Relationship Grief Stage 3: Bargaining

Losing your significant other – regardless of the reason – is overwhelming. Some might even argue that breakups can be traumatising enough to throw you into an emotional rollercoaster.

Knowing that they are no longer there for you will break your heart into a million pieces. So you struggle in a state of hopelessness and apathy, going through wave after wave of guilt, despair, and anger.

If your ex has been abusive, you’re faced with yet another struggle – that of accepting the reality of a toxic relationship.

But regardless of all the pain they have caused, you still can’t believe your love story is over.

Angry, full of tears, and with a broken heart, fear takes over, and you begin to wonder if there’s any way to regain what you once had.

“Maybe we can patch things up.”

You pray to God, bargain with yourself, and beg your ex to reconcile, all to avoid the harsh and painful reality of separation.

The emotional pain that’s weighing heavily on your mind will push you to believe all sorts of fantasies. So you waste hours dreaming of things being the way they were before the relationship turned sour.

And the saddest part is that these unhealthy fantasies are virtually limitless. For instance, you may fantasise about meeting your ex by chance on the street, at the gym, or someplace where you used to go together.

Such fantasies fueled by false hopes can even push you to frequent those places, waiting for them to show up by chance. Or you may even be willing to go as far as to invent an emergency to gain their attention and rekindle the passion you once shared.

Long story short, the bargaining stage of relationship grief is characterised by anxiety and doubt. It’s also the stage when partners may seek to reconcile, only to split once again after a couple of weeks or months.

Even if you manage to patch things up, the chance that things will be as they were before is small to non-existent.

Here’s how you can navigate the ‘bargaining’ stage:

1. Remember why your relationship ended in the first place

During the bargaining stage, it’s vital to occasionally sit with yourself and think about why your relationship didn’t work.

As painful and unpleasant as it may feel, this act will help your mind adjust to the new reality. It also builds awareness, allowing you to detect dysfunctional relationship patterns and avoid making the same mistakes.

Lastly, examining your past relationship can give you valuable insights about yourself and your role in the breakup.

2. Remain firmly anchored in reality

When you’re mourning the loss of a relationship, you tend to cling to false hopes easily.

The emotional pain can be so intense that even the slightest chance of getting back together is enough to make you forget about all the unpleasant aspects of your past relationship.

Although the present sucks and you feel stuck in an emotional mess, remain firmly anchored in reality, knowing that the pain you’re experiencing will fade away, making room for growth and stability.

3. Adopt the no contact rule

One of the reasons why relationship grief can become a complicated process is that you keep going back to your ex.

Whether you’re doing it because you hope to reconcile and go back to the way things were before or because you think they have changed and deserve a second chance, this decision will most likely result in disappointment.

Part of dealing with a breakup healthily is cutting off all contact with your ex so that you can invest your time and energy in emotional recovery.

The best way to keep a healthy distance from your ex is by adopting the ‘no contact’ rule.

In essence, the ‘no contact’ rule is actually a set of rules that will prevent you from re-establishing contact with your ex.

That means:

  • No calling or texting them
  • No stalking their social media accounts
  • No going over to their house
  • No spending time around places they frequent
  • No contacting them through friends or family

In a nutshell, the bargaining stage of relationship grief can be quite confusing and stressful. Still, it also gives you the chance to reconnect with yourself, understand your toxic relationship patterns, and carve out a different path in life.

About the editor, Amelia Cambrell

My name is Amelia and I'm a Senior Psychologist at Counselling in Melbourne. I have over 18-years of experience in the mental health space. I am very driven to get the best outcomes for my clients which can be long lasting by using a range of modalities such as CBT. There is nothing more satisfying than helping adolescents, adults and couples who are feeling confused, frustrated, stuck or overwhelmed, to find more clarity, confidence and happiness in their lives.

Find out more about Amelia Cambrell

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