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I have written plenty of dense articles on breakup related stages till now:
- 8 Stages Of A Breakup.
- 5 Stages Of A Rebound Relationship.
- 5 Stages Of Getting An Ex Back.
- 5 Stages Of Breakup Remorse.
In each of these articles, I also wrote a bunch of disclaimers:
- None of the stages always follow the order presented.
- Almost nobody goes through these stages one by one, one after another.
- The stages are only common patterns I (and other actual experts) keep seeing.
I essentially encouraged people not to take any sort of stage theory too seriously. Yet to my surprise, some still do take it seriously — way too seriously. Therefore, as a proverbial bitchslap of reality, I decided to write an article addressing the absurdity of the topic.
Below are five reasons why you should always treat breakup-related psychological stages as nothing more than a personality test or horoscope.
1. Everyone experiences stages differently. Some people skip certain ones. Others don’t. Some people go through them faster. Others go through them slower. Some experience psychological reactions and responses that have nothing to do with the stage they’re in. Some experience reactions and responses that have everything to do with it.
2. Stages are fluid and flexible. Meaning they don’t follow a structured order. An average Joe could shift between two every minute, hour, day, week, etc. We also don’t go through, say, stage X and then suddenly end up in stage Y. We usually shift between two consecutive stages for a long time before settling into one fully.
3. How we experience any stage-like process boils down to many factors: personality, values, worldviews, beliefs, culture, environmental conditions, physical health, the type of our relationships, and our relationship with ourselves.
4. The reason stage theory was created is to serve our inherent biology. We are biologically designed, after all, to seek patterns and make sense of chaos and uncertainty. And stage theories help us unearth patterns that explain our internal battles and demons, and offer order, predictability, and certainty.
5. Stage theory is full of conflicting studies — or there’s a lack of studies. Take the stages of a breakup, for instance. Many studies are debunking the theory, and an equal number of them are polishing up the whole thing, making it more concise. Then take something like the stages of getting an ex back or a rebound, which have no empirical data backing up their validity. We’re simply working on best guesses and trusting opinions from breakup and relationship experts who very well may be lying to us.
To be fair, I’m not saying, “fuck stages.” Stage theory is often legit and at least semi-accurate. In fact, it’s a useful tool for helping us predict what comes next post-breakup.
I’m just saying, be more skeptical and cautious of the whole thing. And perhaps even more importantly, don’t take stage theory so damn seriously that you throw a temper tantrum and karate-kick your dog in her rectum at the end of the day because something didn’t go according to a pattern you read about.
Not everyone experiences grief the same way. Not everyone experiences a new relationship — be it a rebound or not — the same way. Not everyone experiences dumpers remorse the same way. Not every ex goes through the stages of getting an ex back successfully or in the way you expect.
Accept these things, and carry on. Go through with the confusion, the hurt, the turmoil; the screams and cries. And emerge as a better person in the end — as we all do.
If you need more help healing from your breakup, check out my Radical Recovery Course. It includes hours of video and hundreds of pages of writing, and a community with exclusive weekly Q&A calls, private chat, and 1-on-1 coaching.
Take the confusion out of recovery. With over 40 actionable tips, this free cheat sheet will help you stop being an ex-obsessing emotional trainwreck. Apply its advice, and I'm sure you'll quickly find closure and feel like yourself again.
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