Healthy Dating after the Big Breakup

Requested repost:

I hope that you venture forth only after you’ve done your grief work and learned to spend some time with yourself and know more about yourself than you did before your last relationship.

Before you go back out into the dating world, make sure you have support. Make sure you’re not going to take things too personally and that you’re not so wounded that you will be a mess if some person you hardly know insults or rejects you.

But if you’re ready, take the healthy dating tips to heart and ENJOY YOURSELF!

1. It bears repeating: enjoy yourself. Dating does not have to be a chore or a thing you HAVE to do in between relationships.

If you are not having a good time, you need to step back and learn to take it for what it is. If it’s not just a pleasureable afternoon or evening, see it as a learning experience. You’re learning how to BE and how to relax around new people.

If you see dating as something to “get through in order to get to a relationship…” you’re going to attach to someone, probably the wrong person, too quickly. If you’re seeing it as a chore, you might need to take breaks.

Have you done the Observation section of the workbook?  If not, make sure you have started to hone your observation skills BEFORE you go out dating again.  This is VERY important!!!

2. What if you’re not feeling it and no one is feeling it for you and you’re beginning to think that no one likes you? Well there might be a few reasons. Maybe people are picking up some vibe that you’re just getting out of a relationship and not ready.

Or maybe you’re looking at the wrong type. Rethink your usual “type” since your type appears to be leaving tire tracks all over your heart.

3. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS: Don’t see it as a negative thing. Whether it takes a while to find someone or if you have the date from hell, you can turn it into a funny yarn for your friends maybe not tomorrow but at some point.

Don’t take anything seriously. Not the inability to get a date or the dates that are complete and horrible. If you’re taking this process personally, it’s going to be very very hard and it shouldn’t be. Don’t take the search process personally and don’t take each first date personally.

If you’re having strong emotions around it/after it, maybe you’re not ready yet. It’s okay…go back to your work and stick your feet in the water later.

Once you take the “desperation” out of dating, and that includes the desperation to have the BEST time, you will do better at it. You will be less attached to the outcome and more involved in the minute to minute evaluation of what this person is all about, what your behavior, thoughts, feelings are telling you, what is going on in the MOMENT.

4. Similarly, stay out of the future. If it goes badly, don’t latch onto the fact that you will be alone for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. If it goes well, don’t start picking out tuxedos and china patterns. Just take it as a day in your life. If you are on a blind date or online dating date, know that people cannot always KNOW enough to pick the right person and the right place and the right time. It’s okay if you get to the place and you just sorta like the person but nothing that would move you to a second date. Don’t go home and be depressed. Don’t go home and try to hook up with someone (gawd forbid – your ex) to erase the memory of the evening.

Go home and take a nice shower, get into bed with a good book and think to yourself, “Okay that was interesting….” or call a friend and say how silly/nice/boring/ridiculous it was or write in your journal or just brush it off and LEAVE IT AT THAT. No more, no less. It is not the beginning of the rest of your life and it’s not the end of the world. It was simply A DATE. No matter if it went well or not, it was a DATE. Don’t make it the rest of your life.

DON’T use it to start fantasizing and re-writing the past with your ex. Your last relationship sucked, your ex is a jerk or jerkette. One bad date doesn’t change that reality. The devil you know is not necessarily better than the devil you don’t. Choosing the devil you know keeps you stuck and unavailable for non-devils. DO NOT let a sour date drive you back to your ex.

Are you picking out china patterns after the first date? Are you imagining what your children will look like? Are you thinking about what it would be like introducing this hottie to your family? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum and thinking that dating sucks, this person sucks and the world sucks? Or are you thinking of your ex and ONLY the good parts and wishing you were back in comfortable familiarity? You have control over your stampeding thoughts. Reign them in, stay in today and stay objective and observant. Don’t let your head go to a million places that are completely irrelevant right now!!!

5. Now for logistics: for a first date go to coffee or lunch. It’s less pressure to have a good time. It’s less obvious if you’re leaving early because you hate this person and it’s less time for you to get the fantasies going in your head.

Don’t dive into any new relationship. Starting out with a coffee or lunch date helps you to keep your feet on the ground and if you need to get out, the getting is good — much better than if you’ve committed to dinner and a movie.

6. Listen to your head about what is going on for you. Are you evaluating your date or worrying what he or she is thinking about YOU? Forget what he or she thinks about you, you already know you’re wonderful and if this person doesn’t appreciate that, the hell with them. Worry about if this person is GOOD ENOUGH for you! Learn to sit back and shut up. This doesn’t mean to leave a lot of uncomfortable silence but LEARN TO LISTEN and listen to what is actually being said, not what you HOPE is being said.

Become aware of the spin machine in your head.

Allow him or her to be themselves and listen to who they are and not who you want them to be.

Learn to let the other person reveal TO YOU what they are all about. Maybe they’re not even good enough for YOU to reveal anything of substance to them. Worry about what YOU think of them, not what they think of you.

7. KEEP IT LIGHT. Do not tell this person your life story. Don’t talk about arrests, addictions, abuse, childhood trauma, deaths or horrific accidents you’ve witnessed. If the other person wants to dump their whole pile of crap on you on your first date (or first few dates), you can smile politely and then move along. Meaning, don’t see them again.

Healthy relationships require two healthy people who either have or are working on their unfinished business.

DO NOT tell your date about your last relationship and how much your ex sucks. Everyone has an ex that sucks. (several, actually). No one wants to hear it on a first date. If you’re driven to tell it, then you’re not ready.

If you are specifically asked to tell about your former relationship, keep it general and keep it light. A good idea is to have a “soundbite” ready if the question comes up. Write a few sentences on an index card that describes, generally, what happened. (“It didn’t work out….we wanted different things.” “It was not a good fit but we all learn from our relationships and so that was a good learning experience.” (if you say this and someone asks what you’ve learned…keep that general as well).

Think of a few things that explain a few minor things, but not really. You don’t want to be drawn into a lengthy conversation about your former relationship. Work on the index card. Fine tune it and be ready. Also be ready to change the subject and move on.

Being prepared for these questions will keep you from running off at the mouth if you get them. This is a DATE. It’s not therapy and it’s not spill out your life to someone who is a stranger.

Listen for how much is coming AT you. Does this person want to talk about his or her ex? Are they looking for pity? therapy? Is it obvious they have not done their work? Say a big buh bye to anyone who is going on and on about their breakup. You don’t need this.

If you have some skeleton in your closet or some thing you want someone you’re involved with to know about like being a recovering alcoholic or having been incested as a child and you’re working through it or your twin died when you were 15 or something really BIG, it’s okay to let them know in a matter-of-fact way 3 or 4 dates down the line. This does NOT have to come out on a first date AND you should not invite anyone’s opinion about your recovery, your therapy, your trauma….you can say I’m working through this and I’m just letting you know. If your mate wants to know more, he or she is welcome to go find out but it’s not up to you to educate or to apologize. You are who you are…all of you…and you need to accept it. If someone else can’t THEY ARE NOT FOR YOU! It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.

Your personal information is PRECIOUS. Guard it and share it slowly. Do not continue to share if the person is not paying attention or not giving your precious information the validation it deserves. Conversely, if the person seems overly concerned or emotional about it, you may have someone whose stuff is going to trigger yours and visa versa. Slow and steady and OBSERVANT behavior will keep this from snowballing into a dysfunctional relationship. Be on guard and BE a good guard of you. (I have other posts on sharing stories with new people which I will post in the next few days).

8. Do not get intensely physical (ie sex) on the first date. The rule of thumb used to be 4 dates because that signaled the beginning of a relationship. Many people think it should be earlier and some people think it should be later. Some people think they need to know what this person is like before they make a decision. Yet, even if that person is horrible, people rarely say, “Okay you are not good in bed…see ya….” Rationalization works for just about everything and it works here too. So using the excuse that you just want to know what you’re buying before you put your money down, is just an excuse. Half the time people don’t even know how bad it has to be to affect their decision. Most times it’s not even thought about. So lose the “I need to know…” excuse. It is rarely the reason for walking away.

But you have to have some idea of when you would be starting a physical relationship IF you are thinking of having one. It should be a decision, not something you fall into.

You have to think about what you want to do and when, but later is better. It gives you time to think about if you want to be involved with this person. If someone has an issue with it, then that’s a red flag. If someone has an issue with waiting, how many people have they been with because having sex after a date or two seems like a good idea? If you are being completely responsible, you will insist on STD testing for both of you before anything happens and they don’t come back overnight. So you can step back and have some room to think.

I did a television interview (live and unscripted) last year on dating and I told the host that everyone should have a “no sleeping together on the first date” rule and she was astounded. She said all her friends have sex on the first date. I said, “Not a good idea.” She said, “Well either everyone’s doing it or my friends are all sluts.” And I went silent (and I have no tape of the interview which is usually released to me).

For a long time I was ticked that I didn’t have the footage to show people, which was (in retrospect) hilarious. I never addressed the “all my friends are doing it” remark (because I was stunned). If one person in a group has a set of “date standards,” they might impart that standard to the others just because the others haven’t thought about it.

Don’t follow what your friends say is “normal.” Physical relationship changes your ability to really assess where you are. And many times women will think, “I slept with him so now I have to be in a relationship with him to not be considered a slut.” NO NO NO. Better to have negative label than to go into a relationship with someone who might not be a good choice. Much easier to find someone to be physical with than to find someone to be in an emotional relationship with. Don’t confuse the two.

If you are not interested in developing a relationship, either cut if off by the 3rd date or explain your position. It’s okay to date and ONLY date much longer especially if you are coming out of a difficult situation. If you are ready for a relationship and to start a sexual relationship, talk about it. ALWAYS ALWAYS have the disease history/sexual history talk and tests before falling into bed. The herpes statistics are startling. I heard them one day and almost fell over…you don’t need to contract or give an STD and avoiding casual or too early sex will help you avoid this. It’s important that everyone become more responsible to this end.

Some people do not think that 4 dates is enough time and it’s probably not. If you are interested in taking it slower than that, GOOD FOR YOU! Let someone know that and don’t be pressured into being physical before you are ready. If someone is pressuring you, let them go. It’s not necessary to continue on with someone who is not respecting you and your wishes.

For a first date, the less physicality, the better. It makes putting on the brakes a lot easier.

9. If you’re going to have a second date, take a few days to do so. Also if you’re calling each other and emailing or texting, take a break. It’s HEADY when a first date goes well but resist the urge to fall right into “relationship” mode. Take time for you. Take time for your friends and family. Unplug sometimes. Be unavailable sometimes. Although it feels WONDERFUL when things are new and going well, try to pull back because keeping your feet on the ground will help you enormously.

10. If you go on a few dates and talk about former relationships, listen to how your date talks about ex’s. If every one did them wrong, if every one of them was at fault and your date was always WRONGED, then something is wrong. Listen closely. Do you want to be with the person who was always wronged? Try to figure out if this person takes responsibility for anything. You want to steer clear of anyone who doesn’t.

11. Constantly affirm for yourself that you are okay NO MATTER WHAT. You ARE okay even if dating makes you think of your ex it is ONLY because you were comfortable together and you don’t KNOW this new person yet. It DOES NOT mean that you still love the ex or that you should try to get back together. It is probably residual grief because it signals you are moving on and it’s meaningless. Don’t put any stock into “after first date with a new person” feelings. They’re just stupid.

12. Keep observing yourself and what is going on every step of the way. It’s very very tempting to fall into the new feelings if things are going well. It’s also tempting to feel down if dating is not going well. Dating is a very warped mirror of your life. It’s very un-real. Stay in reality and keep observing YOU and what is going on for you.

Similarly, if this person doesn’t like you as much as you like them, don’t take their opinion about you to heart. YOU KNOW YOU’RE WONDERFUL (and if you don’t, you should). If that person cannot SEE it, they are obviously NOT for YOU.

The person who will be THE ONE for you will know, OUT OF THE GATE, that you are the GREATEST.

You don’t want to have to convince someone that you’re great. You want them to know. Sometimes people who reject you first are really just bullets you’ve managed to dodge. Thank your lucky stars that you don’t have this mediocre person in your life. DON’T take it PERSONALLY. It’s not YOU.

13. Keep yourself safe. Safety is more important than being polite. If you start to think this person is a creep or bad news, bail early. Just excuse yourself and go (or don’t excuse yourself, just slip out a side door). Similarly, don’t give new people your home phone number or address. Meet in public places where there are other people. This is not to scare you, but to remind you. Stay safe.

And to repeat number one: HAVE FUN WITH IT and if that is not possible, HAVE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE that will help you in the future.

This entry was posted in breakup, dating, GPYB3, relationship and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Healthy Dating after the Big Breakup

  1. rose1angel says:

    Thanks for this post Susan: I am at the point of at least thinking about dating and considering having a healthy and mature loving relationship (which would be novel for me as I can’t say I’ve had the experience, despite being with someone for decades). I can envision falling into many of the traps you describe (going straight from dating to relationship) and you give some really clear suggestions as to how to take it slow and thoughtful in the process.

    Alas, I am so out of practice in meeting appropriate, single, interesting people who might be interested in dating, and it seems that finding them and not scaring them off are the two big obstacles. Because of course I feel like I am such a bad bet, having stuck it out for so long in a bad relationship, and missing the basic skills. I am doing pretty well at developing a new community and network of friends for myself in my new city after 2 years of general hunkering down and doing my griefwork and figuring out my job, and meet people but not sure where the single/potentially interested people might be. Online dating has been suggested to me by friends, as most people there are actually looking to find someone, but it just isn’t my style (ha, I have no style, I haven’t been on a date in 30 years). There is a big outdoors activity organization in my area with regular singles activities, but evidently most of the meetups are all female and they complain about the paucity of single men all outing. Maybe I’m just supposed to work on building my single life and being happy on my own for awhile longer, but I am beginning to miss making a home with someone, and think that post BH and new, improved me, that there is the potential for having a healthy relationship with someone and learning how to be happy. Which does put me in that scary desperate picking out the china point of view, which I completely get is cart before the horse.

    Do you think there is a difference in attitudes about dating in midlife (that if you don’t get serious right away, you are a confirmed single person and shouldn’t be leading nice people on by dating them?) vs dating in your 20s or 30s? A colleague who found his new mate via online dating (and went from a few dates to the china pattern stage, instant true love) looked scandalized when I said I am interested in starting to date but not quite ready to get into a serious relationship again. Aren’t there “nice” single, dating people who get that there is a mid-ground between going through dates like tissues and doing the instant commitment thing? Ooh, boy, I am so confused and nervous about this.

  2. manapink says:

    This is great Susan! Thank you! I will be book marking it for sure 🙂

  3. anniemae says:

    “Your personal information is PRECIOUS. Guard it and share it slowly.”

    This is the best information…all too often we give TMI too early. That’s what my ex did and it totally started our relationship off on the wrong foot. Slow and steady wins the race! Not vomiting out the past over dinner within the first hour of the first date. I’ve been guilty of this…

    Also, with talking about exes…I cannot stress ENOUGH about keeping mum about the ex during the early stages of dating. I was talking with a guy (I wasn’t interested at the time…but we were friends) and when he started to become interested in me, ALL he did was berate his ex-wife and talk about his past relationship. Even if I had been interested, it was A HUGE TURN OFF.

    Which leads me to my last point…I try to do what I expect and would welcome myself from the other person. Meaning, no ex talking, no grumbling about past relationships, no TMI (I don’t need to know every little detail about someone else, and that goes ditto for me with them)…etc.

    If it turns me off hearing about it, then I don’t want to propagate that to someone else…

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