Today we have a question from a reader who had an affair for a year, which recently ended. She is having an extremely painful experience trying to get over this relationship and asks:

I am currently dating a man for 12 years and last January 2012, I met this man. We talked on the phone a lot, and since he was a carpenter, he said he could do some work for me. I knew that was just a way of getting to know me.

As time went on, he took me for drives and we had many fires in my firepit all summer long. Very romantic. I didn’t intend on cheating on my boyfriend, but I did. I feel like a very bad person because I have better morals than that.

Dec. 22 of 2012, I told this man that it had to be over. I was starting to get severe anxiety over it. I had a nervous breakdown and had to go to the hospital which my real boyfriend took me to. He has no clue that I had this affair and I can never tell him about it as he would be done with me and I don’t blame him for that.

I did fall truly in love with this other man and the breakup in Dec. has caused me severe anxiety with nausea. They first put me on tranquilizer and now I am on 20 mg of prozac. It has been 5 weeks today since the breakup with this man. I guess I have only been in the relationship for a year and really didn’t get intimate till this summer which I do mean we had sex. So it has been a year since I have known him.

How long do you think that I will get over this breakup? I am still with my boyfriend of 12 years but he doesn’t understand why I have severe anxiety. I told him it was over work and he seems to believe it. This has been really unbearable. And believe me I will never be unfaithful again.

Please give me some advice.

God Bless.

And our response:

There are a few pieces of advice/information I have to offer you.

Whenever the reaction to a relationship is so overwhelming and intense, you have to wonder what it’s dredging up from the past. Usually the type of symptoms you’re having where you are nauseous and so anxious you need hospitalization and medication as a result of a breakup have to do with some underlying attachment issues. That might go back to your family or other experiences in your younger years that left a wounding.

It may be that the reason this connection was so intense for you, even when you already have a longstanding boyfriend, is that this new person triggered to the surface wounds that your boyfriend does not. So there was a strong drive to explore and heal those together. When the relationship ended, it left those surfaced wounds raw and exposed along with the realization that they would not, at least at the moment, be healed in this relationship.

The best way to understand the symptoms you’re having may be to think of it in terms of withdrawal from an addiction, as we talked about in a previous piece on this site. I’m sure you can see how a lot of the cravings and feelings and other symptoms involved are analogous.

I highly recommend these books to help you understand that addictive nature of the situation.

How to Break Your Addiction to a Person by Howard Halpern How to Break Your Addiction to a Person by Howard Halpern – This book will help you make sense of and get through the withdrawal pain you’re feeling right now shortly after the breakup.
Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love by Pia Mellody Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love by Pia Mellody – Will help you explore the roots and pattern of the addictiveness.

Luckily, as with other types of withdrawal, if you have the proper support you need (which it sounds like you’re getting, at least to an extent) you can get through it and come out on the other side. But withdrawal is always a very painful difficult process that you have to take one day at a time.

One thing you might consider doing is looking for online forums of people going through relationship withdrawals as that might offer you somewhere that you can – anonymously if need be – get some support from people who recognize how painful this process can be.

As far as exactly how long it will take to get through that phase, as we’ve said in our article on the topic, it really isn’t worth asking that as focusing on that question is like watching a boiling pot. It is understandable to want to ask and try to figure it out, but it only keeps you locked into the feeling. Focus on getting through each day and processing the withdrawal, finding the support you need to get through it intact and the passing of the pain will come upon you like a sudden surprise one of these days. And whatever you do, if you are determined to move on, don’t have any contact with this other person, not even indirect contact like checking their online pages and so on. Focus anywhere else, as difficult as that might be.

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