In my last post I talked about how to get over a break up, including why you should give yourself time to grieve, cut off all contact with your ex, and understand the cycle of emotions without getting discouraged by your negative narrative.
These steps are only the beginning, though. Getting over a break up is great, but it doesn’t mean too much if you stay in your apartment watching Netflix for the rest of your life and never meet anyone else.
The goal is to get out there and find an epic and deeply satisfying relationship. And it IS possible to start that process without letting the baggage of your last relationship weigh you down.
When You’re Ready, Gradually Reintroduce Dating
I started dating about three months after my ex and I broke up. To be honest I wasn’t totally ready yet, but I was really motivated to move on and wanted to start meeting people as soon as possible. The truth is you’ll never feel completely ready, and it you wait for that point you’ll be waiting for a long time. Get yourself to 80% and then get out there.
When I started dating again I distinctly remember coming home from a date with a guy I felt pretty “meh” about and crying because that guy wasn’t my ex. Pretty pathetic right? So yeah, I might have started a little early, but going out there and meeting new people actually helped me move on.
I’ve heard it takes “half as long as the relationship to get over the break up.” So theoretically if you date for 1 year it will take 6 months to move on. This may be a good guideline but there are no hard and fast rules about this sort of thing. It took me 2 years to get over a 1 year relationship and 3 months to get over a 9 month relationship – the difference in the latter situation was cutting of contact with my ex and not stringing myself along in denial that we would get back together.
Take Concrete Steps to Meet People
What you’re starting to date again you may have this idea that you can sit back and all these amazing men or women will come flocking to you. It amazes me because otherwise driven and successful people, who take initiative to get the things they want in all other facts of their life, will throw their hands in the air when it comes to their personal lives and think amazing results will come from zero effort. No, no, no. Amazing results come from the right amount of effort.
There are so many ways to meet people. Choose a couple of these methods that appeal to you and go for it.
- Online dating. I can’t count of both hands the number of people I know in close social circles who met their boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband online. I met my boyfriend online (and actually I met the guy I was dating before that online, but that’s a story for another time). Online dating is so awesome that it makes me wonder how people ever met before the internet.
- Meet up groups/social events. These can be both specifically for singles or for people in general with common interests (of whom a bunch will be single). I’m Jewish, and while I didn’t particularly care about dating Jewish guys, I signed up for a bunch of Jewish single events and met some cool people that way. I also met people at swim team and water polo practices I would go to.
- Getting set up. Your friends have friends who have friends, and in the web of all these connections there is someone who might be a good match for you. Getting set up tends to get a bad rap, but it will work better for you if you go into it with the right attitude (this could be fun!) rather than the wrong one (ugg, this date will suck).
- Out and about – at the dry cleaner, grocery store, post office, etc. The other week I was at Trader Joes and a guy struck up a conversation with me. He walked me out to the parking lot and then asked me out to coffee. Of course I told him I was in a relationship, but I gave him kudos for having the balls to ask out a total stranger at Trader Joes. Why doesn’t this happen more often?? It takes guts, but what’s the worst thing that can happen? They could be in a relationship and say no. They could be not interested and say no. They could also say yes. Challenge your assumptions about what will happen.
Understand and Appreciate the Cycle of Emotions
So you’re starting to meet people and get out there. Well, remember the cycle of emotions after a break up? When you start dating again, you’ll experience an even more fun emotional rollercoaster (yay emotional rollercoasters!). It looks something like this:
Excitement –> Hope –> Disappointment
You meet a guy or gal who really seems to have… promise. He or she is good looking, smart, say the right things, and love The Wire just like you do. Instead of just enjoying getting to know the person over the first few dates, you’ll start jumping waaaay into the future. You’ll think, “Wow, this person seems like such a good match for me!” You’ll go from being excited to being hopeful. Very, very hopeful. Deep down, you expect this person to right all the wrongs of your ex and prove you actually won’t be alone for the rest of your life.
And then, of course, they don’t – and you get disappointed. Disappointed and discouraged.
Understand that this cycle is completely normal and natural. I went through it about 100 times. Don’t use your discouragement as an excuse to give up. I can’t stress this enough. Giving up completely is the mistake, not feeling disappointed. Feeling disappointed at times is normal and understandable.
People seem to forget that every single relationship they will have will end… except one. Right? (That’s the idea, at least). So all those ended relationships and misfires are an essential part of the path of meeting someone who is right for you.
Don’t Make Assumptions in the Early Stages of a Relationship
Let’s say you get past the first few dates and everything seems to be going well. Maybe you’ve been dating a month or more. This is a key time when you need to stay in the present and not jump to conclusions about where things are going or what everything means. You need to keep it simple for yourself.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two and a half years and we’re in it to win it. But for the first few months we dated I was in a total state of confusion about what was going on. This is because, despite the fact that I was insanely attracted to and interested in him from the second we met, I got the impression he wasn’t so interested in me.
While things were great when we hung out, in between dates he was terrible about keeping in touch. He literally never picked up his phone. He took a week to respond to text messages. And he was out of town for work all the time. I think I bitched about this to my friends on a daily basis. “I like him so much!” I’d whine, “But he never calls.”
There was one particular day about 3 months in to our relationship when I got really pissed about something and was prepared to end it right there. I told him that if he wanted to be with me, he needed to show it better. I didn’t make any threats, but in my mind I was ready to walk away.
If I had, I would have been making a huge mistake. HUGE. Now it’s a careful balance, because I think most people make the opposite mistake – pining after someone who makes it clear through their actions they’re not really interested. But you need to give a relationship time to develop.
I’ve written before about how to evaulate an early relationship by using simple criteria, but to sum it up, ask yourself, 1) Am I having fun? and 2) Are any of my basic needs getting violated? If not, go out on one more date. You’re not committing to marriage, you’re committing to one date.
Things with my boyfriend turned immediately around. It was crazy. He listened to what I said and started calling and texting on a regular basis. I think it was only a few weeks later that he told me he loved me. Imagine if I had let myself be an idiot by ending things prematurely?
Come From a Place Of Abundance, Not Fear
When you take initiative in your dating life it makes you realize how many people there are in the world for you.
There is no reason to be afraid. There are probably thousands of people with the qualities you’re looking for within a 20 mile radius of your house. If you get discouraged after a couple of bad dates and give up, you have the wrong mindset.
I went out with over FORTY people in a 6 month period before I met my boyfriend. Forty! And a lot of those people I went out with several times, so it was probably close to 100 dates. Imagine if I had gotten discouraged after one bad date and given up. I never would have met Peter, and that would have been a shame.
Dating is supposed to be FUN, but it’s only fun if you come to it with a attitude of openness and possibility instead of an attitude of desperation and fear. If you spend all your time thinking, “I’m so alone, I need to meet someone quickly, I’m getting older, what if I never get married,” etc, you will make yourself miserable. Know that you will meet someone, and the only unknown is what the process will be like to get you there.
A therapist once told me, “You’ll never regret NOT acting out of fear.” That struck a chord with me. It means you’ll never look back and say, “Hey, I should have been more desperate and afraid, that really was a helpful and productive attitude.”
There are a lot of unknowns when dating. You won’t know if you should give someone you don’t feel strongly about a shot. You won’t know if you should grow some balls and ask out the cute girl at the grocery store. You won’t know if a guy you’ve been dating for 6 months is really right for you. When you’re wondering what to do, always act from a place of love and openness rather than fear, and you’ll help yourself enjoy the process.
Photo by the zartorialist
Just wanted to say that I really like your blog and this post especially. I am single for the first time in my life (at 28 years old) and your relationship posts articulate exactly what I am feeling most of the time. THANK YOU! I loved hearing you went on 40 dates: you inspired to finally get my eharmony profile going, and buy a ukulele to fiddle around and sing about things that frustrate me… everything sounds sweeter when sung on a ukulele.
Have a fantastic Sunday evening, knowing that you helping a single Canadian gal who’s looking at 30. 🙂
Thanks Jen! I remember all those emotions I went through when I was single so vividly – you think you’re the only one who feels that way, but literally EVERYONE goes through it. Definitely get on eharmony – as you can tell I’m a huge fan of online dating :-). If you get a ukulele you should write about some of your bad dates… now that could be a funny ukulele song!
I wish I read this about 2.5 years ago…haha.
Haha, yeah I wish I had known this stuff earlier too, could have saved me a lot of heartache… but you live and you learn, right?
In regards to dating, what are your views on paying for dinner? My boyfriend of eight months came out and said that I never take innitiative to pay for anything. I was brought up in a very traditional household and my parents views are that the guy needs to pay for dinner and such. When my boyfriend confronted me I immediately thought it was a deal breaker because to me it means I’m not special enough to him. What do you think? what did you do when you dated? Thanks!
Hey Margaret, good question – there’s probably not any one “right” answer, since people’s opinions of this vary a lot based on culture and background. When I was dating a lot, I would expect the guy to pay for dates at the beginning, but start trading off paying after the first 2-4 dates. If a guy doesn’t make a lot of money, he can take the girl out to less expensive places when he’s paying. It sounds like you have a more traditional background, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I wouldn’t necessarily assume it means he doesn’t think you’re special if he wants you to pay every once in a while. If you’re less comfortable paying or don’t make enough money to pay, you could try treating him in other ways, like cooking dinner or planning cheap/free outings like free concerts, picnics, museums, etc. Good luck!
I’ve been reading your posts over the past few months and I can’t tell you how much they’ve spoken to me. This one in particular is exactly where things are at for me right now! I’m positive and grateful, but also struck numb by fear sometimes. I have everything to give, but spending the first ten years of my adult life in a relationship has made that difficult for me to see. I guess six months is nothing compared to that! Thank you for such wisdom. I’m sure I’ll be back over the next few months…
Hey Fiona, sorry to hear you’re struggling but happy that my story connects with you! Hang in there 🙂
I was reading what you wrote about how long it takes to get over relationships. What do you think the chances are of being able to find someone to love after being married for 33 years? My marriage ended a year ago. I’m scared about dating, but I am also lonely. I don’t want to be alone forever, but I was so devastated by the divorce, and I never really dated before I was married. We met in High school. Not sure what to do next, but if the rule of thumb is correct, I won’t be over him for 15 years. That’s not happening, I’ll be 69!
I was dumped last year in August around my birthday and I’ve been dating people ever since I started working nightlife in November.
I have depression and also borderline personality disorder and I find myself getting too attached to the people whom I date and when things are going well and they suddenly disappear (for no reason, not because of anything I’ve done), I find myself spiraling into intense feelings of desperation and abandonment.
I now have fear of socialising because I know I’m probably going to get too attached to someone I just met or talked to for only a month again. I can’t seem to curb these feelings and because of my bpd, I tend to react very rashly and impulsively, which often results in the opposite party hating me and never wanting to talk to me ever again.
I have depression because of this. I feel so lonely yet everytime I meet new people, I screw it up myself. My job doesn’t allow me to have fixed times to go see a psychologist and I’ve been looking into self-help but there isn’t much 🙁
Starting over a new relationship is never easy. But I think we have to start somewhere right? And Elana has put this concrete list of actions that I think can be a good reference to embark into a new chapter of your life.
I’m 31 years old, a high school teacher, and a very loyal person. I’ve sometimes been in relationships too long, knowing that perhaps I didn’t love them anymore, but never had a “good reason” to break up, so I never did. I always thought I was wrong. On the other hand, I also never communicated my needs to those partners. I know now that I never gave them a fair chance in our relationships. I, instead, resented them for their actions and not being able to read my mind. I wish I had known better, now.
Currently, I’ve been dating someone for only a few months. We started out nontraditionally, each of us feeling lonely in our lives and deciding that having sex would fix those things. We kept it a secret from mutual friends for a long time, and have recently decided to let them know we are “dating”.
Here’s where I feel confused and troubled: he has some issues with alcohol, mainly that when he drinks too much he becomes erratic and extremely difficult to deal with; he has some major attachments to past relationships that, once again when he’s drinking, upset him and cause him to go into a tailspin; and we have completely opposite schedules. I suffer from anxiety/depression, and he works nights. This may seem unrelated, but my sleep is directly related to how I feel most days. I’ve tried to tell him this, but he still sometimes insists on staying up until 3am, when I’ve been up since 530.
I know I need to address some of these things, but I also struggle with wanting control over my life and therefore, control over my relationships as well. I’m earnestly trying to decide if this relationship is right for me and it’s never been clear. He’s THE most caring person I’ve ever been in a relationship with: he cares for me when I’m sick, and does thoughtful things for me constantly. I know no one is perfect, but I’m starting to view this relationship as exhausting despite the many good things about it. What do I do next so that I’m fair to both him and myself?