In an excerpt from The No Contact Rule (2nd edition) which has just come out (Kindle available tomorrow 11th June and print on 17th June), I tackle one of my most frequently asked questions: How long is it going to take to get over him/her?
They say that time heals all wounds and while yes it does take time, it’s actually what you do and think during that time that affects the healing process. Trust me, if you think that you can break up now and that by default in a year’s time this will be a distant memory without you having to put some concerted effort into the initial cutting contact and then the grief work, you will only set yourself up for pain. There’s no hard and fast rule and grief in itself isn’t linear, so your grieving isn’t an identikit version of someone else’s. Plus you’re going to take steps forwards and then go back a little or even a lot and then make gains again. The biggest influencers of how long it’s going to take are as follows:
Your self-esteem. Have an honest conversation with yourself about whether you’re neglecting or nurturing yourself. If you have low self-esteem at the start of NC, it’s going to take time especially if you don’t take on board that you’re going to have to nurture yourself during this time by treating yourself with love, care, trust and respect while talking and supporting yourself through some of the difficult decisions you make along the way. Remember that it takes more than going through the motions of life to take care of yourself – if your head is polluted with negative thoughts, this directly affects your recovery time.
Your resilience for disappointment and rejection. Take it badly, keep revisiting it, judge yourself harshly, persecute yourself, or do things to counter the sense of rejection and disappointment that only end up causing you even more pain, and this is going to take you longer than it would have done.
Your lifestyle. If you occupy your life as in you reside in it, value it, fill it up with things that meet your needs, expectations and wishes, you will feel happy and that will help your recovery. If your life comes to a standstill, you become a recluse, or you do things that basically detract from yourself like hanging out with a bad crowd, ditching work, sacking off friends and family, it will take longer.
Your experiences during the relationship. If it was particularly traumatic, you may need more time simply because you need to do some healing work to recover from the trauma.
The length of the relationship. There’s no hard and fast rule. I’ve heard from people who after two years, are still trying to recover from a relationship that never happened and people who it took several months to a year or so to get over a much longer relationship. Note that if it ends up taking you more than year to get over a relationship that didn’t start or was only a few months, it means that too much of yourself was invested in what you thought might happen or in this person’s perception of you.
Your beliefs. The fact that it may take longer for someone who never even had a relationship to recover tells you that it’s how you judge yourself and your options after the breakup that means a great deal. Every single person I’ve heard from who cannot let go even when the amount of time not letting go significantly outweighs the involvement, is struggling with beliefs and possibly shame.
Previous losses. Tying into the resilience for disappointment and rejection, it may take you longer to get over a breakup if it resurrects a previous loss.
Unforeseen circumstances. Unfortunately even when we’re hurting, life goes on and sometimes that means that we can feel kicked when we’re down. If you lose your job, or you have a big fall out with a close friend or family member, there’s a bereavement, you lose confidence in your appearance, you experience a trauma, or even try to move on and experience a setback, this can affect your recovery time. You will have to put in more effort to take care of yourself and you may need to draw on your support base.
Being avoidant. If your typical response to uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and situations is to do something to limit, distract from, or avoid these, breakups will be tricky for you as you may have delayed reactions to your experiences as you may be so used to what you do that you won’t recognise your own avoidant behaviour. If this is you, I would recommend that you check in with your feelings about this breakup each day by keeping a Feelings Diary so that you can build self-awareness.
This was an excerpt from the new No Contact Rule which is double the size of the first edition. If you’re a previous purchaser, you will receive an email regarding your free update over the next few days.