Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Timeline of a Breakup Recovery

What will happen if you decide to walk away? Healing, eventually.

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You've seen those timelines illustrating how your health improves from the very moment you stop smoking, right? Such charts come from august groups like the American Cancer Society and prove that simply stopping something that's bad for you makes your life infinitely better.

Now let’s consider the idea of how leaving a bad boyfriend could improve one's life immediately—if one could just stop letting one's heart break over him.

[This would apply to anyone leaving a broken relationship, but I’ll stick with heteronormative language here since that's what I can best speak to from experience.]

Here then, is my timeline, with associated benefits, for exiting a rotten relationship:

  • Within 8 hours. Mascara stops running because fewer tears stream down face. Need for tissues decreases.
  • Within 12 hours. Desire to commit mayhem and throw objects decreases. Inability to form sentences not containing swear words improves dramatically. Need to make sarcastic, critical, ironic, malicious, vengeful comments about everything in immediate environment becomes less constant.
  • Within 24 hours. Sniffling becomes intermittent, but savage ripping up of photographs increases.
  • Within 24-36 hours. Chance of making pitiful phone calls during the day decreases. Anger sets in, but ability to look in the mirror without weeping returns. Ability to shower and put on clean clothes increases. Need to talk about stuff aside from horror of relationship is almost impossible to stop. (Warn your friends.)
  • Within 48 hours. Ability to taste and smell improves. Anger is paired with increasing sense of relief and gradual reawakening of self-esteem. Chance of making bitter phone calls in the middle of the night decreases.
  • Within 7 days. Full, restful sleep is again possible. Anger becomes tinged with ability to laugh at various relationship miseries. Friends no longer fear hysterical outbursts. Ability to move about in public increases.
  • Within 2-to-3 months. Circulation improves. Walking, eating, sleeping, and exercising all become easier. Chance of calling up erstwhile paramour and slamming down phone without speaking significantly decreases.
  • Within 1-to-9 months. Energy increases. Flirting becomes possible. Desire to take courses to prepare for new interests becomes delightful. Refusing to re-enter rotten relationship becomes essential.
  • Within 1 year. Excess risk of heartbreak drops to near normal levels. New interests replace sense of being shackled to the past. Ability to see erstwhile lover in a crowd without gasping and weeping now possible.
  • Within 2 years. Wondering why it was ever such a big deal in the first place is typical here. Big miserable memories turn into little events you barely remember. You might even be able to recall certain moments with a smile, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

The important thing is this: you’re healthy again.  

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Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

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