Break ups are brutal. Regardless of the situation, or how long you were together, a broken heart stings.
I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be easy. It’s not. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to seem like forever that it hurts and the idea of dating again is going to be last thing you want to do. But, I will sit here and tell you that you WILL feel better. I know you don’t right now, and that’s ok.
Step #1: Mourn the loss of the old relationship.
Cry. Scream. Throw stuff at the walls. Get that pain out of your body. The best salve for a broken heart is to surrender to the pain and misery. This is important. Our emotions are what make us human and don’t let anyone tell you to “get over it, “or stop crying.” How long you need to grieve is your own journey. You will grieve for as long as you need to. Don’t think you can skip this part and jump right into a rebound relationship–that is the worst idea ever. While it might mask your feelings in the moment, the pain will still be there and you won’t have emotionally moved on.
Step #2: Tell your friends you’re ready to date.
Your friends want to support you. Tell them when you’re thinking of dating. While they may not know any single women your type, telling them will help keep you accountable to your dating journey and allow them to be there for you. Plus, the more people you tell you’re ready to date, the more people you’ll have keeping you in mind if they find someone you might be interested in.
Step #3: Conduct a “Relationship Audit.”
In Ayla Newhouse’s charming and masterful, The ABC’s of Dating by Design, she recommends conducting a relationship audit at the close of a relationship, or when you are looking for a new partner. An audit can illuminate patterns and opportunities for innovation. Use these questions to conduct your audit:
- Name of the person you had a relationship with:
- Time period/duration:
- Describe that time in your life (what was important to you, how you felt about yourself)
- What moment defined your relationship?
- Describe the relationship in one word:
- What did you love most about this person?
- What frustrated you about this person?
- Cause of break up
- Feelings about break up
- What you would change about this relationship (would you still have it? What conversation would you have had that you didn’t?)
- What did you learn?
- Anything unresolved? If yes, consider writing a letter (not necessarily delivered) or having coffee with this person (where appropriate).
With all your answers laid out on a piece of paper, are you able to make any connections about your patterns? Keep this tool as a guide you as you start dating.
Step #4: Go on a “light first date.”
A “light first date,” doesn’t have all the pressure of a major first date. It could be with a friend of a friend who you’ve met before and would like to get to know. Or maybe it’s a woman you’ve seen around but know nothing about.
Ask her to dinner. While at dinner, be clear that you’re just wanting to get to know her and are still recovering from a broken heart. Allow yourself the simple joy of having dinner with a new person and listening to her story. If she’s not okay with your broken heart boundary, then you’re not okay with her disrespecting your request and can say good bye at the end of the night. You will have still gone on a date, and you will have still taken one baby step toward full fledged dating.
Step #5: Get into short term therapy
A good therapist can help you navigate the new waters of dating. There are many short term types of therapy (often called “brief therapies”) proven to be helpful for bumpy life moments, (like dating), that can help you keep clear on what you are feeling and how you are doing. A few of these therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, brief interactional therapy, brief humanistic and brief psychodynamic therapy. While I’m definitely biased about going to therapy, I have seen many people get solid, practical help from short term therapy and I absolutely recommend it.
Step #6: Stay open
After a rough break up, our self esteem is bruised and we put up walls to keep our heart from getting damaged again. Or we do the opposite and keep it open only to the same old patterns (and relationships) in an effort to repair or repeat them. Both of these are coping mechanisms that will not serve you if you truly want to date again. Dating is about being open to the experience and the person. Allow yourself the space to do just that. Attend a speed dating event just for the fun of it, ask a girl to coffee just to hear about where she was born, volunteer at a lesbian film festival just to see the film with other lesbians. Don’t immediately jump to the “Is She The One,” that’s way too much pressure. Take it slow. Move with baby steps and progress in a relentless forward motion.