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The 7 Stages of Heartbreak When You Become Someone’s Ex

Heartbreak’s here to stay for at least seven stages. Here are the common stages of heartbreak you experience when you go from sex to ex.

Stages of Heartbreak

Unless you end up spending the rest of your life with your first love, odds are you’re going to experience one of life’s greatest woes: debilitating post-breakup loneliness and the seven stages of heartbreak that go along with it.

Breakups are totally worth it as long as you learn something, right? You may come out a stronger, wiser person on the other end of a breakup, but the process of getting there has to be some kind of cosmic joke.

The stages of heartbreak

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you were in a relationship or simply lusting after your crush from afar, heartbreak gets the best of everyone. From crying rage to hermit-like tendencies, we all seem to follow a vague pattern of heartbreak that charts our course through a breakup.

Feeling lost about where you rank on the heartbreak-o-meter? We’re giving you a chart of the 7 stages of heartbreak.

#1 Possible first: anticipation. When it comes to the stages of heartbreak, your first round can go one of two ways. Your possible first stage may just be anticipation.

Your lover was playing the long con, and you were wise to their game. You caught their subtle eye rolls, felt them backing away from you, and took note every time they told you they were hanging out with friends when they were really out at the club. This breakup may not have been a surprise to you, but it sure did hurt all the same. [Read: 20 signs your relationship is -oh-so-over already]


#1 Possible first: shock. Breakups bring us unbelievable heartache. Some feel that mourning a breakup is psychologically similar to mourning a death. The loss is so overpowering sometimes the mind can’t comprehend the difference. This can be particularly hard to bear when we don’t see the end of a relationship coming.

If this breakup came out of left field, your first stage of heartbreak is probably going to be shock. Big, slap-you-in-the-face shock. You were just living life, happy as a clam, thinking everything between the two of you was hunky dory. There was no anticipation, no telltale signs. You had no opportunity to slowly back away or to try and remedy the situation. Instead, the person you care for more than anyone just told you they no longer love you.

This is one of the hardest things to endure. [Read: Suddenly single?! 11 things you HAVE to avoid doing]

#2 Denial or it’s not over… It still isn’t over! Denial of a breakup isn’t as bonkers as you flat out deny that you’re no longer a couple. Rather, it’s more like you’re in denial that you’ll stay broken up. You have hopes of getting back together and picking up where you left off. I mean, you have to reconcile at some point, right? You were the perfect couple!

You may shelve your hurt feelings during the denial stage and try to psychologically convince yourself that this breakup is just a phase and you’ll be back together soon.

PS: This is really harmful to your psychological state. You ignore your grief when what you really should do is drowning your sorrows in a pint of mint chip ice cream and binge-watching Netflix with your friends. [Read: The pain of loving someone who doesn’t love you back]

#3 Bargaining or friends with benefits and other endeavors to win them back. Bargaining is all about doing whatever it takes to get your ex back and ridding your heart of the pain you currently feel. You swear that you’ll be a better mate, more understanding, more available, more attentive in the sack. You’ll even do that thing they like with the vibrating and the tongue and the…

The list goes on and on. Whatever you can do or say to get them to entertain the thought of getting back together, you’ll try it. This stage is rife with social media stalking. If you hope to reconcile then you need to make sure he’s not out with other girls, or that she’s just as upset as you are and… Whoa, did they really change their status to single? Ouch.

Becoming your ex’s “friend with benefits” is often a bargaining chip that women like to use. Do yourself a giant favor: unless your ex was the best lay you’ll ever have, skip this mistake waiting to happen. If you thought your heart was shattered during the breakup, becoming a friend with benefits explodes in your face so hard those shattered shards turn back into sand! [Read: 12 reasons why the no contact rule always works]

#4 Anger or the rant stage. Best friends unite—it’s the ranting stage! During this phase, you’ll move across the border from sad, wallowing heartbreak into pure pissed hell. You’re angry. You’re tired. You’re ready to rant.  How could your ex do this? Don’t they see what a catch you are? How could they not appreciate everything you’ve done for them? They’ll never get head as good as you gave ever again!

Opposite of the example above where you find out who your true friends are and cling to them for life as your new source of happiness, you may end up hating the world and everything in it—including your friends. You may become so angry that you lash out at those who love you the most. You may start acting out in self-destructive behavior.

This stage isn’t pretty, but it’s all a part of the process. Becoming angry means that you’ve taken off the rose colored glasses. It means you’re concerned about you now. [Read: How to let go of anger: Release the rage and resentment]

#5 Sadness or wallowing. Howard Hughes has nothin’ on you. You are deep into the sorrow stage. Right now your life consists of non-stop crying and reclusive behavior. You’re sad about everything: your breakup, the way you look, where your life is headed, the squirrel who keeps digging in your backyard.

This is one of those stages of heartbreak that is incredibly hard, but it’s also one of the most therapeutic once it’s over. Which, just warning you, could take a while.

Don’t let yourself be a hermit for too long. Engage your friends and allow yourself the chance to laugh, smile, and get fun drunk again. *You probably haven’t experienced that in a while!* Restart your social calendar so you start to feel like a real human being again. [Read: Self-discovery after a breakup – How to happily move on]

#6 Rebounding or looking for love at the wrong time. Somewhere between wallowing and acceptance comes the rebound relationship. A relationship is generally considered a rebound if you jump into it soon after a breakup from a serious relationship, or while you are sad, distressed, angry, or generally emotionally unavailable.

Rebounds are generally messy and involve a lot of hurt, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless or wrong. For example, remember the days when you thought you could never love again? That it wasn’t worth putting time and effort into getting to know someone else’s little quirks and sex habits?

If rebounding to a nobody taught you anything, it’s that you really do have the potential to have a connection with someone new. The best part? It feels amazing. [Read: Rebound relationship rules to follow for a slam dunk]

#7 Acceptance… Sort of? If acceptance means ignoring your ex and staring daggers into their soul when you have the displeasure of sharing the same social scene with them, then yeah, you’re totally over it.

But seriously, acceptance usually happens when you least expect it. Suddenly a day goes by where you don’t even think about your ex. Every location, food, song, or movie you see doesn’t automatically remind you of some awesome time you had together. Instead, you’ve accepted and begun to move on. You understand why it didn’t work out and why you’re better off apart. You focus back on yourself and learn to live a life that is “me” instead of “we.”

[Read: How to be single after a long relationship: 16 ways to start over]

The 7 stages of heartbreak are unforgettably painful, but they also teach you something. You’re worth more than begging for someone’s time and affection. You are strong. And after this trauma? You can take a bullet without even flinching.

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Waverly Smith

Waverly Smith is a freelance writer who has been getting paid for spreading her sarcastic take on love, life, and sex since 2010. She is many things that peo...

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