How To Date After A Long-Term Relationship Ends

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
When the first season of Master of None ended, Dev and Rachel had broken up. The breakup was a bummer because you watched a brutally relatable couple find their relationship groove, only to part ways for seemingly no reason other than the conciliatory: It just didn't work out. In the show's second season, Dev peaces out to Italy for some eat-pray-love time, and when he returns to New York City, he starts dating again — like, a lot.
Dev takes advantage of a dating app (which looks like Tinder and involves swiping and matching), and goes on a string of first dates. He uses the same exact line on every woman he matches with, and brings each date to the same exact wine bar. It seems to work, but none of the dates amount to anything beyond a one-night stand, perhaps because Dev is still hung up on his ex.
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Dating after a long-term, relatively successful relationship is tough on your emotions, even if you are anxious to "get back out there." You have to put your training wheels back on, but the terrain is completely different than you remember it. And so are you, in theory. If you're fresh out of a relationship (like Dev) and don't know when, if, or how you should start dating again, here are some tips from Andrea Bonior, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and relationship expert.
Wait until you're ready.
Many people decide they're going to start dating immediately after a breakup in order to deal with their sadness, Dr. Bonior says. Lots of well-meaning friends might also coax you into going out with other single people or downloading a bunch of dating apps right away. That definitely works as a distraction, but it won't necessarily lead you to another fulfilling relationship. "You're having a knee-jerk reaction to your sadness and not wanting to be alone," she says. You owe it to yourself to have some alone time, according to Dr. Bonior.
As difficult as it is when you're fresh out of a partnership, spending time alone can allow you to reassess what you want and need from a partner, she says. "You have to process your grieving, so you can understand what went wrong, and do the self-care that you need," she says. For Dev, that meant going to Italy to learn how to make pasta. That's easier said than done, and not everyone can just get over a breakup so easily (and so luxuriously), particularly if it was a serious relationship. When you feel like you have a clear-headed grasp on your motivations and needs (even if they are to just make more pasta), that's usually a sign that you're ready to start dating again, she says.
Be honest with your new dates — sort of.
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When you have dating apps, you can get away with going on a first date with a different person every night, and it can turn into a sport. Dr. Bonior refers to this coping mechanism as "mask and distract," because the motivation is just to get your mind off of your ex, rather than actually putting effort into finding someone you like.
Doing this doesn't just hurt you — it's also pretty unfair to the people you're dating. "You don't want to be out there with no intent other than to get your ex off your mind," she says. "The reality is, other people are looking for something serious, and they're not going to get it with you." This doesn't mean you have to go into detail with these people about your past, but you should at least mention if you aren't looking for something serious at the moment. "[Your past] should come up organically, and once it feels like you're withholding something, it's time to disclose," Dr. Bonior says.
Spend time with people who care about you.
When you have a partner for a long time, you get used to doing mundane things with another person — like going to the gym, cooking meals, or attending work events. Then, once you break up, you have to figure out how to do these boring things alone. "Logistically, it feels strange, and you want to fill that hole," Dr. Bonior says.
According to Dr. Bonior, there is a temptation for some people to just try to "replace" the partner that they had before. "They're looking for a facsimile or just the exact opposite of their partner," she says. Even if you find someone who's happy to act like a pseudo-partner at first, expecting them to be just like your former partner is going to result in "undue expectations" for that person, Dr. Bonior says. "You have a lot of swirling feelings during this time, so it's usually more of a reaction to that than an actual connection with someone who works for you," she says.
After a breakup is the perfect time to reconnect with friends who you know fill you up, though. If your ex's friend group merged with yours, it can be complicated, she says. "[Someone] might be worried that they don't have friends anymore now because of the breakup," she says. But you definitely do still have friends, and hanging out with those people who you know can cheer you up — or who will go to Italy with you to eat more pasta — is definitely a good idea.
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