When you are in the midst of a breakup or a painful divorce, usually people are there for you. It’s the one good thing about it. What they say though is sometimes another matter. For instance, people will give you all kinds of wild and contradictory advice, including how long it takes to get over someone. For a long relationship, say lasting five years, some say it takes twice as long to get over. But does that mean you’ll be stuck in a rut for the next decade? Others say it doesn’t take double the time. Instead, take the duration of your relationship and cut it in half. How long does it really take to get over your ex? The problem is way more complex than a simple formula. Plus not everyone is the same. In fact, there’s a lot of deviation when it comes to dealing with the emotional pain that follows a breakup. Some people have a tryst with a new lover and feel rejuvenated. Others pine away, spending months on the couch in sweats watching romantic comedies and wondering why they aren’t feeling any better.
There are a lot of reasons a breakup is not easy. One is biological. Researchers at the University of Berkeley found that dopamine, the reward chemical, is released when you are in love, the same kind of feeling you get from a drug high. You are, in a way, literally addicted to that person and must go through withdrawal. But everyone withdraws in their own way. According to British psychotherapist Elly Prior there are seven factors that influence how long it will take for you to move on after a breakup. These are: how long the relationship was, whether or not the breakup was recent, how obsessive or intense it was, whether or not it was meaningful to you, how things ended, if domestic violence entered the picture and whether or not one or both of you had an affair. Other important factors include if this is your first breakup, if you have a support network in your life, what other stressors surround you, if property or possessions still have to be split up, if you suffer from depression, how you interacted with one another and whether or not you are surrounded by reminders, say a photo on a shelf or your ex constantly springing up on your newsfeed.
One simple formula isn’t enough to solve such a menagerie. You may feel like you are being swallowed up in a pit of hopelessness and despair. But realize that emotions such as these don’t stick around for long. Pretty soon it will start to subside. There of course will be moments when you are reminded of the person. But those also pass. It’s important to tend to yourself at this time. Vent, have a good cry, spend time with friends and reconnect with people you lost touch with. Think about your future and what dreams you want to fulfill now that you don’t have any dead weight pulling you down. Reflect also on what you loved about the person. If things feel incomplete, make your own ritual and find an appropriate way to say goodbye. You don’t need their permission. They don’t even need to be there. Do it on your own. Try to turn around a breakup or divorce and make it a positive experience, one that you learn from and makes you a better person. For more on breakup recovery read, How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Peter McWilliams and Harold H. Bloomfield.