Last Updated on September 6, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester
Were you recently dumped? Are you reeling over what happened and wondering what your ex is thinking right now? Have you scoured through his social media posts, hoping to gain more insight into his feelings?
You’re not alone. And as it turns out, your ex might be facing some serious regret right now. In many cases, the dumpers remorse process follows a somewhat predictable pattern.
Here’s what you can expect (and how you should interpret your ex’s behaviors).
What is Dumpers Remorse?
Dumpers remorse refers to the regret, ambivalence, and general discomfort someone feels after breaking up with someone. Not everyone goes through this experience, but it’s extremely common.
Generally speaking, breakups are hard on everyone. Even if, at first, the dumper feels confident in his decision, that doesn’t mean that confidence stays.
Over time, the initial euphoria fades. The dumper starts questioning his decision. This explains why your ex’s attempts to reconnect or rebuild the relationship may seem confusing.
On the one hand, he seemed so certain about ending things. On the other hand, he may start showing unexpected signs of wanting to get back together.
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Psychology of Dumpers Remorse
Even if you were in a dead relationship and things seemed totally hopeless, your ex may still experience dumpers remorse.
Why? Because we latch onto what’s familiar and predictable, and your relationship likely entailed a sense of safety.
Moving forward, no matter the circumstances, can feel scary. Change, after all, is hard.
Many times, the dumper feels insecure when they first venture back out into the real world. He hits an emotional wall getting to know new people. Then, he reflects on your shared good memories and starts wondering if he made a serious mistake.
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Once the novelty of ending things and being single wears off, the dumpers remorse sets in.
The 10 Stages of the Dumpers Regret Timeline
While the regret timeline may have unique nuances depending on your relationship, there are several stages of dumpers remorse.
They usually happen in order, but jumping around within the stages is possible.
Here’s what you can expect:
Stage 1: Denial
Denial refers to refusing to believe a certain feeling or experience.
When it comes to a breakup, someone may deny that they ever cared about the other person. They also might deny that they have any lingering feelings after the breakup.
For dumped partners, this stage in the dumpers’ regret timeline tends to be the most heartbreaking. Your ex denies having any residual feelings for you. He is seemingly relishing the single life and has no regrets about breaking up with you.
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And yes, the denial is real. Your ex is so blindsided by the novelty of being in a new situation that he 100% feels he’s made the right decision.
This stage in the dumpers regret timeline tends to brief. It often only lasts a few weeks to up to a month.
Stage 2: Newfound Freedom & Cockiness
Denial often moves into a sense of euphoria. And at this point, your ex’s elation seems completely apparent. In his mind, the relationship burdened him, and now he feels relieved. He feels free.
Your ex no longer feels bothered by the negative aspects of being in a relationship. Subsequently, he no longer has to deal with the seemingly unnecessary and irritating interferences associated with commitment.
As you know, freedom tastes sweet. And during this time, he may experience a surge of confidence and optimism and start acting outside of his usual comfort zone.
Your ex’s behavior might come across as completely unrecognizable making it painful uncomfortable for you. He’s one sweaty orgy or call girl away from completely abandoning his former self.
Don’t expect any chasing-like behaviors at this time. In your ex’s mind, the past is the past, and he’s embracing his single life right now.
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Stage 2 in the dumpers regret timeline may persist for a few months. It all depends on how “trapped” your ex perceived himself to be. He may want to take advantage of being single, and he may feel pressured by his friends to live it up.
Stage 3: Minor Annoyance
At some point, during the end of Stage 2, he is reminded of you. This initial trigger might be a song on the radio, a picture of you as he’s scrolling through his phone, a specific type of food you two enjoyed together.
This trigger makes him miss you deeply. He wants to know what you’re doing. He may look at you online or ask a friend what you’ve been up to. At this stage, he probably won’t reach out yet. He’s still mostly convinced that he’s moved on.
Stage 3 tends to be fast. The minor annoyance no longer feels so minor, causing him to transition quickly into Stage 4.
Stage 4: Uncertainty and Comparison
He can’t get that minor annoyance out of his head. Whatever reminder set him off is now nagging at him all hours of the day. Now he doesn’t feel relieved- he feels immense discomfort.
But to cope, he doesn’t go back to you. Not yet. He still wants to feel brave, bold, and self-sufficient. He still, in many ways, wants to take on the world! He certainly doesn’t want anyone to know that he’s silently suffering.
So, he begins fighting his feelings. This is when picking up unusual hobbies or entering a rebound relationship is most likely to occur. He isn’t thinking about the consequences- right now, his life revolves around feeling good while trying to squash the memories of you down.
However, the euphoria is almost always coupled with a comedown. Your ex can’t help but feel reminded of you, no matter how hard he tries. So, even if he initially thought he moved on completely, certain triggers become more and more obvious. He can’t escape them anymore.
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This phase can last for a few weeks or even several months. It may take longer if he’s really busy (because he has less time to sit down and just think).
Stage 5: Increased Curiosity
The intensity of the triggers increase. He can’t stop thinking about you. Everywhere he looks, he’s reminded of your presence and your relationship.
Now his primary motivation is to figure out his next move with you.
This curiosity, of course, is a typical emotion. Your ex-boyfriend obviously invested time and energy into the relationship- it only makes sense that you’re back on his mind. But as this stage intensifies, you quickly move to the front of his thoughts.
By this stage, an ex typically starts reaching out. It’s very slight at first. He’s bidding your attention and seeing what he can get. So, you may wake up to an unexpected text message or a drunk phone call.
These gestures are tiny enough that he may disregard them completely if you confront him. Oh, I didn’t mean to text you- I thought I sent that to someone else! Oops, did I call you last night? That was my mistake.
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Stage 5: Nostalgia and Sadness
At this stage, even the life of the most sinner-like ex starts feeling dull. To put it bluntly, your ex’s life feels bleak. And he resents that.
He wanted to move on, but he can’t. Even if he was emotionally unavailable, he now feels tortured.
He feels flooded by the good memories of the past. He starts experiencing lovey-dovey feelings once again. Generally speaking, he feels a sense of longing for you and for what you two shared. It’s painful, and it’s confusing.
During this phase, he might become preoccupied with reminiscing on the past. He may also ruminate on the unnecessary mistakes or issues he caused in the relationship.
This stage is when he’s most likely to convey interest in you again. His primary motivation is to discern whether you still have feelings for him. He will risk rejection to determine this truth.
Other symptoms of nostalgia and sadness include:
- increased use of escape behaviors (substance use, drinking, sleeping too much)
- general apathy about the world or the future
- making impulsive decisions (quitting his job, relocating to a new city)
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This stage may last for a few weeks or months. During this time, he may sink into a deep depression. He might feel dumpers remorse, but he also might question his entire life purpose. He will likely spend a great deal of time looking at photos of you, listening to familiar songs, or even physically holding onto your stuff (in an attempt to feel close to you).
Stage 6: Full-Blown Dumper’s Remorse Happening In Your Ex’s Mind
At this point, your ex’s remorse is in full swing. He suddenly thinks he made the worst mistake of his life. He can’t believe he let you go- what was he thinking?
The remorse temporarily shatters his sense of identity. Who is he without you? How could he do such a thing? How will he move forward?
Existential dread sets in. He feels somewhat directionless. He’s scared that he made an irreparable mistake. And in his mind, he will do absolutely anything to get you back.
This remorse can last for variable periods of time. If he genuinely realizes that he made a mistake and is willing to work on himself, he will do all he can to make that happen. But if he just feels anxious or insecure without you, he might move through this phase quickly, and jump out of it as soon as he finds a reasonable distraction.
Stage 7: Desperate Attempts to Reconnect
Ready for gorgeous flowers delivered to your work? Over-the-top expressions of love sent to you in the middle of the night? Beautiful, random gifts on your doorstep? Because here they come!
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Stage 7 is the peak of dumpers remorse. Not every man gets here (some end at Stage 5), but those who do fall hard in it.
Your ex recognizes that he made a mistake and will do absolutely anything to reconnect. Even if he initially thought you were the problem in the relationship, he’s now fully acknowledged his part. At this point, he may apologize and beg you to reconsider getting back with him.
Some other subtle ways he may attempt to reconnect include:
- Reaching out passively to your friends or family to see how you’re doing
- Feigning crises to get your attention
- Apologizing profusely and repetitively for his mistakes
- Promising to change a specific behavior that bothered you
- Leveling up his commitment (i.e., showing up with an engagement ring)
Stage 7 tends to be dramatic, but it’s a short phase. Two scenarios will likely happen. First, you’ll either give into these gestures of love and get back together. At that point, there is no need to beg or convince you to stay.
Or, you’ll ignore him, triggering Stage 8 of dumpers remorse.
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Stage 8: Red-Hot Anger
What if he still wants to get back together, but his gestures of love don’t work? How does this affect the dumpers’ regret timeline?
In most cases, this is when the rage sets in. He’s livid and unhinged. He allowed himself to be expressive and vulnerable, but you rejected him. Now you’re the bad guy all over again. In his mind, you’re ruining his entire life. How dare you?!
The signs of red-hot anger vary, but some common symptoms during this stage include:
- attempts to smear your reputation to other people
- directly criticizing you or attacking your moral character
- threatening to hurt himself (often to get your attention)
- making dramatic statements- you destroyed my fucking life!
Of all the stages, anger tends to be the quickest (although it may also be the most intense). It can last for a few days or weeks depending on the circumstances. Keep in mind that ignoring his tantrums will certainly make him even angrier.
Stage 9: Re-Denial (Often to Self and Mutual Friends)
Once he truly absorbs that you aren’t coming back, your ex may enter another stage of denial. This happens because he literally can’t accept that you won’t give him what he wants. And so, his mind goes back into this delusional thought that he doesn’t care.
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Not every man goes through this stage of dumper’s remorse, but it’s common among emotional abusers and narcissists.
Re-denial can look like:
- pretending that he only reached out because he was genuinely worried about you
- denying to anyone else that he tried to get back with you
- rebounding again with someone else (to prove to himself and others that he moved on)
- making himself look totally healed on social media
Re-denial, in its most primitive form, is a defense mechanism. He can’t cope with the pain of his reality, so he pretends it doesn’t exist.
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This stage may persist for a few more months. It tends to cool down after a prolonged period of no-contact. Eventually, he loses interest and is able to imagine a new life without you.
Stage 10: Gradual Acceptance
Acceptance is the last stage of the dumpers regret timeline. At some point, your ex must accept what happened if he wants to move on.
Acceptance, of course, can take time. But an emotionally healthy person can usually achieve it with patience and effort. Before reaching acceptance, many men jump back into the other stages of dumpers remorse. For example, they might go back into trying to reconnect or experiencing intense anger.
Interestingly, even if he broke your heart, you may heal faster than he does. This is particularly true if you give yourself space to grieve and process your feelings.
Gradual acceptance typically looks like this:
- recognizing that the relationship is over (even if he still feels sad about it)
- having occasional moments of dumper’s remorse without acting irrationally
- redeveloping a relationship with himself
- pausing future dating efforts until he feels ready
- acknowledging (to himself) the mistakes he made in the relationship
- being able to start wondering about what lies ahead
If he seriously regrets breaking up with you, it can take several months or even years to reach this final stage. It all depends on their willingness, how long he stays stuck in other stages, and how you react to his attempts to reconnect. Remember that it’s not your responsibility for him to heal!
How Long Does It Take for Dumpers Remorse to Kick In?
Every relationship is different, and dumpers remorse doesn’t necessarily happen on a specific timeline. Instead, your ex may feel dumpers remorse based on a variety of factors, including:
Your relationship length
If you two were together for many years, he probably invested a good deal of time and effort into the relationship. The single life may seem even more foreign after such a long commitment. The longer the relationship, the more likely he is to feel dumpers remorse.
The level of commitment
If you two lived together, were engaged or married, dumpers remorse may happen very quickly. He has to change his entire life, including where he lives and how he spends his time, and that change can feel dramatic.
If you two had mutual friends together, dumpers remorse might set in as soon as he spends time with people who remind him of you. In addition, if your mutual friends are upset about the breakup, they could try to convince him to reflect on his post-breakup mistakes and get back together with you.
Your children probably share many of your same characteristics. Therefore, him being around them will inevitably remind him of you. Likewise, co-parenting is challenging, and those obstacles can trigger even more dumpers remorse.
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You getting into a new relationship
If he sees you embracing other lovey-dovey feelings for someone else, he will feel insecure and concerned. In most cases, that will trigger dumpers’ remorse (and he’ll be hoping that you secretly feel the same way).
Sub-cultures radically approach breakups differently. In some cultures, it’s completely appropriate for men to express their feelings all over the interest spectrum. In other cultures, these behaviors point to feeling emasculated or weak.
He felt pressured into breaking up with you
If an external force threatened your relationship, he might quickly experience dumpers remorse. He might feel guilty that he let something else dictate his decisions.
Can You Trigger Dumpers Remorse?
Yes. Of course, there are no guarantees of him desperately chasing you again, but here are some common ways people trigger dumpers remorse.
Acting completely unfazed
If you remain completely calm and collected after a breakup, this reaction may disturb him. Now your ex’s dilemma is wondering whether you actually cared about the relationship (or about him). This problem can lead to mild obsession and may even cultivate a newly-realized interest in you.
Making significant changes in your life
If you embrace becoming a ‘brand new you,’ right after breaking up, the changes will likely pique his interest scale. This is particularly true if he wanted you to make those changes while you were dating.
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Initiating a no-contact rule
A no-contact rule almost always triggers dumpers regret. That’s because he suddenly has no way of reaching out to you. That can feel vulnerable and scary. So, to regain control, he may keep trying to contact you. He doesn’t want you to move forward without him.
Acting entirely unfazed by any of his gestures
Even if you can’t go entirely no-contact, acting cool or neutral will be just as difficult for him. He wants a reaction, whether it’s positive or negative, and it will feel terrible if you don’t give him one.
What Are The Signs of Dumpers Remorse?
Sometimes, it’s obvious when an ex experiences dumpers remorse.
Some guys just can’t conceal their feelings very well. Other times, they tend to be more secretive and aloof. Regardless of the circumstances, here are some ways you can tell he’s begun the stages of dumpers remorse.
Morbid social media posts
Does he post photos or comments complaining about life, love, or relationships? Is his online presence seeming a bit pathetic these days? If so, he may be experiencing dumpers remorse, and he’s expressing himself online as a way to avoid chasing-like behaviors. This is especially true if he hasn’t blocked or deleted you (he’s hoping you see what he posts!).
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Has he recently said that he’s sorry for how he acted in the relationship? Or did he make an off-handed comment about not being mature or good enough for you? Such behaviors, even if they feel minor, point to the regret he feels.
Asking for another chance
This is the most obvious sign that dumpers remorse set in. He now realizes that he wants to get back together with you. He’s desperately hoping you feel the same way and that you can return to the way things were.
How to Move Forward
Ending a relationship is challenging, but you don’t randomly decide when to move on. Feelings just aren’t that simplistic, and your recovery follows its own pace.
At this point, it’s only a matter of time (and healing) before you start feeling better about your future. The stages of dumpers remorse just no longer feel as intense.
Both the dumper and dumpee experience a range of emotions after a breakup. Dumper’s remorse doesn’t happen in all relationships, but there’s a good chance that your ex experiences some uncertainty and regret after ending things.
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Here are some ways to take care of yourself:
Remember that time is on your side
Time always tends to help when it comes to dumper’s remorse and healing. Eventually, you slowly start losing your intense feelings for your ex. You no longer desperately desire to fix things because you recognize that there’s no going back. His unexpected behaviors or erratic decisions simply don’t faze you as much as they once did.
Embrace a new hobby
Don’t just ruminate on the relationship. Keep yourself busy by picking up a new project or hobby.
Give your ex space
As much as you may want to reach out, try to resist the urge. You may find yourself hitting an emotional wall if you keep trying to patch things back together. Instead, let him come to you.
Be mindful of your own rebound tendencies
It’s tempting to jump into meeting someone new yourself. But distraction often delays the healing, and you may find yourself with someone who isn’t right for you at all. Then, when that implodes, you have to grieve two losses.
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You never know what could get back to him. Furthermore, the more you gossip about the situation, the more power you give it. That makes it harder for you to move on and heal.
Seek professional support
Therapy helps one’s conscious awareness subtly improve, and that applies to everything to relationship issues to self-esteem to learning to avoid unnecessary mistakes post-breakup. Consider reaching out to a qualified mental health professional if you are struggling.
Understanding the dumpers regret timeline can shed insight onto what you can expect after your relationship ends. Yes, this time can be raw and vulnerable, but you’re not alone. It’s only a matter of time before your ex experiences some of that anguish as well.