stages of a breakup

The day I got married, I believed it was forever, but it wasn’t. So when we decided to divorce, I thought I needed ten days to heal. I was wrong. This was my first breakup. Had I known what to expect, my grief process would have been lessened. I will share with you what I have learned about the stages of a breakup.

The stages of a breakup that you’ll go through

Let’s face it, breakups are the worst. You enter into a relationship with intentions to have fun, great memories, and a possible long-term future. You never get into a relationship wanting for it to end. But as we all know, they do. The length of each stage of a breakup may vary from person to person, but it is almost inevitable that you’ll go through them until you fully heal. If you are contemplating a breakup right now or if you’ve just broken up with your boyfriend, knowing what is waiting for you in the future may help you to have a smoother transition through those stages.

1. Making the decision

The first stage of any breakup is realizing that your relationship is over. Really over. Taking the time to reflect and to accept this relationship can not move forward any longer is when this process begins. Breakup a big decision, and even if the relationship was not healthy, it’s still not easy to come to this conclusion.

When you see your partner, and you just know you can’t imagine yourself with him for the rest of your life, you know it’s time to make the decision.

When you see your partner, and you just know you can't imagine yourself with him for the rest of your life, you know it's time to make the decision. Click To Tweet

2. Having the conversation

Have you looked back on your relationship and acknowledged you have done everything you could to save what you have built together? If you’ve done so and decided that your relationship has no future, it is time to have a conversation with your partner.

Be sure when you do this, you’re ready, in a quiet place, and have your thoughts together. You have thought about this, and you know what will happen, but your partner may not. So have patience and get ready for the reaction you may receive.

Also, make sure you are strong enough to really end it. Do not fall for words covered in diamonds or for empty promises your partner may give you.

3. Walking away

You did it. You had a tough breakup conversation. It was sad, but now what? Now it’s the walking away stage. You give back and take back all the things you left at your now ex-partner’s place, or if you lived together, you make plans for one of you to move out. Then, while your ex is packing their bags, go out of town for a day or a weekend. Or, if you are the one moving out, do it as quickly as possible and with as much respect as you can. This will be difficult for both parties involved, but the sooner it happens, the better.

4. Feeling it

woman gets consolidated by friend

Feel this breakup. Even if you are the one who ended the relationship, that does not mean you are protected from feeling sad or even broken-hearted. The end of something that needed to end is still a tough process to go through. It may be hard to sit alone in this, and you may want to reach out to your ex. However, it is best to take this time to reflect on how and why your relationship ended. The “feeling it” breakup stage can sting, but it is necessary.

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5. Experiencing pain

Breakup is painful. It can feel like it’s the end of the world. You may experience a sense of loss, rejection, and possibly failure. When combined together, it may result even in physical pain. In situations like this, it is natural to try to protect yourself from feeling the pain.

At times you try to self-medicate after a breakup with alcohol, pills, or by sleeping it away. Those things sound good at first, but they will delay the inevitable. Let yourself experience the pain, so you can move on and heal.

Breakup is painful. It can feel like it's the end of the world. You may experience a sense of loss, rejection, and possibly failure. Click To Tweet

6. Confusion

After you divided or reclaimed your belongings and parted your ways, the new reality starts kicking in. You are alone; there is nobody to watch Netflix with on Friday night nor warm your feet in bed. The more you think, the more you begin to question everything. This is the confusion stage. “Did I make the right choice?”, “Could I have done anything differently?” are the questions that keep on spinning in your head.

You look back and try to pinpoint where you may have made any mistakes. You wonder if you did the right thing by ending this relationship or if you still had another chance to make things right. You are confused, and this is a natural stage of the healing process.

7. Shock

And finally, the realization strikes you. Did that just happen? Did you really break up? Your daily routine is no longer the same. The calls and the texts are no longer present, you suddenly have all this time by yourself, and it feels weird. This is a stage where your bones feel empty, you feel like you are just skin and muscle, and you have no idea what day it is or who you even are.

Your workouts are on hold, TV shows are going unwatched because you are used to watching them with your ex, and just the thought of the breakup makes your stomach drop and feel sick. During the shock stage, eating can be difficult, and you may feel lethargic. You begin to realize this person you once loved is now just a name on your list of ex’s, and it hurts.

8. Denial

woman sitting in bed

“He will come back. Our relationship wasn’t that bad. We just need time away to figure things out.” Sound familiar? Welcome to the denial stage of a breakup. At this point, you start thinking that your relationship can be repaired. Your ex-boyfriend will miss you, and he will call once he realizes that he can’t live without you.

According to Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross who created the five stages of grief model, denial helps you minimize the overwhelming pain of loss. During this stage, you may be checking your phone, hoping your ex will text you and tell you that he wants to get back together.

9. Anger

When the shock wears off, and everything that happened begins to settle, the anger stage sets in. You relive all the memories of your time together, all the trips you took, and the birthdays you celebrated. And that stupid snow globe with a bench from Central Park he got you haunts your memories and fuels your anger from the shelf across the room.

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Your ex-partner met your family and friends, and you were a big part of his life too. And for what? The anger stage of a breakup often leads to deleting pictures on social media, deleting text messages, and unfriending everyone you know from your ex’s life. You may even change your steaming channel password so your ex can’t finish the last episode of the series you were binging together.

The anger stage of a breakup often leads to deleting pictures on social media, deleting text messages, and unfriending everyone you know from your ex's life. Click To Tweet

10. Worry

When the anger begins to diminish and the fog slightly lifts, you move to the worry stage. You start wondering if you are still desirable. You wonder if you did something wrong on your part and if you will ever be good enough for anyone. What can you do to feel better sooner rather than later? You try to find the answers and flaws within yourself, and you worry about the uncertainty that the future holds.

11. Rebound

During the rebound stage of a breakup, you start longing for the feeling of being desired. You want to prove that you still have something that others find attractive, and someone else will want to have you in their life. So you get dressed up, take a shot of tequila, and hit the bar scene, looking for reassurance that you are datable.

You go on a few Tinder dates and possibly even hook up with someone to feel validated. However, after a few nights out that only leave you feeling hungover and less than exciting conversations with strangers, you begin to face the fact that you need to accept and be responsible for what is happening in your life.

12. Acceptance

woman in bathtub holding wine glass

It’s been weeks since the breakup, and your ex hasn’t contacted you in an attempt to get back together. You have instructed your friends to not update you on your ex-boyfriend’s life. Your appetite is coming back, and you are now responding to friends’ messages and calls. Work-life balance has stabilized again, and you are even talking to your bestie without crying and chugging down wine to ease your nerves.

Although you are not your happy-go-lucky self yet, you feel better, which means you entered the acceptance stage of a breakup. Accepting that you moved on from your ex brings freedom you didn’t know you needed. You begin to realize that ending your relationship was inevitable. You were just prolonging the end because you didn’t want to face the pain.

But you did it, and you are OK. You can now watch the shows you missed out on, go out with your friends, and the color is coming back into your world.

13. Letting go

The darkness of your breakup begins to subside, and you are no longer worried about being validated by someone else. When the anger is in the rearview, and the shock and denial have all taken a back seat, you start getting ready to let things go.

You pack away your ex’s sweater that he had left behind, his favorite coffee mug, and his notes that were still stuck on your fridge. You place them neatly in a box next to both good and bad memories of this relationship that taught you many lessons.

It’s now time to live with the fact that you’ve just started a new chapter of your life. Letting go of your past relationship is necessary in order to heal.

Letting go of your past relationship is necessary in order to heal. Click To Tweet

14. Healing

After a breakup, how do you even begin to heal when society tells you that you must not be single? And yet, here you are.

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Being single is OK. Actually, it is more than OK. It’s in that space that you discover who you are now. So go on a trip to that sunny island you always wanted to visit or discover a new country and see what the world has to offer. Go out to all the places you wanted to go to, but you couldn’t because you had someone else to adjust to.

Sleep in the middle of your bed and get a new comforter set. Pick up a different workout routine. Set new goals and crush them. Don’t date until you have really enjoyed getting to know yourself again. Take the time to breathe and rebuild.

15. Moving on

Moving on can be bitter-sweet. You are moving on from a person you once loved, but the love is dwindling with each day. You are thinking of your ex-boyfriend less and less. Eventually, you have no idea what their morning routine is anymore.

You can see yourself dating again, but of course, this is scary because the pain you have endured was just that, painful. You went through the stages of a breakup, grievance, and the recovery process. You took the right amount of time to heal, and now you feel ready to begin again. So be sure before you start swiping on dating apps and go on dates, you know what you are after. Is it just casual dating? Or are you looking to meet someone serious?

How long does it take to get over a breakup?

woman standing with umbrella

How long you have been in your last relationship will determine how long it will take to recover from a breakup. If you were in a long-term relationship, it would take longer to get used to being on your own and living without caring for someone else full time. Spending the first year on your own will help to see if you have picked up codependency habits.

Taking a break from dating will lead you to make decisions on your own. Where do you want to live? Do you want to move? You may even consider buying a new car. Regardless of what decisions you will make, you will be making them, for the most part, on your own. Although that may sound scary, it can also be exciting!

Your year of firsts may also hurt. Waking up on your birthday alone for the first time in years can sting. The first round of holidays and not having anyone to kiss when the new year rings in will feel lonely, but it is necessary for learning about yourself. It is also important to not rush into another relationship with the wrong person because of the fear of being alone.

Even if your past relationship was not long-term, you should take some time to be on your own and discover who you are now. You will still need to go through the breakup recovery process. Our first instinct after a breakup is to date. But dating too soon out of boredom or loneliness can lead to you getting hurt. So take your time getting back into the dating game.

After my marriage of almost twenty years ended, I rushed into a relationship out of fear of being alone. This was the biggest mistake I could have made. Three years later, I had to heal from so much more than the separation, which took years to do. Today I am happy, healthy, and in a great relationship that I did not rush into.

Before dating again, healing from your breakup will ensure your ability to see if the other person can be a long-term fit or a short-term fling. Remember, the time passes. It’s what you do with the time that makes a difference.

Kelly is a certified Relationship and Dating Coach and the founder of Be Brave Coaching. After being a toxic wife and then suffering herself at the hands of an abuser, Kelly found herself in a recovery program where she recovered from codependency, anger, and control issues. Years later, she released her first book 'Signs in the Rearview Mirror Leaving a Toxic Relationship Behind' which is her story of leaving toxic relationships with her mother, her ex, and herself behind.

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