Trace’s Adventures in Dating: The Five Stages of a Breakup

Last year, I wrote a very heartfelt post on my experience with breakups. It was a tough post to write because it left me vulnerable to my readers, but at the same time it was a very therapeutic experience. I couldn’t have imagined the amount of emails I received after that post from women who told me the post helped them heal. It even caught the attention of the editor of Mend, who featured the post on her site.

I’ve been wanting to write more on the topic of breakups and have had this post in mind for a while. I finally decided now was the time to tackle this one. I’m not saying all breakups follow this formula, and would love for those of you who have gone through breakups to weigh in below in the comments, but this is just how I have experienced breakups in my life.

Denial can come in many forms. It could be you willingly ignoring the fact that your relationship is going South. It could be you making excuses for your significant other when you know their actions or lifestyle choices are wrong. It could even be you holding on to those small things you still have in common or still love about that other person when you know there is so much that is driving you apart. For me, it was telling myself it was easier to “stick with what I have than to have to start over.” I chose convenience over happiness for a long time and started to believe that convenience and happiness were actually the same thing. I was in major denial.

After the breakup, I was in denial about being fine. I kept telling myself and others that I was fine when I knew that I wasn’t. I remember going on this date and having it go horribly. The part I omitted from this post is how I came home and bawled my eyes out to my roommate about how going to the movies used to be so fun with my ex and now it was just a horrible experience. I tried my best to convince my self I was alright, but it took a lot longer to actually get to that point.

Anger was a funny stage for me. I remember not being angry at first, but the anger would come in waves. In fact, it would reappear in between other stages and even after acceptance it would still creep up later on. Initially, I felt angry that I had “wasted” three years of my life. (In retrospect, it wasn’t a waste. It taught me a lot about myself and what I wanted and didn’t want in a partner.) I remember being so angry because I felt like my ex had made me look like a fool by announcing our breakup on Facebook ten minutes after it happened (and before I had a chance to tell my friends or even process what just happened). Like I said, the initial anger didn’t last long, but crept up for a long time afterwards.

The bargaining stage is different for everyone. For some, you may try to convince your ex to take you back. For me, I never did this. My attempt at bargaining was the few times we communicated after the break up via text message where we said we would try to remain friends. I knew deep down this wouldn’t work, but it is incredibly difficult to go from talking to someone every day to coming to terms with the fact that you may never talk to them again, so I figured some semblance of a friendship was the route to take. (I believe this “friendship” lasted a few text messages and maybe two weeks?)

We also remained Facebook friends. This was the biggest mistake I made and I would highly recommend removing the ex from Facebook immediately. For me, the most bargaining came between me and the universe. I would bargain, telling myself: “I’m just going to look on his Facebook for five minutes, just to make sure nothing bad has happened. What if there was a death in the family? I need to know.” What I was actually doing: Creeping his Facebook, looking to see if there were any new pictures, if he added any new friends and painstakingly analyzing any comment from a female to see if it was a potential love match. This was not healthy behaviour at all and I wasn’t able to truly move on until we stopped being “friends” on Facebook.

I could write a few posts on this topic alone. I hovered in this stage for longer than I should have. I set up a comfy spot right in the middle of depression and just hung out. I didn’t eat for days. I lost ten pounds in a week. I cried non-stop. On the fourth day post-breakup, I forced myself to eat again, to regain normalcy to my life and to stop crying all the time and I did. However, it did take a long time for me to feel like “myself” again, since I no longer knew who myself was. I can truly say those were some of my darkest days, but those dark times magnify the good times that come after. I truly believe I wouldn’t be as grateful for my current relationship had I not gone through those hard times.

 Eventually, although you may feel like you will never reach it, you hit acceptance. Beware: there are a few times you will think you have reached acceptance but you’re not fully there. That’s alright too, because this final stage is the best one, but it can take time. Once you get there, you will feel peace. You will open your eyes to the possibilities that are out there for you. You can start figuring out what you want for yourself and who you want to date. You may even meet the love of your life, like I did. I can say with 100% certainty that no matter how many dates I went on, until I fully accepted the breakup and moved on, I never would have found the one. Until I reached acceptance, I never completely opened up on dates. I was always skeptical and completely jaded. When I realized I was worth loving (and there were guys out there worth giving my love to), that there were date-able men out there (that were cute and employed!) and that dating was fun, everything turned around for me.

If you’re going through a break up and are in any of these stages, it’s normal. You may think it will never get better, but it does. Sometimes you think the one you lost was the best you could have had and that you will never find the right one for you. Let me tell you that life is a funny thing. Out of the blue it will bring you your soul mate, just when you’ve stopped looking. For me, I met Mark when I had stopped putting so much pressure on myself to find a guy and instead just let things happen. Now, it’s exciting for me to think that in just nine days, I will be married to the love of my life.

I would love to continue this discussion in the comments. Please feel free to share your opinions, experiences and advice. If you’ve tackled a dating post on your blog, you can also link up below.


  1. says

    I think there should be one more! After acceptance is a wonderful stage! The stage when 5 years later you are with the person you are meant to be with and you delete your ex’s number out of your phone! I am not sure what to call that… winning?

  2. Anonymous says

    I went through a 8yr slipt a year and a half ago. No problems in our relationship, we had great communication, then one day he made a dinner date with me, I was so excited, I got all prettied up an waited for him, but little did I know, the night before would be the last time I see or talk to him, he never came home from work that day. To my surprise he moved in with another girl, I’d call her a woman but no real woman takes a man that’s in a relationship already. Til this day I still suffer from severe depression, I’ve accepted the fact, but it still hurts to not know WHY! What I’ve learned from this is that you really don’t know somebody like you think you do, no matter what! I know I can get past this, but its going to still take some time. My heart is still shattered and very hurt by this. I’ve promised myself that NO MAN will EVER let me feel this way again.

  3. says

    Breaking up is so hard and I am a big one on being in denial. When my marriage ended, I had so much trouble accepting that it was actually over – even though he was moved out and everything.

  4. says

    You see so right about these stages. I went through a breakup three years ago after 9 years of dating. It was the darkest time in my life. I lost 20lbs in a month. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I got through it. I’ve contemplated writing a post like this but just can’t bring myself to do it. I feel like these are always so helpful for other people. So maybe I’ll think more about this post and open up about it.

  5. says

    You have the best insight on breakups. Your other post and this one are both bookmarked for my future moments of weakness I’m sure to have in the rest of my dating world.

  6. says

    I remember the stages all too well. I’ve been married for almost 7 years, and still remember with great detail the breakup I went through just a few weeks prior to meeting my now-husband. (Though, it didn’t take terribly long for me to accept it and realize just how wrong the previous guy was for me!)

  7. says

    Ah yeah, those stages. I have two grown boys who have both went through a break up, and a teen daughter now who is getting closer to dating age. I wish I could tell her all I know, but I know she wouldn’t listen anyway. ;)

  8. says

    Some of this I can relate to from having gone through a divorce but not all because it was my decision. It took me two years to reach the point where I was finally at peace with it though.

  9. says

    Everybody deals with break up differently. I honestly cannot be friends with my ex-es until maybe decades later. For me, in order to move on, I have to break all the ties…no Facebook friends, no emails, the end of story. Good for you for moving on!

  10. says

    I don’t have much dating experience (truth be told none really) and I’ve had one 3 month ‘learning experience and one 2 1/2 year relationship. The 2 1/2 year relationship was really my first TRUE relationship; my first love, my first lover, my first long lasting relationship. We went through a great deal together between my chronic illness and losing a baby together. He always told me we were going to be together ‘now, forever, and always’. Then all of a sudden, unbeknownst to me (although I should have seen the signs a long time before then), he sat me down and said he wanted to go on ‘a break’. We all know what THAT means, and that’s where the denial stage set in. He said he couldn’t handle my chronic illness anymore (at that time I really couldn’t blame him-I was in a bad place) but I found out shortly after that he had met someone else.

    I went through the stages of a breakup in about a week and after he finally let me know it was officially over, that was when I was feeling better and happier then I had ever felt before! It was like a switch was flipped in my brain and body and I haven’t stopped feeling that incredible happy high since.

    Although my new Buu may have a little something to do with my permanent smile ;)

  11. says

    Great post. I love stage 5. Then you get a FB message over 15 years later letting you know that he thinks you’re the one that got away and he always thinks about you and you’ll always be the love of his life and he also tells you that you haunt his memories like a ghost. WIN. This coming from a guy who was a total a-hole. Karma. I may or may not have just described something that happened recently. I laughed.

  12. says

    These are great descriptions of a crap time in life, but they are part of growing I suppose. It’s nice to get to a happy place and be able to look back and see how much better off you are.

  13. says

    Keep looking forward!! One of my friends sent me an ecard the other day and it said it’s better to have love and lost than to love and be stuck with a psychopath. Even though my ex was not quite psychopath level….it still made me laugh! :)

  14. says

    Keep looking forward!! One of my friends sent me an ecard the other day and it said it’s better to have love and lost than to love and be stuck with a psychopath. Even though my ex was not quite psychopath level….it still made me laugh! :)

  15. says

    This seems like a very accurate description of the trials one must face after a break-up! When my son and his ex split, I think he went through many of these phase. Luckily, they are trying to stay amicable so that they can both be active participants in raising their daughter.

  16. says

    I have to say, I have been through all five of these with breakups in the past. Not all five for every one, but usually at least 2-3 of them.

  17. says

    A part of me misses dating now that I am married. I went through all these stages of grief when I had breakups. It was not pretty.

  18. says

    I can say with most of my relationships I went through all those when they ended. I am a go all in kind of gal so I gave my heart completely, and went through every single one of those when they ended with some of them

  19. says

    While I am glad to not be going thru this anymore. I love living vicariously thru other people. I love a good love story but break-ups are so hard :(

  20. says

    I first heard of these stages from college. We made an acronym out of the first letters for us to easily remember them. It’s DABDA. This is actually the stages of death but I think it’s as applicable as it is in break-ups as well. Break-ups really are some of the toughest times in our lives. However, I believe it is one of the most powerful situations where you can draw many lessons from. It can either make or break you. With the help of friends and family, we can easily survive breakups.

  21. says

    I’m getting to the acceptance but it takes time. And you go back and then you move on, and then you fall back again. But I know one day I’ll be completely there.

  22. says

    breakups are definitely tough so i definitely agree with a lot of these. i usually dwell in the depression stage for the longest time until i just force myself to get out of it.

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