No matter how bad things may have gotten in the end, once a relationship is finally over it is important to go through a grieving process. While the particulars of these stages change based on the nature and length of each relationship, they are important to recognize and accept if you want to move on in a healthy way.
Stage 1: Denial – “Everything was perfect”
Even when everyone you know is unsurprised at the end of your relationship (including you!) it is still common to initially deny that anything was bad and focus only on the good. This is a way to avoid dealing with the “loss” of your union. This mental attitude can happen before the actual break up (“this isn’t happening”, “we will always be together”, etc.) or it can take place immediately afterwards as you try and rationalise and avoid your feelings of loss and rejection.
During this stage, it is important to surround yourself with people who care about you above your ex and to remind yourself that things really were bad. This makes you realize that the breakup, no matter how painful, is the best course of action for you both.
Stage 2: Rebound and Relapse – “I cannot be alone!”
While the idea of a “rebound” is nothing new, understanding that this need to fill the void left by your ex with someone – anyone – is common helps you to negotiate the situation and (hopefully) avoid causing similar pain to someone else. On the flip side, sometimes the “rebound” you go for is with your ex himself. Many times one member of a couple can convince the other to “try again”. However, unless you are truly willing to address the issues that lead to your breakup in the first place this is a sick cycle that only prolongs your hurt.
Overall, keeping “rebounds” in casual sphere and truly taking the time you need to get over your ex is important for the health of any future relationship. If some new person you meet is really that special, he or she will wait until you are ready, emotionally, to get involved again.
Stage 3: Anger – “I hate all men/women”
Once you’ve gotten to the point where you at least acknowledge that your previous relationship is kaput, the tendency to block out all relationships or hopes for relationships is understandable. It’s a defense mechanism that keeps you from getting hurt again. This “I hate all men/women” or “I’ll never love again” mentality is really a “fake it til you make it” effort to move on and it is, in its way, healthy.
However, make sure to surround yourself with people you do like, such as close friends and family, to avoid taking this stage into total isolation.
Stage 4: Misplaced Hope – “I am totally over you (no I’m not!)”
Another step in the “fake it” direction, making like you couldn’t care less about the doings of your ex is an important step in mentally separating yourselves from one another. However, recognize that often, we say this long before it is true and try to resist the temptation to social media stalk your ex or get otherwise caught up in his/her life without you.
During this stage, take time to refocus on yourself and improve or pay more attention to the parts of you that were otherwise neglected during your relationship, especially during the ugly end.
Stage 5: Acceptance – “I am happy and whole on my own”
Understanding the embracing your power as an individual who is whole without a partner is the true goal of the post-breakup period. This will not happen all at once, and a lot of the “fake it til you make it” tactics are essential in getting to this point. However, you must understand, even in the earliest post-relationship stages, that this is the goal.
Accepting not only the end of your previous relationship but the power you have on your own means that you are (finally) getting to a point where you will be able to move onto a relationship with someone else. Without discovering the power of yourself, however, you are doomed to keep repeating the cycle of unhealthy relationships and breakups. [RELATED: Embracing the Single Life: How to Be Alone & Happy]
Moving on in a Healthy Way
Remember, everyone, no matter who they are or how long their relationship was, goes through the post-breakup grieving process. Sometimes it takes hours or days, other times it takes years to work through. So don’t fret as you recognise some of these signs and stages in yourself and work through them at the pace right for you.
Moreover, you don’t have to go through all this process alone. If friends are particularly annoyed at you talking about the relationship, or whether you just want to get a fresh unbiased perspective to your situation, reach out to me via coaching so I can help you through this difficult period.