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Love and Loss in Relationships

HalfheartWhether you believe in celebrating Valentine’s Day or not, the day serves as a reminder to many of the relationships they have lost or their lack of success in creating supportive relationships. The pain of being alone, for many,  is constantly present but may be more intense on a day that celebrates love.

Relationships can be a roller-coaster ride for the emotionally sensitive. Emotionally sensitive people often love fiercely and intensely. They also become hurt, angry and sad more quickly and more intensely than others do. Their emotions sometimes lead to relationships with lots of ups and downs.

They may love their partner or friend but frequently be so angry and hurt they cannot be around the person, perhaps over an issue that others do not understand. They may believe that they hate a person at a certain time and they do. They may believe they never want to speak with or see the person again. But those thoughts, based on feelings of hurt and anger, often fade after the emotions pass. Then they are often racked with shame that they pushed someone away.

Shame blocks relationships. Because of their shame, some have difficulty acknowledging that they acted on emotions that they no longer feel. That acknowledgement can seem like their feelings were wrong and that is invalidating of their experience, which was real and true to them at the time. They may believe that makes them “wrong” as a person, inadequate or broken. Actually, most often the emotionally sensitive are acting on a thought or experience that is completely understandable, but their reactions are more intense than others may be able to understand.

The loss of relationships can be traumatic. Sometimes the ups and downs that the emotionally sensitive experience end in the loss of a relationship. Others may become confused or frustrated with the emotional changes. The loss of a relationship is so painful for many that they often do not know how to cope. For some, they decide relationships aren’t worth the pain. They withdraw and avoid relationships. Others may blame themselves and feel deep anger that they aren’t able to maintain relationships. They then attempt to push their emotions down, attempting to not express them. They may succeed for a time. But emotions cannot stay pushed down without some consequence. For example, some individuals may “blow up,” and hate themselves for failing to keep their emotions in check. Pushed down emotions can also have other consequences such as health problems.

Loss of a relationship occurs for many other reasons. Sometimes it is the cycle of life, that everything changes and nothing is permanent but change. Loved ones may move away or die. There may be arguments that aren’t resolved or disappointments that aren’t forgiven.

Sometimes the emotionally sensitive experience a kind of traumatic reaction around relationships. Perhaps because of a history of lost relationships, perceived/actual rejections, an insecure or neglectful relationship with their parents, or other past experiences, the emotionally sensitive may be hyper-alert for any signs of  judgment, neglect, or discontent by others. This hyper-alertness is a part of protecting themselves but often leads to the very result they fear: the loss of a relationship. They may blame others or themselves, but the pain is intense either way.

Letting go of a relationship, regardless of the reason, is often one of the most difficult situations for the emotionally sensitive. When they have feel the loss of a relationship, the emotionally sensitive are in agony. They often describe themselves as feeling empty and alone. They long for the return of the relationship. Sometimes that longing is not logical but based on pure feeling. They want the relationship they had before the disruption that occurred.

The pain of not having it can be overwhelming. They may act in ways that are further destructive, such as repeated calling or defending themselves to salvage the relationship. They may also be self-destructive in trying to alleviate their pain.

A Few Coping Strategies

When suffering the pain of a loss of a relationship, distracting yourself is one way of coping. Finding a way to give yourself a break from the pain helps your resiliency. An activity that absorbs your attention is best. You may also remind yourself that though you think you will never recover, emotions do fade over time.

Finding comfort in others or providing comfort and compassion to yourself is important. Getting involved in helping others and focusing on being kind to others works for some. Seeking solace in spirituality and in finding meaning to the experience may help you cope until the pain is no longer so acute.

Finally, learning from the experience and developing new skills, whether in maintaining new relationships or in choosing people with whom to have relationships, may help change a repetitive pattern.

Creative Commons License photo credit: mcgeesmixtapes












Love and Loss in Relationships

Karyn Hall, PhD

Karyn Hall, Ph.D. is the owner/director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston and, an online educational program. She is a trainer/consultant with Treatment Implementation Collaborative ( as well as a therapist and certified coach.

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APA Reference
Hall, K. (2012). Love and Loss in Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2018, from


Last updated: 13 Feb 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Feb 2012
Published on All rights reserved.