The symptoms are often silent. Hand-wringing. Floor-pacing. Quiet tears. Obsessive thinking. Binge eating … or not eating at all.

Anyone who has ever had a romantic relationship go sour knows the physical and emotional aftermath of a breakup.

“Your whole world collapses,” said a New Orleans man in his mid-40s still reeling from the recent termination of a two-year relationship.

But few people, unless they have a penchant for being a guest on Jerry Springer, want to speak on the record about raw feelings when love fails.

Such is the case with our heartbreak kid, who asked that his real name be withheld (we’ll call him David).

“When you suffer a breakup, it changes who you are,” he says.

That change, experts say, can be a positive thing. But suffer, most veterans of broken hearts agree, is what you initially do. Otherwise, the song “Love Hurts” wouldn’t have been recorded by the Everly Brothers. And Cher. And Nazareth.

So is there a healthful way to get past the pain of a broken heart?

“It’s very important to differentiate between “healthy’ and “painless,”‘ says Susan Piver, author of “The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say I Do” and “How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life.”

“I think people look for a way to end things with nobody feeling bad, and that, of course, is impossible,” Piver says.

What is unhealthy is trying to escape the discomfort, says Piver, whose new book, “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart,” will be released next year. She identified three typical heartbreak escape routes:

– Not fully facing your soon-to-be-ex, by breaking up via text message or announcing over dinner that you wish to break up and then cutting off contact completely.

– Blaming him or her as a way of letting yourself off the hook. “”I had to break up with him when I learned he had debt, wore lifts, lacked ambition, would never become a vegetarian,’ might be reasons you decide not be with someone,” Piver says. Own your own wish to end the relationship; don’t put it off on some inadequacy of theirs, she advises.

– Doing something wacky, such as being unfaithful, drinking heavily or taking drugs, not showing up to meet the parents, to force your significant other to break up with you. “That’s not being truthful about wanting out of the relationship,” Piver says. Although it may be uncomfortable, she says, the honest route is the healthful route.

What often comes into play in breakup scenarios is the balance of power in a relationship.

David refers to it as, “Who’s got the upper hand?” It was a wisecrack from a friend consoling him through his recent breakup, but he sees the question as profound.

The person who leaves is viewed as the one with the power. That leaves the other party mystified and befuddled, say those who have been on the powerless side of a breakup.

Quite often, David says, the person who senses his partner is about to end the relationship often threatens to leave first as a bluff to see if the other party still cares. The injured party enters a hellish limbo.

“You want to accept that it is really over, but then you think that perhaps your ex is hiding her feelings, and that if you could do something to extract them, you could put things back together,” he says.

Adding to that discomfort is the series of breakups that often precede the final breakup, which leaves both parties wondering if the current breakup is really the final parting.

While wrestling with the finality, there is the nagging desire to contact the other party.

Maintain a respectful distance, one expert says.

“Give yourself time to re-establish yourself as an individual,” says Michele Many, a licensed clinical social worker and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. “Don’t go through someone else to try to get information about your ex.”

And never put family or friends in the middle, she says.

“Many times you share friends,” Many says. “Enjoy your friends as you did before. Usually, it self-selects out.”

In most cases, if you are seeking out your ex, it’s an indication that you have unfinished emotional business, Many says.

“But if you happen to cross paths,” she adds, “and you manage the situation with little upset or emotion, it’s a sign that you may have made the transition in a healthful way.”

But be prepared that the other party may not be in the same place.

“Have an exit plan. You can’t do the processing for them any more than they can do it for you,” she says.

Piver says you should also be aware that sometimes the ex wants to continue the dialogue, not so much to process it in a constructive way, but to cling to the relationship.

“Hey, it’s not pretty. But we’ve all been there,” she says.

The parties involved need to determine if it’s best to keep talking or cut the ties. One way to figure this out, Piver says, is to hold a good intention.

“If your intention is to honor your own heart and what you know to be true, and to prevent more pain in the long run for both of you, your words will land in a particular way. If you have the very same conversation, but with the intention of faulting or blaming the other person, the conversation will have a different tone. The impact is, therefore, different,” says Piver.

Show your true feelings without expecting the other person to respond in any particular way, Piver says.

“If you’re sad, cry. If you’re upset, express it. If you already feel distant, don’t pretend you don’t,” she says.

Face your own heartbreak, even if you are the one ending the relationship. Allow yourself to grieve.

“Grief is a profound teacher,” Piver says.

Many adds: “This is a growth process rather than a death. It is the idea of a gift within a crisis.”

How to have a good breakup

Change your habits. Don’t go to the same places you and your ex visited on a regular basis. It’s even a good time to plan a getaway or vacation.

Call on someone you know and trust to monitor you if you are concerned about veering into extremes.

Give yourself the time to explore interests that you did not explore in the past because it interfered with your relationship.

Avoid self-medication of any kind (food, drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc.).

Focus on good nutrition and regular exercise. When you feel better physically, you feel better mentally.

Resist the urge to leap into another relationship. Being able to be happy with yourself is a prerequisite to being happy with someone else.

Source: Social worker Michele Many

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