It can be very difficult to grieve after a breakup. I was once in a casual relationship with a man for five weeks. Our communications stopped and I have nightmares about him almost four years later. I often wonder where he is now and what his status is. I can sense his anger and hurt when he speaks to me in conversation. If I ever saw him again, I would still feel a rush of butterflies and nerves.
There are many people who have similar stories of frustratingly persistent feelings for an ex-partner. How long does it take to forgive someone? This is a difficult question to answer, and may even be impossible.
The Truth About How Long it Takes to Get Over Someone.
Pop culture (see Sex and the City and How I Met Your Mother), has popularized the often-repeated wisdom that it takes half the time to get over a breakup than the time you were together. It will take about one year to heal a relationship that was lasted two years. Scientists have done actual research to determine the best time frame for moving on. A 2007 study showed that 71% of those who had recently broken up felt better after three months. In contrast, a 2017 survey of 2,000 people found the same number of people feeling better after six months. A 2009 study showed that it takes people about 18 months to get over a divorce.
There isn’t much consistency.
Truth is, even though it is nice to feel like you have the final word, many people, including myself, take longer to let go of past love. Others take much less time.
In an interview with mbg, Hilda Burke, a couple counselor and psychotherapist, said that this question is somewhat like the “how long is a piece string” question. There is no set time or standard for getting over a breakup.
Heidi McBain is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She tells mbg that the time frame will depend on each person and how they are dealing with the breakup. She says that some people are able to get over breakups faster than others. It all depends on the individual.
Why It takes people longer to heal from a breakup.
Here are a few reasons Burke & McBain believe:
- It wasn’t your idea. The dumper will move on quicker if it wasn’t mutual. McBain adds that “if they could see that this was the direction of the relationship, rather than feeling betrayed by it,” it can make a huge difference. It will take more time to heal someone who didn’t know a breakup was coming.
- You were truly invested. Burke says that one important factor is how invested the person in the relationship. This can also determine whether the relationship will last. It’ll be more difficult to let go of your attachments and feelings for someone you love if you truly believed the relationship would last. You already had your heart set.
- Cheating. McBain states that if you have been cheated upon, it can make healing seem all the harder. You are not only trying to get over someone you love but also need to process the fact that someone you care about has consciously chosen to hurt you.
- It’s not your intention to be with someone else. “Some people don’t,” Burke explains. Burke explains that some people create an emotional and mental altar of worship for their ex and worship it regularly in their head. People who have difficulty letting go can feel their relationship was perfect and that no one else is comparable. They may prefer to keep the relationship going than face the hard truth that it’s over.
How can you tell if you’re over someone?
Sometimes it feels like the end is never coming when it takes so long to grieve someone. It can feel like there is no progress because you get so used to missing them. If you are feeling deep in the depths of longing right at this moment, you will eventually find the closure that you seek.
Burke said that Robert Frost’s poem “The best way out” is always through. The only way to “get over” a breakup, like any other suffering, is to go through it fully. This means that we must let ourselves feel the pain and allow ourselves to grieve. Although it may sound cliché, time is a powerful tool for healing most wounds. Recognize the pain and accept what you have lost. This is the first step to healing from a broken heart. Only then can we truly and honestly move forward. This is not the same as overthinking your breakup.
McBain believes you are moving in the right direction once you have “gained more insight into the situation, when your emotions about the breakup have subsided, when it is possible to acknowledge your role in what occurred, when you can begin to think about dating again, and [and] when the relationship has ended.”
Burke says that each individual’s experience will be unique. One client told me that the turning point was not his ex being the first thing that came to his mind when he woke up. Another client was able play an album she had loved and enjoyed again. It’s more of a feeling than an external marker.
Don’t limit yourself when it comes to letting go of someone you love. Accept your feelings, sit with them and internalize them. Don’t judge yourself for taking too long. Instead, notice how small you are taking each day and do a lot of self-care after a breakup. This will all be possible at your own pace.