Exploring the ‘Relief Stage’: Insights into Post-Breakup Dynamics
by Coach Lee
The end of a romantic relationship is a pivotal moment in an individual’s life, particularly for the one who initiates the breakup since they are usually in the “position of power.”
It seems as though they alone decide the fate of the relationship – if it could be reunited or not.
Contrary to the typical focus on the heartache of the person left behind, the initiator’s journey is equally complex and profound.
It’s often helpful if the person who was left can understand what the initiator of the breakup (a.k.a. The Dumper) is experiencing.
This journey begins with what I term the “Relief Stage,” a critical phase that begins to unfold immediately after the breakup.
This article and the video above (which I recommend you watch all the way through) offer an in-depth exploration of the myriad emotions and behaviors that the initiator, or the ‘dumper,’ experiences during this stage.
The Complex Emotion of Relief
The Relief Stage is characterized initially by a profound sense of alleviation (or relief).
This relief is multifaceted, arising from the end of an unfulfilling relationship and the resolution of internal conflict and discomfort associated with the decision to break up.
For the dumper, this stage is marked by a bittersweet mixture of liberation from a situation that they no longer feel “serves their happiness” and a sense of regret for the pain caused to their partner.
So the initiator is relieved to have gotten the awkwardness of breaking up with someone over with and assumes that now things will start to improve for them.
They further assume that the pain felt by their former parter will subside and that it won’t cause them to feel guilt for the breakup since they won’t have to see it and because they assume that you will be fine in time.
Ironically, thinking of you as being “fine” or potentially “moving on” will bother and even
I know this is painful to read, but stick with me!
Freedom and Social Renaissance
Following the breakup, the dumper often experiences a surge of “freedom.”
This phase sees them engaging more actively in social activities, reconnecting with friends, and exploring new interests.
While on the surface, this behavior appears as a celebration of their newfound “independence,” it often conceals a deeper, ironical pursuit of another romantic connection.
It reflects the human complexity of seeking connection, even when relishing in newfound freedom.
I discuss this significantly more in the video above.
Our Catalog Culture and the Illusion of Choice
In today’s digital era, the dumper is further influenced by the “Catalog Culture” of endless romantic possibilities presented by dating apps and social media.
This culture creates an illusion of a vast pool of potential partners, reinforcing the belief in finding someone better suited for them.
However, this often leads to unrealistic expectations and a misunderstanding of the depth and effort required in meaningful relationships.
The illusion that they can go to an app, turn a bunch of nobs, and out pops their perfect person couldn’t be further from the truth, but it sells subscriptions to dating apps!
It also contributes to breakups and divorces.
Lingering Emotional Ties and Guilt
Despite the outward expressions of relief and freedom, the dumper often grapples with lingering thoughts of their ex-partner.
They might reach out, driven not by a desire to rekindle the relationship but by a need to alleviate their guilt.
This behavior underscores the complexity of their emotional state, caught between moving forward and the remnants of their past relationship.
If you are married and your spouse has left you, they go through a relief stage as well but it’s different. If that is your situation, I suggest you get my free mini-course on saving a marriage.
The Decline of Patience and Alleged ‘Need for Space’
As the Relief Stage progresses, the dumper’s tolerance for continued interaction with their ex-partner often diminishes.
Initially, they may respond with understanding and a stated desire to stay in touch or your ex might say they want to “stay friends,” but repeated contact can lead to frustration and hostility.
This shift is a protective mechanism, signaling the dumper’s need for space and time to navigate their post-breakup journey.
If you keep contacting them, it’s not unusual for them to lose patience and become angry at you.
When this happens, they often will begin saying cruel, hurtful things to you in an attempt to hurt or get at you enough that you will stay away.
This response is because, unfortunately, your pain has caused a further drop in attraction.
Your ex doesn’t want to hear it anymore because it causes them to feel guilty and also prevents them from experiencing the freedom and fun they thought the breakup would bring them.
You are standing in the way.
They begin to associate you with negativity and even feel further trapped.
That’s why it’s important that you don’t do things that can cause them to feel this way.
If your continued contact and actions cause them to feel trapped, anger, and impatience, they will try harder to get even further away from you.
As I often say, The No Contact Rule, is vital to prevent attraction from further plummeting.
Reflection and Self-Discovery
This stage is also a time of introspection and self-discovery for the dumper.
They may reflect on the relationship’s shortcomings, their personal growth, and future aspirations.
This reflection is crucial in their journey, as it helps them understand their needs, mistakes, and what they seek in future relationships.
They also might realize that you can stay away from them – if you are staying away.
This can come as a bit of a surprise since the dumper usually operates under the assumption that if they wanted you back, you could easily be gotten back.
They think this because they were the one who wanted the breakup and you wanted to stay in the relationship with them.
Though they might not think the exact words, the assumption is that it will always be that way and that they are free to explore other possibilities and if they wanted to come back at some point, you would be waiting.
Staying in no contact douses the flames of this assumption.
Instead, your ex has to consider the possibility that you could move on.
If you have been in no contact, you have demonstrated that you are strong enough to stay away.
This suggests to your ex that you are strong enough to move on.
While this realization might not be all it takes for your ex to want to get back together with you, it is usually enough for them to have to consider the situation and to truly think about what being without you means to them – and if they really want that.
Prior to this realization, the breakup felt a lot like a free pass.
Now it has consequences and understanding that is often what sends them to the next stage, which I call, “Curiosity.”
The Illusion of Immediate Happiness
A common misconception during the Relief Stage is the belief in immediate happiness following the breakup.
The dumper often anticipates a quick return to joy and fulfillment.
However, the reality is more nuanced, with happiness being a gradual process involving self-exploration and acceptance of the breakup’s impact on their life.
And often the question arises, “Is happiness with the partner I left?”
Societal Influences and Expectations
Societal norms and expectations also play a significant role in shaping the Relief Stage.
The dumper may feel pressure to quickly move on, often downplaying the complexity of their emotions.
This external pressure can hinder the natural progression of their post-breakup experience.
Sometimes it can send them back to you.
Preparing for Future Relationships
As the Relief Stage evolves, the dumper starts laying the groundwork for future relationships.
This involves learning from past experiences, understanding their role in the relationship’s breakdown, and developing a clearer picture of what they seek in a partner.
Conclusion: A Journey Towards Emotional Maturity
The Relief Stage is a journey of emotional maturation and self-awareness.
It involves a complex interplay of emotions, behaviors, and societal influences.
Understanding this stage is crucial for the dumper to navigate their post-breakup journey effectively.
As they move beyond this stage, they gain deeper insights into themselves and their relationships, setting the stage for their real decision.