5 Stages of a Relationship Breakup
A Breakup is difficult to go through, and it’s normal for both people involved to experience a full range of negative emotions. Even if the split was handled in an agreeable way, feelings will be hurt.
One of the main problems you may be facing is that the pain lingers for so long. What you need is help for a broken heart.
As mentioned, feeling bad is a normal response to a break up. Perhaps the most effective thing to treat a broken heart is also the hardest. Giving it time. As time goes on the wounds start to heal.
Of course, the painful emotions can be hard to bear and you don’t feel like waiting for the pain to go away on its own. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to speed things up, but know that your broken heart is temporary and will be healed it just depends on how long it will take.
How long does it take to mend a broken heart? Good question. In my opinion it isn’t time that will heal your broken heart it’s what you do in that time that will make the journey short or a drawn-out saga.
The process that comes after a break up can be broken into five stages. Each of the 5 stages of a breakup are vital to the recovery process. How long each phase will last will vary significantly, depending on the depth of the pain that you’re dealing with.
Understanding that there’s a specific set of stages that we follow will help make it easier for you to cope and get through each stage. The truth is some people take a few months to recover whilst others can take years if ever, to get past the hurt and loss of the breakup.
Stage 1: Acknowledgement
In this stage, all that you can really do is acknowledge that the breakup is real. It’s important that you wrap your head around the idea that the relationship is over and that your life will be different from here forward.
You may feel emotional and your thoughts spinning in all directions. The breakup can feel as if it’s leaking into every other area of your life making you feel completely helpless, vulnerable and overwhelmed.
You may feel like you’re in a time warp where time speeds up or slows down. Your mind will flip back to the start of the relationship as you analyse it all with a fine-tooth comb trying to make sense of how it ended this way.
Acknowledging your feelings.
It’s important when you’re in this stage, to think things through, as thoroughly as you can. Be aware of your feelings, even when you’re not able to address them right away.
Work through your thoughts and emotions by channelling your energy into a variety of things like writing, competitive sports, drawing, making music, healthy exercise, doing crafts or spending time with people you care about.
Journaling has many great mental health benefits and will serve you well in organising your thoughts and understanding your emotions. (Read: 7 Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health).
Stage 2: Processing and Letting it Out
Arguably the most important stage of a breakup, is to Let It Out. There’s nothing healthy about keeping your feelings bottled with nowhere to go. Free yourself from your pain, much quicker, by opening yourself up and letting things out rather than just pretending to cope.
You don’t have to feel like you’re losing control; simply because you’re letting your feelings out. Shedding some tears and pouring your frustration out into creative activities like writing, exercise or physical activities can be really good for you. Express yourself in a safe and comfortable place during this stage.
Letting it out can be done by using all your senses and being mindful and grounded in the moment. It can be done talking to friends to by seeking the help of a Counsellor. That’s me.
(Click here to book on appointment in person or online via Skype or Zoom)
Talking to Friends – vs – Talking to a therapist
Once you’ve talked to your friends or family about the relationship and the breakup you can start to feel as if no one wants to hear about it anymore, they’ve moved on and want you to move on too.
But if you’re not there yet you need to talk about it and process it for as long as it takes.
Talking to a therapist has many benefits. They don’t know you or your partner, you can say whatever you want without hurting their feelings. You don’t have to worry that what you say will get back to anyone important.
A therapist is there for you when they say they will be there, you get to choose how often you want to speak to them.
Your family and friends, not intentionally, can set your progress back, if they’re not careful. You should be aware, that your loved ones are hurting because you’re hurting.
Their TLC at this stage of your recovery from the breakup, should be positive and encouraging, not vengeful and angry at your ex.
The problem with this is that now you have to deal with their emotions instead of focusing on working through your own.
Another thing about family and friends is establishing boundaries. They think they’re doing the right thing by telling you things they “heard” about your ex.
You don’t need to know what they’re up to now you’re not together. This serves no benefit for you it just plays with your emotions and redirects you focus back on them which goes against the goal of moving forward and mending your broken heart.
If this happens you need to set boundaries so they know not to share anything they hear or have seen regarding your ex.
Stage 3: Accountability & Forgiveness
Things don’t usually end for no reason. Now you’ve had time to reflect on the relationship you may recognise some red flags and warning signs that things were turning to shit.
You may also recognise your own part in the demise of the relationship. What could you have done better or differently?
Being accountable is not assigning blame, it’s knowing what you can improve within yourself so in your next relationship the same issues don’t come up.
You can use this process for personal growth not for who was right and who was wrong. We can all do better and be better people.
Forgiveness is vital to curing your broken heart in a timely manner. If your ex wronged you in some way, then you need to do what you can to forgive them. The worse the offence, the harder it will be; but the worse the offence, the more important it is for you to forgive.
Forgiving an ex can actually be much easier than forgiving yourself. The funny thing is that you don’t have to be at fault at all, and yet you feel as though you did something wrong.
Of course, there’s always a chance that you were the guilty party, but whether you were or not, you still need to forgive yourself if you really want to heal a broken heart.
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Stage 4: Fun & Distraction
Even though you may feel like crawling into a corner and never seeing the light of day again, you need to get out and live your life.
Call up some friends and go out, take a roadtrip, go camping, whatever it takes to get out of the house and experience life. It may be tricky at first, but do your best to have fun.
You’ve been through the 3 ring shit show circus that’s been your life. You’ve suffered and now is the perfect opportunity to compensate yourself for it.
Don’t seek revenge against your ex, but satisfy yourself by making yourself feel and look better than ever before.
The fun stage is about rewarding yourself in positive and healthful ways. Let this breakup be the beginning of a new and improved you rather than your demise.
Use this stage for personal growth. Set new goals. Take care of your health, nutrition and fitness. Create daily healthy habits that make you feel good about yourself. Start a new hobby. Buy some new clothes. Get a new haircut or style.
Do things for yourself that make you feel good. This is a good time to focus on your self-care and boost your self-esteem.
(Read: 10 tips to boost your self-esteem)
If you’re struggling to think you could go out or see people or even have fun I want you to consider this stage as a distraction stage. The more people you talk to or place you see and experience you are distracting yourself from the current situation.
You’re breaking your state from being sad or hurt to be curious and learning new things. You can distract yourself from your emotions even just to give yourself a break from those shitty feelings.
Stage 5: Moving on
This is where you can finally begin to look at the bigger picture, accepting the situation for what it is and move on. This is the point where you can see why the breakup occurred, who was responsible for what and why, and what has been learned in the process, without feeling like crap over it.
By this stage of a breakup, you’re no longer worried about the other person or what they’re doing or thinking. You’ve stopped stalking their facebook profiles and finding out where they are on Snapchat maps.
You have some kind of inner peace. You can look at the entire experience as something that happened in the past and move beyond it.
You can reassess who you are today and what you want in your life. You can set goals and reprioritise your life. You may not be ready to start dating other people but believe me you will find someone when you’re looking or when you feel that you’re not ready.
Don’t give up hope that you will find happiness. Not all relationships are the same. Different people will create a different dynamic and finding the right dynamic is easy if you are looking at the person and the connection between you as you see it and feel it not as you think it might be or could be.
Give love a chance to show you the inherent beauty of being coupled with someone you love and who loves you back. Each relationship is different. The dynamics between you and your future partner will not be the same as they were with the ex.
Time and experiences gives you a whole new level of maturity and you can look at your next relationship through a different lens. Also understand that moving on doesn’t always mean moving on with someone else.
You don’t have to be in a new relationship to signify that you’ve moved forward in life. It can also mean making small changes to your life so that you have replaced the negative feelings with someone worthwhile in your life.
You have a direction and you no longer feel destroyed. And that’s a good thing!
If you need some help to work through a breakup you can click here to make an appointment.