How Long Should It Really Take You to Get Over Your Ex?

No matter who instigates a breakup and how necessary it might be, ending a relationship really sucks. Breakups are often fraught with confusion over what the “right thing” to do really is, and your emotions can get totally out of whack. But there’s a fine line between taking some time out to heal and totally hiding from your life in pajama clad crying on the floor depression. So how long should it really take for you to get over him? The answer isn’t all that simple, but there are a few things we know for sure.

  1. It’s not gonna happen overnight. It would be incredibly helpful to get some sort of immediate magical healing to let us know that we did the right thing – like if we had a breakup fairy godmother that awarded us with some fancy new shoes and a glam squad to start out day one of singledom. Unfortunately, even if you knew that guy was so not The One, you probably had a bond of some sort and those feelings of attachment don’t just vanish overnight when you break up. If they do, you’re probably in denial and heading for a drunken bathroom cry fest in a week or two. It happens.
  2. It depends on how long you were together.  The sitcom How I Met Your Mother came up with a formula to explain away the grieving part of a breakup: take how long you dated and then divide it by two. If you dated for a month, he should no longer be the star of your daydreams two weeks later. If you dated for a year, however, it could take you six months to stop thinking about him when you fall asleep each night. Is it an accurate formula? Who knows – this isn’t science.
  3. There’s a difference between getting over him and forgetting him. One truly annoying part of breaking up is that you’ll never forget this person, but you shouldn’t confusing thinking about him with not being over him. You’ll be able to tell the difference when you can think about that camping trip you went on for your birthday without feeling like you got socked in the stomach. That part seriously shouldn’t last forever.
  4. If it was a really serious relationship, it’s going to take longer to move on. One study that was done in 2009 found that it takes divorcees about 18 months to move on to someone new after their split. A marriage split can be pretty disruptive and requires one or both exes to pick up and move, of course, so there are a whole lot of factors at play there. Feel free to go with this estimate if you and your honey lived together and shared all your friends and/or a dog. That kind of breakup practically is a divorce.
  5. That said, it shouldn’t take forever. Hey, if a divorcee can move on at some point, you can totally let go of that guy you were only seeing for a couple months. If there’s an ex in your life that you just can’t shake, you probably have some sort of unfinished business there… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he does. Call an ex-ervention on yourself and think truthfully about why you’re not moving on. Scared to do all that stuff over again with a new person? Clinging to the idea of the “perfect” person you lost?  Well, he ain’t perfect for you if he’s not with you, honey.
  6. It can ebb and flow. One of the sneakiest parts of the breakup process is the part where you change your mind again and again. Last week you felt so over it you were laughing about all that wasted time you spent with him, and this week you’re waking up in a panic, clutching your pillow and calling your mom. The flip flop of emotions is pretty normal, but luckily it tends to lessen in intensity each time. Resist the urge to stalk his Instagram and check out every girl he’s following to try and figure out if he’s moved on or not.
  7. You need to have a little faith. We have all heard these stories where couples deal with timing issues and fall back in love months or years later, but that only works when everyone moves on and handles their own business and then fate changes their course because that’s what fate seems to do. No one ever built a healthy relationship by clinging onto the idea of their ex and getting dragged around for a few years. Let it be.
Kate Ferguson is a Los Angeles local and freelance writer for a variety of blog and magazine genres. When she's not writing, the UC Davis graduate is focused on pursuits of the entertainment industry, spin class, and hot sauce. Look for article links, updates, (and the occasional joke) on Twitter @KateFerg or @WriterKateFerg, or check out her personal blog