When should I start dating again, after a breakup?
When a relationship ends, one of two things is typically happening. One, you are being spared something (such as a life with someone who is not well-suited to be your partner); or you are being prepared for something new (learning lessons that will prove invaluable to you in your next relationship).
Unfortunately, though, no matter how good a break up might be FOR you, they rarely FEEL good to you. That’s okay. Not everything that’s good for us feels good. For that matter, not everything that feels good is good for us, either.
There is a period of natural grieving and heartache for both partners, even if you are the one who ended the relationship! If you start dating again too quickly with hopes of sidestepping the pain (commonly known as a “rebound relationship”), this grief will find you later, somehow, often when you least expect it. Sometimes a partner will grieve the relationship before ending it. Which leaves the unsuspecting partner very hurt by her partner’s seeming “coldness” about the breakup. “Why doesn’t she feel sad?” “Why is she so cold?” “How come I’m the only one feeling anything here?” Typically this occurs when one partner does the work of grieving the relationship BEFORE ending the relationship.
Contrary to popular opinion, when it comes to dating again, opposites do not attract. Like attracts like. Sure, she may like to play football and you might like to shop – but I promise you this: you are both equally broken, and you are both equally healed. At least you start that way.
I like to say,
“You deserve every relationship you choose.”
You cannot attract a partner who is healthier than you. Ever. It defies logic. No one is fooling anyone when it comes to love…we get what we are. Like attracts like. If you find this notion intolerable, or unacceptable – it’s probably time to take a closer look at your relationship. If you are certain that you are healthier than your partner, ask yourself this: “If I am so much healthier than she is, what am I doing here?” Sure, sometimes we attract partners that do not mirror our emotional health – and that’s why those relationships don’t last. It may just take a minute to figure it out.
Your issues may not be the same, but they are disabling to the same degree. She may drink and yell too much, and to the same degree she is not taking care of herself, you are also not taking care of yourself by tolerating or enabling this. The focus of your issues may be different, but the degree is always the same.
Humans are like stock in the stock market. Sometimes our value is higher than the others. When you are taking care of yourself, eating right, exercising, spiritually balanced, mentally stimulated, socially active, and feeling good – your stock values are at their peak. When you are heartbroken, sleeping a lot, or not sleeping at all, eating poorly or not at all, crying, drinking, under-performing at work, and generally not on top of your game your stock values are low, low, low.
Relationships are the best vehicle around to help us become the best version possible of ourselves. The very best thing you can ever do for your relationship is to focus on how to live your life with as much health and happiness as possible. There is no greater gift you can give your partnership than a healthy you! Before you break up, because you think your partner is too unhealthy, work on getting as healthy as possible yourself and see if he or she rises to the occasion with you! Lose the judgment and criticism and help one another grow. If you give it your best shot and it still doesn’t help, then it’s time to dig out that life vest and swim for the shore. Some times the choice to break up is the best choice available. The point is, do your work first, then decide.
People often ask, “How long should I wait before dating again?” I think about dating again in terms of healing, not time. You are the very leverage that you can rely on to attract a partner. If you are not feeling good about yourself or about life, then work on getting your game back before you think about playing the field. No matter how recent or distant your breakup, when you feel good about yourself, genuinely good about yourself, get out there and start dating. Until then, do the next right thing that will lead you to feel stronger, more interesting, more alive, and more loveable.
When you start dating again at your lowest point, you are attracting a partner who finds your low-point desirable. This is not ideal. The risk is that your low-point is her high point. As you start to heal, she will become less appealing to you. This is what accounts for many “rebound” relationships. When you “rebound” the issue isn’t the speed with which you move after your breakup, it’s where you are emotionally and what you have to offer when you start your relationship. When we are broken, we attract broken. And broken doesn’t last as long as whole.
In a nutshell, when you feel good about who you are and what you have to offer to get out there and begin dating again. Until then, don’t worry about the amount of time it takes – focuses on your next step to feeling better. When the time comes, you’ll be oh so glad you waited to dip your toe into the pool of dating.
❤️ Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those here.