room apartment.
For the longest time, this was me: sitting there, staring at the image of a long gone past, feeling all heroic, and sweet-talking to dead love.
It’s the ultimate romantic sacrifice, I told myself: slowly dying from this unearthly devotion for a woman — a love supreme that is both salvation and demise.
I was a tragic hero of love.
When Love Dies …
The minute your partner dissolves the relationship, an unwritten law comes into effect: you have to kill your love as well; it is expected of you.
While your partner doesn’t seem to have the slightest problem with it — they may have moved on while you were still together — we rightfully stand up and shout, “Objection!” Our love is alive and breathing. And we will fight for it, tooth and nail.
But as you are well aware, such a fighting attitude doesn’t come without consequences. We quickly realize that unrequited love equals pain and despair and leads us to a dark path.
Love doesn’t seem capable of existing on its own. Like the creatures in Aristophanes’ myth (in Platon’s Symposium), it roams the earth looking for its lost half … and its destiny.
So romantic, right? But come on, is that really true?
What “True Love” Really Is
Do you remember this feeling at the beginning of your relationship? This overwhelming, all-conquering, indestructible, reality-altering, ultimate drug called love?
Suddenly everything makes sense. Your life, your existence, the universe, God … BUT (again, you know it) how quickly can that all turn into its opposite? Which raises the ultimate question:
Was that really love in the first place, or were we just high on oxytocin?
There are many forms of love. There are many forms of unhealthy love. Sometimes the lines between these are blurry.
Allow me to paint you a beautiful picture, a suggestion what “real” love might look like. Out of the many perversions and permutations, there is but one form that we all must strive for. Was your love really that? Let's see …
“Authentic Love,” a Pipe Dream?
“Real Love” is better defined as “Authentic Love.”
“Authentic Love” comes from a place of absolute self-love, self-awareness, and self-respect. It is pure in itself because it sees a partner for what they actually are, loving them unselfishly and unconditionally for it.
The very definition also implies what love is NOT (all of these are signs of toxic love):
- It does not depend on what your partner does for you or how they make you feel.
- It is not a game of mutual blame for mistakes.
- It is not aggressive (passively or actively).
- It is not jealous.
- It is not a solution (or a panacea) for personal deep-wired self-insecurities.
So, how realistic is this? Isn’t it just a pipe dream?
That is what most people think because they have never experienced it or seen it themselves.
Today’s divorce rates are still very high (despite the fact that they’ve been declining. The traditional concept of marriage changed over the years; modern society, while connecting us globally and more efficiently, causes us to drift apart at the same time.
People don’t know what love is anymore.
Love was corrupted, seen through a diversity of distorted reflections illustrated by various mediums, from trashy romance novels to oversized wallboard advertisements to Disney-prince-on-a-white-horse fluff.
Where is the kind of love that keeps two people happily together for their whole lives? Where is the willingness to make things work despite the terrifying complexity of problems? The truth is, it’s harder and harder to find.
But why is that? Because love is too much of a hassle? Because we want things to be effortless and with no strings attached? Swipe left, and they're gone?
Are we “Tindering” our love lives?
The Mathematical Truth of Breakup Survival
When a partner leaves, there is an immediate mathematical imbalance:
YOU: Love = 1
EX: Love= 0
So, naturally, we are compelled to equal out the balance. Nature and all its creatures love balance.
But when we fail to bring the love back to our Ex, we realize that the only way to equal out the score is this:
YOU: Love – 1 = 0
This zero terrifies us and rightfully so. But eventually, we must realize that this is the ONLY way to survive and have a chance at happiness again, ever.
(More: Why You Must Un-Love Your Ex)
DON'T do this, and you will stare at the picture on the wall for your whole life.
It's sad to witness how many people don't get that. It is an essential mathematical and philosophical truth.
The Post-Relationship Toxic Love Trap
Most of the people out there trying to get over an Ex-Partner are trapped. We all make the same mistakes trying to defibrillate our love back to life, holding the paddles in both hands: we phone, we text, we drive by, and — as a contemporary way of doing the job — we Facebook-stalk.
Driven by panic, fear, and our good old friend, the Lizard Brain, we try to fight and flight our way back into their arms … even though it dawned on us a while ago that it might be futile.
Then we stop.
But we continue to do it in another, more perfidious way. We keep the fight in our minds. We go back to every single moment we’ve ever spend together. We look for clues, explanations, or hints that it isn’t over. We tell love, Look, there was a happy moment, look what they did for us there, listen to what they said here … please, just open your eyes …
But it won’t.
Granted, it might be a ghoulish metaphor, but it perfectly depicts what we are doing in our obsessive overthinking while riding the emotional roller-coaster.
It poisons us slowly, thought by thought, while we have false epiphanies that pull us only deeper into the dark quicksand.
But the real danger is what comes after that.
The “WHY” Is What Chains Us
We inevitably come to the conclusion that we killed love. And if we could kill such a lovely, innocent, little thing like love, then we must be:
- Not worthy.
- Not lovable.
- Not relationship suitable.
- An evil person to the core.
Such a mindset swirls us into a vicious vortex of self-doubt, self-hate, and bitterness toward the world, the future, relationships, and love. I know from experience how hard it is to escape from this.
And this is also the moment when the love we hold onto so firmly diseases us.
Why have I met so many people over the years (I’ve been doing this since 2005) who were suffering for such a long time, long after their breakup or divorce — such an unnecessarily long time?
Because they were poisoned by death love.
It’s ALIVE … Isn’t It?
But here comes the crux of the matter, the very questions that can make or break your recovery:
Isn’t love immortal? How could it die? Was it there in the first place?
Your individual answer to those questions is what will fuel your recovery. You have to figure it out on your own — a unique, profound, personal interpretation of it.
When I was at this point in my own recovery, I eventually came to the conclusion that our love was real. It was beautiful, fulfilling, and transformational. But then it died for the both of us. She was quick to bury it and back to her it came.
I, for one, took so much longer to understand and admit it. I was captured by the WHY and fought with it for a long time. But when I finally did get it, I immediately saw the beauty in all of it. I understood the essence of the myth of the Phoenix.
Is your love alive or is it not?
If it hurts, then it’s not love. It’s as simple as that.
It’s something else, and you have to let it go. Clinging to it will lead to narcissism, codependency to a false SELF, and becoming bitter and cynical.
One-sided post-relationship love will lead to toxic emotional side-effects.
The Solution: How to Un-love and Detox Yourself
The solution to this mess is evident: un-love yourself ASAP and preserve the pure essence of authentic love so you can have it again with future partners.
Undergo an Ex-Detox.
The theory is evident, but how do you actually do it? What is the operational procedure that will rid you of the love you feel toward your Ex? Is there a pill you could take or a machine you could climb into (like in the movie, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) that will make you forget your Ex?
In my experience in coaching thousands of people, the only way to do this sustainably is the hard way: head down and pull through it.
There is no easier way — no pill, no machine. You have to push through the pain. Head on. Even if it's a granite wall, you have to run it down with your head.
Of course, there are ways to keep the suffering to a minimum.
For example, a proven and tested tool to do this is following the No-Contact Rule, eliminating the source of your suffering. At the same time, work on reconnecting with your true self.
But don’t kid yourself; despite all the tricks I can show you to help you go through it quicker, it’s hard. Really hard. It might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, no matter your age. But it’s the only way to rid yourself of the emotional toxins that will keep you from independence and happiness.
It’s the only way to bury the love you feel, mourn it, and keep the seed of “Authentic Love” within yourself … and see it rise anew in a different, better shape.
Authentic love will ALWAYS attract its equal.
“In order to rise from its own ashes a phoenix first must burn.”
― Octavia E. Butler
I have made all the mistakes after my own breakup that you can make. I’ve cradled death love and it poisoned me.
I sat there for such a long time, glaring at the huge metaphorical picture on my wall, seeing nothing else than her. I cut myself off life, trying to breathe life into a love that needed to be put underground.
I will forever be thankful for the moment, that spark of insight that was implanted into myself by another person’s helpful hand, enabling me to finally admit to myself that our love had died.
It was the one significant single insight that created a huge leap in my recovery, sending me on the voyage to independence … and eventually finding the love of my life, born out of the seed I carried within myself. The love I live today.
To get there yourself, here’s what you MUST do:
Go and bury your love.
Find the seed of “Authentic Love” within yourself. Give it the freedom and opportunity to be reborn, and have faith that it will.
Raise your glass with me, and let’s celebrate … love is dead, long live love.