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There’s an old and oft-quoted piece of wisdom that says it takes about half the length of a relationship to get over it.
So, if you’ve been with someone for ten years, then it may take you about 5 years to get over the breakup.
But is this always the case? Not necessarily.
When you’re healing from a breakup, you can expect to experience a number of different things. These will all depend on how long the relationship lasted, how intense it was, what your personality is like, and how things ended.
That isn’t intended to cause you anxiety: you will get over this. It’ll just take different amounts of time depending on the person.
What factors influence the healing time from a breakup?
People get over the ending of a relationship at different speeds, and there are things that play a big part in that speed. Things like:
1. Your personality type.
If you’re a very emotional person who forms deep attachments to others quickly, then it’ll likely take you quite a while to heal from this.
Of course, if you’re a more emotionally detached person who takes a long time to form connections and attachments to others, then you probably won’t suffer quite as badly when a relationship comes to an end.
People who can accept things easily also have an easier time healing from a breakup.
Those who feel a need to control most aspects of their lives don’t fare as well when someone ends a relationship with them. They often get very angry and emotional and try to turn things around so they’re the ones controlling the narrative.
As you can imagine, those who can flow with life’s currents have an easier time when the unexpected unfolds.
2. How much distance you can put between you and your ex.
Many people have very difficult breakups because they have to keep living with their now-ex for a while before they can get their own space.
If you’ve been living with your partner and you split up, try to move into separate places as soon as possible. Even if that means couch surfing for a month before you find your own flat.
Similarly, if you’ve been dating a colleague but haven’t been living together, try to get another job. There are few situations as awful as having to face your former lover on a daily basis. It’s even worse if they’re in a position of authority, like being your supervisor or manager.
Distance speeds the healing process. It’s very much an “out of sight, out of mind” thing – you won’t be able to just exorcise them from your memory, but at least they won’t be shoved in your face constantly.
3. Your self-esteem and self-worth.
How you feel in yourself will also have a huge impact on your healing process. Part of that healing often means moving on and getting involved with someone else. Needless to say, many personal factors come into play when cultivating new relationships.
If you’re fulfilled and content in your own endeavors, it’ll be a lot easier for others to find you attractive.
Similarly, if you keep active and healthy, and feel happy with your overall appearance and personality, you probably won’t be as bothered by the breakup. You know that you’ll undoubtedly be able to have another great connection with someone else.
In fact, you may well connect with someone who’s far better suited to you.
4. How you actually felt about the relationship.
Some people get far more hung up on the rejection and humiliation they might feel about a breakup than actually mourning the loss of the relationship itself.
Ask yourself whether the partnership you had was honestly that great. Did you have an authentic, amazing connection with another person? Or were you two together because you were attractive and looked great together?
Were you benefitting from one another’s finances? Was this a power move? Did you feel fulfilled when you were together? Or were you just in this relationship as something to do until someone better came along?
Know thyself, as always, and treat every relationship as you would a meal. Examine how it tastes, whether you’re enjoying it or not, and how it makes you feel afterwards.
Then determine whether it looked far better on paper than it actually tasted during the experience.
From there, you can re-examine the choices and factors that led you to that partnership, so you can either re-create the process, or avoid that kind of restaurant entirely.
You are what you eat, and that goes for energy exchanges too.
5. What the breakup was like.
When a relationship comes to a natural end, it can still hurt quite a bit, but there’s often a sense of relief as well
In cases like these, both parties have likely been just maintaining the status quo for quite a while. Sometimes for years. They may have even begun grieving the relationship before it even officially ended.
Thus, when the breakup finally occurs, the “hurt” that both experience is more the fear and discomfort with change than anything else.
Once that has passed, both parties start to feel a sense of calm and imminent freedom. In fact, they might start to get along better than they had been during their relationship!
If this is how your breakup went, you may start to feel better very quickly. Yes, you’ll likely still mourn the end of the relationship, and you’ll probably get twinges about it on and off for quite a while. But if you part on good terms, chances are that those twinges will be mild, and you two will be able to stay friendly.
It’ll be a different story if it was an ugly breakup, with lots of heightened emotions or traumatic circumstances leading up to it.
And it might get particularly messy if it was only one person who wanted it to end. Which leads us to our next factor…
6. Who ended things.
If you were the one who ended things, you may end up feeling guilt for quite a while.
The amount of guilt and hurt you’ll feel will depend on several factors, including whether your now-ex partner is trying to convince you to stay together. Are they threatening self-harm? Or using your children as pawns to try to control your behavior?
Alternatively, if you are the one who was broken up with, how do you feel about this situation?
Have you been trying to get your partner back? If so, why?
If you’ve been holding on to the hope of reconciliation, even though deep down you know there’s no chance, then it’ll take you much longer to get over the breakup than if you accept that it’s over. This kind of acceptance really sucks, but is better for your mental and emotional health.
7. Whether you have coping mechanisms from past hurt.
People who have experienced several negative situations may have coping mechanisms that will help them get over this quickly.
Of course, the opposite can also be true – people who have experienced a great deal of trauma may be hypersensitive.
Instead of becoming more resilient to negative situations, they may end up far more traumatized than others would be in similar circumstances. As such, when a breakup occurs, it’ll dredge up countless old hurts, making the healing cycle take much longer.
What behaviors may prevent you from moving on?
Many people self-sabotage their healing process without even realizing that they’re doing so. Here are some of the ways they do this:
1. Stalking on social media.
Before social networking and sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram came about, the only way we’d hear about our exes would be by talking to them directly, or asking after them through our social circles.
We’d generally try to avoid the latter because asking mutual friends what your ex is doing is rather frowned upon, and reflects badly on you.
An alternative would have been to stalk them, of course, but that falls into the “frowned upon” category mentioned above.
Are you checking your ex-partner’s social profiles on a regular basis? If so, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re doing that.
It’s understandable that you might miss them, and want to check in to see if they’re doing okay, but is that truly helping you to move on?
If they’re the one who initiated the breakup, you might be checking up on them to see if they’re involved with someone new. Some people do this to see if there’s any chance of getting back together again – if there’s no evidence that they’re involved with another person, then maybe there’s still hope.
On the other hand, if you find out that they are in fact seeing another person, then that’ll likely ignite or intensify all sorts of feelings. If you’d been hoping for another chance, looking at photos of them with a new partner will likely break your heart all over again.
You might also start comparing yourself to this new person, and developing some pretty black thoughts in various directions.
If they’re younger than you, then you might start feeling insecure about your age. Same goes for if you consider them to be more attractive, or successful, or any other aspect that might make you feel inferior.
2. Looking over old photos and videos.
Modern technology can prevent us from moving on in other ways too. It’s far easier to reminisce over the memories you shared with your ex because you’ve likely got loads of photos or videos of the two of you on your social profiles or phones.
It’s so easy and tempting to look over these and think back to happier times. Back in the day, you’d only have physical photos of the two of you and you could easily put these away in a box or burn them if you wanted to.
Similarly, you can delete the digital memories of you and your ex from your phone and profiles.
3. Reading over old messages.
You might have thousands or tens of thousands of messages back and forth between you and your ex. Are you reading through them searching for reasons why the relationship ended the way it did or where it all started to go wrong?
Every time you do this, you are just prodding at the open wound that is your breakup pain. This prevents it from properly healing.
4. Sticking to routines you shared with your ex.
Aside from the digital presence of your ex, there is also the emotional significance of certain things you might have done together.
For example, maybe you watched a certain show together or always had the same special lunch at that great little cafe on a Sunday. When and if you do these things now, it might stir up old memories and emotions.
It might help you to let go of your ex if you stop watching that show temporarily and avoid that cafe for the foreseeable future too. One day these things won’t have the same emotional impact on you and you’ll be able to go back to them, but for now, put them to one side.
Learn to keep distance and let go.
Whether you’re the one who initiated the split, or they did, it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. Unfollow and block their social accounts so you aren’t tempted to look in on them.
Let your friends and family know that you don’t want to hear anything about your ex, and ask them to keep any info to themselves so you can heal and move on.
Same goes for holding onto items that they might have left at your place.
Whether they’ve asked for these things back or not, get rid of them. They only serve as reminders of the person you’ve split with. If you have their new address, pack everything up and mail it back to them. Or get a mutual friend to drop it off.
Even if the breakup was quite bad, it’s important to remove these items from your space with grace and good will. Give your former partner the opportunity to get their things back, especially if there’s emotional attachment to them, or if they invested a lot of time and money into earning them.
Try not to be spiteful and burn or otherwise destroy their possessions to “get back at them” for causing you pain. That will just initiate an ugly energy cycle that’ll cause them to retaliate, and then you’ll do so in turn, etc.
The goal here is to sever ties and move on in a healthy way. You’re aiming for emotional stability, not intentionally re-injuring yourself.
What if the pain just isn’t stopping?
There are instances when a relationship ends in a seriously horrible fashion. If your partnership ended with trauma, then chances are it’ll keep hurting you for quite a while.
For example, it’s one thing if you two broke up because you found out they were cheating on you.
It’s another thing entirely if you packed up your entire life and spent all your money to move across the country to be with them, only to find out that they were already married and you were a side piece.
When a person is horribly betrayed by someone they’ve allowed themselves to love and trust, that kind of injury causes a deep wound. In fact, it’s often difficult to bounce back from that without help.
Experiencing a trauma like this can cause bad anxiety and depression, as well as long-lasting trust issues. If you’ve been badly damaged by the way your relationship ended, there’s no shame in talking to someone about it.
Your friends and family can help, if they’re supportive types who can understand what it is your going through. You can also talk to a spiritual support advisor, such as your priest, pastor, rabbi, imam… whatever religion or philosophy you follow, chances are there’s someone in your circle who can help you regain peace and clarity through this mess.
Create a routine for yourself that’s focused on healing and working through what you’ve experienced. Physical exercise can be a monumental help in this regard. When you feel energy like anger, frustration, or betrayal come up, go for a walk or a run. Or grab a skipping rope if you can’t get outside and skip until you feel calmer.
Start doing yoga or tai chi, or a similar practice that incorporates mind, body, and spirit. By focusing all your energy on the present moment, in your body and breath, all your concentration is taken up with your own well-being. Not how badly that other person hurt you.
If, after a couple of months, you find that you’re still suffering quite badly because of all of this, consider seeking alternative professional help. A relationship counselor may be able to snap you out of the pain you’re experiencing so you can move on in a healthy fashion.
When will you start to feel better?
Unfortunately, there’s no absolute end date that will spell out when you’ll begin to hurt less. A lot depends on your individual emotional state, as well as how quickly you bounce back from situations.
The different stages of grief that happen when a person we love dies can also be applied to relationship loss. Most people start with denial and hurt, then shift into anger and/or depression… but how long they stay in that angry, depressed state is really up to them.
Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. It’s a choice, and all of our actions are choices.
If you’re hurting deeply because of a breakup, take some time to be really clear in yourself about what it is exactly that you’re hurting about.
How will you know that you’re starting to feel better?
First and foremost, when your immediate thought upon waking isn’t centered around your ex.
You might wake up and be happy that the sun is shining, or you’ll be thinking about the weird stuff you dreamed about. All of a sudden, while you have the kettle on for tea or you’re stirring fruit into your cereal, you’ll realize that you hadn’t thought about your ex yet. And that’s a really good sign.
Generally, you’ll know that you’re starting to get over a breakup when you can think about your former partner and not have an instant wave of strong emotion. No flash of anger, no wave of depression. You might still feel a bit of a pang now and then, but you’ll be able to think of them in more neutral terms.
However long it takes, you will get to that place eventually, with help or without it.
Struggling with a breakup and need some help to process your emotions? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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