Dating Again After a Long-Term Relationship Breakup
The end of a long-term relationship can feel like a bereavement, whether or not you instigated the breakup. You won’t get over your ex overnight, especially if you lived together, but you can take steps to come to terms with the split and start dating again.
Remember, dates don’t have to lead to a relationship and it’s totally acceptable to just go out for fun, as long as everyone knows the situation. Below, psychologists offer their advice for recovering from a breakup and preparing to re-enter the dating scene.
Greg Kushnick, a psychologist from New York City, told Newsweek that you should talk to people in your life who can help you gain perspective on your previous relationship. You should try to understand what went wrong, which of your partner’s behaviors you didn’t like, and which of your own behaviors were inappropriate.
“Strive to understand what relationship dynamics have worked for you and what you’d like to avoid in your future partner,” he said. Friends and others close to you can “help you with your blind spots.”
If you don’t do this, Kushnick added, you will likely repeat the same unhealthy dynamics and your next relationship will end in a similar way.
Expand Your Social Network
You need your friends around you after a breakup, not just for their support and insights, but also because they can help you to meet new people or reacquaint yourself with the dating scene after years off the market.
If your friends aren’t nearby, perhaps because you relocated after the split, look for like-minded people in communities that share your interests.
Chloe Carmichael, psychologist and author of Dr. Chloe’s 10 Commandments of Dating, recommended searching online for social events close to you. You can also look into evening classes, social clubs, gym courses—anything that you like to do, as long as you make a real effort to connect with new people.
Keep up with old friends too, Carmichael advised, even if it has to be through Zoom or phone calls. “Maybe plan to have a 10 a.m. walk-and-talk with a friend, where you’re going to be on your headset. You’re going to be out for a walk, exploring your new city, but you’re gonna have a buddy on the phone with you, and you can just tell them about what you’re seeing, how you’re feeling and ask what’s going on with them in their lives too.”
Get To Know Your Values
Before you get into another relationship, you should determine what really matters to you.
Kushnick said: “Get to know your values on another level. Start with the values that are most important to you in a partner. What lessons have you learned from your last relationship? What kind of resentment do you hold onto with regard to your last partner? What can you take responsibility for with regard to the parts of your last relationship that didn’t work?”
Again, friends can help with this process. Carmichael said: “Sometimes reluctance to restart can stem from an awareness that there is important work to be done before dating again, so reading books on relationships, talking with friends—or therapists—can be helpful.”
Try Something New
New experiences are useful as you recover, according to Carmichael, whether that’s traveling to a country you’ve never visited before, signing up for a salsa class, or simply going for dinner in a different part of town.
“One of the things that can happen in a relationship is that the person can become our source of excitement or growth in some ways. So, we need to remind ourselves that there are other experiences in the world, other people in the world—just really cultivating a sense of newness.”
A change of scenery is also useful because so many familiar places will remind you of your ex. “A lot of the physical spaces of your life almost become what psychologists call ‘environmental cues’ to remember that person,” Carmichael said.
Make Dating Profiles
Setting up profiles on dating apps can help you to feel different about yourself and other people—and you don’t have to start swiping straightaway.
“Maybe your ex has never paid much attention to you and never complimented you and suddenly you’re out with new people that are saying, ‘Wow, you look nice tonight,'” said Carmichael. These experiences will help you to recognize the benefits of moving forward and give you something to get excited about.
Even just writing the profiles—perhaps with the help of friends—”can be stimulating in a good way for some people,” she added. “And then when you’re ready, you can flip the switch and activate them.”
Date in a ‘Lighter’ Way
Carmichael also suggested “deliberately dating in a lighter manner rather than a relationship-oriented manner, if you’re not feeling ready to jump in with both feet.”
A rebound relationship isn’t a great idea. It “implies that you’re going deeper into a relationship with somebody and it’s really just to cover up the hurt and loss about your previous relationship, which sounds more like you’re avoiding dealing with things that you do need to deal with.”
Some casual rebound dating, to have fun and new experiences with different people, might be just what you need, however.
“Keep things a little bit lighter, just to remind yourself that there are other people out there, and to see how it feels to be out with other people,” she said.
“If something develops, then OK. Sometimes people have found a good solid relationship surprisingly quickly after being left by someone.”
Kushnick added that you need to manage your expectations when you get back out there. “Get reacquainted with what it feels like to be open and vulnerable in a dating context,” he said. Keep in mind that, after a breakup, “you’re supposed to be sensitive, nostalgic and guarded when you start dating again.”