We’ve established already that breakups suck and sometimes they hurt like hell. You’re left without the person you loved the most, and sometimes it’s not even your decision. You just have to get used to the idea that sometimes people grow apart, and no matter how hard it might be, you can overcome it.
There are 10 stages of a breakup that are highly predictable, but there are some tips and tricks that will help you make it more bearable. It’s important to mention that you might bounce between stages, you could stay in one for a long time and go through others briefly, or experience them in a different order than below.
Also, you should know that there’s no right or wrong way to cope with a split. These stages will help you know where you stand and they will help you mentally prepare for what comes next.
Read on to discover the 10 stages of a breakup and learn from the pros how to make it more bearable, whether you’re still in denial or you’re on the right path to moving on. Like Ariana Grande says in her song, ‘Thank U, Next’.
The first stage of a breakup usually comes with a lot of questions: It’s appropriate to break up or you should give the relationship another chance? Can you continue to be with someone who did X? But what about their redeeming quality of Y?
According to Ned Presnall, LCSW, clinical director of services at Plan Your Recovery in St. Louis, Missouri, “In the stage of ambivalence, a person has had both positive and negative phases in a relationship, but they are unsure which one is definitive.”
This incipient phase is known to be an emotional roller-coaster with a mixture of both good days (after make-up sex, couples’ therapy, and vacation) and bad days with a lot of arguments and fights. According to Presnall, this stage can be even more painful if your partner isn’t aware of the ambivalence, that’s why it’s essential to master the art of communication.
If you find it impossible to make a decision, you could always ask your family and close friends about the pros and cons of your relationship. You could also start comparing this relationship to previous ones to see if you experience those ambivalent signs in other romantic partnerships.
If you found that the same signs are repeated throughout your other relationships, then maybe you need to work on resolving your own personal issues in order to have a successful, long-term relationship, Presnall suggests.
If you’re experiencing phase two, then you decided to break up. This is the stage where everything about your ex seems peachy and perfect. Weren’t they all sunshine and daisies? in stage two, people usually focus on the good aspects of the relationship, and forget about the negative ones that contributed to the breakup, explains Nicole Arzt, LMFT, who serves on the advisory board for Family Enthusiast.
In this stage, people might experience feelings of guilt and regret. “It’s okay to reflect on the positive elements of a relationship, as doing so can help with feelings of anger or bitterness,” says Arzt.
She suggests writing down the negative aspects of the relationship as well. Make sure to consider all the times they didn’t treat you properly. Ask yourself the following questions: Did you feel disrespected? Did they put you first or there were other people more important in their life? Were you fighting all the time? These questions will help you remember why you broke up in the first place.
Making sense of it all
Usually, in this phase, you might feel like your brain cells are firing at a million miles per hour as you try to come to terms with the fact that your relationship ended. According to Beverley Andre, LMFT, and creator of Your Favorite MFT, in the 3rd stage, people tend to obsess over the details that contributed to the split.
If you’re still confused and didn’t manage to come to terms with the separation, you might over-analyze each aspect of yourself, of your ex-partner as well, and the overall relationship, in order to understand why things didn’t work out.
This state of mind usually lasts until you understand why the relationship ended, and after you’ll be able to get some kind of closure. This phase of the breakup is definitely one of the most challenging, so talking with your ex about the unresolved aspects of the relationship might actually be a good idea, Andre says.
However, you need to prepare yourself just in case they won’t be able to provide you with the answers you’ve been waiting for, but at least you will have the chance to express yourself.
Additionally, if you feel like you have a lot of things to say to your ex but you’re not comfortable reaching up to them again, you can write a letter with everything that bothered you, but never send it. Sometimes, just writing and putting on paper all your thoughts might help you move on, even though your words will never reach the respondent.
According to Arzt, not everyone will experience this stage, but those who do might feel detached from reality and they may experience denial. Some people feel numb for several hours, while for some it lasts up to several weeks, it depends on how much the separation affected you, but your personality also has a major say in this.
Arzt suggests that in order to move on and recover from this state, you need to let yourself go through all the emotions, instead of blocking them out. “Scream. Journal. Cry. Talk to a loved one. Let those feelings out, even if they scare you. The more you can honor them, the more likely you are to heal and grow from the experience,” she continues.
According to Megan Harrison, LMFT, founder of CouplesCandy.com, you shouldn’t underestimate pain, as the end of the relationship can feel like the loss of a loved one. Breakups are definitely very painful, especially when you invested a lot of time and effort into the relationship. The end of a relationship is not only the loss of the person but also all your future hopes and goals with that person get ruined.
Instead of constantly analyzing every little detail of the breakup, you need to treat yourself during this stage with a bubble bath, a delicious dessert, and a good Tv show to binge-watch.
Also, this is the time when a lot of negative questions will pop into your head. Will I ever meet someone again? Am I going to end up alone? What if we hadn’t gotten into that fight, we would still be together now? Instead of wasting your time with negative thoughts, Harrison urges people to live in the present and try not to think about the past and the future.
She recommends practicing mindfulness for better control of your thoughts, it helps you embrace the flow of life as it unfolds, without allowing your negative thoughts to affect you.
Additionally, you don’t have to go through a breakup alone. It’s very important to talk to your close friends and family members or go to a therapist or a psychologist if you feel like you need more help.
The 6th phase usually happens when you had a hard time coming to an end with your breakup. “It’s a common defense mechanism used to help numb the intensity of the situation,” says Harrison.
If you’re in the denial phase, you probably still live with the false hope that maybe things will work out eventually and you’re going to get back together. The problem with denial is that it makes it impossible to move on. People in denial might try to negotiate a possible reconciliation, but chances are it won’t work.
According to Harrison, you need to remember that you’re a strong, beautiful person, and you have your whole life ahead of you. You need to set new goals and other ambitious dreams to replace the old ones that included your ex. Also, don’t use drugs or alcohol thinking that they’re going to help you deal with the pain. Instead, you could try other more beneficial activities such as reading a new book, exercising, and pampering yourself.
Social media changes
After two people break up, you reach a stage where you need to delete all the photos you have with them and update your Facebook status to ‘Single’. you need to know that it’s ok to take some time before deleting all the memories you have with them, and you should wait until you’re ready. According to Andre, there’s no need to rush this process.
In this stage, you also need to let go of your ex’s physical remnants such as clothes, gifts, or other items that might remind you of them. Also, remember that you don’t owe people on social media an explanation
In some cases, heartbreak and pain can bring two people back together, and help them resolve the issues that made them break up in the first place. According to Presnall, this can lead to a more stable relationship, because pain and grief can really wake you up and motivate you to try even harder, especially if you realized that you really love that person.
But sometimes, a relapse is just a relapse, nothing more. It’s usually just a relief from the pain until you break up again because the things that made you break up in the first place are still there. If you decide to try again, make sure to take some time and reflect on the issues that made you break up, or you’ll be back at the breakup stage.
The dating phase where you begin comparing your partners to your ex
If you’ve reached this stage and you started dating other people, you’re definitely doing good and you’re on the right path. Congrats! However, you might find that moving on it’s not as easy, and there will continue to be some unpleasant times, or you might have a difficult time letting go of your former relationship. But moving on is a process.
According to Arzt, in this phase, you’re going to start going on some dates and meeting new people, but you will probably have a hard time letting go of your ex, and you will start comparing the new people in your life with them. This phase may last for weeks, months, or even years, depending on how long the relationship was.
In order to let go of this state, you need to acknowledge that this is normal. Then, you need to monitor when and where you start comparing your new love interest to your ex. It’s because you miss them? Does your new partner do something that reminds you of your ex? They look alike or they have similar interests?
Also, don’t stress yourself too much over this, as it’s a normal stage after a breakup. After all, your ex was an important part of your life at some point, and that’s not so easy to forget. You should consider talking to a professional in case this stage seems to last forever.
You reach the last phase, you did it! You went through all the above stages and you managed to move on. Now, you’re probably ready to start a new life, meet new people, and start over. Of course, there might still be tough moments as you adapt to the post-breakup life, but the worst part is now over.
According to Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., author of Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend, there will still be moments when your memories hit you in the face, but you need to concentrate on your new life now. It’s normal to want to date again, even though it might be hard to put yourself out there.
Additionally, make sure to continue to work on the previous stages mentioned above, and the pain will slowly disappear and you’re going to be stronger than ever.