No one ever said breaking up was easy. Whether you’re the one who’s left or the one who leaves, going through a breakup is challenging and may even involve profound heartbreak. Maybe you’ve been in a long-term relationship or are just coming out of a short fling – no matter the circumstance, you’re likely to feel some pain and sadness as you try to adapt to the new situation.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the healing process after a separation, but there are certain stages of emotional upheaval and grief that most people will go through. This article explores nine common breakup stages and provides practical tips to get through them as smoothly as possible.
So, if you’re currently going through a separation or divorce, read on for some in-depth guidance and understanding.
Disclaimer: Breakups are tough and can cause serious mental health problems. If you feel too depressed to go through a breakup alone, please get support from a mental health professional. Getting professional help can make all the difference to your recovery.
How Long Does It Take To Get Over A Breakup?
Most people who go through a difficult separation naturally want to know how long it will take to get better. Unfortunately, the answer is: “It depends.” Everyone reacts differently to breakups, and there is no set time frame for recovery. Some people may feel better in days or several weeks, while others may take months or years to get over their heartbreak.
There are a few factors that can affect how long it takes to get over a breakup, such as:
- The circumstances of the breakup. If it was mutual and amicable, your recovery would likely be less painful than if you were blindsided or dumped. If you’re the one who initiated the split, you may also find it easier to move on.
- The nature of your relationship. A breakup might be more difficult to get over if you were in a long-term, committed relationship instead of a casual fling.
- Your support system. Having friends and family who are understanding and supportive can make the healing process much more manageable.
If you’ve been struggling to get over a lost relationship for a long time, rest assured that that’s perfectly normal. Everyone moves through the stages of grief after a breakup in different ways. What matters most is that you give yourself the time and space to grieve in whatever way feels right for you. Trust that eventually, the pain will lessen, and you will be able to move on.
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Being Left By Someone Vs. Leaving Someone Vs. Mutual Breakups
There are many different types of breakups, but the main ones are these three scenarios: someone breaks up with you. You have to leave someone yourself. Or both partners agree to end the relationship on mutual terms.
Each of these circumstances has different implications for your emotional well-being. So, it’s essential to understand the difference between being left, leaving someone, and deciding to break up together.
If you’re the one who ended the relationship, you may feel guilty or anxious about your decision. You may worry that you made a mistake or that you’re going to regret your decision. You may also feel a sense of relief, especially if the relationship was tumultuous or unhealthy.
If your partner left you, you might feel confused, betrayed, and even abandoned. You may question what you did wrong and how you could have been better. The grief and sadness you feel can be overwhelming.
And if the decision was consensual, both partners may feel a sense of relief and sadness. Relief because the relationship is finally over and sadness because it means that two people who loved each other had to let go.
The good news is that all three experiences are normal, and you will eventually get over them. It’s important to allow yourself time and space to grieve in your own way. And remember, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Just be gentle with yourself and allow the healing process to take its course.
9 Common Breakup Stages And How To Get Through Them
Breakups are painful, especially when they happen suddenly and without warning. It can be challenging to know how to get through them, but certain stages are familiar to most people. Here are the nine most common reactions you may experience as you go through this difficult time.
#1 – Inner Ambivalence: The In-Between Stage
The first breakup stage most people go through is inner ambivalence, especially if you’re the one considering breaking up with someone you still have feelings for. This is the in-between stage where you’re not sure if you want to be with the person or not. You may swing back and forth between wanting to be together and needing to be apart. This can be a confusing and frustrating time.
The best way to get through this difficult stage is to give yourself time and space to figure out what you want. Don’t make any decisions in a hurry. Talk to your friends and family, and see what they think. Journal or talk to a therapist about how you’re feeling. Is it self-doubt? Are you torn between sadness and denial? Or are you, perhaps, thinking about all the what-ifs of this relationship story?
What’s essential now is not to pressure yourself to make any hasty decisions. Pause for a moment and trust yourself. You’ll eventually figure out what’s right for you.
#2 – Emotional Turmoil: The Emergency-Shock Phase
This is the shock phase of every separation story. Whether the relationship’s dissolution was your idea or not, you’re likely to feel intense emotions. You may feel like you’re going crazy or that the world is spinning out of control. It is a time when you need to be especially gentle with yourself.
Accept that this is a difficult time and allow yourself to handle all the feelings coming up for you. Denying them will only make them worse.
It may help to talk to someone who will understand and support you, whether that’s a friend, a family member, a therapist, or even a clinical psychologist. You may also find it helpful to read books or articles about breakups to better understand what you’re going through. And most importantly, take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, drink enough water, and try some light exercise. This will help you physically and emotionally.
#3 – Euphoric Longing: The Selective Memories Phase
The third stage of a breakup could be called “euphoric longing.” That’s when you start to remember all the good times you had with your ex-partner, and you long for those days again. You may also find yourself idealizing the relationship and your ex-partner by selectively dwelling on positive memories and ignoring more problematic aspects of the past. This is a tough phase because it can prevent you from moving on.
If you’re feeling this way, be aware that you only see part of the picture at this stage. It’s important to remember that the relationship is over for a reason. The good times weren’t perfect, and neither was your ex-partner.
Talk to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling. Spend time with people who care about you, and resist the temptation to contact your ex-partner. Instead, fill your time with activities that make you happy and keep you moving forward.
#4 – Numbness: The Apparent Indifference Stage
The fourth common stage of a breakup is numbness. You may start to feel like you just don’t care anymore. You may go through the motions of everyday life, but you’re not really present. You may find it hard to concentrate on anything. This can be a dangerous stage because it’s easy to make impulsive decisions that you’ll later regret.
If you’re feeling indifferent and disinterested in life as it is, you should reach out to your support system. Talk to your friends and family, and tell them how you’re feeling. See a therapist if necessary. Don’t make any major decisions during this time. Take some time for yourself, and eventually, you’ll start to feel better.
Another typical defense mechanism during the fourth stage of a breakup is to isolate yourself from your friends and family. You may feel like you don’t want to see or talk to anyone. This is problematic because it will only make you feel worse in the long run. Instead, reach out to the people who care about you. Spend time with them, and let them help you through this difficult time.
#5 – Rationalization: Making Sense of the Situation
The fifth stage some people go through after a separation is to rationalize the situation by thinking logically about what went wrong. This is when you start to make sense of why the relationship ended and what you could have done differently. You may begin to question yourself and your role in the breakup.
The problem with this breakup phase is that you can sometimes disconnect from your feelings. You may start to think that you don’t care about the breakup anymore when, in fact, you’re just trying to avoid the pain.
If you’re in this stage, it’s crucial to stay connected to your feelings and to allow yourself emotional release time. Don’t try to rationalize everything. Be gentle with yourself and accept that it takes time to heal from a breakup.
#6 – Sudden Relapse: The “I Still Love You” Phase
Not everyone goes through the next stage, but for those who do, it can be complicated. Sudden relapses characterize this breakup stage. You may have been doing well for a while, but then something triggers your emotions, and you find yourself back at square one. You may start missing your former partner and the relationship again, so much so that you even try to get back together, although you know it’s not a good idea deep down in your heart.
If you find yourself relapsing in this sense, take a step back and assess the situation. What caused the relapse? Are you still in denial that the breakup happened?
But don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling this way. It’s important to remember that relapse is normal and doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Just take things one day at a time and be patient with yourself.
#7 – Grief: The 5 Stages Of Grief After A Separation
Another significant step in the healing journey is grieving the loss of the relationship. However, the grieving process itself is a complex phenomenon involving several distinct phases. This complexity is reflected in the five stages of grief introduced by Kübler-Ross in 2005. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Here is a summary of these stages focusing on grief after a breakup.
- Denial phase. During the denial phase of grief, you may find yourself refusing to accept the reality of the situation, including the pain you are feeling. This usually manifests as a feeling that the breakup is not really happening or that it will somehow be reversed. You may also try to suppress any thoughts or feelings about the separation. To get through it, it helps to talk to somebody who can validate your experience and help you start to accept reality.
- Anger phase. Reaching the anger phase after a breakup is a good sign. It means that you are moving through the grieving process. The anger phase is characterized by feelings of rage, bitterness, and resentment. You may feel like you want to hurt your ex-partner as severely as they have hurt you. This is normal and can last quite some time. To get through this stage, try expressing your anger in a healthy way, such as through journaling or punching a pillow.
- Bargaining phase. When you are in the bargaining stage of grief, you may find yourself trying to make deals with your ex-partner, yourself, or the universe in general. For example, you may promise to change certain things about yourself if only your ex-partner would take you back. To get through this phase, it’s essential to have realistic expectations and to remember that bargaining usually does not work.
- Depression phase. During the depression phase, you may feel incredibly hopeless and sad. You’re stuck in the past, unable to bear the heaviness of the present moment, and doubt that you will ever be able to move on from the breakup. This phase can last for several months or even years. To get through it, you need to focus on taking care of yourself or seek professional help if necessary.
- Acceptance phase. In contrast to all the previous stages of grief, the acceptance stage is characterized by a sense of calm and peace. In this phase, you come to terms with the breakup and the pain that comes with it. You are able to look back on your relationship objectively and see both the good and the bad.
Walking through the five stages of grief after a breakup can be incredibly difficult, but it’s essential to do so in order to move on. By accepting reality, you can begin the healing process and eventually find peace and happiness again.
#8 – Letting Go: The Path To Inner Freedom
Having gone through the stages of grief, you can finally start letting go of the past in this ninth common breakup stage. This is where you begin to see the breakup as a blessing in disguise. Once you let go of the past, you will find a newfound sense of inner freedom. You start to realize that the relationship was not serving you anymore and that it’s time to move on.
Another key aspect of this stage is that you begin to focus on taking care of yourself. This means concentrating on your own needs and doing things that make you happy to boost your self-esteem and self-worth. It’s essential to do this to move on from the breakup and build a new life for yourself.
#9 – Moving Forward: The Future-Oriented Stage
This leads us to the final breakup phase: moving forward to embrace new hope and joy in your life. In this stage, you are finally able to look ahead to the future and see all the available possibilities. You have let go of the past and all its pain, and you are now ready to move on and create a new life for yourself.
To make the most of this stage, focus on your future plans and goals. What do you want to achieve in the next few years? What steps can you take to make this reality? This will keep you motivated and inspired.
Breaking up is hard, but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it can be the beginning of a new and better chapter in your life. By walking through these nine typical breakup phases, you will reach a place of inner peace and self-acceptance, which is also the best preparation for your next relationship.
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The Bottom Line
Breakups are never easy, but they are a natural and essential part of life. How long the healing process takes depends on the circumstance of the separation and your individual capacity to cope. However, by going through the nine common breakup stages, in one way or the other, you will eventually reach a place of acceptance and inner peace. From there, you can begin to rebuild your life and find healing and hope once again.
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