Having Chest Pain After a Breakup? One Woman says “It’s Hard To Breathe”

chest pain after breakup

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

It’s kind of ironic. You get divorced and you don’t think anything can be worse. Until…the heartbreak of your next relationship. The pain you are feeling can seriously feel physical. I have had chest pain after a breakup. And read this woman’s email to me. She’s saying “It’s hard to breathe!”

I’m a 35 year old mother of two. I was married for 15 years and have recently (as of January) divorced. I am over the grief period and have moved on with my life. My ex and I have a good relationship now and are more like brother and sister at this point.

I’m not writing about divorce, I’m writing about dealing with a breakup after divorce. I had all the thoughts of not finding anyone, of thinking no one would want to date a single mother, etc. In April I met an amazing guy. He is sweet and caring, patient and laid-back. He accepted my boys, loved me when I didn’t think I could be loved, and didn’t let me push him away.

He isn’t from the town that we live in and my fear was always that he’d relocate since he was only here for his job. He assured me over and over that he had no intentions of leaving. He looked at houses here; we made plans for a future together.

Last week he told me that he is moving to another city half way across the country to be near his family (whom he doesn’t really have a close relationship with). I was completely blindsided and shocked. He was crying and very emotional when he told me. He said that he still loves me and meant everything that he said, but something is telling him that he needs to leave. He can’t explain it to himself and is hurting too.

He doesn’t want to stay together until he leaves because he said it will be harder in the long run. And he doesn’t want to do long distance because he’s done that and knows how awful it is. I am so confused, shocked, hurt and heartbroken. The night that he told me, he got a tattoo that we had designed together and he unexpectedly added a piece to represent me…which only adds to my confusion.

This breakup is so much worse than my divorce. With my boyfriend, we were truly best friends and lovers. Losing both at the same time is excruciating…especially when there was no fight, no growing apart. 

My advice for pain that physically feels like chest pain after a breakup…

Wow. This truly sounds heartbreaking and so disappointing. I am very sorry you are going through this.

You might not like some of my breakup advice, but I’m going to be totally honest. Something doesn’t seem right and I see a few red flags. Here are the reasons why I feel this way.

1. He’s moving across the country without a job?

2. He doesn’t want to stay together until he leaves?

3. He has never been in a relationship that wasn’t long distance?


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This man has a choice. He is making a choice to move away from you. That is completely out of your control. It’s nothing you did, nothing you said, has nothing to do with the way you acted. This is about him and his issues.

If this man wanted (or wants) to be with you, he would be. It doesn’t seem like there were issues in the relationship. It sounds like it was kind of blissful. He is creating issues. And he either is running from commitment or there is something he isn’t telling you.

My breakup advice is, I would definitely give this man space. Give him the distance he needs to figure it out.If he really truly loves you, he will let you know. If he doesn’t chase you, you have your answer. Either way, you will know the truth in time.

Remember this. I’m sure this isn’t easy for him either. He is probably devastated just as much as you are. Let him figure things out. But, if you are in his face, he cannot do that.

I would go out with my girlfriends if I were you, I would flirt with guys, I would even go out on other dates if you feel like it. I would totally live like this guy is not coming back. But my gut says, he isn’t finished yet. He will be back. And, if he isn’t, again, you have your answer.

Listen, I know this is hard. I have a dear friend who got divorced several years ago and then met this guy she dated for two years. When he ended the relationship (abruptly) she was so devastated, she lost 10 pounds, cried all the time, and told me it was 100 times worse than her divorce.

Part of what is happening to you is that you are reliving the pain of the breakup you had with your husband. It is opening up your wounds from your past. It’s like when a scab opens.

Be strong. Focus on your children. Your career. Your passion—whatever makes you happy. Live your life everyday with the thought it mind, “How can I make either my life or someone I love’s life better today? And, how can I enjoy my life today?”

I don’t know you personally and can only answer this based on your letter, so I hope you aren’t offended, but I want to say something else. You got married at 20, and then got involved shortly after your divorce. Ask yourself, “Do I know how to be alone?”

Give yourself a little time to learn how to enjoy not being someone’s girlfriend or wife. Independence is really really empowering. It makes you strong and healthy and wise and more interesting. I’m not saying you aren’t those things now, but being alone offers peace and confidence and self-love and self-like.

Remember this breakup advice: that you can only control what YOU do, not what HE does. Please keep me updated, because I am pretty sure you are going to tell me he wants to get back together at some point. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my guess. In the meantime, don’t wait around.

By the way, my friend met this other guy and has been happily married to him for 10 years! How’s that for a hopeful ending?!

Like this article? Check out, “Understanding your Broken Heart is the Key To Healing”



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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    15 Responses to “Having Chest Pain After a Breakup? One Woman says “It’s Hard To Breathe””

    1. Gina

      This is exactly what I needed to hear. Raw truth. An update to the story is that he got a job and is moving in 2.5 weeks. He says its bittersweet, that his love for me was real. I feel a little better not being in limbo anymore and knowing when he’s leaving. But I’m still heartbroken. I’ve signed up for family pottery class, started back up with my regular yoga class, and rejoined an old bunco group. Thank you for your words. I will be rereading them for days to come.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        I hope you didn’t view it as insensitive. I have been in situations like this and I can only give advice based on my experiences. Just don’t lose your self-worth and blame yourself for anything. this is HIS issue, not yours. you can only be the person you are and if he doesn’t want to be with you, that’s ok. When you find true love (and maybe it is him) he will love you so much it will scare you (in a good way!!)

    2. Miranda

      Wow Jackie. You are so amazing. You always seem to say everything that I’m learning or have learnt and your advice always sounds so right.
      I have had a breakup since my divorce and it certainly did reopen old wounds. For a few days I was right back there with no appetite, no sleep, panick attacks etc that I’d experienced after my divorce. (Oddly, I’d been the one that finished this short relationship as I felt he wasn’t right for me). My biggest fear was this complete terror of being alone again after the rekindled and lovely hope of being in a secure relationship.
      We both backed off and agreed to stay friends and be supportive and we spent the whole weekend together last week and could well end up together again as it’s obvious that there’s a lot of love there. We just both had too much unsorted baggage and he is in the middle of a nasty divorce and financial fight with his ex. Taking the pressure off us both has really helped.
      Gina I’m so sorry you’ve experienced this awful hurt. I agree that he probably wasn’t someone who was open to commitment. Not your fault at all. It’s very hard isn’t it?

    3. Gina

      Miranda – Good for you for being strong enough to break it off knowing it wasn’t for you. However, I agree that if there is love there, maybe you should try again. I have a hard time ending things and letting go. This is harder than my divorce ever was…I’m trying to learn to let go and accept what I can’t change. I didn’t think he had commitment issues, as we had been together for 6 months and he had long term relationships in the past. I guess I was wrong. I’m thankful for our time together. I’m trying to move forward, and let him go slowly.

    4. Taylor

      Hearing about the pain of further breakups after divorce just further confirms my decision to not date. After 16 years of marriage my husband left me and the children for another woman in another state. It has been about a year and a half since he left and although there have been some opportunities to date I cannot bring myself to do it. I thought nothing could be more painful than my divorce but if further break ups are worse then no thanks!

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        I feel terrible that you feel this way. Because honestly, heartbreak is part of life. And, i bet if you asked the woman who wrote the blog post, she would say she doesn’t regret being in the relationship (even though it ended badly) because it brought her so much happiness and taught her so much. Heartbreak isn’t easy, but i think not putting yourself out there is worse. And by the way, that takes guts. I know it’s not easy. Just consider it.

    5. Gina

      So it’s been 2 weeks since the break-up. He is leaving next Saturday…not taking any of his stuff, just clothes and what he can fit in a car. If that’s not running, I don’t know what is!

      This sounds so dramatic, but it’s been a rough two weeks. I spent the first week trying to change his mind…hoping he’d change his mind. The second week was spent trying to accept it. And earlier this week I had an epiphany. I am not the victim here. While I’m not in control of his actions and his choices, I can choose how they affect me. A two week pity-party was enough. It’s okay for me to be sad and I need to sit with that sadness and feel it…BUT I have to live my life. I am in control of MY feelings and my reactions. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a break down when we say good-bye, but life goes on. I’ve made a bucket list for 2015 of things I want to do solely for me. I’ve been reading a ton of articles on the website tinybuddha.com and they really help. I’m realizing what this relationship taught me. It taught me that I’m capable of a healthy, adult relationship where I can be myself. It’s also teaching me to LET GO. Something I’ve struggled with for years. It’s exhausting trying to fight life and the changes of life. So I’m learning acceptance.

      Today might just be a good day…tomorrow I might be down all over again. But today I’m hopeful and positive.

      I love this man and I wish that he was ready to love me the way I needed. But he wasn’t…and I cannot change that. Learning these lessons and making personal changes will make me ready and open to love when the time is right.

      And who knows…maybe we’ll be together down the road. But if not, I have faith that the right man is out there…waiting for me!

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        Whenever you have “bad days” when you are feeling sad and crying, go back and re-read what you just wrote! You are doing great and I have no doubt you will end up really happy, whether it’s with him or not. xoxo

    6. Gina

      Well he left yesterday. We spent his last night together, which was nice. The goodbye was brutal…for both of us! We were both bawling and so sad. The thought of never seeing him again is unbearable. Anyway, just wanted to update you. I have a permanent pit in my stomach and weight in my heart. I’m afraid he’s going to get to his new town and be happy and content and forget all about me. I just kind of feel like I’m floundering and I hope it gets a little better each day. My girlfriends are supportive but they have their own lives. He was my person…and I was his.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        I want to say something to you that is harsh but true, and might help you in the long run. He is NOT your person. Your person wouldn’t voluntarily leave you. Sorry. No way. Your person will be there for you and won’t EVER let you get away. Trust me on this one. You haven’t met your person yet. Which is good news.

    7. Gina

      While that statement makes me extremely sad…it is the slap in the face that I needed. Thank you for the brutal honesty; I truly appreciate it. I’m ready to not be sad. Thank you for all of the advice and for the keeping up the great blog posts.

    8. Gina

      This is the blog post that would never die! Found out yesterday that my ex husband moved his girlfriend of 5 months and her two sons into his two bedroom condo. (We share custody 50/50) Bad timing…makes me feel more alone. Talk about salt in the wound!

    9. Katelyn

      I can’t cope with the pain of my break up. Can’t eat or sleep, I feel depressed. Can’t sleep without the sleeping pills. And to make things worse I think I’m getting addicted to them. How can I make myself feel better and sleep better?


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