Creating New Possibilities After A Breakup
I was recently around an old acquaintance that is going through a breakup. She was asking me about dating apps and how they work. She mentioned that she was about to sign up for one and begin swiping soon. The problem with this person’s desire to jump in to online dating, is that she is currently married. She hasn’t even filed for divorce from her husband, but yet she says she is ready to start dating again.
This rush for people to jump from one relationship to the next is nothing new. I would argue that the emergence of online dating has made it easier. Your next potential mate is only one swipe away.
After my own experience of dating too soon after a long-term relationship ended, I feel compelled to write about the value of taking a different approach to dating after a separation. There is value in taking time to find happiness with your life before jumping into something with another person. The time after a split is a chance to hit the reset button.
This piece is about highlighting some of the actions one can take after a breakup. Following these steps could potentially set you up for something powerful in your next relationship. And let me preface this by saying, there is no exact timetable for “too soon”. The time needed between relationships is different for each person.
Create space for reflection and growth
The time after a breakup is the perfect opportunity to take inventory of past relationships. It helps to think about the things that you enjoyed about your previous relationship(s). We often think of the bad and how the person we dated wasn’t a fit for us. But there is clearly a reason you dated that person. Connecting to the positive helps us to identify the characteristics we would like to find in a future mate.
On the flipside, we should also think about the things we didn’t like. Perhaps what we didn’t like should be identified as a non-negotiable. Of course no one is perfect, but there are often things that are absolute deal breakers for us. Knowing what those deal breakers are will help us to be more intentional about finding future partners.
Begin a Relationship with yourself
Part of the human experience is growth and learning. Each relationship we have teaches us something new, and it’s with those lessons that we grow into a new person. The space between a new romance allows us time to gain clarity about who we are.
Years ago after my marriage ended I discovered a lot about myself. I learned that I have a passion for travel, and that health and fitness were important to me. It wasn’t until I was able to do life on my own terms and follow my curiosity that I was able to discover these things.
When in a relationship, it’s easy to get lost in the day to day and attach so much of your identity to another person. When you’re single, you have more flexibility in your schedule. You don’t need anyone else’s permission and you don’t have to consider another person’s feelings for how you choose go about your day. It’s really empowering.
Without clarity of self, you risk drifting through life and accepting the cards that the world deals you. You don’t have to live this way. You can set your own intention and have the kind of life you desire.
Embrace experimental dating
Eventually you will get back to dating. And when that time comes, I would encourage you to use it as the time to investigate and test your assumptions. I recently heard people complaining about going on first dates and having some of the same conversations. And to that, I would argue to just have fun with it. Ask questions that you don’t normally ask, and be intentional about making it a beautiful experience for yourself.
At this point you’ve already taken time to reflect on past relationships and you have a good idea about what it is that you like and don’t like. During the experimental dating process you get to test those assumption and learn in the process.
During this time, we need to learn what it is that we truly want in another human. We need to know if what we think is important is actually important to us. With experimental dating we get to know that.
I have a friend who feels that she is only attracted to men who are taller than her (she’s 5’10’’). Recently she went on a date with a guy who is 2 inches shorter than her. After the first date, she immediately wanted to write him off because of his height. But he called her out on it. And the way he did it was so graceful that she decided to go on a second date with him. She went into that date expecting to never see him again, and had an amazing time. As of this writing, they have a third date scheduled. By testing her assumptions, she was able to have a beautiful evening with a fun guy.
The time we take for ourselves between relationships can set us up for success in future partnerships. It’s the perfect opportunity to connect with self and assess what worked or didn’t’ work in the past. When we rush into something serious immediately after a breakup, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to grow. And we risk taking the same problems into the next experience. Give yourself the time you deserve and have fun.