A breakup often signifies the end of a relationship that once played a significant role in your life. If you've recently experienced a romantic breakup, you might wonder how long it takes to recover from lost love or "how long does it take to get over an ex?" The amount of time needed for the healing process can vary significantly from person to person.
Everyone may grieve in different ways and at their own pace. There may not be a specific answer to how long it will take you to get over a breakup. However, understanding the time course of your grieving process can be helpful. Research suggests taking a balanced perspective and engaging in self care, as rushing through grief may not be beneficial for your mental health.
Breaking up with someone you love can feel distressing, and you may experience a variety of emotions after your relationship has ended, such as:
- Broken heart
- Urges to get back together
These post-breakup feelings are a normal and valid part of the healing process. Feeling sad after losing someone who was once important to you is a commonly reported experience in a romantic breakup.
It can feel challenging to cope with the thought that someone who has been a significant part of your life may not be around anymore and that the future you imagined with them may not occur.
Rather than attempting to suppress your emotions, allow yourself to feel them. Studies show that suppressing your feelings may cause mental or physical health problems like stress. Most people find that these emotions will fade as time goes on, and you may even discover that you grow and learn from the relationship and breakup.
Affective forecasting error often leads to mispredicting distress following a break up. If you find yourself with a broken heart, feel sad, or experience anxiety after a breakup, you're not alone. To get over a breakup and recover your mental health, consider reaching out for support from friends, relatives, or trained professionals. Additionally, if you're grieving or leaving a low quality relationship, such as an abusive or emotionally volatile one, you may face a longer grieving process or unique obstacles that others might not encounter.
If you feel unsafe or are experiencing abuse or domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Center hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). They are available 24/7 to support you and help you find resources.
The Process Of Getting Over A Breakup
Understanding the process of emotion after losing someone may help you get over them and work through how you’re feeling. For many people, the process may look similar to the stages of grief.
The grieving process is not necessarily the same for everyone, and you may experience the following steps in a different order or skip steps altogether. However, learning about it could provide insight and clarity during this time.
Stage One: Denial
Denial is often the first stage of grief following an unmarried relationship dissolution, but you may experience one of the other steps first. When a person feels significantly affected by denial, they may convince themselves that the breakup didn't happen, it isn't permanent, or that their relationship quality is unchanged. They might believe they and their former partner are still in love or will get back together.
Denial can be a natural response to a breakup or loss. Still, as reality sets in, you may find yourself experiencing a variety of other emotions, leading to the second phase of grief and the journey to get over a breakup.
Stage Two: Intense Emotions
Even if you're the one who chose to end the relationship, the finality of a breakup may send a shockwave through your system, affecting your life satisfaction. During this stage, you may be filled with a mixture of emotions, making you question how long to get over a breakup. You might find yourself experiencing sadness, fear, anger, disgust, loneliness, abandonment, or even periods of happiness. These emotions may be accompanied by thoughts and memories that intensify them.
Speaking to loved ones or spending time journaling about these thoughts and feelings can be helpful. Research suggests taking up expressive writing, such as journaling, benefits mental health. You may need to fully experience and process any emotions that arise from the breakup before you'll be able to move forward.
Stage Three: Bargaining
During the bargaining stage, you may bargain with yourself and your ex, especially if your relationship lasted for a significant period. This bargaining may be done to attempt to make things right or revive the relationship, even in the case of unhealthy relationships.
You might mentally replay moments, decisions, and actions, perhaps ruminating over what you should have done differently to prevent the breakup or what you could do to fix the relationship. You may feel that the only thing that would make sense would be getting back together.
Like in the other stages of getting over a breakup, bargaining can be normal and understandable. However, it can also be a sign that you've not yet reached a state of acceptance regarding the end of your relationship. You may want to avoid reaching out to your ex or making grandiose statements of love or remorse at this stage.
Stage Four: Depression
During the depression stage, you may feel like you've lost hope for the future or are unsure where your life will go without your relationship. You may also have a hard time concentrating and making decisions.
Experiencing this grief stage after a relationship ends does not necessarily mean that you are living with clinical depression. However, if the symptoms persist, it may be helpful to reach out to a mental health professional for support.
Stage Five: Acceptance
The final stage of grief is often listed as acceptance. Acceptance may mean knowing that a relationship is over, understanding the facts, and feeling content with your ability to handle your emotions. You may feel less sad or heartbroken and ready to move forward with new relationships.
Not everyone will necessarily reach acceptance at the same time. Additionally, you may cycle through all the stages of grief multiple times. Acceptance may not be an end-of-the-road destination in all cases. For example, you might feel acceptance and be brought back to a previous stage temporarily when you hear a song that reminds you of your ex.
Some individuals may find that they can move on completely and do not need to think about their ex. It could depend on the time you were in a relationship, whether you initiated the breakup, and how serious the relationship was.
For example, someone grieving the end of a month-long casual relationship may reach acceptance more quickly than someone grieving the end of a ten-year marriage with children. However, everyone is different, and emotional responses can also be. Regardless of the circumstances, there is no shame in feeling deeply about a loss.
How To Reach Acceptance
For many people, reaching a state of acceptance regarding a breakup indicates that they have gotten over it.
Acceptance does not necessarily mean that you're happy the relationship is over or that you never feel upset about the fact that the relationship has ended. It could mean you acknowledge the loss you've experienced, feel a sense of happiness or gratitude when looking back on positive memories with your ex, and maintain hope for the future.
There are a few strategies you might implement to try to reach acceptance.
Focus On Yourself
No matter who initiated the breakup, exploring and rediscovering yourself can be beneficial. This self-care may look like spending time with friends and family, picking up an old hobby or trying a new one, or prioritizing your physical health through exercise or eating healthier.
You are worthy of love, happiness, and acceptance from yourself and others. Take the time to discover what you need most in this part of your life.
Focusing on yourself can help you avoid activities like looking at your ex’s social media profiles. You might also want to implement a “policy” by blocking them on social media so they can’t see your account and you can’t see theirs.
Many individuals may stay at home and sit in their thoughts and emotions after a breakup. You may want to listen to sad music, watch hours upon hours of TV, or lay in bed all day. While spending time experiencing your emotions can be vital, getting out of the house and experiencing life may also be.
Going to work, spending time with friends, and having new experiences can remind you that life continues, even if your relationship doesn't. Dwelling on emotions may lead you to spend more time in the earlier stages of grief rather than moving forward to acceptance.
Talk To Someone
You do not have to go through this process alone especially if it involves adjusting to new living arrangements. If you're having a hard time getting over your breakup or are otherwise experiencing struggles with mental health, consider reaching out to talk to someone you trust.
You might choose to talk to a friend, family, or mental health professional. Speaking about your thoughts feelings, and living arrangements with someone who can empathize could be cathartic and help lessen the hurt.
Reach Acceptance With A Professional
During the aftermath of a breakup, speaking to friends and family may feel helpful. However, talking with a licensed and experienced therapist may provide objective insights that family and friends often can't.
While the people in your life may have opinions about your ex and your relationship, a therapist may be able to approach the situation neutrally and offer unbiased advice to support you in moving forward. Many individuals opt for online therapy, as it provides an available way to talk about a difficult time without leaving home.
Suppose you are experiencing symptoms of depression due to a recent breakup. In that case, you may be interested to know that recent studies revealed that electronically delivered mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) often treats depression and anxiety symptoms more effectively than face-to-face therapy. This type of therapy may involve reframing thought patterns to change emotions and behaviors, alongside mindfulness and relaxation techniques to control your emotions.
Moving on after a breakup can take time, and there may not be a "one-size-fits-all" approach to grief. In many cases, you could experience a variation of the grieving process, which consists of denial, anger and other emotions, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
You may reach a state of acceptance more quickly by prioritizing yourself and your needs, as well as continuing to live life and stay busy. Reaching out to others may also benefit you, whether you prefer to turn to friends, family, or a therapist.
Frequently Asked Questions
For examples of questions that might be beneficial to explore in therapy, please see below.
How long do people usually take to get over a breakup?
Who takes more time to get over a breakup?
How long should a break-up last?
Are breakups usually permanent?
Do you ever fully heal from a breakup?
Why do breakups hit guys later?
How do you know if a breakup is temporary?
What not to do after a breakup?
Is a 3-month break too long?
Can a break save a relationship?
Should you talk during a break?
What is the biggest month for breakups?
What is the 6-month rule after a breakup?
How long is no contact with an ex?
How do I stop overthinking after a breakup?
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