An expert tells us how long you *scientifically* need to get over a breakup.

Whether you got your heart broken, or you’re the one who did the dumping, relationship breakups are the worst. 


Because no matter how long you were together, or who orchestrated the ‘conscious uncoupling’, splitting up can hit like a punch to the gut. It takes all the wind out and leaves you questioning how you go back from a ‘we’ to a ‘me’ when your life once revolved around them

Watch MMConfessions: The moment I knew my relationship was over. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Elle Woods would have us believe that all it takes is a box of chocolates, crying through a rom-com and entry into law school to get over a breakup, but the experts have other ideas.

Cassandra Kalpaxis, a family lawyer — or as I like to think of her, a relationship break up guru — calls this a period of “emotional unavailability”. When you’re so emotionally fried that you can’t be present, and find it hard to connect, not just with yourself, but those around you. It can affect your relationships, the way you run your days, and even the simplest choices can overwhelm you. Essentially, you’re switched off.  

Sound familiar? 

So, how do we navigate this period of instability? When you’re more likely to tear up over puppy videos on Instagram and bawl over a bucket or Ben & Jerry’s? 


According to Cassandra — who literally runs workshops on re-awakening your “divine feminine” and a ‘Detox Your Divorce’ retreat — it’s a five-step process. And it takes a lot longer than a weekend to get over it. 

Image: Giphy.

What exactly is post-break-up emotional availability? 

“A lot of times when people are separating, and generally when they end up in my office, I talk to them a lot about making sure that they have triaged the emotional damage or fallout of a breakup,” Cassandra said, “which we don't do very well in Western culture.”  


“It’s about understanding that in order to be able to get into another relationship or start up something with somebody else — even in the capacity of a friendship — you need to be readily available to do that emotionally. And until you've been through that process of being able to detox, discharge and do all of the things that you need to do to be able to transition from one relationship to the other, you're not in a position to give yourself over to somebody in your fullest capacity and that's when we talk about emotional unavailability.”

Even with friends and family members?

“Most definitely,” the family lawyer said. “Relationships are really complex, and we don't really understand or give enough attention to the fact that being able to be available to somebody — emotionally, physically, in the present form — takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of deliberate energy to show up. 

“And when we don't do that, we often see people repeating patterns in relationships and having really poor relationships — you know, you take out the player, but the relationship is still the same — and that all stems from being emotionally unavailable.”


Is there a timeframe for how long you’re in this period?

“At a bare minimum, I would say we're looking at that three to six-month mark — really for people to be able to do the work on themselves — but it is different for every person,” said Cassandra. 

“You can have someone who's got great insight into their own behaviour, and they know what their own triggers are, and they've done the work through the relationship. But most often than not, to be able to fully be present there is a period and you need to acknowledge that that's going to be different and every relationship might be different.”

Six months?! So, not just a weekend spent crying in bed? 

“I blame the movies that we watch and the books that we read, where people say ‘Oh, you know, just have a cry and get over it and move on’,” she said. “Or there's this concept that's existed for a long time, particularly for women, of, ‘Let’s just forget about him, you need somebody else to be the distraction to him or her or whatever the relationship was made up of’."

Same, Elle, same. Image: Giphy.


“We're so busy distracting ourselves from the emotion that we now think that that's the next thing to do. That ‘in order to be able to numb the pain, I just need to replace that with the thrill of the next person’.”

How do we navigate this period then?

“Being able to really, firstly acknowledge the emotions that are coming up and just sitting with them without judgement,” Cassandra explained. "So being in that really reflective period of, ‘You know what, this sucks, it does hurt, why does it hurt doing all of those things’, is absolutely important and this is where a journal is absolutely critical. Being able to really reflect and read on those thoughts without judgement is absolutely necessary. 


“The next thing is being able to work through that, potentially with a professional, and if you're not in a position to work through it with a professional, having a really good group of friends that you can talk to — who aren't cheerleading you on for the sake of giving you the advice that you want to hear — is also really important. 

“The third tip is being able to then really reflect on what it is that you are looking for moving forward and unpacking that to a really high level of detail. 

Listen to the hosts of Mamamia Out Loud on 'we demand you dump him immediately'. Post continues after podcast.

“The fourth one, and this is the hardest one for everyone, is to commit to that. So we don't settle for less, we don't start looking because it's cold and we need a cuddle buddy and we just think that'll do for now. It's really being deliberate about the choices that you're making around that.

“And then the fifth one is doing the work in that relationship. Making sure that you're not repeating old patterns, and being able to identify when those triggers are coming in, to be able to then make sure that we're not doing the same thing over and over again.”

So, it’s about being gentler on ourselves and not setting high expectations?

“Most definitely,” she agreed. “This whole perfection image around, ‘I have to do this in order to be able to then do the next thing’, is rubbish. We're all learning as we go. And the reality is, if you're able to just do the reflection and sit with the emotions, that’s hard enough.”

Image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer + Universal Pictures + HBO + Mamamia.

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