As a creative coach, I of course focus on my clients’ creative passions, but we coach on all kinds of topics including relationships, boundaries, and breakups. The simple answer to this question is anything but simple: It’s different for every person and every breakup.
You might need more time than a person who went through a similar breakup, or you might move on way faster than someone else. Most importantly, you can’t judge your moving-on-ness according to anyone else’s, because it’s unique to you and your own experiences and wounds.
This post will outline a few key questions to work through when you’re processing a breakup that might help you feel better about how long it takes to move on, whether it’s fast or slow. (CW: Mention of casual sex, and sharing about my own abusive breakup).
Question 1: Whose standards are you judging by?
A great intro to processing your move-on timer is to acknowledge where the thoughts and judgements about how long it’s supposed to take are coming from? We learn these shoulds and standards from the media (“WE WERE ON A BREAK,” anyone?) as well as our families and friend groups, and may have internalized them as rigid social rules.
But your relationships are nobody’s business but yours, and if you want to go right into a new relationship, you can.
Fun fact: This doesn’t just apply to relationships! You can change careers, start a business, stop talking to your mom, or shave your head based on exactly one person’s opinion: Your own.
Question 2: Do you need to heal?
I don’t think that moving on quickly is inherently unhealthy, but in the event of an abusive relationship or really nasty breakup, I recommend taking some time to process things and make sure that your moving on is a decision you make from an empowered space that’s part of your healing.
I, personally, was very reactive after breaking up with my abuser and had a lot of casual sex immediately following our breakup. THIS IS NOT BAD. But doing things over again, I probably wouldn’t have slept with a lot of those people if I wasn’t grasping to regain control of my sexuality after leaving an abusive relationship.
I, personally, rushed into my next relationship after leaving my abuser. Again, this isn’t inherently bad. But it also was not a forever relationship and by rushing, I ignored all the warnings of that fact. I tried to kind of smush it into a forever relationship shape when it was never going to be.
Healing looks different for everyone, but the important thing is to make sure you’re doing the work on yourself to process the breakup and develop boundaries to have a healthier relationship next time.
Question 3: How long were you together?
This is a trick question because it literally doesn’t matter how long you were together. I had a six month relationship completely traumatize me and require a ton of therapy and healing, and I had a seven year relationship that I literally forget about sometimes.
It takes as long as it takes!
Question 4: What does this remind you of?
Sometimes we get judgemental about this process, like if we haven’t moved on by an arbitrary deadline it means we’re stuck or broken or pathetic. But what keeps you stuck may not even be the relationship — it might be what’s underneath.
If you feel stuck (PS. this is a great reason to get coaching — book a power hour with me here!), there’s almost always a recurring thought pattern that’s keeping you stuck in a loop. Pull on the thread and let it unravel to reveal past wounds and relationships that you thought you’d moved on from but are still hanging out and repeating themselves.
For instance, the six month trauma-fest relationship I mentioned earlier had so many echoes of my abusive marriage that I was, for some reason, deliberately ignoring. I think on some level I was trying to handle the same red flags differently and do it better the second time. But only when I let myself examine the details of how I felt and where the strings led did I understand that I had been repeating old patterns.
If you’re still processing a breakup, that’s perfectly fine. Take all the time you need. And if you moved on fast, that’s perfectly fine too!
PS. If you’re a creatively-minded person but feel stuck and unable to move forward in your creative practice, check out my free 8-question quiz to identify your creative block. It’ll send you block-busting tips right to your email!