Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
UPDATE: This post was originally published on March 5.
I just got out of a very long, very intense relationship about four weeks ago. While we still care deeply for each other, it had become clear that we were at different points in our lives, and that ending things was the healthiest thing for both of us. At this point, although part of me is still mourning for my relationship, I am very much ready to go out and date — not necessarily to find The One, but just to have some fun and see what else is out there. My friends think this is a very, very bad idea, and they question whether I’m dealing with my feelings in an appropriate way. I don’t feel I should have to be celibate for some arbitrary period of time if I feel like I am ready to move on. Is it okay for me to start dating?
Risha London Nathan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Holistic Health Counselor First of all, I want to commend you for leaving your relationship out of a need to do what felt best and healthiest. We’re often stuck in relationships much longer than we want (or intend to be), due to fear. It sounds like you made a decision that was serving both of you best, so congratulations on that!
The only truth about break-ups, dating, and the timing of it, is that everyone is going to have an opinion on how you should do it, when the truth is there’s no one right answer. So, tune out the white noise of well-meaning friends and trust that you know what’s right for you. If you feel you’ve taken the necessary steps to get to the place you want to be before starting to date again, go with it. The way I see it, you have options in every ending — move on or hold on. Moving on doesn’t always mean finding someone new, and holding on doesn’t always mean you stay alone. If you’re struggling to let go emotionally, and only looking to date so that you can latch onto someone else, it’s important to deal with those feelings first. Here are some things to consider and explore.
1. Are you seeking someone new because you feel you’re not ready to be alone? If so, I’d suggest spending some time embracing your solitude. It may be a special time in your life, where you get to focus on yourself without anyone else in the picture. If you’re seeking someone out only because you feel lonely, it may be important to spend some time thinking about what it means for you to be on your own. Fill your life with wonderful things that will make you even more attractive in your next relationship, if that's your goal. Cultivate a little solitude, and embrace the opportunity to grow on your own.
Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
2. Are you responding to your physical or emotional needs? Listen — you’re a grown woman and getting your groove back is a natural part of the healing process. Despite what the abstinence advocates might think, sex can actually be a great form of stress relief and confidence building. It sounds like your friends are just trying to protect you from future pain, but getting in bed doesn’t have to mean getting hurt, as long as you’re responsible and choose the right partner to reduce the risk.
3. Are you filling a void, or trying to use someone new to get over your ex? Sure, we've all heard the ridiculous saying, “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone" which was likely coined by obnoxious frat bros. Although there’s nothing wrong with it, it may cause you to be in a place of repeating patterns you don’t want to repeat. Identify the things you want in someone, and the things you want to work on in yourself, and be aware of those before you jump in with someone new. Being free from the bad habits and patterns of your last relationship is the best way to create a healthy new relationship, so take some time to figure out what lessons you learned instead of building more baggage.
More than anything, it’s important to remember that there is no wrong or right answer. There is only the path that you choose. Each choice leads you down a different path, and it’s up to you to work through whatever comes from those choices. Whatever choice you make is the right one for you to make at this time, so try not to judge it, or let others be judgmental of you. Best of luck to you!