Subscriber OnlyHealth

How long will it take me to get over my 10-year marriage?

Ask Roe: I get sucked into chats on dating apps which lead to nothing and feel crushed

Dear Roe,

I'm separated just over two years from a 10-year marriage. I have two kids, a great job and am really ambitious. My relationship was in a bad way for years before we split and so the emotional and physical connection that I so long for in a partnership hasn't been in my life for about seven years.

I’ve been on dating apps and find I get totally sucked into chats and connect with guys for it to lead to nothing and I end up feeling crushed. I started a sexual relationship with one guy and the sex was amazing. I had no idea that I was so sexual or how much fun it could be with someone. We both agreed it wasn’t serious and I can’t ever see him being in my life with my kids. I need to have someone who loves me.

Do you have any advice? How long after a marriage ends are you strong enough to start something again?


I’m afraid I can’t give you a simple equation for how long it takes to get over a relationship. And to be honest, if I do ever come up with that magical formula, I won’t be sharing that here. I will be withholding that information for a revolting amount of cash and a Nobel Prize, because literally everyone, at some point in their life, desperately wants to know how long it takes to heal after heartbreak.

You ask how long after a marriage are you strong enough to start something again – but there are layers to that. You’re getting over a relationship that was physically and emotionally neglectful for a very long time. You’re getting over losing a vision of your life that includes being with the father of your children. You’re getting over the insecurity and emotional distress that comes from having a bad relationship finally break down.

That’s a lot to cope with, to recover from – and it doesn’t sound like you’re back to a steady confidence level yet. Let me stress – that’s fine. After everything you’ve been through, feeling a bit insecure and desirous for affection and attention, is normal.

Your new casual, sexual relationship could be a fun adventure for you – precisely because it won't become serious

But if you’re still in an emotional space where you’re starting conversations with men and feeling “crushed” when they don’t work out, you’re not ready for anything serious. That’s the nature of chatting and dating – to see if you’re compatible with someone, to see if it grows into something more, to see if this person could possibly be worthy of eventually being invited further into your life.

If you’re feeling crushed in the early stages, then you’re giving these interactions too much weight; investing too much of your self-worth into men who you don’t know well, who have not proven they are worthy of you, who you don’t even know if you really like yet.

Right now, you’re being guided by your “need to have someone who loves me”. The danger is that you may settle for any scraps of affection you’re offered, instead of waiting for something truly fulfilling. Note your language here – you want someone who loves you. But what about someone who you love, too?

That’s the difference between wanting to fill a perceived absence or loss in your life – the loss of love, affection, confidence – and wanting to add to your life, to elevate it. Trying to fill a loss is likely to leave you settling for anyone who fulfils your most pressing needs right now.

But when you get to a place where your confidence is higher, where you have a take-it-or-leave-it approach to dating, when you trust yourself to be able to walk away from anyone who isn’t good for you – that’s when you’ll make better choices, and won’t repeat a dynamic where you tied up all your hopes in someone who wasn’t worthy of them or responsible with them.

This stage is about making sure foundations are strong

Your new casual, sexual relationship could be a fun adventure for you – precisely because it won’t become serious. You’re letting yourself enjoy connecting with someone, but not pinning all your hope and self-esteem onto them. The joy with respectful casual connections is that they teach us how to appreciate short-term experiences; people who may not be life-changing in the long run, but life-enriching, for now.

Embracing this attitude may also help you when you try dating again, as you’ll learn how to stay in the moment, to appreciate experiences and people – while not emotionally investing so much early on that you get crushed.

Here’s what you have to do. You have to give yourself permission to need time. Don’t rush the process of healing. We all do it – become frustrated with our own emotions, get annoyed at how long it takes to find ourselves again after a loss. We are all guilty of the arrogance of thinking that somehow we should be above heartbreak, that we should be able to move on without going through the grief process that everyone else needs to.

I say this with love: you’re not special. You need to go through the process. So let yourself.

One way to make it easier is to consider this as not a time of loss, but growth. After years of feeling under-appreciated, you get to appreciate yourself. You get to reconnect with all the things outside of a relationship that make you happy, that bring you confidence. You get to think about what you want your life to be, what a better relationship would look like. Think of this as the planning stage after a demolition. Your old life has been levelled, and it was hard and painful. But now you get to draw up the blueprints for a new life.

This stage is about making sure foundations are strong. When you feel they are, that’s when you start slowly rebuilding – waiting for the right materials, and assembling it carefully. Like any build, it’ll be a frustratingly long process and there will be setbacks – but it’s your life.

Believe in your own worth enough to give it the time it deserves.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She is researching a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford

If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at