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Are you struggling to move on from a past relationship? Do you find yourself constantly bargaining and longing for your ex? You’re not alone.

In the fifth stage of the breakup process, known as the bargaining stage, it’s common to negotiate with yourself and try to reverse the outcome of the breakup. In this blog post, we’ll explore the intricacies of the bargaining stage, the impact of attachment styles on breakups, and how to break free from the cycle of on-again, off-again relationships.

The Bargaining Stage

In previous blogs, we discussed various stages of the breakup process, including shock, denial, depression, and anger. Today, our focus is on the bargaining stage, which often closely resembles denial but with a different purpose.

Denial is typically the initial response to a breakup, marked by disbelief and confusion. In contrast, during the bargaining stage, you come to terms with the breakup’s reality but desperately attempt to change the outcome. This isn’t always because it makes logical sense, but rather because the loneliness and pain of missing your ex feel unbearable.

During this stage, you might find yourself constantly ruminating over what you could have done differently or reaching out to your ex, making promises to change in the hopes of winning them back. ‘What if’ and ‘if only’ statements become common as you try to avoid or minimize the pain of loss.

Why Do We Bargain?

One theory suggests that bargaining serves as a coping mechanism in response to loss, offering a way to regain a sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Additionally, people tend to overestimate the duration of breakup pain, leading to bargaining as a means of avoiding the perceived long-lasting misery.

Attachment Styles and Breakups

Your reaction to a breakup can vary significantly depending on your attachment style, which forms in early childhood. There are four adult attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant-dismissive, and disorganized. Each style responds differently to breakups and the bargaining stage.

  1. Secure Attachment: Securely attached individuals are comfortable with intimacy and don’t base their self-worth on relationships. They may experience the bargaining stage but eventually move on more effectively.
  2. Anxious Attachment: Those with an anxious attachment style often fear abandonment and take breakups the hardest. They may become stuck in the bargaining stage, constantly questioning their actions and seeking ways to reunite with their ex.
  3. Avoidant Attachment: People with an avoidant attachment style tend to be emotionally distant in relationships. They may bypass the bargaining stage altogether by cutting off emotions as a defense mechanism, hindering their ability to process the breakup.
  4. Disorganized Attachment: The rarest attachment style, disorganized attachment, results from traumatic caregiving experiences. Individuals with this style may struggle to make clear decisions about the relationship’s end, oscillating between wanting to reconnect with their ex and protecting themselves.

Breaking Free from the Bargaining Stage

Regardless of your attachment style, it’s crucial to recognize that missing someone isn’t a sufficient reason to get back together. The withdrawal will fade, but the underlying relationship patterns and issues won’t change magically.

When is it a good idea to reconcile? Research suggests that personal development, addressing individual issues, and emotional growth during the separation can provide a better chance at a successful reunion. However, intentions and increased motivation without genuine change won’t lead to a healthy relationship.

If you’re dealing with a narcissistic ex-partner, be aware that their manipulation tactics can trap you in the bargaining stage. Recognize the cycle of idealization, devaluation, and discard and seek support to break free.

Understanding Intermittent Reinforcement

Intermittent reinforcement, a psychological phenomenon, occurs when rewards are given inconsistently. In relationships, this unpredictability can create addiction-like responses. Recognize when you’re stuck in an on-again, off-again relationship due to intermittent reinforcement and understand that it’s not a sign of a healthy connection.


Learning from relapses or intermittent reinforcement can be challenging, and relapses may occur. Use these moments as opportunities for growth. Reflect on what triggered the relapse, how to avoid similar triggers, and proactively set yourself up for success.

In the blog post, we’ll delve into the accountability stage, exploring ways to overcome resentment and create a new, empowered future. Don’t miss it!

Until then, remember that healing and growth are possible, and you deserve a relationship that brings you happiness and fulfillment.

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