How Long Does It Take Someone To Get Over An Ex?

Medically reviewed by Krista Klund, LCSW
Updated June 10, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

If you’ve recently experienced any kind of breakup, you may feel sad and wonder how anyone moves forward. When a relationship does end, many aspects of our lives can immediately change. Our daily activities, our living situations, and even our social lives can be affected.

Because the process of adjusting into separate lives without your ex can be painful, people often wonder how long someone will spend getting over their former partner. Research from the University of Michigan found that the areas of the brain associated with physical pain are the same ones activated when we experience rejection, so the hurt of a breaking up with an ex is very real. Everyone's timeline to recover from it is different, however, and lots of factors contribute to it. Plus, healing typically isn’t a linear process; it can involve highs and lows that are often unpredictable.

If you’re wondering how long does it will be until you start to feel better, there’s no mathematical formula or universal answer. However, you can look at some of the key factors that may influence how quickly this process moves to give yourself a better idea of what might be ahead. In addition, there are some steps you can take to try and accelerate the process for yourself.

Having trouble getting over your ex?

Different factors that can affect the healing time

If you’ve recently parted ways with a former partner, you may be wondering how long it takes to process your feelings and get over an ex. The reason that it can take most people such different amounts of time to get over a breakup is that there are so many different factors at play, which can make it difficult to establish an exact mathematical equation or set timeline for healing after breaking up with an ex. How long the relationship lasted and its intensity play a role, of course; a broken heart after a thirty-year marriage will likely take significantly longer to recover from than a breakup with an ex after a relationship of three months, six months, or even two years. But if the pair in the shorter relationships spent almost every waking moment together and the married couple didn’t live together, the timelines for the people in these two relationships may look different than you’d expect them to. The circumstances surrounding the break-up can also play a role and serve as a sign regarding how long it may take to recover from the end of the relationship.

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula that works for every situation. However, eventually, when you realize the specifics of your former relationship, it may help you be more patient with yourself. If you’re frustrated that it’s been a few weeks already and you’re still feeling down, for instance, you might look at the list below and acknowledge the circumstances that made this breakup with an ex difficult, and give yourself more leeway to heal and to get over an ex. Please note that it can be important to watch out for symptoms of depression, which may indicate the need to seek professional treatment.

Factors that may influence the time it takes you to get over a breakup with an ex might include:

  • Relationship length and intensity
  • The way the relationship ended (amicably or not, mutually or not)
  • Why the relationship ended
  • Whether there was abuse or an unhealthy dynamic involved
  • Your personality: resilience, how you feel and handle difficult emotions, etc.
  • Expectations you have for the relationship
  • How intertwined your lives were (living together, pets, children, etc.)
  • Whether you still have to see or interact with your ex regularly (as a coworker, classmate, coparent, etc.)

While this list can’t give you the magic number of how many weeks or months it’ll take you to feel back to normal, you can use it to recognize just how difficult this situation is and give yourself time and space to heal and to get over an ex at your own pace.

Five strategies to speed up your healing time and help you let go

There are generally no shortcuts to the healing process; grief tends to be something each person has to move through completely and on their own time before moving on to their next relationship. There are some self-care actions you can take to potentially help nudge yourself along, though. Try spending time with these strategies and see which work for you—and believe in their power to help you to get over the relationship, because research has shown the power of the placebo effect when it comes to managing difficult emotions like the pain after a breakup. One related story involved giving people who had been through an “unexpected breakup” a “powerful nasal spray to reduce emotional pain,” and participants noted feeling better when seeing a photo of their ex after receiving the treatment. The truth is that the spray was simply saline, which suggests that believing in the power of the strategies you’re trying may be just as powerful as any other effect of those strategies.

Getty/AnnaStills
1. Recall your own resilience
Think about other times you’ve been through a difficult situation or have dealt with emotional pain, feeling lost and like your heart might break. While it can be hard to see it in the moment, it’s important to remind ourselves that feelings are temporary by nature. You’ve moved through every other challenging situation in your life thus far, which shows that you have the resilience to do so in this case, too. This can offer you some hope during a tough time.

That isn’t to say that you should try to move past or bury your negative emotions. The perfectionist approach that says you should never feel bad is generally unhealthy and unhelpful. Feeling sad is a natural part of the human experience, and research suggests taking however long you need to process those emotions can contribute to your overall well-being. Over-reliance on avoidance strategies may prolong the grieving period, making it even more difficult to heal and to get over an ex. Fully and honestly processing the emotions that resulted from breakups with exes can be more helpful.

Remind yourself that you can get through difficult situations and that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—and then let yourself take however long you need to get there. Half the battle is believing that you can make it through.

2. Don’t make things harder on yourself during a breakup
A breakup is hard on anyone; try to avoid making it even more difficult. If you can create some space away from your ex, it may be helpful to do so, especially if you tend to spend time in the same places. In this sense, trying to remove them from your past isn’t generally realistic or healthy. However, removing the most painful reminders of them from your life for a while may be a good thing. It’s why many people choose to unfollow their ex on social media following a breakup, as suggested by a Teen Vogue article, or why they may put away photos they have of them. Understanding and processing the reality of the breakup is important, but making yourself feel worse through constant reminders of them may not be helpful to your healing process. Constantly thinking about what happened and what you regret may only bring you down during the post-breakup period.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Having trouble getting over your ex?

3. Get distracted to get over lingering thoughts about an ex

It’s classic breakup advice for a reason. One of the best and most productive actions you can take to help yourself get through a difficult time may be to distract yourself. While you still need to give yourself time and space to feel and work through difficult emotions about an ex rather than burying them, healthy distractions from an ex can also help you in getting over them. You may find that you temporarily forget about your emotional pain when you’re fully involved in another activity. Many people find that joining a gym, a sports league, or otherwise focusing on their physical fitness helps them feel better, and research suggests that there’s a basis for this. Studies have found that exercise can improve mental health overall, reducing negative moods and improving self-esteem.

If the exercise type you choose has a social component, like classes or sports teams, that’s even better. You can prioritize your physical fitness while also forming new social connections, which can remind you that you can have a fulfilling life full of connections of all kinds even in the wake of a breakup with an ex. Research from Northwestern University shows a positive correlation between sociality and the self-management of depression. Picking up new hobbies, rekindling relationships with friends or family, or learning a new skill can all be healthy distractions to help you move through the pain of the end of your last relationship, too. You may find it helpful to talk with loved ones about their lives and current challenges, which can remind you that you’re not the only one struggling.
4. Focus on gratitude
Research suggests that regularly practicing gratitude can shift one’s attention away from negative emotions and may even help improve symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. While this may be difficult to do when a breakup with an ex is fresh, focusing on what you gained from it as time goes on can give you a more balanced perspective and help you feel better. You may be able to look back fondly on the good times you had together or appreciate the skills and resilience you learned by working through conflicts in the relationship. If your dynamic was toxic or even abusive, you might be able to look positively toward a brighter future now that you’ve been able to exit that situation. Try to avoid thinking about what you expected the relationship to be, or what it could have been. Focus on what it actually was, and the real benefits you gained from it or may gain from exiting it. Try to express honest gratitude and let go of what you may have wished would happen in the relationship. This can make it easier to deal with the challenging emotions you’re surely experiencing.
5. Seek the help of a therapist
If you feel like you’re having difficulty making any progress moving on or even having anxiety after a breakup, you may consider speaking with a therapist, or even another professional such as a sex educator. If significant time has passed and your heartbreak is still disrupting your day-to-day life, it’s possible that you could have depression or anxiety, which a therapist can help you manage. However, plenty of people who do not exhibit signs of any mental health condition still benefit from the help of a therapist in the wake of a challenge like this. In fact, therapy is often the first thing suggested for those struggling with heartbreak. Talking with a licensed mental health professional can help you understand things you otherwise may not notice about yourself, and you may find that your therapists explains things in a way that makes sense to you. A trained counselor can help you sort through your emotions, pinpoint what you learned from the experience, and even identify unhealthy patterns and build new skills to help you form future healthy relationships. They can help you focus on the things that matter most to you as well.

Tanya Smith, LPC

Tanya helped me out of a very dark place after a breakup. She gave me the confidence to set boundaries (which was SO hard for me!) and the tools to recognize red flags in the dating world. I have learned so much about myself in terms of thinking patterns, core beliefs, and how I relate to others. I now have higher self-esteem and a greater understanding of myself. Thank you, Tanya.”

Takeaway

If you’re interested in the convenience of online therapy, consider BetterHelp. It’s an online therapy platform that matches you with a licensed, professional therapist who can help you with the challenges you’re experiencing, such as addressing lingering anger. Research suggests that online therapy offers similar benefits to in-person therapy, which means that professional counseling is available to more people than ever. All you need is an internet connection and a computer, smartphone, or tablet to be able to speak with a therapist via phone, video, or chat, so you can get the support you need in moving through a breakup and healing.
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