How Long Does It Usually Take to Get Over a Divorce?

Updated May 20, 2020
Frustrated woman with head in hands

If you are in the midst of the divorce process or have finalized your divorce, you may wonder how long it will take to move on with your life. You may not be feeling like your old self and not even know who you are or who you want to be without this relationship in your life.

Coping After a Divorce

Deciding to end a relationship regardless of the reason can leave you feeling anxious, depressed, stressed out, confused, and hurt even if you were totally on board with the divorce. Once you've spent time and made an effort to build a relationship and invest in a future with someone else, it can take quite a while to move on.

Average of 4 Years to Get Over a Divorce

As you build a relationship with someone, your brain creates neural connections that coincide with the relationship relevance meaning that the more important someone is in your life, the more connections your brain will make associated with them. Post divorce, these brain-based connections can take some time to reorganize. This reorganization process can last for months to years, with an average of 4 years for full stress recovery depending on the specific situation.

What Does It Mean if I Heal Faster?

This doesn't mean that you will not be able to feel fully healed in less time. In fact, those who have high resiliency, a solid support system, and embrace their emotional processing immediately without pushing their feelings down may recover more quickly. Those who mutually end the relationship with their ex and are able to stay friendly during the process may also be able to recover more quickly than those who ended their relationship on a tumultuous note.

Factors That Impact How Long it Takes to Get Over a Divorce

Everyone gets over and moves on from situations differently, especially when it comes to relationships. Some factors that impact how long it takes to get over a divorce include:

  • Your personality traits
  • Your level of resiliency in difficult situations
  • Your access to your coping skills
  • Your level of support
  • The amount of time you were in the relationship
  • How entangled your ex is in your everyday life (same place of work, same friends, children together, pets together)
  • If codependency was present on your end or on their end
  • Your outlook on relationships in general

Grieving After a Divorce

Experiencing feelings of grief post-divorce is perfectly normal, after all you've built a relationship with this person so it can take some time to adjust to your new normal. You may feel triggered by familiar places, smells, foods, and people which can bring up feelings of sadness, loneliness, and heartache. Even if you know the divorce was the best choice for you, you can still miss aspects of your relationship with your ex partner. Grieving after a divorce may be viewed as a type of disenfranchised grief as some cultures, social circles, and religious groups may not consider this type of situation one that merits feelings of grief. The implications of this can make you feel even worse and at times ashamed of your perfectly normal reaction to such a huge shift in your life.

Finding Appropriate Support After Divorce

Whether you have a solid support system or not, speaking with a professional counselor or therapist that specializes in processing divorce can be really helpful. If you are experiencing chronic difficulty with acts of daily living, or are having intrusive negative thoughts, it's best to reach out to someone who can help you process this difficult situation right away.

Man in therapy

How to Manage Unwanted Advice Post-Divorce

After going through a divorce, your friends and family may offer up advice about how long they think it should take you to move on. You may not feel ready to hear this, may not want to hear this, and may find this advice offensive. There are ways to peacefully and politely manage this type of unsolicited advice without adding to your stress level. Keep in mind that only you know when you are ready to begin processing this experience and only you know when you feel ready to move forward. You can consider saying:

  • I so appreciate your advice, but I don't feel quite ready yet to talk about this.
  • Thank you so much for offering your perspective. I'm not comfortable yet discussing this, but I'll let you know when I am.
  • I don't mean to cut you off, but I'm not ready to discuss this right now. I hope you understand.

If someone is invalidating to you, brushes off your experience, and makes you feel badly about your unique timing in processing the divorce, it's best not to reach out to them for advice or support. It's important to surround yourself with trusted others who will allow you to feel what you need to feel and speak freely about your experience, as these are crucial factors during the healing process.

Taking Longer to Get Over an Unhealthy Partner Post-Divorce

Grieving the end of an unhealthy relationship is another type of disenfranchised grief. This means that this type of grieving may not be culturally, religiously, or socially accepted by others around you. People may not understand how you could experience these types of feelings if you wanted to get a divorce and/or your ex partner was abusive.

woman looking out of window

Relationships are complex and because the brain prioritizes relationships that are important to you, it can take a while for your brain to process this type of loss. Even if you were completely on board with the divorce, you can still experience uncomfortable feelings and that's okay. You may not just be grieving the end of this relationship, but also the end of what you thought the relationship could have been, and maybe even grieving time you feel like you may have lost with this person.

Healing After Divorce

Give yourself permission to heal after your divorce and try not to place unrealistic expectations on yourself. Each individual will take a unique amount of time to heal depending on internal and external factors.

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How Long Does It Usually Take to Get Over a Divorce?