Here's What It Means If It Takes You A Long Time To Get Over A Breakup, Experts Say

No two breakups are exactly the same. Trust me, I've been through my fair share (and then some). The quickest I've ever bounced back from the end of a relationship was minutes. And the longest, well, that one took years to get over, which really sucked. The good thing is that I did eventually get over it. What I learned in the process was that, because no two relationships are alike, it follows that their demises would also be unique. But it's easy to be philosophical about why it takes a long time to get over a breakup when you aren't in the midst of the heartbreak. When you’re in the thick of it, all you really want to know is: Why is this happening and when will it end?

While no one can tell you the exact amount of time you're going to mourn your relationship ending, you can get a deeper understanding of why you're hurting, and, by shedding some light on that, you may, in turn, be able to speed up the healing process. To help with that, I reached out to NYC relationship expert Susan Winter for her insights into why some breakups just take so much longer to get over. Here's what she said.

Your Heart Was “All In” On The Relationship

Young sad woman sitting on the stairs in the street


In order for a relationship to really work, you have to make yourself vulnerable. That's really scary, especially because, when it doesn't work out, it can be incredibly heartbreaking. Winter says this is often a reason why breakups can take a long time to get over — because you’ve really put yourself out there. As she explained to Elite Daily, “you met someone special and fell in love,” and what happens when the relationship ends is that “the depth of your involvement has made it difficult for you to crawl out of the emotional hole in which you now find yourself.” It may take a while to get out, but hang in there. I promise you will.

You Thought They Were “The One”

Have you ever broken up with someone and thought, “I’m never going to find anyone better than them”? Spoiler alert: You will. But in that moment, it might feel like the “the one” has just slipped away, and that can be devastating, especially if the other people you’ve dated recently felt far from right for you. According to Winter, when you feel like you've “finally met someone special who blew everyone else out of the water,” then it's really “no wonder you’re having such a hard time getting over them.” But Winter warns against this kind of thinking, because, as she explains, “if you think they’re ‘the one,’ it means there’s only one,” when, in reality, there will be many “ones” you meet along the way.

The Breakup Blindsided You

Oh, man, this one is so hard. This happened to me once, but it was actually a friendship breakup. I thought everything was good, and that we were solid, when out of nowhere, bam, it’s over. It was a wrap on 20 years of friendship. I was crushed. It wasn't only that I had lost that relationship, but I was totally blindsided by it ending. Not only was I heartbroken, but it made me question everything in my life. That one was tough to recover from, but even then, I eventually did. So, if this is a case of where, as Winter describes, “you’ve never felt closer to your partner. Or, you felt you’d reached another level of intimacy and trust. Then, poof! Your partner blindsided you with the breakup,” well then, it’s only natural that you may need to take some extra time to recover.

You Haven’t Gotten Any Closure

If your current post-breakup mantra is “why, why, why,” chances are, you didn’t get the closure or explanation you need, which can definitely make the healing process harder. “Without real dialogue over what happened, you’re left in the dark,” explains Winter. This can make it really hard to let go, because “there’s been no proper closure.” Unfortunately, sometimes that happens. The best thing you can do in this situation is to learn how to give yourself the closure you need. Maybe you’ll never know the “why,” but you definitely know the “what," and, ultimately, the “why” ceases to matter.

How Long Is Too Long?

There is no precisely "correct" amount of time required to get over a breakup. Some just simply take longer than others. If you're taking longer to get over it than you have in past breakups, start by being kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up for not moving on faster. However, if you’re still heartbroken after a year or two, it may be time to start taking some more proactive steps.

“In that scenario, there’s a lot more going on inside the individual than the breakup itself," says Winter. "This is where professional counseling is of benefit.” There is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it.

OK, so all of that is a bummer, but let me leave you with a more hopeful note. It will get better. Even when it feels like it couldn't possibly, it still will. Remember those breakups I told you about? The one that took years to get over, and the friendship that imploded after two decades? I never thought I would be able to fully move on, but, guess what? I did. And now, I have a better partner than I ever could have hoped for, and a best friend whom I am closer to than I ever thought possible. And all that pain, all that heartache, taught me to appreciate them both in ways that I never would have otherwise. So, hang in there. If I can do it, you definitely can, too.

This post was originally published on Aug. 6, 2018. It was updated on Aug. 8, 2019.