By almost all accounts, dating after a breakup is unnerving. Brutal by some accounts. For many women, particularly married women, they believed the burden of dating was behind them. We can’t even guess how many of our clients have focused their therapy sessions on the challenges of dating after a breakup or divorce. While some challenges are different for those who were married for decades compared to those who had a brief, intense relationship, many of the stumbling blocks are the same. We’ve pooled our clinical experience to highlight guidelines, née rules, for dating after a breakup.
Misrepresenting yourself might get you a date, but it won’t lead to a healthy relationship.
- Do not talk about your ex. We repeat, do not talk about your ex. We have seen men and women on our couches expressing exhaustion at listening to date after date talk about how awful their ex was. While that might sound better than hearing about how wonderful their ex was, it’s a huge turn off. If you cannot refrain from talking about your ex on dates, you’re not ready to date. Period.
2. Do not override a gut reaction for the sake of being pleasant. Our bodies provide us with a warning bell for a reason. If you’re getting a strong sense of disconnect or feeling unsafe, it’s time to end the date. It doesn’t matter if your date seems angry, hurt, or shocked. You don’t need to give a long explanation or make your date feel better about your exit. All you need to say is a simple, “I’m not feeling well. I’m going to take myself home.” You arrived at your first date separately, correct? If not, you’re going to have to read a primer on remedial dating.
3. Never forget: You are not desperate. Turning yourself inside out to make a bad relationship work is unfair to you and unfair to your partner. It’s a recipe for future unhappiness. Desperate people stay in bad relationships, but you are not desperate. If it’s not working after a few dates, it’s time to end it.
4. Misrepresenting yourself might get you a date, but it won’t lead to a healthy relationship. That goes for online dating photos, descriptions of your kids’ accomplishments, and the prestige of your job. Who has the energy to maintain a false front?
5. Give yourself space for awkwardness. Dating is awkward at 15, 30, 45, and 60. Give yourself the grace to make mistakes and keep moving. Focusing on tomato sauce on your cheek or a story that goes nowhere is a waste of time and energy. If your date rejects you for being human, it’s a gift.
6. Remember, dating is supposed to be fun. Yes, fun. If it’s not, what’s the point?