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How long does it take to get over a breakup?

Jesse Martin

August 21, 2012

If you came to this page, you're probably asking yourself: How long does it take to get over a breakup? It's a question, most men, at some point after their breakup, ask themselves when they're sick and tired of feeling sad, depressed and empty. You want to know how long the pain is going to last, because sometimes it feels like it's never going to go away. And I don't blame you. The pain, at times, can seem endless, and you just want to get on with your life.

The answer, unfortunately, is not clear cut. It will depend on a lot of factors, such as: how attached you were in the relationship, the manner in which your ex broke up (e.g. if she left you for another guy) and how you handle your breakup. Dealing with a breakup ultimately means dealing with your emotions.

Factors Determining How Long It Takes To Get Over a Breakup

Here are some factors that - in combination with one another - will influence the length of your recovery.

  1. Whether or not you are the initiator of the breakup. Multiple studies have shown that the initiator of the breakup recovers from feelings of sadness and anger quicker than their counterpart. If you got dumped, this is going to take longer than if you had been the dumper. I believe this has a lot to do with the level to which you're expecting the breakup. If you're the initiator, you obviously know the breakup will happen, so you can go through some of the necessary grieving process before the end of the relationship. If you are not the initiator but you expect a breakup may happen, you may also be less shocked because you will have had the chance to prepare yourself. If, however, the breakup was unexpected to you, this will increase the intensity of the emotions and also the time it will take for them to stabilize.
  2. Depth of the relationship. The depth of your relationship is a better predictor of the time it will take to recover than the length. You can have a long but shallow relationship and you will recover quickly when it comes to an end. Conversely, you may have a short but deeply involved relationship which may leave you hurt many months after it comes to an end. In many cases a longer relationship also corresponds with a deeper relationship where two lives have become deeply woven together. It is the depth, however, that determines the recovery time, not the length.
  3. Emotional volatility of the relationship. I have to admit, I'm not sure why, but relationships with many emotional ups and downs tend to come to more painful endings and end up taking longer to get over.
  4. Your attachment pattern. Your way of attaching yourself to significant people in your life (largely determined by your upbringing) can be anywhere on a scale from anxious to avoidant. Anxiously attached individuals in particular have a harder (and longer) time getting over a breakup.
  5. Ability to self-regulate emotions. Your ability to self-regulate your emotions is your ability to deal with an emotion once it hits you. If you did not learn how to do this in a healthy way while growing up, you may have sudden emotional outbursts and/or self-medicate your pain with drugs.
  6. Sense of Self. There's a trap many guys fall in at least once in their lives: Using your girlfriend or the relationship to define yourself. When the relationship ends, you feel like you don't know who you are anymore. If you don't know who you are, you're going to have to find out and your recovery will be considerably longer.
  7. Unresolved grief. Traumatic events in our past are often not allowed to be processed fully. These old wounds may be invisible at the surface but we may experience their pain when the wounds are re-opened by a new painful event in our lives. When our loved one breaks up with us, we may feel both the loss of the present as well as the unresolved loss of the past.
  8. Your support network. Who you have around you to support your through this time is going to be an important factor in how long it takes for you to recover. What this all means is that it's very hard to estimate how long your recovery is going to take. That being said, there is a rule of thumb, that gives you an idea of the time scale involved:

It will take you half of the length of your relationship to get over it.

That's not set in stone, but it should give you somewhat of a frame of reference. If you just got out of a five year relationship and went through a gut wrenching breakup, don't expect things to be 'back to normal' in a month or two.

There are a lot of marketers out there that would like you to think that their product can help you get over your ex in mere weeks. Although the techniques I advocate will speed things up for you - because you'll be doing things right - my goal for you is a good, holistic recovery, not a quick fix.

In order to give you the best possible answer to the initial question: 'how long does it take to get over a breakup', we have to agree on what it means to 'get over' a breakup.

What It Means to 'Get Over' a Breakup

The real problem in estimating a timeline for you recovery is that being 'over' someone is hard to define. What most people are referring to, however, is the point at which you are no longer in pain. Feelings of pain will subdue over time, but they will also go up and down.


Prepare yourself for the ride, because one moment you might feel completely over you ex, and the next you'll be in agony again. Even though the pain comes and goes, the intensity overall, wanes.

Try not to take the upswing or the downswing to seriously. Recognize the waves of pain as being old pain. They are just memories of pain which you have already recognized and processed. Realizing that allows you to let it go.

How Can I Speed Up My Recovery?

You start off by stopping to think in that manner. Trying to run away from the pain can be tempting, but it's the wrong direction. You must go through the pain to the other end. Unprocessed trauma will set you up for equally painful situations in the future. Instead focus on a good, holistic recovery which will allow you to engage in healthy, fulfilling relationships going forward.

Do not live in a state of waiting. You are constantly projecting into the future. Live in the now. ––Eckhart Tolle

Take this opportunity to reevaluate your goals, your social life and your identity. Breakups can be incredibly inspiring and life-changing experiences for a lot of men.

For advice on your recovery make sure you check out my guide on how to get over a breakup. Here are some important take-aways:

  • Uncover and address your underlying issues
  • Surround yourself by loved ones and share your story
  • Take time to focus on yourself, your goals and your path forward.

Has this article helped you get an idea of how long it takes to get over a breakup? Let me know what you think in the comments, I love hearing from readers!

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