1. Denial Stage.
Wait. What? That's not healthy? Well, it is as long as it only lasts for a week or two. This is the stage where you are not together, but you're still acting like you are. Every little daily accomplishment, like brushing your teeth, warrants a text, but then you suddenly remember that you're not together anymore and hesitate while texting "I just brushed my teeth and thought of you". You try to resist thinking of them and you lesson the amount of times you talk to them throughout the day, phew! That was difficult. Later that night, you end up inviting yourself over and snuggling on the couch. Of course they still find you attractive. Of course you two make sense. Your friends are confused and ask things like "wait, I thought you broke up? Are you getting back together?"
2. Working Late Stage.
Loneliness sets in on the evenings you'd normally be at that person's house (you're still not ready to call them your "ex" yet), so you pick up a couple of extra shifts. You're on top of emails and you even save the day by taking a shift for your married co-worker whose husband needs something, something... (you stopped listening after she referenced her relationship). Your boss notices your sudden participation and general mopiness around the office, but she doesn't say much because, hey, it must be personal, and you're blowing through your reports like a rock star. You congratulate yourself when you leave the office at 11:30pm in a snow storm. You think to yourself and smile as you scrape the ice off your windshield: The promotion will come soon. I'm so productive. Also, I'm awesome.
3. Empowering Breakup Music Mix Stage.
You make the most amazing, empowering music mix on iTunes and justify purchasing an old Mariah Carey song from the 90's because it works with the musical transition between Whitney Houston and Cher. You decide on the Gloria Gainer version of "I Will Survive", instead of the Cake version, because you're a classy lady and there's no need to be vengeful. The mix also includes Adele remakes by the Glee Cast. You sing the line "Never-mind, I'll Find Someone Like You..." loudly in your Honda between work appointments. The mix becomes your mantra.
4. Have You Been Working Out Stage.
Suddenly your friends start asking you if you've been working out. You flex your biceps for them and say: "just a little bit, you know, whatever..." You just purchased a gym membership, resistance bands, running pants, and a new yoga mat. On days when you feel sad you go to a power yoga class and sweat it out. The guy next to you is sweating buckets and smells like Campbell's chicken noodle soup, but you don't care because you're being spiritual. You're yoga teacher is so kind and giving, she makes you hold plank for ten breaths. On days when you feel anger you put on your running shoes and scramble throughout the neighborhood listening to your Empowering Break-up Mix. As Kelly Clarkson belts out that she can finally breathe for the first time, you too finally get your wheezy breathing and anger under control. That's when you fantasize about whether or not you’d take them back if they asked. You finally resolve to deal with your feelings with a new weightlifting regime at the gym and some good old-fashioned aerobic exercise. At one point, in mile 3 on the elliptical, you're in the zone and think: This feels better than sex. Who needs sex? Nobody. That's who.
5. Nesting Stage.
Your roommate loves you and hates you because you just cleaned and re-arranged the entire apartment. Although she can cook in a spotless kitchen and eat off the floors, she can't find her coffee filters or soy sauce. You've rearranged and weeded through everything, even the Tupperware lids. Now that you're not moving in with said person, you are ready to nest and invest in your own space again. You were avoiding it, but you even weeded through some old love letters and kept only the essential ones, evidence that they did in fact love you. You finished the stage by changing the sheets and putting on fresh pillow cases. Your bed no longer smells like them. It smells like you, and your cat. Your cat is happy she no longer have to share you with anyone else. She rewards you by curling up and snuggling with you in the evenings and pawing at your face in the mornings.
6. Looking Good Stage.
Not only do you look good, you look hot. You go shopping in your own closet and find outfits said person never even got to see you in. You dress up for work meetings, look cute when running errands, and you even partake in tasteful, yet sexy public cleavage-dress photos on Facebook. You also go to Walgreen's at 9pm on a Monday night and decide it’s time to dye your hair a new, brilliant color to reflect the change of seasons. On Tuesday, said person texts you in a moment of regret and asks you to meet them at Whole Foods for lunch in 20 minutes (apparently they're still in denial stage). No time to go home and change, lucky for you, you already look hot. You’re wearing your skinny jeans, brown boots and scarf. Your ass looks great. Your hair is brilliant and not frizzy at all. As they attempt to not sexualize you and stick to their original decision to end things, they say you look: “so good, so different...” and you’re boots look: “so tall and brown...” They trail off and question to themselves if they actually made a mistake. It feels good knowing that you could have sex with them if you wanted to, right then and there in the Whole Foods parking lot, but you respect yourself too much for that.
7. Social Stage.
Instead of staying in with said person, you attend social events on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. You try not to make faces at the cute couples surrounding you. People start expecting you to know certain details about parties and when you go out you always are meeting new people and running into old friends who haven’t seen you since, well, since the last time you were single. Friends even start setting you up with their single friends, but preface with: "when you're ready, of course, no pressure". You're married friends ask you if you're going to go on OK Cupid again and then ask you to fill them in on the gossip. You know all the gossip, not just because you're connected on Facebook, but because you were actually there when it all went down. Also, you’re fucking awesome.
8. Independence Stage.
You finally start imagining a future without your Ex. You plan out explicitly how you will buy a house and have children without them. You actually start making long-term plans for you and only you (just in case it’s in the cards that you remain single forever). Your friends assure you that you will eventually meet someone who is right and ready for you. You mostly believe them, but it is still imperative for you to plan how to get the things you want independently. You celebrate your independence with red velvet cupcakes from the local bakery and champagne. You are completely free. You can do anything and/or anyone. You. Can. Do. Anything. You. Want. You don’t have to negotiate time and weekend plans with said ex, you don’t have to plan meals for two, you can buy whatever type of laundry detergent you want because no one has opinions about it. No compromises here.
9. Therapy Stage.
You see your therapist weekly. She's brilliant, smart, funny, and validating. She's one of those Reike practitioners and even makes you pick a goddess card every visit. If this breakup were a baseball game, she'd sit in the stands quietly and consistently and root for your team. Finally you have a break-through on the quintessential therapy sofa and you cry in front of another adult. ...Therapists are kind of like a strangers, except they know all this stuff about you, and you pay them lots of money. It feels weird to cry in front of her, but you decide to give in and she tosses you the box of tissues. You discover you're quite boring and less intense than you thought were because you link the larger issues in your last relationship to your childhood. Thank god you have sunglasses in your bag so you can cover your bloodshot eyes upon exiting her office. The next guy in the waiting room looks worse off than you and you attempt a quick, reassuring smile. You spend the rest of the day napping. Therapy is exhausting.
10. Gold Star Stage.
Good Job. You’re amazing. If there were gold star stickers given out to evolved adults who handle tough situations with resilience, humor and ease, you’d get fifteen. You managed to successfully move through a breakup without posting passive aggressive songs on your Facebook wall, burning a hole in your bank account, losing your friends, ruining your reputation, or coping with sex, alcohol, drugs, or food. Continue to surround yourself with good friends and be patient, loving and open, because you’re fucking awesome.