The Stages of a Breakup

The Breakup Chronicles: Part 1

Spinster friends, I was in relationship bliss over the past several months.  We’ll call him Francois the Dapper because he really is dapper and he’s kind and interesting and smart and funny and pretty damn attractive.  So you can imagine my…

1.  Shock

…when he texted me the other night and asked to come over.  I knew something was up, as he never asked to come over before (we’re, after all, of the generation where nobody can seem to make a decision: “What are you up to?”  “Nothing much.  You?”  “Nothing much.”  “Wanna do something?”  “Yah, what were you thinking?”  “Not really sure.  You?”  “I don’t care.”).  He walked through the door, stopped me when I tried to kiss him, and my heart plummeted.  A chill of dread spread through me, I felt hot, and all I could do was look at the floor, avoiding eye contact as I stated to myself over and over, “I will not cry, I will not cry!”  I’ll spare you the upsetting details but suffice it to say it involved a past relationship, lingering baggage, and confusion over his feelings.  My heart was wrenched apart, but I quite calmly offered my support and understanding.  I also offered him a piece of cake.  Then that night that I poured my feelings onto 4 single-spaced pages of nearly 2,000 words.  Y’all, I could not stop the words or the feelings.  I knew I was in…

2.  Mourning

There weren’t enough tea bags in the world to shrink the bags under my eyes.  You know the feeling; it’s where the tears roll down your cheeks in fat drops and you’re just not sure they’re going to stop this time.  It – I – was just so sad.  I re-lived every good time, every future plan.  I tried outlining the bad times I could think of, hoping they’d make me feel better, but they were only a reminder of how well I felt we worked through our problems.  I texted Francois, and asked to meet him again.  He agreed.  It gave me…

3.  Hope

Not only did we chat, but we got pastries.  I poured out my feelings.  I told him all my fears about the situation and my hopes.  He listened, he told me he had a lot to think about, and then he asked me if I wanted to hang out.  Can you blame me for saying yes?  And it was pretty nearly great, save for that two hours of a movie we spent without holding hands for the first time since I’d known him.  We parted ways in the evening and I sobbed my feelings to Grace and to my mother, but I maintained the day meant something.  He was thinking about it.  The next day I contemplated all the possibilities.  Things were looking up so I took a walk around the lake which only served to send me to a whole new level of…

4. Patheticism

Shut up.  That’s a word.  And that walk?  It was to take advantage of the sunshine and the beautiful weather!  To clear my mind and increase my endorphins!  To watch the sunset!  Or so I fooled myself to think.  I looked in every parking lot for his car, hoping that the distant runner was him coming toward me.  By the end of the walk, I was dragging my sobbing, puddly mess into the car, dialing Grace and asking her to tell me that I wasn’t the most pathetic person that ever lived.  She’s a good friend, she told me I was normal.  And then later that night, Francois called me.  We talked for 30 minutes and my hope was renewed.  And it was then that I began seeking …

5. Validation

…from nearly anyone who would listen.  Grace and my mother?  Check, check.  My coworkers?  Check.  The mailman? Check.  It was really important to talk it out.  Really damn important to tell my side of things and have others tell me that my feelings were reasonable.  I need them to confirm my interpretation of how he should feel and how it made sense.

6.  Obsession

There was also a really low moment in there.  Like, really, freakin’, low.  As in, I figured out the mysterious her.  And when I say “figured out” I mean I went through every length of internet stalking I could think of.  I’m so good at it, people should pay me.  We went to the same college.  We share a couple of friends.  She’s funny.  She works in advertising and marketing.  She’s a runner.  She has a gummy smile.  The list…it goes on.  You can bet I revisited the same pages over and over and over again, obsessing about why she should have left such an impression on this guy that I cared about, why their old relationship was ruining mine.

6. Anger at Him

This came on just a fast as it ended.  I think the outrage of my friends seeped into my own mind and I was so angry that he would contemplate giving up on us and giving in to something that wasn’t ever going to be.  There isn’t doubt that I won’t feel anger again, but it was short lived because I soon directed all my…

7. Anger at Her

Sure, this might not be the most logical thing, but I go back to what Francois told me about the relationship and it makes me steaming mad.  They were that on-again-off-again couple, and based on what very little I know (read: I’m a writer and I’ve crafted an entire relationship story from a few limited comments), I’ve concluded she was a terrible, no-good person who didn’t deserve Francois.  That’s a little harsh.  But you know, people you care about deserve better.  Also: sometimes I’m petty and I act like a 12-year-old.

8. Confusion

Rehashing every look, action, and word of this breakup sent me into confusion in the end.  Francois never called it a breakup, he just said he had to think about things.  I gave him so many easy outs in our conversations, and he never took them.  I even asked that whatever the answer was, that I just got a clearly defined one.  None of this casual conversation that fades into nothing because he’s trying to spare my feelings.  Please not that.  He agreed.

So here we are.  The stages aren’t complete. I don’t doubt that most people feel they can see this for what it is, but I’m still confused and waiting.  There’s also the responsibility that one needs to place on Francois, lest you think I’m ignoring that. But I gave myself permission to stop feeling embarrassed about my feelings – my hope – and I’m just riding the emotions for now, rather than forcing myself out of them.  It was a debate to share this with you, Spinster friends.  There’s always that fear of looking ridiculous, but I can’t be the only one who has experienced all of the above, and sometimes it’s good to put it out there because someone else might read it and have that sigh of relief that their own similar situation is… normal.

55 thoughts on “The Stages of a Breakup

  1. re: “There’s always that fear of looking ridiculous, but I can’t be the only one who has experienced all of the above, and sometimes it’s good to put it out there because someone else might read it and have that sigh of relief that their own similar situation is… normal.”
    You bet! Hang in there!

    • Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just skip this phase and get to feeling normal right away? But you know, our hearts have to break to make them stronger sometimes.

  2. Hi There,
    I can relate with your every word.This happened to me last year.I also felt that I was ridiculous in feeling certain ways, but I have come to a realization that all that has happened has nothing to do with me. I was never angry at the girl, but I was angry with him. I am still trying to get over the situation and as my sister told me…it will take time.

    I hate feeling what I am feeling but I have to come to terms with it and move on. It is much easier said then done, but I have no other choice. I hope you find things that will keep you a float mentally and emotionally. You have to let the anger go and once this happens, you can slowly begin to move forward.

    Be strong!


    • Thank you, Nicole! I send the same wishes back to you. And yah, I really can’t blame her. Nor him (at least not yet). We’ve all had those relationships that mark us in some way, that stick with us and all I wish is that he could see he’s better than whatever that situation was. ::sigh:: It’s fresh for me. But I did see a great message by Hafiz: I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.

  3. I’ve been through these stages even with relationships that never were. As in, things that could have happened but then just didn’t. Trying to figure out why- and then battling with yourself to stop trying to figure out why- is the worst.

  4. One of the horrible realities of being in your late 20s early 30s and dating is that everyone has a past. Most people by this age have had their heart broken and there’s often someone in their recent history who they can’t quite get past. It’s frustrating and truly upsetting when a new relationship that seems to be going well suddenly ends because of a previous one. I have had this happen to me a number of times after usually about a month of dating, and admittedly I have said it to someone else.
    Everything you are thinking and feeling is normal and we have all either been there or been pretty damn close to there.
    There are two reasonable scenarios that happen from this. 1. He realises he was being a bit of a douche and you patch things up. 2. He’s really not ready for a new relationship (or a slightly harder truth, but the one I have found often has applied in my cases, he would be ready if he liked the person enough, but he may not even be fully conscious of this being the case).
    In either case I wish you well! Dating is a bitch.

    • Ugh, I could not agree more! Everyone and their pasts! Thanks for the support. I’m really hoping for #1, but have a fear that it’s #2 in the ‘he’s ready but not with me’ part. I’ve been on the end of the person delivering that kind of breakup which makes me go to that thought more than I want to. ::sigh:: Well see, I guess.

      • I’ve been almost all of the people in the scenario. I’ve had a guy who I really liked tell me he wasn’t ready when in reality he just needed to like me more. I think he felt bad and convinced himself it was that he wasn’t ready.
        I’ve told someone I wasn’t ready, and it half felt that way. But I also felt if I liked him more I’d be ready. I think those feelings get all tangled up sometimes and it’s hard to tell them apart.
        In saying all this, sometimes people get hurt and hung up and do just need some time. My current partner was a bit of a worrier and at the start we did have some speed wobbles. Hopefully, your guy is one of those. Good luck!

    • It is! It’s an art! Not that I’m proud of it. And I can only admit to it in situations like this. And thank you… getting there. Thank gawd for friends and people with kind words.

  5. What I loathe about the situation you describe is the uncertainty that it brings. Your commentors have told you to stay strong, I would recommend you stay true. Don’t sell yourself short for anyone.

    (I know I’m not a spinster but I’m still touched by your plight)

    • Thank you, Sir. That means a lot to me. You’re absolutely right. While I’m heartbroken, I haven’t forgotten that I’m a pretty great person. I hope that doesn’t make me sound full of myself. But hey, I’m interesting, smart, and funny too!

      • Kate

        You have every right to shout your strengths from the rooftop. Tell the world and make sure he knows what he’s missing out on. He needs to know that this is his decision and the consequences will be not only yours to deal with, but more importantly for him they will be his to deal with as well.

        I have no pithy sign off, just the repetition of my earlier words.

        Stay True

  6. The insecurity and humiliation and confusion- we all bottle it up, and you’re BLOGGING about it! That is amazingly brave! Thank you for doing so. We have all been there, and this post can serve as a way to connect to others in our most vulnerable moments. You’re a gem.

    • Wow, thanks, Gail. That’s very kind of you to say. At first I thought I’d bottle this up, but then I know how much people can relate and sometimes it’s just good to know we’ve all been there. Hopefully someone will see this when they need it most.

  7. “I’m just riding the emotions for now, rather than forcing myself out of them” – That’s the best way in my opinion. Although it’s reductive and unpoetic, I see love and relationships as ‘drugs’ that alter your neural reward system, with their respective highs and lows. You’ve experienced the highs, the lows have inevitably come, but you’ll soon return to normal if you go cold turkey (minimising contact with Francois?).

    • It’s quite true in a way, love being a drug. It’s incredible how much it alters you. Yes, I should go cold turkey but it’s one thing to say it, another thing to practice it… :/

  8. Ha I just went thru my own little drama and ended up a good part of yesterday internet stalking as well. I wish it’s something you can put on your resume because it truly takes skills!

    I also agree about letting go of the ‘why.’ The way I get there is to deeply understand that no matter the reason the result is the same, so no point in prolonging the pain.

    • We must be on the same wavelength right now. I’d just been contemplating the ‘why’ and thinking about contemplation of it won’t solve anything or change it. I *do* need to let go of that particular feeling. Why agonize knowing it will get you absolutely nowhere?

      And I’m sending out hug vibes to you. Sorry you are going through a drama as well. But you know, we’re pretty awesome. We’ll get through it!

  9. He wasn’t worthy of you. You are lovely, special, talented. He’s a guy who doesn’t do unselfish. Or serious relationships. Avoid all contact for a month, and by the end, you will be able to tell him to go piss up a rope. You’ll see him clearly, like other people do. Go get some buddies, eat a soufflé, paint a picture, read good chick lit and see some good movies. There are lots of good guys that are out there, looking for you. He ain’t the one, doll.

    • Never has there been better advice than souffles, painting, reading, and movies! I’m working on that no contact thing. So far, failing. But I’m working on it.

    • Very agreed! But hard in the moment to see that. It will get there! I will. I will…

      Also, wonderful post. Spinster friends, click through on this. It’s really fantastic writing and a great message – you’ll be happy you read it!

  10. I cannot tell you how many times I went through those same exact steps…. internet stalking? Heck yeah, we could form a company that would make some good profits but let me just say that it does get better. Advise I can offer is this:
    1) Give it 30 days…. this is a tough love time period where he will either come back in the end if he really loves you or you will decide in that time that you don’t want him. Either way this WILL draw him back if you follow it…
    2) Pretend you are fine, if he calls or texts …DO NOT ANSWER…. if you do… be too busy to talk and/or hang out.
    3) Look Fabulous….if anyone sees you including mutual friends make sure you leave a blistering impression of how great you look so that the word will be passed on…
    4) Only talk to those who you are closest to about your true feelings. To the world look strong, confident, and over it. Especially to him.

    I know what you’re thinking…”if I do this he’ll be pushed away for good” it’s actually quite the contrary. Human nature and behavior suggests that when we try to hold onto someone to keep them near the natural reaction is for them to move away. If you do the opposite and back away they in turn begin to wonder why and tend to actually come back your direction. I guarantee if you do this for 30 days Francais will either be back in your arms or you will have decided you really don’t want him all that bad before he has the chance to return. Dr. James Dobson wrote a book about it with studies to back it up called Love Must Be Tough…. an excellent read and very beneficial information for any girl or guy with an achy heart. Much love and thank you do finding the courage to share.

    • Leslie, I somehow missed your comment! Really great advice. These past several weeks I focused on just being my normal, fabulous self. I bought myself flowers, I worked on a few projects, I perfected my makeup “look” and etc.. Why does human nature have to be so contrary, tho?! You’re right. As much as I want to reach out and cling I know I shouldn’t. I need to check out that book… Thank you again for your kind words and support. It means a lot!

  11. Thanks so much for this. I didn’t go through a breakup, per se, but it pretty much felt like one as this was a guy who claimed that he hadn’t gotten over me the past seven (eight?) years. He was legitimately my first love and we had reasons why we couldn’t be together between the years, though the feelings were obviously there. I’m still in the general anger stage and will probably be stewing here for a while.

    & girl, no need to feel embarrassed. Men have society excusing them with, “Well, that’s just him being a guy” but I think that’s a bs excuse to not reply to texts, ignore kind words, and think that it’s ok to use girls as (emotional) booty calls. Somehow, the girls feel like they’re doing something wrong, being too intense, caring more than they’re’re supposed to, something… but that’s what makes us human. That’s what keeps our hearts beating.

    Also, I gotchu on the internet stalking bit. Don’t you feel like you’ve acquired such a great level of skill, it would be criminal to exclude it from your LinkedIn profile? Chin up, darling– we can stalk the s*** out of people. 🙂

    • Ah, thank you, thank you for this! It’s true. Men often get this excuse. And it’s frustrating and annoying to worry about all of it when the other party is often times not worrying about it even 1/10 of what we are.

      LinkedIn Description: Highly skilled internet sleuth with extensive investigative experience.

  12. Sorry to hear your plight, but like someone else has said, “We have all been there.” Once, twice and maybe more. It’s a difficult step to make and only you can make it. I always say, “If confused once, the second time will be easier.” Best wishes my dear! Choose wisely!

    • Thank you, Drew! Yes, let’s hope I learn some things from this. In fact, with distance from the initial discussion and this post, I can say I’ve learned a bit about myself and this situation. Thank you, again!

    • Wow, those are very kind words. Thank you! And I’m glad you can relate! I mean, not that I want us to deal with these things, but it’s still nice to know we have a partner in feeling out there. 🙂

  13. While it wasn’t a “break-up” I just recently got the “I’m not emotionally ready right now” speech. Followed by compliments and reasons why he liked me. Those mixed messages make me hope when I probably shouldn’t. Totally understand and relate. Let me know if you need someone to eat ben & jerry’s with and watch P.S. I love you.

    • Yes, I’m now several weeks out and STILL getting mixed messages. I think Francois really is confused about things. And I can’t stand those “I’m not emotionally ready” discussions. It’s like, are you not emotionally ready period, or are you not emotionally ready *for me*? Ugh. I feel for you and that situation. Hugs for both of us. I stuffed my face with Rice Krispies treats the other day. It’s no Ben & Jerry’s, but it did the trick for all of 10 minutes. 😉

  14. Ugh I totally feel for you. Just went through my own breakup and I followed these stages to a T. I’m still not right, but I don’t really know what ‘stage’ I’m stuck at. I feel like its the newly-single-can’t-move-on-wish-it-never-happened phase. I hope you heal quickly and find someone who appreciates you for everything you are!

    • Hannah – how I know that feeling! I’m still in a weird stage too. Things are still quite uncertain. Here’s to wishing you a quick healing as well!

  15. This showed up on a recommended blogs. I decided to read it. Very glad I did. I SO enjoyed reading this. There are touches of humor, but clearly while going through these stages one feels anything but humorous. I “laugh” along with this, because I have experienced some of this in my own story. As someone else earlier commented on going through this with relationships that never were, that’s like me. So, here are girls/women like us, who don’t even have the benefit of calling it a relationship. (A growing problem) sigh. Yet, so many similarities to what you have expressed here.
    My personal favorite: patheticism. Ooohhhhhh have I felt that. Ha. So thank you for sharing. It is reassuring to know that, we are normal. *You know, because I was never one to “need” or “seek” a boy (like OTHER girls)…so what the heck was this?? “Why are you like this?” And I thought I must be so pathetic. Like you, I had to give myself permission not to be embarrassed about my feelings, or embarrassed about the hope I had either! *Still learning this, hope you are doing well with it.*
    I want to thank you for sharing. Being honest. It was an enjoyable read. Hoping the best awaits you -whatever and whoever that might be.

    • Goodness, thank you! Very nice of you to say.

      Honestly, it’s so tough to date these days. There is WAY too much grey in the way men and women operate. Don’t you somewhat long for the days when it was more defined? This means that. That means this. Done. end of story. But alas…

      And YES. Part of why the feelings are frustrating has to do with the fact that I feel whole on my own. It’s not like I need someone – so many of us don’t – but it was really nice to have someone special like that. It was nice to be able to give of myself.

      Thank you again. We’re strangers, and yet I feel like we get each other well. I’m throwing positive thoughts right back your way.

      • Do I somewhat long for the days when things -relationships- were more defined? More than somewhat, I DEFINITELY would like things to return to more clearly defined. I would really like to see men take some initiative and be upfront and honest with a lady. Instead of this “talking” business. Way too grey, undefined, and ambiguous. If you don’t want to commit, if you don’t want to take the risk of asking honestly -for a date or a romantic relationship- don’t “talk” or continuously “hang out.” I believe those are privileges of those who are willing to put it out there what they want, how they feel. Ok, I could go on and make more points about my thoughts of ambiguity, but I won’t. It’s understandable that one can have a fun time and perhaps get caught-up in some moments, but, seriously, at a certain point, you need to be honest -with yourself and with the girl- (as I’m talking about men here) and then make a decision. *And, clue her in on it, give her the opportunity to share.* Some may think me old fashioned, but then again, I don’t want a guy who is going to place ALL the responsibility of taking initiative and honesty on me.

  16. ‘I looked in every parking lot for his car, hoping that the distant runner was him coming toward me.’
    Alas! How tragic is the human being’s capacity for hope!

  17. Pingback: The Stages of a Breakup | c21stguinevere

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