Experts Say This Is How To Figure Out If You’re Actually Ready To Date Again

After my first serious relationship ended, I wondered how soon I should reactivate my account on OkCupid, the site where it had started.

“You don’t want to go on a date if you’ll come home crying that it’s not your ex,” one friend said. But when I relayed that perspective to another friend, she said, “Why not? It’s fine to cry.”

Their attitudes reflect a common disagreement over how soon you should move on after a breakup.

While some say (to put it crudely) that the way to get over someone is to get under someone else, others say it’s unfair to the people you’re dating to not wait until you’re over your ex.

“There is no right or wrong time to wait for dating,” licensed social worker Kryss Shane, MSW, LSW, tells Bustle. “This is because the circumstances can vary wildly.”

Some people who watched the relationship slowly fizzle over months or years may be ready to date soon because “they grieved the loss as it was happening,” Shane says. “Others may take months or years because they need to reestablish who they are individually again and may need time to feel ready to date.”

While it’s probably not helpful to put a specific number of days, weeks, or months on it, here are some things to think about when deciding if you’re ready to date again.

You Don’t Have To Wait Until You’re Over Your Ex

Don’t feel bad about dating when you still have feelings for your ex. As long as you’re not acting on those feelings, they won’t necessarily impede future relationships.

“For some people, getting ‘out there’ and continuing to date, even in the midst of heartbreak, is a key element to getting through the heartbreak,” transformational life coach Maddy Moon, tells Bustle. “When you have doubts of ever being with someone again who can make you laugh, add excitement to your life, or provide for you a romantic spark, it’s healthy to experience that with another individual sooner rather than later so that you can shed those fears. Even if it’s just one date and nothing more.”

The important thing is that, even if you’re still missing your ex, you’re open to moving past those feelings. “It’s possible to grieve the relationship you’re leaving while allowing yourself to be open to a new one,” Moon says.

But Do Work Through Your Own Issues

If you feel that personal issues of yours contributed to the end of your relationship, it’s worthwhile to deal with these before moving on, lest you recreate a relationship with the same problems, Moon says. “For example, if you realize a lot of co-dependency issues were going on in a previous relationship or you have been consistently falling into relationships with toxic people, waiting a while to date as you work on those inner wounds would be a healthy idea.”

One of the best ways to face your demons and examine your relationship patterns is to talk to a therapist. You can also journal about your past relationship and/or discuss it with your friends and family.

Make Peace With Being Single

Don’t jump into another relationship just to fill the void your ex left. You should feel complete within yourself before you add someone else to your life, whether or not you’re getting over a breakup.

“You’ll know you’re ready to date again when … you have become strong enough in your independence as a single person that you recognize what you offer a mate rather than looking for someone to fill a void or to make you feel happy,” Shane says.

It’s Never Too Soon To Be Flirtatious

Even if you’re not ready to date, Moon recommends you “date the world” — that is, wear clothes that make you feel sexy, smile at people you’re interested in, and flirt. You don’t have to date the people you flirt with. You just have to stay in touch with your “flirtatious and romantic side,” Moon says. “Those things never have to stop, even if you’re taking a break from dating.”

These things are less about finding a new partner and more about establishing a love affair with yourself. “One of the best tips I can give someone is to learn how to be sensual and single at the same time,” Moon says.

So, it probably is OK to go home from a date crying because your date isn’t your ex — as long as you recognize these tears as part of a growth process that will ultimately lead you to something better than you had.

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