Love hurts

Love is the light of our everyday lives. But how do we find the zest for life and tranquillity if the flame of love dies? Is it simply possible to stop loving – and therefore suffer – when we lose a loved one, or when a relationship despite every effort makes us unhappy?

Only in recent years has this issue been taken up by science. Romantic stress is the term for the suffering and physical problems which occur through disappointment in or lack of love, problematic relationships, separation and loss.

Suffering because of love is to a certain extent normal and acceptable. It enables people to learn and develop. However, if this suffering becomes too painful and affects our physical and mental health then the sufferer or related persons should seek help. It should be clear that no one should feel ashamed of suffering from the sorrows of love. If this pain is recognised, not repressed, and actively dealt with it is possible to overcome it.

The forms of romantic stress:

Separation and abandonment
We all know about the fear of being left, of being alone. According to the teachings of psychoanalysis, we experience ‘being left’ for the first time at birth when we lose the unity with our mother’s body. Later in life, when someone we love leaves us, we relive this primal fear, this feeling of being totally alone in the world. And these feelings are controlled by certain neurotransmitters in the body.

Fragile and complicated love torments us with our own fears and desires. Who has not experienced the alternation between deep sadness and elation, that queasy feeling in the stomach, not being able to sleep or to concentrate on the task at hand? It is said that ‘time heals all wounds’, but often the wounds of heartache only heal superficially. An inner void remains which drains us, and robs of balance and concentration for life. Under these circumstances, it feels as though only the loved one – the “object” of our love – could save us … but this is and remains out of reach. So you continue, with the cutting feeling of heartache, to be alone and misunderstood.

Relationship crises
Romantic love is a physiological phenomenon, as is life itself. At the very moment we fall in love, our own existence is fully absorbed by the ‘object of our love’. Our bodies form a veritable firework of neurotransmitters, thus forming feelings of euphoria, idealization, exaggeration, and an obsessive desire for the one we love. In this state of intoxication we feel that this love will last forever, but after a while this ship in which our lives sail together can run aground on the dryness of daily existence. Couples feel they have reached a dead end, without any orientation. It is difficult to find the right direction for the relationship, strength and motivation decline. In such cases, the support of neurotransmitters can return the necessary energy in order to sail on together.

Unrequited love
To love is beautiful, but to be loved is much more beautiful. Unrequited, one-sided love remains unfulfilled and this rejection can lead sooner or later to disappointment, personal self-doubt and deficits which can end in physical problems. These feelings of attachment to the loved one are based on a lack of specific, exactly-defined neurotransmitters.

Jealousy and obsessive love
Anxiety and uncertainty, fear of loss are feelings which can devour us. Does he/she love me or is there someone else in his/her life? Are they eyeing our loved one with admiration or even desire? Jealousy is possessiveness which brings only suffering to oneself and others, as well as feelings of guilt. Fear of losing the loved one makes any kind of relationship creating activity on behalf of the partner seem suspicious, and puts increasing pressure on the partner. It is possible to detect these strong feelings in endogenous substances in the blood, and therefore they can be positively influenced.

Anger, emptiness, helplessness, ‘not willing to admit the truth’, the desire to escape pain – again and again we live through what the lost loved one meant to us. We are tormented by guilt and sadness about things not said or done when the loved one was still with us, or still alive. Ultimately, we often realise that it is entirely impossible to perceive the emotional significance, or even accept such a loss. Someone in this situation is fortunate to be close to, and have the support of friends and relatives.