When a relationship is over, people say (not very comforting) things like, “It takes half the time you dated to get over someone” or “In order to get over someone, you need to get under someone else.” Hey, everyone who says this: STOP. One, there’s actually no science to back up these claims and two, everyone is different. How you process a breakup is not going to be how I process a breakup. Sure, it’s nice to slap a timeline on something to make yourself feel like you have an endpoint to work toward, but all of this does is create unrealistic expectations. Take your time, you’re doing amazing.
Chalk it up to Instagram memes or contrived advice that’s been passed around for decades, but these are just stories we tell ourselves. “You can be in a relationship for five months and have it be a codependent dynamic where you feel like it was a three-year relationship,” says Lisa Concepcion, dating and relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest coaching. “[Conversely], you can have been in a relationship for six years but you were growing apart for the last two. It really depends on the circumstances.” But even if you fully believe that, intellectually there’s a level of shame that comes with not being over someone in a predetermined amount of time. Your friends are sick of hearing about your breakup, they tell you to move on, and they accuse you of acting like you were together longer than would make your moping appropriate. Or maybe you stay in that sadness because it’s easier (guilty) or because you get a lot of attention from the people who love you (also guilty).
But what if instead of focusing on a timeline and dealing with the shame that may come with it, you focused on you? (I know, revolutionary shit right here.) “It’s not about getting over someone, it’s more about forming new habits for yourself,” says Concepcion. “Through the cultivation of a new schedule and routine, or perhaps having something to look forward to, you start to feel better and feel like hey, I’m kind of over this.” No one is suggesting this makes breaking up easy, because nothing does, but at least you’re setting your own itinerary instead of subscribing to some hand-me-down narrative. “Ask yourself how you want to approach [your breakup]. You have every right to feel how you feel, but you get to choose how long you want to be in sadness,” says Concepcion. She suggests allowing yourself a finite amount of time to sulk and ignore the world. Go inward and listen to yourself.
A good (and kinda fun, TBH) way to go deep and heal is to use a method called inner parenting, which requires tapping into the child within you that’s dealing with the split. “Who’s operating your phone right now and trolling your ex’s social media? It’s not you. You’re a grown adult. It’s your inner six-year-old who’s been showing up in every relationship you’ve been in since you were a teenager,” says Concepcion. It sounds silly, but bear with me. Talk to your inner babies and ask which one of those little rascals needs you to be with them right now — the one who wants to reach out, the one who wants to stalk, or the one who needs to go down memory lane. They may speak to you and say things like, “why can’t we text her?” and “we miss him, we used to have so much fun together.” That’s when you have to take charge and say, “You and I can have fun together, what do we want to do?” That could be yoga or trying a new restaurant, but listen to yourself (and your six-year-olds). Look, at least you’re laughing and no longer focusing on the breakup.
Honestly, this all sounds so much better than waiting around until the halfway mark of an expired relationship to pop out of bed and be forever better. “Once you go through a breakup and treat it as a transformational journey, you’re not the same person,” says Concepcion. “Now you know exactly what questions to ask and what to listen for. It’s not a matter of being distrusting, or skeptical, or jaded. It’s about the ability to find people who can be great to you. As long as you are making solid decisions for yourself, you only answer to you.” And don’t subscribe to other people’s ideals of when to be over someone. That’s up to you and no one else (and yes, that’s shade to all of your friends).