Getting back on the horse

It’s hard to move on after a relationship. God knows it can be some of the toughest times you’ll ever have. Partly because we’re heavily ruled by emotions in general and at this trying time they can be all over the place.

Here are 3 things I’d encourage anyone to do before starting back out into the dating world.

1. Understand what went wrong

No really! Just because you talked it over with a friend over drinks, cried your eyes out, cursed everything he did, and then sobbed into your pillow promising to “not make the same mistakes,” does not mean you’re going to be any better next time.

In fact, I’ll give you a hint: It means you’re probably going to be about the same and the situation is probably going to be about the same.

Real progress is going to be made when you write shit down and hold yourself accountable.

Do you think when NASA launches a rocket and it accidentally blows up somewhere in the Atlantic the scientists get together for drinks and say, “Yeah, I know guys, that was a tough break but I think we’ve learned our lesson. We are never using that trajectory path again.”

Fuck no. They write it down. Every mistake is probably the size of a book between the standard operating procedures that are written or rewritten, the number of postmortem reports created, and the presentation notes passed around while they meet again and again to determine any and every last cause of the crash and what they are going to do differently next time.

I’m not saying you have to go to this level but get down what went wrong and one thing you can do to help things go differently next time.

  • “I couldn’t handle my jealousy and I must work on that.” — I’m going to find a book on the topic and read it.
  • “We weren’t a good fit career-wise.” — It got tough not seeing each other due to opposite hours. I’m going to set a standard that the next person I date will work hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. like I do so we actually have down time to spend together.
  • “We both brought our baggage in and never really trusted each other.” — I’m going to look out for red flags in the future and on my end I’m going to see a therapist and learn to understand my baggage.

This brings an incredible amount of clarity and peace if done right. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never fun to see your issues in stark black and white and realize how messed up things were. But by acknowledging them, you are able to move on.

2. Reframe the future by tackling doubts and fears

OK, you went through a breakup. Entire books could be written on the agony of a relationship ending but I don’t need to tell you. You know.

Here’s the thing. It’s normal to be afraid of something that hurt. We’ve all heard the example of a kid and a hot stove, the careless spring breaker who got crabs … (oh, not that one? …).

If a horse kicks you in the fucking head, you just might be antsy every time you even think you hear the clip clop of hooves, or fly into a rage should a friend suggest how “fun” a hansom cab ride would be. That would be normal!

So after a breakup it’s normal to have doubts and fears about getting back out there. You just gave part of yourself to another person and opened up, emotionally and physically.

You can let your doubts paralyze you — which is such a shame considering how much love and life you still have to give! — or you can work toward conquering them and moving forward.

If you need a little more help in believing that your reaction is normal go and find someone you trust. Someone who will be honest. And ask them about a breakup they went through and some of the fears they had afterward. People love to be asked for advice and they love to help others through a tough time.

Just make sure it’s someone you trust to give some deeper feedback than …

“Girl, I didn’t feel a thing for that lying, no-good, cheating, son-of-a-bitch! As far as I’m concerned he can rot in hell. Tell you what, I knew just how to get back at him so I called his best friend and … ”

Yeah no! Not her. She’s not helping.

Here’s a two part exercise that can help. Make sure to give yourself time in between to reflect.

Day 1: Write out your fears about getting into a new relationship, whatever they are. No analyzing. Just write.

  • “I’ve gained weight since my last relationship.”
  • “I was lied to and it feels like all men lie.”
  • “I have a wall up, I know I do and I don’t know how to let it down.”
  • “No one new has seen me naked in 4 years!”
  • “What if I mess it up again?”
  • “My self-confidence is shattered. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

Anything and everything. Just let it pour out. Then leave it.

Day 2: Write out a rephrased version of each statement from the day before.

This time you’re going to work in a “maybe.”

  • “I’ve gained weight since my last relationship.”
  • Maybe I could lose the weight I’ve gained since my last relationship.”
  • “I was lied to and it feels like all men lie.”
  • “I was lied to and it feels like all men lie, but maybe they don’t.”

And when you’ve finished these, write them out again … this time using a full positive.

  • “I’ve gained weight since my last relationship.”
  • “Maybe I could lose the weight I’ve gained since my last relationship.”
  • I know I can lose the weight I’ve gained since my last relationship. I can do anything I choose to do.”
  • “I was lied to and it feels like all men lie.”
  • “I was lied to and it feels like all men lie, but maybe they don’t.”
  • “I was lied to and it feels like all men lie, but some do tell the truth and it’s up to me to set standards that weed out the ones that don’t.”

3. Put it all together

Use the first two steps to create a plan for your future approach to getting back out there. It would make no sense to rush headlong into it and your brain is actually holding you back from doing that. I read something once that basically said, “Procrastination is your brain’s way of saying, ‘You haven’t really put any thought into this.’” (If you know that original quote please let me know so I can give credit.) Once you actually have a plan for getting back out into the dating world it becomes so much easier.

You don’t sit around on a Friday night beating yourself up for being “such a loser” for turning down the invitation to go out with your single girlfriends. You say, “I’ve given myself this month and next month to stay in, to read, to heal, to grow, and to learn and on XYZ date I’m going to go out with my friends again.”

You don’t cave when you run into your friend’s cute coworker in a bookstore and he asks you out. You smile and say firmly but gently, “Thanks, but I’m probably not a great date right now. Bad breakup … I’m taking some time to be on my own and, well, read … ” (Then tell your friend to let you know if he’s single a few months down the road.)

Many of us are comfortable with a plan. We like to check things off. We like to follow a roadmap. The difference is, here you’re creating your own guide and it’s up to you to follow it. I’m confident that you’re strong enough to do it. Are you kidding?! Like how are you even doubting right now?! We’re women … and we’ve been kicking ass for years! If you ever get down or stuck, just let me know at april@lovewithasideoflife.com and I’ll totally root you on!

Originally published at www.lovewithasideoflife.com.