Psychological insights on relationships: rejections, breakups, making relationships happy, unhealthy dynamics, and general psychology.

How Long Does It Take To Feel Better After a Breakup?

After a breakup, we go through five stages, but people who don’t want to separate from their partner move between the first three stages. Therefore, in this blog post, we answer the following questions:

  1. How long does it take to feel normal after a breakup?
  2. Why do people go through some stages quickly while lingering in others?

I will also give you solutions to get you through those three stages faster.

A man and a woman are sitting next to each other

Summarized:

  1. Denial: serves to calm us down and help our sensitive ego better withstand emotional pain.
  2. Anger: provides an emotional release.
  3. Bargaining: creates an imaginary sense of power.
  4. Acceptance is the first stage of true healing.
  5. Meaning: the moment when we progress as a person.

Just a quick explanation in a few sentences of where this theory comes from.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist, first focused on the patients with incurable illnesses she worked with in her 1969 book before describing the stages I’m talking about today.

In the expanded version of the book, she stated that these stages apply to all types of grief and any form of personal loss. Such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or divorce, job loss or income, significant rejection, infertility diagnoses, and so on.

A man and a woman are sitting next to each other

Here, we will specifically discuss overcoming the end of a relationship or divorce and the phases one goes through when it happens.

Before anything else, it’s important to note that the duration of staying in different stages varies among individuals and depends on their character and personal characteristics.

This means that someone might swiftly breeze through one phase, say, in half an hour, while getting stuck in another for years.

Since the length of staying in different stages depends on our individual traits, what can help us spend less time in a particular stage is to seriously contemplate this process and strive towards the last two healing stages. I will, of course, tell you what those are.

Man and woman breaking up

The first three stages are easier to endure. But the next two (we even have a bonus sixth stage) are necessary to move on with our lives. So we don’t end up like some literary characters or those who never stopped thinking about a particular person. Or, to be more precise, those who haven’t continued living their lives but remained stuck with someone from their past. There’s a difference between occasionally thinking and ruining your life for someone.

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What are the stages of healing after a breakup?

After a loved one abandons them, the first stage a person goes through is:

1. Denial.

When someone leaves us, it’s extremely difficult to believe that it happened at that moment. Or in the following days, weeks, or months.

*I’ve had cases where people convinced themselves for years that the person would come back and that this was just a passing phase for them. I meant this when I said that different stages can last various durations for different people.

So, for practical and emotional reasons, when we break up with someone, we enter a phase of hoping that the person will gather themselves and reach out. We imagine that it’s just a glitch in their behavior. And often, it really is.

Man and woman breaking up

This phase serves to calm us down and help our sensitive ego better withstand emotional pain. Since emotional pain is a dangerous state for a person, the ego uses its most powerful mechanism, denial, also known as the queen of ego defense mechanisms.

It also uses other mechanisms, like negation, for example: “No, it didn’t happen. It’s just a temporary problem. Everything will soon return to normal.” All with the purpose of allowing us to gather strength to face that stressful situation.

However, I’ve encountered many people in my practice who have been stuck in this phase for years, which almost inevitably transitions into a state of psychosis (delusions) that things are different than they are. In the meantime, occasional attempts to move between the next stages occur.

How To Make Your Ex Regret Leaving You

The solution to get through that phase faster is:

No matter how difficult it may be, try to imagine, just for experimentation, that the person will never return. Despite the waves of unbearable pain you’ve felt, the fact now is that you will continue to live on. Your ego is terribly wounded; you’ll need to make some adjustments, close some chapters, and start new ones.

Man and woman breaking up

But if you manage to overcome your ego and carefully begin to rearrange these other aspects, you will see that, in reality, you can go on without that person. If it was functional until now, your life continues to be functional.
Later in the text, I discuss how people overcome pain and how the brain assists them, so keep reading.

Can a Person Who Rejected You Change Their Mind

2. Anger is the next stage.

It arises because a person can no longer deny the events, perhaps because the ex-partner hasn’t gathered themselves and hasn’t reached out, or because they’ve continued living their life.

In this stage, we choose to be angry at ourselves or at our partner, depending on the person’s characteristics.

Suppose someone tends to attribute everything to themselves. In that case, they will naturally get angry at themselves, leading to accusations like, “You’re so stupid. If only you had done this or that. Or if only you were like this or that. If you hadn’t said this, everything would be different,” and so on.

The second option is anger directed towards the person through which we feel and express various unpleasant emotions, having the urge to seek revenge or inflict some form of harm. This may involve gossiping, insulting, cursing, humiliating, and so on.

Man and woman break up

Anger arises because anger finally provides an emotional release after the denial stage, which is a stagnant phase. Another aspect of anger is its social acceptability. It’s not cool to openly display despair and sadness when someone leaves us. However, anger is a more acceptable emotion.

Through anger, we have some power over everything that’s happening to us, at least to decide and assess the person who left us. At least we have retained enough sanity not to think they’re worth our suffering. Additionally, we have a better topic for conversation with our people—hating that person while in despair would be entirely powerless.

I must emphasize that the anger phase is good and healthy (as long as no harm is done), and it’s always peculiar when a person skips this stage. It can be exceptionally mature. But probably it is just an extended denial phase.

The solution to get through that phase faster is:

Pay attention to the fact that anger can be beneficial, as your aggression is then directed outward. However, the expression of anger is a childlike tendency and an immature mechanism of ego defense. Strive to channel your rage into sports, art, creativity, libido, etc. You will be happier and leave a legacy behind so that this entire period won’t be reduced solely to anger and the subsequent shame you might feel.

The Best Way To Make Someone Regret Leaving You

Handsome man standing

3. Bargaining phase.

Elisabeth Ross’s book mentions that during this stage of a breakup, a person promises to change, stop doing some bad things, and start doing some good stuff. This indeed reminds you of classic bargaining with a loved one who left. Every one can imagine someone promising a loved one—directly or indirectly—everything they asked for or what they believe they need to change about themselves to have the loved one back.

This phase is also known as the bargaining phase (charmingly, like at the market 😊).

Bargaining helps people because it creates an imaginary sense of power. Only if they say the right thing or offer the right thing will they succeed in making a difference. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes it’s not. But people like the possibility of controlling the situation, so they choose this option.

As I mentioned, sometimes it turns out that the person wanted their partner to change something, so (reading enough of my blog posts 😊) they concluded that leaving partner and reaching the bargaining phase will be a good approach.

With the help of this dynamic, people can keep others captive for years.

Man and woman break up

However, if that’s not the case and the person has genuinely decided to leave, we move on to the fourth stage I’ll discuss.

As long as a person is in these first three stages, they won’t move forward. There is an objective danger that they might forever remain stuck in a non-existent relationship, denying themselves the chance for a better life. Only to avoid experiencing the fourth challenging but necessary stage: the stage of grief and depression.

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The solution to get through that phase faster is:

Nobody likes people who beg and plead. Nobody likes those who are mentally or emotionally weak (unless that person is inherently malicious or a sadist or psychopath who revels in others’ pain). Begging won’t get you anywhere.

People always gravitate towards positive emotions, and they will always prefer dignified individuals who don’t resort to begging.

In the end, if you manage to make someone beg (and I’ve had clients for whom that was the plan), you’ll be forever stuck in a position of desperation, because that will be your way of holding onto that person. However, I still recommend dignity. It’s a much more attractive quality.

And here we come to the penultimate stage:

Black-man

4. The stage of acceptance

This stage is the moment when a person accepts what is truly happening, or, in other words, accepts reality for the first time. Unfortunately, this is the stage when we feel the truth and its inevitability. And its typical manifestation is the need for isolation to mourn. It’s the first time we confront the possibility that we may never be with that person again, and as challenging as this information is, it’s actually the First Stage of True Healing.

Can an ex come back after a few months? Or years?

So, if you find yourself in it and it’s very, very difficult, congratulations ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

Because it means your overcoming of that person and healing have just begun. The previous stages are obviously easier but useless if the relationship has truly ended. This stage is tough, but you’ve moved from a standstill, and at some point, you can expect what you’ve been aiming for (or should be aiming for), which is the healing stage, i.e., acceptance.

A beautiful woman thinking

Let’s understand that desire and sadness can be felt for a lifetime. Why didn’t some things work out? It should have been different, and so on. But accepting the situation and reconciling with it is necessary to set us free. You’ll know you’ve accepted the situation when you no longer have other emotional manifestations like anger, rage, denial, and so on. Acceptance is the best thing in the world, as they say, because it’s the moment when a person can continue their life. Read more about acceptance here.
Later, the co-author of this book, David Kessler, suggested a sixth stage as an addition, which is the stage of:

Why acceptance is one of the most important things in life

5. Meaning.

I believe that among all the things a person can do, finding meaning is the most healing thing one can afford. Giving meaning to that whole thing. Finding out why something happened is good for us. And continuing to live with that new awareness, enriched and changed for the better by that experience.

This is actually the moment when we progress as a person.

A beautiful proud woman

It’s always good when we get something out of events and things, even if it’s an important lesson or something else. It is good for our ego when we give more meaning to the things that hurt us. The ego does not like that we are at a loss or bad.

How to make your ex want you back – 12 steps

How long does it take to feel normal after a breakup?

How long it takes for a person to feel normal after a breakup depends on the individual; the things they do and time definitely help.

First, let’s explain time. Our brain gets tired of negative emotions. Our being gets tired of negative emotions. When exposed to stress and intense feelings for a long time, our being (specifically, the self and self-esteem) suffers unbearable injuries that our ego cannot endure, nor can it experience them for a long time. Therefore, our being and brain strive to reduce these unpleasant emotions and make things less threatening for us. For this purpose, we use ego-defense mechanisms.

Friends

In any case, to avoid constant stress because stress is dangerous for us, continuous cortisol secretion damages our physical being, and grief can really kill us,. That’s why we developed mechanisms not to die, because survival is the most crucial thing for humans. One of the most important mechanisms is pain relief, which makes things less relevant or less important. I call it: the brain gets bored with dealing with that topic. It has no choice and makes things less painful.

The second important thing to mention on this topic is that the recovery speed also depends on what we do. People recover at different rates because they are focused on other things and use different techniques.

I have had people in my sessions who recovered exceptionally quickly, but also people who recovered incredibly slowly or never. In brief, the recovery speed also depends on where our focus is. When I say focus, I don’t mean that you will recover faster if you exercise to exhaustion or meet other people. But you will recover faster if you learn to think differently about it.

Why Break Up Is So Hard To Bear: Real Reasons

And it is possible to recover faster.

Man and woman breaking up

Returning to reality is one of the better techniques I apply in my therapy sessions. It could sound better. Because everyone thinks they are in reality with their emotions. But there is always a reality that can help you more. This technique is challenging to apply because the ego creates obstacles (and what you just thought: What reality? I am in reality?! is an ego obstacle to prevent change). The ego doesn’t like being hurt, so it quickly calculates how to avoid it. And changes are a potential injury.

But with the help of a good therapist, careful listening, breaking down lousy ego defenses, and applying good ones, we can go through grief faster. One article where you can read about returning to reality is this one. In it, I talk about what happens when someone rejects you.

Until the next post, I hope this post has been helpful and has clarified some of your dilemmas.

Love you. Dee

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