3 Keys To Understanding How Guys Deal With Breakups

Like most other women, I still remember my first serious breakup like it just happened yesterday. After dating for nearly a year, my boyfriend at the time broke things off with almost no explanation.

While it took me months to recover, he seemed to bounce back and find someone new reasonably quickly.

At the time, I didn’t understand how this could be possible. Why wasn’t he hurting like I was? How could he just end our relationship so abruptly and instantly move on?

Then, nearly six months later, he called me out of the blue and asked if we could get dinner. Reluctantly, I accepted.

Looking back, though, I’m so glad I answered his call and accepted that invitation to dinner because it was in that event that I learned that men deal with breakups very differently than women do.

In the years since then, I’ve learned a lot about how men process hurtful experiences and handle their emotions.

This insight has proved invaluable not only in subsequent romantic relationships but even in helping out friends in the aftermath of their relationship woes.

By understanding why men do things they do, many of my friends were even able to get their man back! More on that later.

Understanding the stages a guy goes through after a breakup and knowing why they seem cold then later contact their exes, you too can learn how to handle nearly any situation you land in during the aftermath of a breakup.

What are the "stages of breakup" for guys?

Most of us are familiar with the typical stages of grief that women experience after a major breakup. However, the stages men experience during a breakup look significantly different.

Stage 1: The Inflated Ego Phase

According to University of Notre Dame professor Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., a man’s sense of entitlement and fragile ego often gets the better of them after a breakup. 

Because of this, most men adopt a “her loss” stance at the beginning of the breakup and work hard to keep up appearances that “everything is fine.” Eventually, though, the enlarged ego starts to deflate.

Stage 2: Numbing The Pain With Socializing

Men hate feeling vulnerable. In fact, our society teaches men to stuff their feelings deep inside from a very young age. Because of this, men take longer to process their emotions after a breakup and spend lots of time avoiding their feelings.

In other words, there’s a very specific reason why so many men head to the bar with their friends for weeks after a breakup. After all, getting a bit of a buzz can help dull those crippling feelings of pain and loneliness, and talking about sports helps guys avoid more serious topics.

Stage 3: Realization

Researchers at the University of Texas discovered that men can only begin to fully process a difficult breakup once they realize that they are truly alone. It’s in this realization stage that a man accepts his emotional weakness and finally lets the emptiness settle around him.

While many men will still try to maintain a poker face during this phase, they will start to grapple the heartache they’ve avoided for so long. This is the first step towards moving on, and it’s a major one for most men to tackle.

Stage 4: Anger & Sadness

After he finally realizes that the relationship is over, a man can start processing all of the complicated emotions and infinite questions that plague most women from the get-go. 

Some guys will purposely do things during this phase to bring on the tears (like stalking their ex), whereas others will simply wallow in their emotions and lash out at everyone who tries to help. Regardless, this is the messiest stage of the breakup process for a guy.

Stage 5: Testing The Waters

While grieving the end of a relationship, most people will tell the grieving guy or girl, "Don't worry, there are plenty of fish in the sea."

So, after they process their pain, most guys will go fishing. 

While some guys will find a new special someone in this phase, many just land a rebound girl.

Those initial relationships right after the breakup typically fizzle out because he’s not yet ready to really trust someone and open up again.

Stage 6: Redirecting Hope

Once a guy tests the waters a bit, he often finds that he’s not quite ready to dive into a new relationship head first just yet. In fact, he needs time to fully work through his trust issues so that he can move forward and learn to love again.

This phase can take the longest for a man to work through, but it’s the most critical for his future relationship success. If you or someone you know is working through this phase of reestablishing hope, the key is patience.

Stage 7: Acceptance & Moving On? (Not So Fast..)

Finally, after spending tons of time ignoring his feelings and even more time getting caught up in them, many guys will eventually reach a point of acceptance and move on from their previous relationship.

But you might be surprised to hear that most men actually want you back after breaking up. Men are complicated creatures. Just as you want him to fight for you, he wants you to fight for him.

He may just be too prideful to ever say that. However, there are emotional triggers that you can tap into that will make him dying to get back with you. 

No on likes to feel like they are going backwards, but the reality is that most men have needs that you likely don't even realize. If you understood them, you can easily get him to see why he needs you.

But how do you even begin to understand his complicated emotions and break through his ego and prideful defenses?

How do you make him sure of you? And how do you make it so that you never lose him again?

The clue here, is he needs to feel more than just that he loves you. I know what you are thinking, "That sounds backwards, what's more than love?"

Love is a powerful emotion, but as you may have experienced, love can be painful and that pain can destroy all of the excitement in a relationship. 

What you really need to do, is make him infatuated with you again. Just like when you first met. 

If getting him back is important to you, then you should check out this simple method, based on psychological studies, that will not only help you get him infatuated about you again, but stay that way. 

Why do guys go cold?

Woman putting head down after argument in park

Due to their hormone levels and ways their brains process information, men can appear calm, collected, and even unemotional during negative events like a breakup. 

In fact, therapist and life coach Jennifer Musselman says, “If a man does not physically and verbally express the same emotional urgency, a female partner might assume he doesn’t care about the upsetting event.

But in fact, he is more readily assessing the situation at hand before determining his feelings about it and considering his response.”

Also, numerous studies show that men require alone time to process stressful events or complicated emotions.

While women love to talk out their feelings, men need space to even figure out what they’re feeling first — especially during a breakup.

Why do breakups hit guys later?

As I previously mentioned, it takes most men nearly to get over a serious relationship. With that being said, most men don’t feel heartbroken right away once a relationship ends. There are numerous reasons why this happens.

For starters, most women feel the full force of the breakup up front and quickly begin the process of working through their emotions.

Men, on the other hand, avoid their feelings like the plague and spend lots of time distracting themselves and ignoring the emotions of the breakup.

Dr. Ronald Levant refers to this emotional avoidance as normative male alexithymia. Essentially, traditional masculine roles in society cause many guys to feel like their masculinity directly conflicts with the emotions they feel. 

This causes men to shut down and ignore their feelings instead of openly expressing them right away.

Furthermore, scientists have proven that men simply process information differently than women. Where women tend to think in terms of people and emotions, men often take in the big picture and look at things in the form of systems or webs.

Because of this, most men take time to put the pieces of an event together, which means that the full emotions of the event don’t hit them until their brains finish connecting the dots. This process of “putting things together” can take men months to work through.

Finally, men don’t sit around with their guy friends and talk about their feelings or the pain of breakups like women do.

This leaves men to figure out their feelings alone, which can take longer and not provide men as much insight.

Why do guys contact their ex girlfriends?

While many experts recommend that partners follow a “No Contact Rule” after a breakup, men frequently break this rule. But why? Well, that simple question is actually complicated to answer.

“The likeliest possibility is that they are reflecting about the relationship and are missing you. Most of the time this would be for romantic or sexual reasons, but sometimes they might just want to be friends again", says psychologist Samantha Rodman.

Rodman explains that some men reach out because they feel guilty about how things ended or want to smooth things over because you share mutual friends or work together.

However, therapist Anna Poss offers a different perspective: 

“If they felt the split was abrupt, confusing or left them with unresolved feelings, an ex might reach out to gain clarity. Resuming communication could also be a way of testing the waters [to see if you’ve moved on].”

Or, who knows, your ex could be bored and simply want attention from an old flame. He could also be drunk, horny and hoping for a hookup, or secretly feel sentimental but worry how you’d respond to his feelings.

If you feel comfortable communicating, it’s more than OK to respond and see if you can out why he’s reaching out. And if you are feeling the same way that he does, then you want to be prepared to fix your relationship.

The easiest way to do this, is make him infatuated again. Both men and women experience love differently. Men express their love in a different way but most women miss the very key to a man's heart. 

They want to feel that excitement when they first met you. And you can absolutely make him sure about you forever, by understanding the keys to win a man over and make him infatuated about you again. 

Do guys feel hurt afterwards?

While your ex’s cold, disconnected stance after a breakup may leave you thinking that he doesn’t care or hurt at all, experts all agree that the opposite is true. 

In fact, relationship expert Chris Seiter says that there are five very clear signs that guys show when they’re hurting after a breakup. Seiter explains these signs in-depth and offers advice on how to handle some of these emotional displays in this video.

Final Thoughts

Just like the encounters with my first serious ex in the months after our breakup, I know that many other women find themselves in complicated situations with men even after the romantic relationship with them ends.

However, by understanding how men deal with breakups and why they do some of the things they do after the relationship ends, you can not only feel armed and informed, but you can ultimately decide exactly what you’re ready for. Even if that means you're
ready to learn how to get him back!

In the case of the ex-boyfriend I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we still communicate from time to time, but mostly we just follow each other on social media and let our lives unfold independently. Honestly, though? I’m more than OK with that.

Just remember that how you work through the heartache you feel after a breakup is your decision, and your feelings are always valid.

While your ex may seem cold and distant, chances are he’s just trying to process his heartache the only way he knows how.

Decide what you need in the weeks and months after your relationship ends, and stick to those boundaries regardless of how your ex-boyfriend seems to react.

Healing is an independent journey, and in time you’ll both move on from the pain in your own unique ways.

Breakup Shop Team

The Breakup Shop team is a group of dating and relationship experts who share their in-depth knowledge with our community of 20,000 people strong! We are people just like you, with a desire to share our personal experiences and advice regarding breakups, heartbreak, dating, and relationships. Welcome to the community!