There’s someone I really like to date, but friends had urged me to be single for a while since this is my third serious relationship, and I hadn’t really had time to be single in between relationships. It’s been four months since the breakup. Do I really have to do this? Why? And if so, how long should I wait? Any guidelines? Thank you.
Miss D. Vancouver, Canada
Hey Miss D,
Regardless of the reason for it, when a relationship ends you need to go through a grieving process in order to move on and date other people in a healthy way. The loss of a partner, whether through death, separation, or divorce is just that — a loss.
However, the time it takes to get over that loss is not an easy-to-calculate equation. Several factors, including the length of the relationship, the nature of its end, the presence of children, and your own personal psychological makeup, affect how and when you can start dating again.
Therefore, rather than offer a timetable that readers can use to determine if they are “ready to date,” let’s instead explore the many facets that affect your relationship grieving process as well as review some signs that you are, in fact, ready to re-enter the dating scene.
Every Relationship Is Different, and So Is Every Breakup
The first and most obvious factor that impacts when you will be ready to move on from your past relationship is the manner in which it ended.
This is why some people start dating right away while others take years to come to terms with their partner’s absence.
One side of this spectrum is a breakup that is preceded by some degree of conflict and unhappiness within the relationship. As such, some people, particularly the ones who initiate the breakup, begin the grieving process before their relationship ends. Fighting to save it, while at the same time coming to terms with the fact that the other person may no longer be in their life, they may be ready to move on quickly.
On the opposite side of this spectrum, those who lose their partner due to unexpected death have much less of an ability to prepare. Particularly if your relationship was healthy and loving, the details of sudden death are incredibly hard to comprehend and your life is so profoundly altered that it is hard to move on quickly.
You need to come to completely accept your partner’s death as well as feel that moving on is not a betrayal and often this takes years.
Signs that You Are Ready to Date Again
Rather than looking at it in terms of a time frame, it makes more sense to see moving on and dating again as a series of “signs” that indicate you have come full circle from your previous relationship and are at a healthy, ready state to begin anew. Again, there are no hard and fast rules here, but each of the following five factors must be present to some extent:
You Have Let Go. This is more than a pop song. When it comes to romantic relationships, you cannot move on until you are completely “over” the other person. In the case of a breakup this means being able to think about your ex without feelings (good or bad). In the case of death, this means being able to think of your future with someone else without guilt.
Your Heart Is in the Right Place. You are ready to move on and start dating again when you are doing it for one reason only — happiness. Dating to feel better about yourself, because you are bored or lonely alone, or to secure yourself financially is a recipe for disaster. The only way to find a fulfilling relationship is to already be fulfilled yourself.
You Remember Who You Are. Regardless of how your previous relationship ended, we often lose ourselves when “me” becomes “we.” This isn’t always bad, but in order to move on you need to get to know yourself alone first. Otherwise, how can you present that person to someone else?
You Know What You Want. Getting into the dating game “just because” is not a good idea. Whether you are looking for another long term commitment or simply someone to spend extra time with, you need to know what you want and set realistic, attainable expectations for this next phase in your life.
You Have the Time to Commit. The chances of finding “the one” on your first date after a breakup is highly unlikely. If you want to re-enter the dating scene, you need to do so when you have the time to commit to it. That means getting to know people causally through chats, phone conversations, informal dates, etc. If you are too busy with work/kids/life you will not be able to put your whole self into dating.
Moving on after a relationship ends is an incredibly personal experience that requires its fair share of self evaluation, time, and commitment.
There is no “one size fits all” formula for when you are ready to date again, but instead a series of signs that indicated when you are getting there.
The most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself, allow yourself to grieve, and focus on self-improvement. That way, if and when you are finally ready, you will be able to present your best self and find the fulfillment you seek.