What are the stages of the break up timeline?

In this blog we present to you a timeline of the stages of a break up. 

We will also briefly discuss what are the various stages of a break up and how one can heal a broken heart. 

What are the stages of the break up timeline?

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Counseling is Key to a Healthy Marriage

The timeline of break ups differs for each individual and there is no set universal timeline for each stage. 

According to Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D., A contributor for Psychology Today, the various stages of a break up include the following:

  • Desperate search for answers which is usually the first stage after a break up and this occurs within the first few days after the break up has occurred. 
  • Denial is the second stage that occurs between 5 days to a week after the break up has happened. In some cases, the denial stage might last a few weeks as well. 
  • Bargaining stage begins after a few weeks into the break up where the person realises what has happened. This stage might last a few weeks to a few months as well. 
  • Anger stage tends to occur after two to three months after the break up and can last a few more months and in some cases even one to two years. 
  • Acceptance stage begins 6-8 months after the break up where the individual accepts the break up in defeat or can even happen after a year or two where the acceptance develops into something more of a conscious choice
  • Hope stage is the final stage that sets in most probably after a year since the break up while for others it might take multiple years as well. 

The differences in timeline for each stage depends on multiple factors such as:

  • How long the relationship lasted
  • The level of commitment in each partner
  • The context of the break up 
  • The consequences of the break up 
  • Personal qualities such as psychological resilience
  • Social support available to the person.

These factors often influence how long the individual stays in each stage of the break up and how long it takes for them to move towards acceptance and hope. 

What are the stages of a break up?

The stages of a break up is as follows:

Desperate search for answers

The first stage that a person goes through is the result of absolute confusion after one’s heart has been broken.

This is usually for the case of the person who has been broken up with where they are consumed with the desire to know why they have been left heart broken and this often occurs when there is no clear closure.

This desperate search for answers can come at the cost of their well being, all rational thought and behaviours, and can consume their lives. For example, a person might stay awake the whole night trying to figure out why their partner has left them.

At this stage the person becomes fixated on things that could have gone wrong, things that could have been done better, as well as other small things that have happened that have led up to the break up.

During this stage, it is likely that the person moves from clarity to confusion multiple times as they grapple with the magnitude of their loss. 

During this stage there is disorganisation of thoughts and confusion and it is all one can talk about with their friends and loved ones- often this desperation to make sense leads one to debate with others as you try to justify why the break up should not have happened.

This constant justification often arises due to one’s desire to convince their ex of the same thing but are unable to do so. 

Denial

Now, after the initial confusion has abated and you gave come to a point where you realise that the break up has happened for whatever reason, the next stage of the break up often involves denial,

Here the main thought is “It can’t be true. This isn’t happening!” You are unable to accept the fact that this is happening and this is one’s way of holding on to the hope that one can save the relationship. 

So as you deny, you postpone coming to terms with it and accepting the fact that it has happened because it is too painful and too disorienting to consider that you no longer have a future with this person. 

Bargaining

The next stage, after you have come to a point where you can clearly see that the break up has happened, you seek to bargain with your partner or whatever higher power that you be given a second chance.

Here you are willing to do anything to avoid the thought of never getting back together- so you might bargain with them that you will be a better partner, that you will do anything to have them reconsider the break up. 

This often happens because the thought of breaking up for good is so painful that you are willing to do anything to make the pain go away by winning back your partner. 

At this stage, the individual is not being logical and the desperation of wanting their partner back tends to consume their life- often impacting their ability to reason and make logical decisions. 

Anger

When the bargaining stage has ultimately failed, you begin to realise that you matter too and as a result fear and anxiety of never being with this person again is replaced by anger for what you have been put through. 

Oftentimes this anger arises from the feelings that one has been slighted by not being given a chance to defend one’s self, or because as you struggled your way through the stages you  lost sight of yourself. 

Depending on your temperament, life, and family experiences, as well as the break up itself, your anger could be directed towards your ex, your situation, or yourself.

This anger that one feels can either be a negative and destructive anger however it has the potential to be empowering for the person who feels it. 

If the anger is towards yourself, it can be challenging especially if you add guilt into the grieving process. However, as you allow yourself to grieve- through anger, sadness, and guilt as well- there is hope that it will move you in a direction that is positive.

This positive direction can encourage you to look at the break up in a new light and consider the various possibilities that you have with the new found freedom of singlehood.  

Acceptance

The first kind of acceptance that one might feel post a break up often comes in the form of surrender and the acceptance of one’s defeat.

Here, this acceptance means that you stop bargaining as well as let go of whatever anger you might be feeling and instead choose to play out your part in the break up- you let your partner go. 

At this point you might recognize that you are not meant to be with this partner and so, you let go of your partner as well as the dreams and hopes you had for the future you envisioned with them. 

Over time and with effort, your initial form of acceptance begins to develop into something more of a conscious choice as you realise that holding on to your partner is not good for you. 

So this form of acceptance is the starting point of you moving forward and taking steps to carry on your life, on your own terms, and for yourself.

Hope

Part of what makes breakups so painful and difficult is that your hope for the future that includes both you and your partner has been shattered.

The last stage of a broken heart involves finding new avenues of hope and discovering the possibility that you just might be okay without your ex- that you can build a new future for yourself. 

This finding of new hope and new optimism can take time- months, years even- however as you allow one’s self to move forwards in acceptance it is likely that your broken heart can begin to invest itself in a whole new direction. 

It could be towards a new partner, a new career, a new found vision towards one’s self etc. as you build on acceptance and choose to be more proactive and self-protective it is likely that you will be able to see the break up as a new beginning.

How to heal a broken heart?

Here are some of the things that you can choose to do to heal a broken heart:

Grieve

The best thing you can allow yourself to do after a break up is to give yourself grief. This will involve you taking effort to acknowledge your emotions and your feelings no matter how painful or vulnerable you might be feeling. 

Take time out of your day to grieve, let yourself cry, get angry, and experience all the uncomfortable feelings that you are feeling without judgement- write about it if you want to, use art to express how you feel. 

Seek out professional support if you need it

Talk to a professional if you think that you are not getting enough support and guidance from your friends and family. 

Meeting a professional to talk about your depression, grief, and loss of the relationship is something that you can give yourself as an act of self-love and self-care. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have explored the multiple stages of a broken heart.

Along with discussing the various stages one goes through after a break up we also discussed the stages of healing after a break up. 

FAQ related to Stages of a breakup timeline

How long does it take to get through the stages of a breakup?

The time it takes to move through the stages of a break up differs for each individual. Writers at Parade writes that for some it might take them 6 months for each year they have been with the person. For example, if the relationship lasted one year, they will take 6 months to heal.

What are the stages of break up?

According to Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D., A contributor for Psychology Today, the various stages of a broken heart that a person goes through after a break up include the following:

  • Desperate search for answers
  • Denial
  • Bargaining
  • Anger
  • Acceptance
  • Hope

What stage is anger in a breakup?

According to Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D., A contributor for Psychology Today, anger is the 4th stage of a break up that a person goes through. 

References

Lindenfield, G. (2021). Your pocket self-esteem guide: Increase your confidence; transform your life. HarperCollins Publishers.

Kendall Coffman. Overcoming Heartbreak: 7 Stages of Healing. Good Therapy. Retrieved on 3rd April 2022. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/Overcoming-Heartbreak-7-Stages-of-Healing

Suzanne Lachmann. The 7 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. Psychology Today. Retrieved on 3rd April 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/me-we/201406/the-7-stages-grieving-breakup

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