Letting go of a relationship when it's over is painful
for most people, but in time the feelings fade and one
moves on with one's life. Most heartbroken singles meet
other prospects and begin new, and hopefully happier,
involvements. However, for some individuals, letting go and
accepting a relationship's over can be almost impossible.
"An inability to let go of a failed relationship is essentially about low self-esteem," says Johannesburg psychologist Jenni Avidon. "I see women who just won't let go, even when the signs clearly say the relationship's definitely – and permanently – over."
Self-destructive, and even suicidal, behaviour isn't
uncommon in women who can't put out an old flame.
Psychologist Cecile Gerricke has seen her fair share of
similar cases. "Recently I had to have a patient hospitalised for depression because her boyfriend broke off a 10-year relationship. She just couldn't handle it."
"Behaviour like this indicates an obsessive-compulsive disorder," says Jenni. "The mind's completely irrationally, focused only on thoughts and behaviour pertaining to the object of the obsession. Stalking, repetitive phoning, collecting paraphernalia and intrusive behaviour like breaking and entering a former lover's property are all examples of this.
It becomes a clinical disorder when the person can no longer see their own behaviour objectively and feels entitled to act in this way. They're often so deluded that they believe if they just try long enough – and love hard enough – their beloved will return."
"A woman like this can become really psychotic," adds
Cecile. "She'll harass the man, beg, plead and do anything
in her power to make him change his mind. In fact, the more
she does so, the more she frightens him and drives him away
– yet she can't understand this. In the process, she loses everything: her dignity, her pride and her courage.
"It's a sign of low self-esteem. Men really find such behaviour very unappealing and a huge turn-off."
Not all rejected women go to such extreme and obvious
lengths, though. Many simply recede into themselves and
carry their misery with them, eventually dooming all subsequent relationships by being unable to overcome the emotional baggage they've accumulated from the past.
Some of Jenni's female clients even go the surgical route to change their appearance and try to revive a man's interest. "I see so many women trying – all these desperate measures to make a man like them! In the end, what you do to yourself physically makes no difference
if a man's simply not into you. No matter how thin you are, how big your boobs are or how straight your hair is, he's just not interested. You can't force him to like you."
Cecile Gerricke says part of the insecurity driving women to obsess over men who leave them is a belief that they'll only be worthy of respect socially if they're part of a couple.
"Recently I've been working with an extremely high-powered
businesswoman who just can't let go of a relationship that ended a year or two ago. The irony is that the man is
someone really beneath her, almost a conman type, but she just can't see this.
"It's often a sexual thing that keeps a woman hooked in, as well as a fear of loneliness or social stigma. Some women feel they only amount to anything if there's a man by their side. In fact, they believe any man is better than no man."
"Women also sometimes refuse to let go of a man because they have a sense of being cheated. If they've invested time and effort into the relationship, they believe they're owed something," adds Jenni.
Just let it go
Ultimately, the experts agree that the only way to let go and move on is by loving yourself enough to give yourself a second chance at happiness with someone new.
"Do inner work on yourself so that your sense of worth isn't determined by someone else wanting you or loving you," advises Cecile. "Don't give your power away."
So, there you have it, sisters – if you're in an obsessive pattern, sit on your hands, tape up your mouth, cut off all contact and – whatever you do – don't call him! Let him go, and free yourself at the same time.
Remember the old, wicked wisdom: "The only way to get over one man is to get under another!"