How long does it take to get over someone? If you listen to
Sex and the City's Charlotte York, "It takes half the total time you went out with someone to get over them." Which, when you think about it, can either be a good thing or a bad thing. For example, if you dated someone for only six months, then you're pretty much home-free within three months. But if you were with someone for, say, 10 years, going by Charlotte's theory on love and breakups, that's five long years of wallowing in pain and sorrow, trying to recover and move on.
According to a 2017 study of 2,000 Americans by OnePoll, everyone will spend, on average,
18 months of their lives getting over breakups, which, honestly, seems quite low. Although this average was based on three major breakups, how many people only have three major breakups in their lifetime? Between the ages of 18 and 25, I easily had half a dozen breakups, and considering the shambles they left me in, they were indeed "major." Or, at least, they were to me.
“The time it takes to get over someone depends upon two factors,” Susan Winter, a New York City-based relationship expert, love coach, and the author of
Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache , tells Bustle. “How central a figure they were in your life; such as husband, wife, or live-in partner, and how much you think you need them.”
As Winter explains, if your partner was your “person" (read: your ideal match)
it can take at least six months (or longer!) to grieve and eventually regroup. If you’re talking about someone whom you regard as the love of your life (read: soulmate), that six months can take even longer, maybe as much as a year. If the breakup is a legal one that involves a divorce or a custody battle for kids, the time it takes to get over someone can be even more difficult and prolonged, because you have to be in touch with your ex, and even sometimes on a regular basis. “Don't get fooled into thinking that grief of past loves has a clear 'end'.”
“Anytime you're required to continually see an ex, it resets the clock and makes getting over them much harder,” Winter says. Having them be an active participant in your life can definitely extend how long it takes to move on.
When it comes to how much you think you need your ex, things are equally painful, but in a different way. Especially if you put all your hopes and dreams in this one person. If this is the case, the loss can linger, meaning recovery time is long and deep. “If [your ex] played a dominant role in your life, their absence can appear as though all you wanted is now gone,” Winter says. “As the leading man or woman in the movie of your life, their significance is not easily erasable — especially so if you're dependent upon them financially, emotionally, socially, or in business.”
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., a psychotherapist and author of it’s completely normal to Smart Relationships: How Successful Women Can Find True Love, grieve the loss of a relationship while moving on with your life. "Don't get fooled into thinking that grief of past loves has a clear 'end'." Ultimately, there is no timeframe for how long it takes to get over an ex.
Here are real stories from 20 women on how long it took to get over their ex.
1 Jenn, 23
"It took me years to get over my first boyfriend — although I think it took so long because our relationship dragged out for quite some time. While we broke up after dating for eight months, we kept seeing each other on and off for about two more years. It was easy for me to get over him when he wasn’t around or constantly texting me, but the second I saw his name in my phone or saw his face in person it was like I was back at square one — I had to start my 'grieving' process all over again.
It’s been about seven years since we first broke up and about five years since we officially ended things for good. Now when his name comes up on my phone or his face shows up on my social media newsfeed I don’t have that same reaction. It took me about five years to feel nothing toward him. Actually, at this point I don’t even think he’s attractive anymore; maybe my taste has evolved."
2 Robyn, 37
"My experience getting over my ex is — I think — a little unique, because I mourned my relationship in reverse. I was married to my high school sweetheart, who one day said something that made me question whether I wanted to continue that relationship. I cried for three months, every day, almost all day. But after I actually asked for a divorce, I was over him in three days. That's why I am convinced that the relationship was mourned in reverse. I'm 37 now. I was 32 when I called it quits."
3 Anonymous, 21
"My ex ended our
long-distance relationship the last week of August 2017, and I was devastated. Although I've had a few FWBs here and there since that time, I have to say that, almost nine months later, I'm still not completely over him. I think about him way more than I'd like to admit." 4 J, 40
"It took me about a year to get over my husband, after getting divorced (12 years), even though it was my idea. It takes time to unravel your relationship emotions once you have decided to end it. I then had a three-year
rebound relationship that I was not emotionally engaged in and I would say it took about a week." 5 Amanda, 31
"My longest relationship was five years. We lived together, he bought the house (that we picked out together and took care of and decorated), and he cheated and cheated. And, in the end, he never wanted to get married.
Within six months he then found someone else, married her... and had a baby together. It took probably two years to completely get over the relationship. The first year was all the emotions, rediscovering self, missing the sex, etc. was all hard to get over. You find someone else, but you still think about that person. Until, of course, finally you are happy in the relationship you are in and can finally move on and forget about that lying and cheating ex who wasted five years of your life. But, in the end, it brought me to meet my now fiancé! And my cheating ex still contacts me, because he is not happy and [I am finally am]."
6 Kathryn, 50
"It took me over four years to get over my first husband. He was the love of my life and I really could not imagine life without him... I was so attached to him, [but] our entire relationship was unhealthy. I had invested all of myself in the relationship and really didn't want to see the
red flags that emerged over time. When the stuff hit the fan, it was just a mess." 7 Allie, 33
"My last serious relationship took me two full years to get over. The breakup, initiated by me, rocked me to the core. At some point in every day, he was on my mind.
Yet, my ex-husband — whom I loved from the bottom of my heart, shared six wonderful years together, and swapped vows with — took me just two months to get over. I'm sure it had to do with the condoms I found the night before we moved into our first house together. Anger, fueled by being disrespected by the person I should trust the most, can really speed up the healing process. That and life experience. In my 30s, I put up with a whole lot less BS and know what I deserve in a relationship."
8 Briana, 22
"I’m 22 years old and went through the worst breakup ever on New Year's Eve two years ago. We dated for four years and I really thought we would get married; I always fantasized about our wedding and our children, until one day it all turned to sh*t. I was deeply depressed for a year. I didn’t want to go out and when I did, I would drink far too much. I didn’t want to eat, couldn’t sleep, I would go days [without] texting or talking to friends. I never went to therapy because our breakup was a long story that I couldn’t tell anybody. The first year was tough, but the second year got easier and I found myself wanting to go out more and having an appetite, but would still obsess over his social media account — who is he talking to? Does he still think about me? Is he dating someone else? I felt obsessive but it was something I had to get through on my own.
Now I feel like myself. I no longer feel the need to check on him every second or hope to see him while roaming the mall. I can look back on our relationship as a learning experience and no longer feel bad about it. I hope he has found the same sense of peace I have. I know everyone tells you to find help, reach out to friends and family, go to therapy, but for those people like me there is still hope and you will get through it."
9 Michelle, 31
"It's been six years since we broke up and I'm still not over it. But I didn't realize that until about four years ago, when I actually wanted to start dating people again and realized I had a lot of work to do. I still do."
10 Anna, 30 Getty Images/Martin Novak
"My ex and I dated for about three years on and off. The first time we broke up, I didn't ever get over it. After eight months of dating and eight months of breakup, we got back together. Even during our breakup, I still felt tied to him, like we hadn't finished trying. Honestly, that may well have just been the undiagnosed anxiety I was dealing with at the time.
When we broke up the second and final time, it was a whole different story. My brain was healthy and we made a mutual decision to part ways. We had given it everything we could. I felt sad to lose the closeness with him, but so right in our decision. I think I cried for like 10 minutes, walked around in a daze for a couple of days, and then was over it. It was a long-time coming and a clean break. I held off on dating other people for three months to give myself space and show him respect. We both moved on to much healthier singleness and then relationships."
11 Autumn, 29
"I was with my boyfriend for three years and we broke up two years ago. I hate to say it, but I’m still not over him. It was a clean break with none of that hooking up stuff afterward and we didn’t even try to be friends but here I am, two years later still not over him. I haven’t even been able to start dating again. The desire just isn’t there."
12 Esha, 40
"In my past relationships (and I've had a few of them), it's always worked for me to not date anyone for half the time of my ended relationship. So, if my relationship was three years (that was a magical number for me), then I wouldn't date anyone seriously for about 1.5 years. I would still date and just have fun, but the agreement would be 'just fun' with no strings attached. That allowed me the space and time to heal the past hurt, acknowledge and accept my role in the breakup and decide what the lesson is moving forward. It also gave me time to think through what I would do differently next time."
13 Jennifer, 33
"It took me three weeks. He cheated on me and that was that. I think if he didn’t cheat and we broke up [for other reasons] it would have been harder. But his cheating showed me his true colors and I wanted nothing to do with him."
14 Kenggy, 29
“I haven’t gotten over my ex. There’s one person who I literally haven’t gotten over and it’s been years. We go back and forth and every time I’m single we come back to each other. I’m scared that if I ever get married I still won’t be over him.”
15 Victoria, 34
“My ex and I were together for 13 years. Over time it became clear that he was both of our number one priorities. I sacrificed my mental health and physical well-being to dote on him and ensure his happiness. He revealed on our honeymoon he was addicted to opioids. We spent years getting him clean, during which time I didn’t pursue my interests or passions — my entire focus on him potentially relapsing into drug use (spoiler: he did, numerous times). I was so consumed by saving him that I didn’t realize how much I had lost myself. Finally, after
couples therapy where his emotional abuse was so evident our therapist refused treatment, I left.
The hardest part was focusing on me and putting me first for the first time in over a decade. I had to learn how to be patient with myself, love myself, and treat myself gently. I started working out and realized how much I had missed it in the years I’d neglected my well-being. Now I’m loving the way I look, feel, and spend my time. I’ve learned to surf and taken up paddleboarding. And if I have a whim, I explore it. I’m living my life for me now, and I am happier than ever.”
16 Danielle, 28
“It took me two years to get over my five-year relationship with my ex. We lived together and were on and off, making it an extremely messy breakup. It felt like a horrible rollercoaster that I finally had to get off of. His
narcissistic behavior, cheating, lying, and complete disregard for my well-being left me broken for a long time. I’ve been able to move on focusing on myself and the friendships that build me up. I am so much happier now living my single life and traveling the world.” 17 Brittney, 27
“My fiancé broke off our engagement in October 2021, and it took me about six to eight weeks to process enough in order to move on. I amazed myself — I’m now in a happy and stable relationship.”
18 Maura, 31 Renata Angerami/E+/Getty Images
“I’m still getting over my ex. We ended things two years ago in August, after having been married for two years. I had a therapist tell me that going through a divorce is like your partner dying, but it’s not really because they’re still out there existing and you have to mourn your old partner as well as the life you thought you would have. And that hit me. I will say I’m much happier now and I’m still working on getting over it, but seeking out professional help was a game changer, as well as just diving into things I love and enjoy and not worrying about what other people think of me or how I come off to people — especially within dating.
I still have dreams about my ex-husband, and when I come across photos of us or mementos from our marriage it hurts. I’ve surrounded myself with a solid group of friends who have been so supportive and that’s really how I got over my ex. I don’t know if I’ll 100% be over him or the life I thought I was going to have, but being comfortable with myself and the life I’ve created without him has helped me get over it and become a better person.”
19 Emily, 33
“I immediately got over my ex-husband the day I decided to leave him. I never wanted to get back or thought twice about it.
situationship from when I was 17 years old and again in college took me years to get over, in all honesty, I probably never got over him. Then I started dating him again after my divorce and realized I had romanticized the past and got over him.” 20 Edrina, 27
“I've dated quite a bit. It doesn't take me too long to move on. I've spent no longer than two to three weeks and on average a day or two before I feel open to getting to know someone else.
My longest relationship was five years long. We have a daughter together. It took me a little less than a day to move on. We were not as emotionally connected as I am with my now-husband. He said something that was completely annoying and I literally got out of the car at the next red light and walked away. I stayed with my friend for a few days and filed for joint custody. There are no hard or harsh feelings. We of course are still in contact and I still enjoy visits from his mother.”
Experts: Susan Winter, a New York City relationship expert and author Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., psychotherapist
Get Even More From Bustle — Sign Up For The Newsletter
From hair trends to relationship advice, our daily newsletter has everything you need to sound like a person who’s on TikTok, even if you aren’t.
Subscribe to our newsletter >
This article was originally published on
July 2, 2018