1. The “Wait, what just happened?”
All of a sudden, this person you were so sure was into you for the long haul sits you down in a public-but-not-too-exposed location and tells you that they would rather face this cold, cruel world entirely by themselves than face the prospect of continued sex/spooning with you. How could this be? It’s as though the words of the dumping themselves don’t actually compute in your fractured, amorous mind. (It doesn’t help, of course, that people tend to weigh down their actual breakup speech with as many euphemisms and compliments as possible — it usually sounds more like they’re trying to break up with themselves on your behalf than anything else.) You are being dumped, you just don’t quite know it yet.
2. The “You can’t fire me, I quit!”
You realize that it actually is over, that you are being dumped, and now the only real business to attend to is making sure you don’t come out of this too humiliated (as if that were an option). The goal now is to somehow pretend as though they haven’t been breaking things off explicitly for the past 30 minutes and try to save face by ending it yourself. It’s basically the emotional equivalent of trying to knit your own parachute mid-air after someone has already thrown you out of a plane. You just look sloppy and sad, and you know it, but you can’t help yourself.
3. The “Oh my God, this is actually happening.”
As if you just woke up from an incredibly pleasant dream to realize that you were, in fact, not having passionate sex with that really hot barista at your Starbucks, it begins to settle in that you are no longer in a relationship. Take down that “taken” status on Facebook. Remove photographic evidence. Break the news to everyone, or at least those that don’t pre-empt you by texting you with a feverish, “OMG I SAW YOU BROKE UP WHAT HAPPENED BRUH?!?!” Now is the time to realize just how much of a logistical nightmare being broken up is, especially if you are a long-standing couple whom everyone has just accepted will be around forever.
4. The “Smelly recluse.”
Welp, seeing as you have nothing left to live for anymore, might as well just hole up in your room to browse various social media through the glossy distortion of your tears and wait, masochistically, for any sign that they may be moving on with a new relationship. Now is the time to catch up on all your Funyun eating, not leave bed for several days on end, and attempt to watch various movies before realizing that essentially anything with more than two minutes’ worth of dialogue reminds you of your ex.
5. The “FUCK YEAH BEING SINGLE!”
This is, of course, when a small part of your brain just sort of implodes and your only motivation is to roam around your city with the unflappable energy of a sexual honey badger, doing everything you were unable to do while spoken for. You go to clubs, you dance until you are literally being dragged off the dance floor by your concerned friends, you walk home on city streets barefoot, you have sex with people for no other reason than to have someone who is temporarily required to spoon with you. You just generally devolve into a set of genitalia on autopilot, only capable of binge drinking and making poor decisions.
6. The “JK, I’m actually incredibly depressed.”
But like all good things, your rowdy phase must come to an end, and for something as exquisitely balls-to-the-wall as your rebound lifestyle, there must be an equal but opposite reaction. This is the point at which you sort of curl up into the fetal position and allow yourself to get upset by literally everything. Similar to smelly recluse mode, but even more difficult to bear because it’s been long enough that you are expected to be out and about in polite society. Friends will begin to question your mental health on a regular basis as you resign yourself to the idea that you will never be happy again.
7. The “Slow acceptance.”
There are many things that can trip the act of starting to feel positively again, but none are quite as effective as going on your first legitimate adventure during which you don’t spend your time dwelling on what your ex might be doing. It could be a successful date, it could be a road trip with friends, it could be a new work project. In any case, you are occupied enough to realize that not only are you capable of doing things outside of mourning your failed relationship, you are actually still very much in the process of growing and expanding your horizons. As you stack up these moments of independence, the periods in between where you go back and think about what you lost become fewer and farther in between.
8. The “Back to normal… more or less.”
I’d love to wrap this up with a bow and promise that the end of this story is your ex literally being erased from your mind and the world at large with the finality of the Witness Protection Program, but that’s just not true. Especially if the relationship was a significant one, you’ll probably think about them every now and again, though it likely won’t hurt. Things will move on, and you will likely find new people to repeat this whole process with, and you’ll start to realize that getting dumped is just one of those unfortunate aspects of life — though not quite as unfortunate as never putting yourself out there in the first place.