By Chris Seiter

Published on April 10th, 2023

Today I’d like to talk about a specific type of ex, one that regrets the breakup. I’d like to do this by specifically looking at each of the stages that this type of an ex will go through during the regret journey.

Over the years I’ve been quite adamant about attempting to use science or psychology to explain away the strange behavior of exes. For instance, I know from studying our clients exes that typically the path to regret isn’t necessarily a straight line.

In fact, there are really only five stages that you can expect these exes to go through,

  1. The Separation Elation Stage
  2. The Repressive Depressive Episode Stage
  3. The Clean Slate Stage
  4. The Nostalgic Reverie Stage
  5. The Reconnection Stage

Enough talk, let’s jump right in to the stages.

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Stage One: Separation Elation

If you’reĀ  familiar with my relationship death wheel then this stage shouldn’t be anything new to you,

Since most of our clients exes have avoidant attachment tendencies,

We have found that they go through the relationship death wheel (pictured in the graphic above) after a breakup.

But we aren’t really caring right now about avoidants. We are specifically looking at the path to regret an ex will have and it almost always starts with a period of separation elation.

Which just so happens to be pictured right here on the death wheel,

That stage where they are “so happy” because they left you.

One of my favorite resource references, Free To Attach, has something really fascinating to say about this stage,

After a relationship ends, people with an avoidant attachment style tend not to show much anxiety or distress, often feeling an initial sense of relief at the relinquishing of obligations and the sense that they are regaining their self-identity, and not tending to initially miss their partner – this is “separation elation” as the pressure to connect is gone.

It really harkens back, as ridiculous as it sounds, to this meme,

One of the reasons that “men” in this instance feel so happy on the first day of the breakup is this separation elation concept. However, just like in the meme, the elation is a fleeting thing.

Stage Two: The Repressive Depressive Episode

Any time I’m writing or filming a video the first thing I do is look at what other people are saying about the topic.

Then I try to do the exact opposite thing they are doing. The way I have it figured is that you don’t want another article or video over the exact same thing you’ve already watched or read.

You want something unique.

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Well, this stage is pretty much non existent from the “regret” lists.

And I don’t really understand why. It’s an essential one to look at.

Once again pulling from Free To Attach,

But they can have a depressive episode from 2-4 months after a breakup, manifested in feeling numb, disconnected and meaningless, which they may try to repress. Everybody needs deeper connection, but often avoidants don’t recognise they need their partners until the partner actually loses interest and leaves, through separation, divorce, also death, illness, or something else. Then, when they finally realise nobody is “in the house”, that’s when the crisis hits.

The keyword hidden within that explanation is “repress.”

Funnily enough, we have that covered in the relationship death wheel as well,

Exes at this stage are trying to repress their depressive feelings but doing so just makes them erupt at a later time.

Stage Three: The Clean Slate

So, an ex has broken up with you.

Initially they feel bolstered by their decision when they are overcome with elation. However, as time ticks forward they learn that elation “high” that they were chasing has worn off and they are left with feelings of grief or sadness.

Feelings that that they try to repress.

Here is, where in my opinion, they overcorrect.

Rather than dealing with their grief in a healthy manner they decide to wipe away everything with a clean slate.

A new person.

A rebound!

Once again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, pulling form Free To Attach,

It can be easier for avoidants to interchange relationships as they tend to receive more caregiving than they provide.

And that’s the difficult part of dating an avoidant. They look at relationships as interchangeable. As if each one is a “one size fits all” but you and I both know that there’s no such thing as a one size fits all relationship.

And no matter how many times they are taught this lesson throughout their lives they continue to fall victim to it which just leads to…

Stage Four: The Nostalgic Reverie

This is the stage where you really get to see “regret.”

But let’s look at what led up to it.

  1. With stage one your ex is happy about the breakup
  2. With stage two depression and grief start to set in that they try to repress
  3. With stage three, when that repression doesn’t’ work they start using other people in an attempt to wipe the slate clean.

It’s only after they realize after trying to wipe the slate clean that they may have made a mistake.

They are with a rebound and it just feels hollow.

Also, usually by this stage another interesting thing tends to have happened.

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YOU usually have moved on.

We know from research that this is an absolutely essential part of the process.

After all,

Avoidants are free to long for an ex once that person is unavailable out of the relationship, and typically out of contact so they are untouched by actual engagement and their deactivation systems aren’t triggered, revealing their long-suppressed attachment and switching their operating attachment wound from the fear of engulfment to fear of abandonment.

With this stage basically two things have happened.

Not only are they unavailable but you are too.

This creates the breeding ground for regret which can ultimately lead to stage five.

Stage Five: Reconnection

As you can see, the journey to regret is long and complicated.

But at its core regret is,

to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).

It’s all right there in the definition.

Your ex needs to feel disappointed over something.

A loss


A missed opportunity

Well, the loss they start to really feel around stage two. It’s literally the catalyst for that repressed depressive episode stage.

But the missed opportunity.

They don’t start to feel that until YOU move on from them.

And this is what our research with success stories bears out.

The one consistent theme across most of the people I’ve interviewed is their ability to let go of their exes. The reason that’s so important is because only by “letting go” does your ex feel comfortable enough to believe they’ve missed an opportunity with you.

That’s what most people get wrong.

And so we are here at stage number five, reconnection.

After your ex goes through the long and winding road of the first four stages they are led here, to reconnection. They try to get back together with you.

They try to reclaim what was once lost.

Forever falling victim to nostalgic reverie.

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