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How to be ready to date again after a break up

Posted May 3

After breaking off a long-term relationship, it may be tempting to either jump right back in the dating pool or hibernate in hermit mode. Neither approach is really healthy in the long run, so how do you know when it's OK to start dating again? It's a personal choice, but these guidelines can help you make that decision.

1. Getting over a relationship takes time

Ending a relationship is hard. Even the smoothest and most mutual of break ups can leave a person heartbroken and gasping for breath. Some people need lots of alone time to process what happened and to reconnect with themselves. Others get over a break up by going out on fun dates that aren't serious or by spending time with friends.

How to cope with your break up is up to you. Either way, you'll need to learn how to take one day at a time. However, it's important to keep a sense of balance in all things: Hiding in front of the TV in a funk of depression for months on end is self-destructive, and diving back into dating too soon can be hurtful to the person you keep going out with. No one wants to be a part of a rebound relationship.

2. How soon is it OK to date again?

There are a number of popular "rules of thumb" that people try to follow (or tell others to use) to decide when it's time to start dating again after a break up.

  • Half the time the couple was together. It's often said that it takes half the length of the relationship to get over the break up. There's no evidence that this is true, and it certainly leaves anyone coming out of a long-term relationship hanging. Imagine waiting ten years to start dating after the end of a twenty-year marriage!
  • One month for every year of the relationship. Here's another common rule of thumb for dating after a break up. Again, there's no evidence that this rule is the best tactic, but it does provide a time frame for getting over your former love.
  • Whenever the person feels ready. This piece of advice is very popular among those who are newly single again, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. If it seems like time to start searching for your soul mate, it's important to check in with your innermost feelings to make sure it really is time. Don't get swept up in the idea of dating someone for the fun of it or because it's easy.
It's very common to crave positive attention after a committed relationship ends, and a rebound relationship certainly provides that, but it's a dangerous way to stroke the ego and is ultimately unsatisfying. Rebound relationships often end with your date (or yourself) getting hurt.

The only way to be sure it's time to date again is to sit with your emotions after the break up and work through them. This will take time, but having fun, talking with good friends and having a healthy support network will help. In other cases, seeing a therapist, even for a couple of sessions, can be helpful in getting over your break up and moving on.

Deciding to start dating again after a big break up is a very individual decision. It should be made with eyes open and an honest awareness of the state of your heart.

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