There are few things in life worse than getting your heart broken. Not only is it a supremely sad experience, there are all kinds of other emotions — anger, regret, bitterness, even happiness in some cases — that can be super confusing to sort through. But dealing with a slew of emotions isn’t the only thing that can be confusing post-breakup: Trying to navigate the world of dating after a breakup can be tricky, especially if you’re worried about it being “too soon.” So, is there such a thing as too soon to start dating again after going through a breakup?
“It heavily depends on how long you were in the relationship and how fully invested you were in your partner,” Gina Yannotta, matchmaker and COO of Maclynn (formerly Vida), tells Bustle. “Some relationships are long gone before the initial breakup, therefore allowing the individual to heal while in the relationship, and move on as soon as they detach themselves from the ‘exclusive’ label.”
How can you tell if you’re really ready to move on and dive back into the dating pool after a bad breakup? “The biggest sign that you’re ready to date again is your desire to date again,” Brooke Bergman, relationship and dating coach, tells Bustle. “It usually means you’re feeling brave enough to risk being brokenhearted. It’s normal to feel ready one day and not ready the next. I usually tell people not to give in to the fear. Sometimes we need to lean into the fear instead of allowing it to dictate the direction of our lives.”
After experiencing heartbreak, it’s not uncommon to be afraid to start dating again, because it can feel like you’re signing yourself up to get hurt all over again in the future. But, while it might not be an easy road, if you want the reward (finding love again), you have to be wiling to take the risk of getting hurt again, too. If you’re recently single and need a little guidance before getting back out there, here are nine expert tips for dating after a bad breakup.
1. Have A Positive Mindset
When you’ve just been through a difficult breakup, it’s understandable that you might not necessarily be jazzed about the prospect of starting all over again. But if you want to have dating success, try to stay positive.
“It’s important to adopt a positive mindset when getting back into dating,” Yannotta says. “A positive mindset leads to positive behavior, which in turn increases your chances of a positive outcome.”
2. Reflect On What You Do And Don’t Want In A Partner
With enough time and distance from your last relationship, you can look back and objectively evaluate what did and didn’t work for you — which you can learn from and use to help you find a partner who’s really right for you.
“Take time to reflect on the attributes your ex had that worked for you and that didn’t,” Yannotta says. “Write these down in two lists (positive characteristics and negative characteristics). Repeat this exercise for all your exes. Then write a list of your core values. … From here, you can define on paper the type of person you should really be looking for. This will bring you a sense of empowerment and focus and will steer you towards a healthy, lasting relationship.”
3. Take Time To Heal
Before you burst back onto the dating scene, it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure your heart is healed enough to handle the many ups and downs of dating. Pay attention to the signs you might not be ready to start dating again, like if you still text your ex when you’re drunk or cry yourself to sleep when you think of the breakup.
“Make sure that you spend enough time healing and working through past issues and hurt, but not too much time that getting back into the dating world feels scary,” Dr. Nikki Goldstein, sexologist, relationship expert, and author of Single But Dating, tells Bustle. “At some point when you feel partly OK, it’s time to get back out there and do the rest of the healing whilst out in the dating world.”
4. Don’t Compare Dates To Your Ex
When you’re dating after a breakup, it can be tempting to compare every person you go out with to your ex — but that’s actually an unhealthy habit that you should try to break ASAP.
“The biggest hurdle I’ve seen people face when dating after a breakup is not comparing the people they’re seeing to their ex,” Heather Ebert, dating expert at dating site What’s Your Price, tells Bustle. “It’s a huge ‘don’t’ that for some reason is an extremely common and hard to break habit that humans have. It has no value in helping someone move on and if it’s made apparent, it can cause a lot of pain to the other people involved.”
5. Take Things Slow
Particularly if you have a tendency to hop from one relationship to the next, it’s important to remember to take things slow after a breakup. Don’t feel pressured to constantly be setting up dates, or to take a potential relationship too quickly right off the bat.
“Take your time getting back out there, don’t feel rushed to disclose the fact that you’ve experienced a recent breakup and don’t try to progress a relationship too quickly,” Ebert says. “Pace yourself, play the field and have fun.”
6. Focus On Things Besides Dating, Too
Once you take the leap and download a dating app or ask your pals to hook you up with their single friends, you might be tempted to go into dating overdrive. But it’s important to focus on other parts of your life post-breakup, not just finding a replacement partner.
“Be open to having hobbies, making new friends, and NOT focusing solely on dating,” Stef Safran, Chicago-based matchmaker at Stef and the City, tells Bustle. “Get a life and you might find dating to be a lot easier because you have other things to focus on.”
7. Set Realistic Expectations
While it’s good to have a positive outlook when dating after a breakup, it’s not good to have unrealistic expectations. Expecting to find the love of your life right away can prevent you from living in the moment and enjoying being single.
“You may have unrealistic expectations as to what you want in a partner or how long it may take to find someone you want to date,” Davida Rappaport, speaker, spiritual counselor, and dating expert, tells Bustle. “Finding a good partner takes time. It is OK to be alone for a while. Even if you may be lonely, take your time. The last thing you want to do is rush into a new relationship before you have a chance to know what you want or heal properly from your last relationship.”
8. Don’t Talk About Your Ex/The Breakup On A Date
It should pretty much go without saying, but talking about your ex on a date is a big no-no… at least until you start to get more serious with someone, in which case you should absolutely discuss your past relationships and how they shaped you.
“Avoid talking about your ex-partner on dates or tell[ing] your dates how much you have been hurt or the reason you broke up with your ex,” Rappaport says. “If you are emotional or angry, it will turn off any date that might prove to be a prospective partner. Discussing past relationships are not necessary unless you begin to consider starting a relationship with someone.”
9. Be Your Authentic Self
The number one rule for dating after a breakup? Be unabashedly yourself on dates — because you’re never going to find your true match if you’re not being authentic.
“The best thing people can do when they start dating again is to really lean into the awesomeness of who they are and then show their truest self to their dates,” Bergman says. “Tune into what you desire and how you will function best. Pay attention to how you feel around this person. Quiet your fears and listen to your heart.”
At the end of the day, listening to your heart and trusting your gut is all you can do when dating. Whether you want to play the field, stay totally single, or find your next love, all that matters is that you’re making empowered, healthy choices — and putting yourself and your happiness first, always.
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