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How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Past Relationship?

Heart torn in two

Every broken heart wonders: how long does it take to get over a past relationship? The answer can vary, depending on how the break-up happened and how the survivors feel.

Strategies for Dealing With Loss

People have a lot of different ways of coping with the end of a relationship, and there's no blanket answer to, "How long does it take to get over a past relationship?" It's easy to try and suggest that one way is better than another, but the reality is that it's different for everyone. Sometimes the person seems fine, completely over their heartbreak, when in reality they are just repressing the pain. Other people can seem completely miserable and wallowing in the pain for a while, and then suddenly one day they're fine, having worked through to closure.

There's no telling what the best way to get through heartbreak is for you until you go through it. Here are some strategies to try, along with some of the dangers associated with each one:

Avoidance

Throw away the cards. Trash the pressed flowers, take the pictures out of the frames and put them in the back of the closet. In a world of social networking, you take your former lover off your Twitter stream, change your Facebook status, and remove their number from your speed dial and their texts from the phone.

The idea is "out-of-sight, out-of-mind." While it seems like an easy strategy, it's not as easy to clear out your head as it is to clear out your phone. If you only take away all the things that had become familiar, it may simply emphasize the absence of your lover from your life. If you happen to see those pictures in the back of the closet and burst into tears, or can't stand it when your special song comes on the radio, it may be a sign that this strategy isn't working, and you're not over the break-up.

Substitution

Another philosophy of relationships takes the view that when you're thrown off the dating horse, the best thing is to get back on again. The escape of getting back into the dating scene is exciting, and you suddenly get a great new dose of attention and emotional energy with the shiny new relationship feel.

Unfortunately, if you haven't dealt with the emotions left from the past relationship, your new relationship may become an unfortunate casualty when they come up. The word for it is "rebound," and it causes enough problems that there are many books and articles about it.

It's not really a fair strategy to put on another romantic interest, but as the saying goes, "That's what friends are for." Relying on the people who know you well to let you know when they think you're ready to date again will be a safer measure of when you've moved on.

Wallowing

There is also a strategy of oversaturation. Putting your special song on continuous play, spending evenings looking at all the pictures, sleeping with that shirt they left behind because it still smells just a little bit like them. For some people, this is the way to get through the relationship ending, even though it may seem a bit counter-productive.

After a time, that song stops sounding like the pain of your heart's cry and is just another pop tune. The shirt just smells like cotton. That's when you know that you've processed the pain of ending and are at least mostly over a past relationship. There's nothing wrong with this method, but if it goes on too long your friends may start to wonder if you're really trying to move on.

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Past Relationship?

How long is too long? For all three strategies, and the myriad others, in the end only you can say. The fact is that getting over a relationship takes as long as it takes, and there's no way to make it end sooner. The best you can do is try and take care of yourself and focus on the positive things in life such as your friends and family. Eventually, the pictures remind you of the joys more than the sorrows, or you just decide not to take them out anymore. You may not have even noticed it, but that's when you know you've really moved on.

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Past Relationship?