You’ve asked your friends. You’ve confessed to your family. You might even have humiliated yourself before your studiously indifferent ex.
“How long does it last?” they mused, “Oh, give it a couple of months sweetheart and you’ll feel right as rain!”
And here we are, six months later, wondering why the breakup curse is as overpowering as ever.
Are you weird? Are you weak? Were they the one?
No. The answer is that you are none of these things and that getting over someone can take far longer than that three minute Youtube video suggested.
So forget calculators and rusty proverbs. It’s time to discover why you’re still stuck in a cemetery of memories.
You Can’t Just Snap Out Of It
There’s something to be said for being proactive about moving on. You can do everything right. You can pave the roads of your future with gold, find a new, attentive, and loving partner. Perhaps you’ve even improved your financial circumstances and found a more fulfilling job.
Objectively speaking, life can appear to be great. But despite all this, you’re still hurting. And you’re hurting badly.
You might feel like your pain doesn’t make sense. Except it does. Here’s why.
The Subconscious Mind’s Role In Delaying Recovery
None of these existential changes will satisfy that part of your subconscious mind that wants the past back. There’s nothing logical about this craving. There’s nothing morally or absolutely just about it either. It’s just the lament of a blind, traumatized organ that wants its comfort zone back. The past represents stability. No matter what that past was, and how it affected you.
Simply put: Your subconscious brain will value stability over everything else. And relationships, even unhealthy, toxic, and abusive ones, represent a form of stability because they have their own routine and internal rules.
This is one of the many reasons a victim of relationship abuse will return to their abusive partner. It’s why you can be absolutely positive the breakup was for the best, but feel no relief. It’s why you’re here, reading this.
So, first things first. We need to understand that there is a part of emotional recovery that isn’t down to our conscious mind to unravel. And no matter how unhealthy or toxic the relationship was, it will take time to recover.
This downtime is a reaction to trauma and shock, not just a reflection of how amazing our ex or the relationship actually was.
How Long Does This Process Take?
First, we need to define what getting over it actually means. Because if you think that “emotional recovery” means waking up one day and not caring about that particular ex anymore, then you’re in for years of disappointment.
Getting over it means accepting the breakup unconditionally. It doesn’t mean being happy. It doesn’t mean feeling fulfilled. It means letting go of the notion of closure.
Time will gradually erode the acuteness of pain, but it won’t completely remove the triggers.
For those of you looking for some stats to chew on; based on my experience dealing with breakups, here is my breakdown of what the stages of emotional recovery look like over time. Please bear in mind this is an estimate and will vary from person to person and relationship to relationship.
The Acute Stage Of Breakup Pain (2 Weeks To 2 Months)
The acute stage features not just the pain of separation, but also the trauma of having our reference points and comfort zones up-ended.
It’s hell and we knew it would be.
The New Normal Stage (2 Months To 6 Months)
The new normal stage occurs when we begin to build a new routine. We begin to take steps towards building another future, one without our ex in it.
We will still crash out. We may still break down. And we will still be haunted on a daily basis. But life, despite our pain, will grind on. The triggers are still everywhere, but most of them have been at least partially digested by now, and the pain isn’t as debilitating as it once was.
More Flowers For Your Secret Garden (6 Months+)
Eventually we reach a place where, in the words of Bruce Spingsteen and his Secret garden:
You’ve gone a million miles. How far’d you get? To that place where you can’t remember. And you can’t forget.Bruce Springsteen
It may seem a little corny, but I really do feel this quote represents the gist of long term breakup recovery.
You’ll notice I didn’t put an expiry date on the last stage of getting over someone. This is because sometimes the memories and triggers will last a lifetime. It doesn’t mean the pain will, but we shouldn’t expect to become numb. But more than this, I would argue that we shouldn’t want to become numb.
Don’t Give In To Numbness
Our capacity to feel pain is linked to our capacity to love. The deeper the cut we now feel, the stronger we allowed our past connection to develop. This isn’t a weakness, it is pain borne of strength because we were courageous enough to be vulnerable.
The two are linked. Seeking reprieve by seeking numbness will also negatively affect our future relationships because we are amputating our capacity for love in the name of security.
Yes, the pain may seem senseless now, and wasteful, but that pain is a reflection of our willingness to put ourselves on the line for something we love. It didn’t work out this time, but if we sever it and build insurmountable defensive walls around our pain, we risk shutting out something beautiful that may come along in the future.
Breakup pain is a sign we still care. It is a sign we still believe. And I would argue that it is something we should hold dear rather than cast aside in disgust.
How Long Does It Take To Get Over Someone?
Days, weeks, months, decades or even a lifetime.
The point I’ve been trying to make is that there will rarely come a point where we forget. That our continued emotional instability, even when logic dictates that we should be “fine” by now, is not a product of weakness, but a reflection of internal strength.
I might not have answered the question you asked by clicking on this article as succinctly as you wanted. But if you can walk away from this article with a better understanding of why you shouldn’t blame yourself for the strength of your feelings, then I’ll call that a win.