How long does it take to get over a divorce

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce? And 4 Signs You are On Your Way

There’s a saying about getting over someone—that it takes half the time you spent together to truly move on. That means six months of wallowing for a year-long relationship—time that might drag on endlessly, or time that might fly by faster than you can blink. But for longer relationships? Those marriages that have spanned years and possibly decades? The waiting period is a whole other discussion, a conversation we are going to have now.

Because after divorce, you want your life back. But a part of you is still reliving the past, turning your marriage over and over like a skipping stone in your hand. A stone that, at some point, you have to drop. You have to let it go. For the truth of the matter is spending the next decade missing your Ex—and feeling sorry for yourself—is even more depressing than your actual divorce.

So you aim to help yourself, you start researching. You ask friends, you ask family (or maybe they ask you), “How long is it supposed to take to get over a divorce, anyway?” Yet, you get nothing in return, but differing answers leading to more questions.

Now you’re here reading, and we are with you. We know that sometimes arming yourself with knowledge is the best way you can feel in control, especially when it comes to all-things-divorce. So, how long does it take?

What science says

Past studies suggest that it takes a person, on average, eighteen months to move on after divorce, while others simply leave it at “it’s complicated.” And that’s the truth—divorce is complicated, and because of this, science is only so accurate. Some study participants, for instance, might have been separated before getting a divorce, while others had only just broken things off. Other participants may have wanted a divorce, while others still wanted to try to make their marriages work.

What is clear is that even when marriages look the same on paper, their insides are messy, intricate things that can’t be examined like a math equation.

What experience says

What we know, despite what our loved ones tell us or even what science says, is that people often discover they’ve “moved on” almost unconsciously. They wake up one morning, and the sadness they’ve been carrying feels different, less of a weight than a kind of memory. You’re in the middle of a conversation, for instance, or you are out shopping in the grocery store, and you see the latest tabloid announcing another celebrity divorce when you remember your own divorce, what you’re supposed to be grieving, or “missing” or reverberating from. Only you don’t so much. You feel stabilized. It’s not that you’re unaware of the scars you are wearing, but you own them now. And best of all, you no longer care. 

This not caring is freeing! It seems to happen a little sooner when you have distance from your Ex. That means no “let’s be friends.” No late-night, I’m-feeling-sorry-for-myself phone calls. No hookups “for old times sake.” In fact, to help with your healing, you must consider your past relationship like a drug, for a certain time at least. You have to cut off your exposure to the drug and to its many triggers.

You have to re-circuit your brain and teach it to do new things rather than reach for the phone to “let him have it” or to beg. (Drink a glass of water every time you want to call your Ex!) Limit your triggers of being reminded of him*. Unfriend him, or better yet, block your Ex on social media. Delete his number from your phone. If you are coparenting with him, only communicate through Family Wizard. This is about creating a buffer for the new and emerging you to grow. It’s not about adding to your confusion and grief by constantly being near the man you once thought you’d spend the rest of your life with.

But what if you aren’t grieving your “Was-band”? But grieving the loss of who you were in the marriage? Who you used to be? The lifestyle you enjoyed? The summer rituals you shared? What about the friends and family who played a role in that former life of yours?

Life after divorce is a whole new way of living, and it means almost by definition … change. A lot of change. You need time to grapple with the changes and the many losses you have suffered, ignored, or even, created. So really, when we ask how long does it take to recover from divorce? We are talking about the time it takes until “You’ve Got Your Groove Back.”

But what if you are tone—or you can’t dance? Getting your groove back does not explain what you are striving for?

In our 46 Steps to Divorce Recovery, A Definition and A Guide, we define this moment in time, post-divorce, as a process, a journey of its own within divorce where the  “emotional and practical restructuring and healing” is a “constant, cyclical process in which you are broken down and built back up numerous times until finally, you are whole again.”

Another way of saying this is, you will know when you are healed when all the shattered pieces come back together in a way that makes you feel proud of yourself.

What you can do to help yourself move on

The very fundamental desire to heal is your beginning. Now you must take steps. Try to avoid doing things that smack of those old familiar patterns and people you miss. At first, fighting these instincts will be hard, because during your marriage you probably did everything you could to bring all these things together—the people, the routines, the joys, the rituals. You tried to make the most of your marriage. But now your challenge is to create your “new normal,” and to do that, you’ll have to rediscover yourself and who you are now.

Some women find that their divorce recovery takes years, while others find that they’ve prepared for divorce so long that within months or weeks they already feel better than they have in years. To those in the latter camp, we say, yes, you may be feeling better. But don’t lose sight of the work and steps you must still be taking to ensure your healthy independence. Doing the work and practicing self care, will ensure you start seeing the signs that indeed, you have started to truly move on.

Here are some of those signs.

1. The idea of going on a date is thrilling

If, after divorce, you say to yourself whenever someone suggests you should get back out there,“What? Start all over? It’s so much work…” this is a sign that you’re not over your divorce. The idea of dating feels like a chore, a series of boxes to check off a list someone else has generated, rather than the adventure it can really be. So, don’t do it. Focus on yourself and what you need to discover about putting your life back together. Until you do this work, you will only be showing up half-heartedly or, damaged.

But if you feel a twinge of excitement at the thought of meeting someone new, then some part of you might be ready to move on—at least in the romantic department. Check in with yourself. Manage your expectations of self, what you want, what you need, and what you are willing to share.

2. You feel comfortable in your own skin

You’re feeling yourself. Not just feeling sexy—though there’s no shame in that, you feel healthy and fully of energy. You feel a sense of peace and balance. You have planted your feet in the direction you want your life to take. In short, you know who you are, and you like that person.

For some women, this may mean they’ve secured a job (a paycheck!) and routine. For others it may mean understanding at long last their finances, and what their plan is for moving forward. Or maybe the kids are no longer acting out but settling into their new routines at both houses, and this is giving you a chance to ease up in hyper-management of the shifting parts. But that frenzy of survival mode has passed. You are able to look up and consider what else might be possible for you now.

3. You feel positive about you future

Before your divorce and maybe even sometimes, afterwards, it was hard to care much about your future let alone believe there was anything good waiting for you there. But now surprising events or happenings have inspired you. You may be full of hope. Look! There’s so much about your life that’s new and surprising. You never could have predicted or planned for it.

There’s something beautiful about leaning into the unexpected.

Being positive about your future implies that you have taken a hard look at your past and come to a place of acceptance about it, both the good and the bad. It means you no longer carry the past like a weight. You’ve moved past blame. When you are living in the here and now, planning and building your new future, this is another strong indicator that you’ve begun moving on after divorce.

4. Your divorce doesn’t keep you up at night

The end of any relationship generally comes with a certain dose of feeling sorry for yourself. Nights spent crying yourself to sleep and days spent walking around in a daze. But now? You’re tired of being tired. You’re done with being sad. You find yourself making plans for your summer and spending more time with new people and those unbelievably wonderful, stalwart friends. One day you think to yourself, “When was the last time I thought about HIM?” And the fact that you have to think about that puts a smile on your face.

You might never truly “get over” your divorce, but over time, it will become a quieter ache instead of an intense pain. The heartbreak will callus over—you’ll be wiser and more prepared for red flags that may appear again. Experience is a gift that gives you the chance to learn from mistakes and failures. Whether those mistakes and failures are real or simply dancing in your head, time and doing the work you must will give you perspective.

When it comes to getting over a divorce, there’s no rulebook or timeline except the one that feels right for you. If you do nothing about your divorce recovery, you can expect very little to change about the way you are feeling. It will probably become more muddled and less pronounced. But did you grow from it? If you choose to support yourself by finding the help you need to really honor your beautiful life, you’ll discover the time it takes to get over your divorce will be just the right amount of time you need to move forward bravely and with grace.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you FREE, 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with divorce or already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and choose to not go it alone.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

22 replies
  1. rita
    rita says:

    Ever since my husband left me my love life has been a mess. And I always think about and wish we were together and that he would come back to my life — that our love could stay endless. I wanted to fight this war of love without weapons, but then i realized that he has fully made up his mind. He no longer calls or texts, though I stay up the whole night all alone.I was ready to walk through hell to save and restore this marriage. But not him.

    • Nicole
      Nicole says:

      I understand. But, as much as it hurts, if he has made up his mind, there is nothing left to fight for. Now you have to fight for yourself. You deserve it. You are enough.

  2. Lorraine
    Lorraine says:

    My heart was completely shattered. My husband gave me false hope and told me he needs to go clear his head. Then he moved in with his ex wife who was single. I felt like dying. It broke my heart and left me feeling a lot of pain. I was deceived by all of them. My two stepdaughter and their Mom. I am angry , hurt, and lied to and they all made me feel that I was the reason for my husband leaving me. I loved him with all my heart and was left all alone and heartbroken.

  3. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    Thank you for sharing this info on how to get over a divorce. These suggestions will be really helpful for me. I love reading this blog. Keep sharing such informative articles!

  4. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    After 40 years of not seeing my high school sweetheart we reconnected. We were long distance and after 3 years of talking were got married. It was like a fairytale for 9 months, a dream come true. Then he came home from work one afternoon and told me to leave, he wanted a divorce. He refused to discuss it so I was left completely in shock with so many questions. Trying to get over the unexpressed feelings and confusion had been the hardest part for me

  5. Nicole Walsh
    Nicole Walsh says:

    I was married 27 years and had four children. He left me for his high school girlfriend. She keeps him away from his kids and he will not even respond to a text. It’s been five years and I’m still not over it. I built new friendships, I’m dating, working but I’ve lost my ground. No idea how to get it back or how long it will take.

  6. Rebecca E Williams
    Rebecca E Williams says:

    About ready to face divorce. 2nd marriage. Pretty emotional. 17 years, two grown children, one in spirit.

  7. Belinda Barry
    Belinda Barry says:

    Nicole I was married for 34 years and my ex husband left me for his high school sweetheart.. we have three grown kids together.. he has blocked me on social media he has blocked me from seeing some of my grandkids.. it took every ounce in me to not let him win.. I felt completely apart but then I knew that’s exactly where he wanted me.. I cried when I read your letter. February will be a year that our divorce has final and I never thought that I would have come as far as I have in this last year. Your whole life you feel is just ripped away from you everything you know.. I’ve had to work hard I rebuilding me and knowing that I worth it. And will let you know you are too.. I learned the harder that I fought for him to talk to me or just acknowledge me the more he pushed me away.but in my case I was still giving him all the power and the control and once I stopped that and stopped feeling like I had to talk to him I actually got a lot of my power back when I got to the point where I realized I didn’t really need him for advice for me on my kids or grandkids or anything is when I started too want to live my life again.. you will get through this I promise.I look back at a year and a half ago with all this started and I never thought that I would ever get to this point. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me.. hang in there you’ll be in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. mama
    mama says:

    After 12 years of a pretty good marriage (we have 3 children, from 4 to 8 years old) my husband left me because of “fundamental differences” (?!)
    And only 30 days later he started a relationship with a colleague from work who has been present in his life since the first day the two of us met ….
    I know that woman, she was even at our wedding. And that relationship has been going on for almost a year, and for a very long time now they have been in very intensive contact with mine children without being explained what dad and his colleagues really are to each other.
    And now I should to believe that this relationship has existed only since he moved out, of course!
    I no longer have a problem at least not so much with my feelings for him (although he has ruined my whole world) now I am struggling with myself how to stop involving the oldest child in this whole story of his cheating and divorce.

  9. anAnonymous
    anAnonymous says:

    Divorce for me was a trauma and 22 years later, after working so hard to get through it and over it, now I’m having issues dealing with the psychological imprints of the massive abuse. I worked on myself and was almost happy, content is more what it was, I dated. At first dating was exciting, then it was nothing more than dating men who had more baggage and only wanted their own comforts. I didn’t talk about my ex, I tried to make things light, but the men I met and went out the more these men passed me over and were only into themselves. I stopped dating 10 years ago. I’m 64 now and realize my life is more about living contently alone. I tried to date. It’s changed so much that now I don’t feel comfortable anymore meeting men even for coffee. I’m sad because I want to give love, support and friendship as I want to receive.

  10. rebecca
    rebecca says:

    I left a 14 year marriage (15 years together) after realizing he was never going to change. I spent 13 of those years asking him to go to therapy with me and it was always refused. One year before I left I started therapy on my own and then left him a year later.

    The thing is I don’t think he was happy either. He didn’t even try to win me back and immediately went to an attorney. I think that part hurts as much as me deciding to leave. Sometimes I think I made a mistake in leaving and then I remind myself he let me go so easily, so it must be over.

  11. Julie
    Julie says:

    My husband walked out after 47 years of marriage, leaving me completely heart broken. We have two children and four grandchildren. He was a husband, father and grandfather one day and nothing the next. I found out later he was having an affair which lasted up until two months before the divorce was final. It has now been five months since the divorce became final and I’ve just learned he remarried one month ago, after knowing this woman 3-4 mos. He moved out of state and is estranged from kids and grands. He will not communicate. I don’t think I will ever recover. It is so hard and I have loved him since I was 18 yrs old. I’ve been thru counseling twice. I gave great faith and friends. How will I ever accept what has happened? He is a different man than we ever knew.I am so messed up …. any help appreciated!

  12. Karen
    Karen says:

    I feel your pain. I don’t know what happens to men who do this. My own husband has walked out the door on me after 33 years – no warning- abs moved in with a woman he was having an affair with. That was 18 months ago. My heart is also broken, and I fear I won’t ever recover. Other people’s expectations are hard to bear I am such a mess

  13. ell
    ell says:

    Separated and preparing a divorce from my bipolar husband, of only 2 years. Im 32, so I hope to heal, and move on with my life. I am more than my husbands illness, and worth being held onto.

    • Liesl Maartens
      Liesl Maartens says:

      Dear Ell..
      His mask fell off…such a enormous shock when it happens. I had to do the same..3 weeks freshly divorced.. my ex was a covert narcissist…the secrets and the lies…he almost destroyed me…but God stepped in and saved me. I’m sorry for your pain…find yourself and rebuild your life..You are worth of all the stars in the sky. Be kind and patient to yourself. You are loved.

  14. Lynette
    Lynette says:

    After 41 years of marriage my husband left me for another woman. Our son had died 1 year before he left. One year after my son died he moved to Ohio where he hunted and got together with a lady he knew who lived there. Three years later I am so unhappy and still want him back. We are divorced. I need help with letting go and moving on. I have tried cutting him off but I end up still texting him. Unfortunately, I still love him.

    • mart
      mart says:

      Hey read this as I I’m having a bad day….. split from my ex nearly four years ago… she moved on within days had a new guy… that lasted till dec last year although we had remained in contact during covid…. we talked quite a bit at the start of the year but didn’t meet up, I’d asked but got knocked back…. found out ten days ago she has moved 120 miles to live with a new guy (has serious ca$h so I have no chance as i live on disabilty here in the UK). It’s so hard to move on when being “stuck” and having feelings is all we know. I try to think it through i just get so confused… I also have mental health issues which were part of the break up… Today she rings to talk, I’m back at square one. four years on $20,000 worse off, i’m a wreck.

  15. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    I found out last night that my ex-husband has married the woman (his therapist) whom he was having an affair with and left me for. One daughter has known for months but never told me or her sister. Her sister just found out by accident, and reluctantly told me knowing it would hurt but thinking it would be best to hear it from a loved one. It’s been almost four years since we separated but my heart feels like a blink of an eye. I’m much better than I used to be but this has really set me back. I feel he’s such a coward to not have told me himself. 35 years of marriage and you’d think he’d never heard of me.

  16. andres
    andres says:

    Was wondering why is it simple to refer to one’s spouse as a male….and what your addendum saying that you care for same sex marriages mean….One cannot help thinking that if you cared enough you may have switched Mal for partner……Since I do not know your motivations I will only stay at the level of a comment without casting judgement. What I know from my own experience, is that when I care enough I do things in line with what I care. Which also leads me to believe that there is a specific need to define the ‘other ‘ as a male…and that it would subvert the spirit of this article to consider that partners come infall shapes and colors…and that is possible that there are as many “bad guys” as there are “bad gal

    Healing from a divorce is an undesired journey that no one signs up for….that in itself is the worst part of it…it is one of those things you are forced to deal with, not looking forward to. But like many other similar things, what you do with it is what will make the most difference……Accept that bad thing scan happen to good peoples is a key way to move on.


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