How Long Does It Take To Get Over Someone You Dated?

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

A breakup often signifies the end of a relationship that once played a significant role in your life. If you've recently experienced one, you might wonder when you will recover from lost love or move on from an ex The time needed for the healing process can vary significantly for everyone.

Everyone may grieve the pain of a breakup in different ways and at their own pace. There may not be a specific answer for how long the healing process will take the average person. 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.

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Are you struggling to get over a breakup?

Breaking up with someone you love can feel distressing, and you may experience a variety of emotions after your relationship has ended and you both get move on in your lives, such as:

  • Shock
  • Disbelief
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Grief
  • 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 feeling to 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 or jumping into your next relationship, 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 start to fade as time goes on, and you may even discover that you grow and learn from the relationship and breakup. 

Moving on from 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 to them, 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 breakups 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. You might find yourself beginning to experience 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 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.

Like in the other stages of getting over a breakup, starting to bargain 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 to go with your life 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 start to feel less sad or heartbroken and ready to move forward with future 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 split, and how serious the relationship was. 

For example, someone grieving the end of a three months-long casual relationship may reach acceptance more quickly than someone grieving the end of a ten-year marriage or one-half as long with children. However, everyone is different, and emotional responses can also be different from person to person. Some people may bounce back after six months or weeks; others may take years to bounce back. Regardless of the circumstances, there is no shame in feeling deeply in response to the 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 develop to try to reach acceptance. 

Focus on yourself

No matter who initiated the split, exploring and rediscovering yourself can be a beneficial distraction. 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. 

Stay busy

Many individuals may stay at home and sit in their thoughts and emotions to deal with 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, and you should embrace it. Dwelling on emotions may lead you to spend more time in the earlier stages of grief rather than moving forward to acceptance.

Lean on 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 eventually help lessen the hurt.

Are you struggling to get over a breakup?

Reach acceptance with a professional

During the aftermath of a heartbreak, speaking to friends and family may feel helpful. While a licensed and experienced therapist may not be a relationship expert, they may provide objective insights to the experience that family and friends often can't. For example, they can help you learn to recognize and process your attachment style, which may be one factor affecting your relationships.

While the people in your life may have opinions about your ex and your relationship and expect you to behave in a certain way, a therapist may be able to approach the situation neutrally and offer unbiased advice to support you in moving forward. Many individuals opt to start online therapy, as it provides an available way to talk about a difficult time without having to leave 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.  

Takeaway

Learning to move on after a breakup can take time, and there may not be a "one-size-fits-all" approach to grief. Everyone’s healing timeline is different, and there are several factors involved. How much time it will take you to move one is different from person to person. 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, stay busy, and feel good. Don’t forget reaching out to others may also help you begin to heal, whether you prefer to turn to friends, family, or a therapist.

Build healthy relationship habits with a professional
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