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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Relationship Breakup: 11 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Functioning

Relationship breakups can be one of the most painful and distressing experiences of our life. Unfortunately, following a breakup some of us are flooded with the most useful and often ridiculous advice from others regarding how we “should be dealing with the breakup”. Interestingly, not all the advice we receive are from close personal friends and family but acquaintances, onlookers, and even strangers. As with matters of the heart there is no real answer surrounding how to manage negative feelings surrounding a breakup. All breakups are unique and specific to the partners involved. Some would suggest obtaining “closure” from your partner so you can process the loss of the relationship and be able to move on. However, sometimes a partner may not be able to or unwilling to answer question about the relationship once it has ended. Keep in mind, if a partner is able to answer questions about why he/she wants to end the relationship does it make you feel any better?

Being in love can elevate dopamine activity in the reward pathway of the brain, meaning we experience pleasure just by being with our partner, almost like a drug. Interestingly, oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” because it appears to be elevated in people in relationships, and it has been linked to feelings of trust and connection in humans.

When a relationship ends it can often feel like death, therefore, like most significant losses the end of the relationship should be mourned. Mourning a loss is a natural process that allows you to put a stamp on the envelop and mail it away. Mourning the loss of someone or something significant in your life is not easy as there will be recognizing there is a loss and needed adjustment to allow appropriate change. However, if you find you are having difficulty returning to “normal” or you no longer find enjoyment in the people and things you once enjoyed it may be time talk to a professional about depression.

Warning Signs that your Breakup May Have Unhealthy Functioning:

  • You no longer find joy in the people or things you once enjoyed
  • You are engaging in self-isolating behaviors
  • You tend to ruminate on the good aspects of the relationship rather than acknowledging what was wrong in the relationship.
  • Significant changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • You have an overwhelming feeling that you are incomplete without your ex
  • You can’t seem to stop going on your ex’s social media pages, monitoring his/her every move
  • You place multiple calls or leave several messages for your ex after being told to stop contacting them
  • You continue to speak about your relationship in the present tense well after it has ended
  • You are willing to do anything just to have contact with your ex, e.g., sexual contact hoping for the return of the relationship
  • You show up at places just to have an opportunity to “run into’ your ex
  • You question his/her friends about your ex’s love life, e.g., is he/she dating someone new, etc.

Ways to Manage Negative Feelings Associated with a Breakup Include:

  • Spending time with close friends and family
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • Going to social events
  • Incorporating a healthier lifestyle, e.g., exercise
  • Identifying, learning, and accepting your previous relationship has ended
  • Dating again without the pressure of having to replace your ex

Relationships can be both fulfilling and exciting, however, some will not be able to stand the test of time. If you find you are emotionally struggling with the loss of a relationship, have marked difficulty returning to some sort of normalcy, or have difficulty accepting the loss of the relationship, it may be time to seek professional counseling to help you manage negative feelings associated with significant loss.

Relationship Breakup: 11 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Functioning

Bates-Duford, Ph.D., LMFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, LMFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2018). Relationship Breakup: 11 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Functioning. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 May 2018
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