4 stages of separation


My boyfriend and I were together for six years, and recently ended our relationship. Although I feel it was for the best, I still miss him terribly, and can't seem to stop crying. Does this mean I made a mistake? It's been almost five weeks. How long will it take me to get over him?

Anyone who’s ever ended a relationship with someone they loved, and perhaps still love very much, can certainly relate to how you are feeling. One of the most difficult parts of breaking up is getting through that first layer of sadness and loss without doubting your decision. Don’t misinterpret the pain you’re feeling as a sign that you did something wrong when you ended your relationship. It’s a natural part of the healing process.

I’ve found that breaking up involves four inevitable stages of recovery. These stages take approximately one to two years to complete, although, of course, the length of time will be less if you were in a brief relationship. In your case, you spent six years with your boyfriend, so you will probably a while to completely heal. Here’s a brief description of these four stages:

Stage One: The Tearing Apart
Duration: Two weeks to Two Months

When you love another person, you merge your hopes, your dreams, your energies, and your heart with that person’s. When you end the relationship, you go through a process I call the Tearing Apart, because that is how it feels, doesn’t it...like a part of you is being torn away. Even if you want that familiar person out of your life, you will still experience this phase, and the longer you have been together, the longer the Tearing Apart will last.

In this phase you may cry a lot, feel lost, hopeless or alone, lose your appetite and even feel a constant pain or ache in your heart. You might notice that you are swamped with painful memories, and find it difficult to get through each day. During the Tearing Apart, it’s natural to worry that you’ll never be happy again, to feel sorry for yourself, and of course, be tempted to return to your partner. 

The Tearing Apart is the hardest part of breaking up. It feels like it will never end--but it will. You can speed up the process by doing the following:

1. Let yourself cry and mourn as much as possible. The more you try to hold it in, the longer it will last.

2. Keep busy and spend time with friends and family. Schedule yourself in advance so you don’t find yourself sitting home alone and feeling miserable. Don’t forget, however, to also spend quiet time doing some emotional work so you don’t carry the same love habits into the next relationship.

3. Take good care of your body. The better you feel physically, the more psychologically stable you will be. That means avoid the temptation to numb yourself with drugs, alcohol and heavy doses of sugar. They will only add to your sensitivity and depression.

4. Avoid seeing or talking with your former partner. No matter how tempted you are to call or see your ex when you’re feeling lonely, don’t do it! The more you stay connected, the longer this stage of your recovery will take.

Stage Two: The Adjustment
Duration: Two to Six Months

You know you’ve entered Stage Two when you actually start feeling good for a few days at a time! The most intense pain of the Tearing Apart is over. Now it is time to adjust to your new life without your partner. You begin to re-form your personality and identity as a single person, start bonding with other people, get your life back in order and look ahead to the future.

During The Adjustment, you will be able to talk or think about your partner without feeling you will fall apart or become angry. You no longer feel like a victim, and you will cry or feel sad less frequently--maybe once or twice a week instead of every day! You will start having fun again, and even begin noticing attractive people you’d like to meet. You’ll also have a much clearer perspective on what went wrong in the relationship, which will give you a sense of hope about the future.

Stage Three : Healing
Duration: Six Months to One Year

Stage Three sees your life becoming normal again. You no longer feel as if you are in transition. You may be involved in a new relationship, or interested in beginning one. You will have much of your business with your former partner settled, or on the way to being settled in the case of divorce. You’re healing the wounds and becoming whole again. You have survived!

In this stage, you can talk with and about your former partner without getting upset, and even feel positive about the rightness of what has happened. You feel and look better than you have in a while, and have a sense of enthusiasm about your future. Your sadness or nostalgia for your ex lover may surface once every week or so, but passes quickly. 

Stage Four: Recovery
Duration: One to Two Years

Stage Four is a transitional stage in which you clear out any remaining pain from the relationship you’ve ended, and firmly establish yourself in your new life. You no longer think of yourself as having just ended a relationship. By now, you have a new social structure around you--new friends, new love interests, new directions. 

In this stage, you have hopefully adopted new habits and ways of behaving as a result of the mistakes you made in the previous relationship, and are ready to love and be loved again. People no longer ask you how you’re doing in sympathetic voices! Your new life has begun. Enjoy it!

You can take one year of five years to go through these four stages. It all depends on how willing you are to let go of the past, work through all your feelings for the purpose of healing them , and receive the lessons from your experience. Take one day at a time, and before you know it, you will be loved again.


2010-06-27 23:28:45