Maybe your last relationship was a few months ago now and you’re pretty sure you’ve done all the healing and moving on you need to do. However, you’re still not sure if you’re ready to start seeing people again. If you’re thinking about breaking your dating hiatus but you’re still a little bit apprehensive about taking the plunge back into the dating pool, here’s how to know you’re ready to start dating again and how to get back out there.
How to tell you’re ready to start dating again
- You’ve waved goodbye to the bitter train. When you look back on your relationships, especially the ones that ended with you getting your heart broken, are you able to step back from the past drama, forgive and forget? If you’re no longer seeing your exes as proof of why all men are a-holes, then you might be ready to give it another go.
- You’re comfortable being by yourself. Taking a break from relationships is one of the most empowering things you can do after having a string of bad relationship luck to prove to yourself that you don’t need anyone to make you happy. If you’re looking at dating as an opportunity to socialize with new people and less as a way to find someone to fill in gaps in your life, then it’s time for you to go out there and have fun!
- You’ve refined your expectations about dating and guys. Gone are the long lists of the qualities Mr. Perfect should have, and in its place is a reasonable checklist of what Mr. Right For You should bring to the table. It’s not lowering your standards, it’s refining them.
- You’re ready to date guys who fall outside your “type.” Another sign that you may be ready is broadening your ‘type’ of guy. If you’re ready to look at potential dating partners who go beyond the types you’re usually attracted to, then you’ve matured enough to know that opening up your horizons betters your chances of finding someone real.
- You still believe in love. When your heart gets broken, it’s easy to get cynical about dating, but if you still believe in your heart of hearts that there are a lot of great guys out there you just haven’t met yet, then by all means — get out there, find them and don’t forget to have fun!
- You’re completely over your ex. “No one is ready to successfully date again unless they have sufficiently healed from their prior heartbreak,” says clinical psychologist Randi Gunther. If you can’t remember the last time you looked at your ex’s Instagram or pined longingly for him while you cried at a rom-com, then you’re actually finally over him! Welcome to the other side! Figuring out how to start dating again starts with knowing you’ve completely moved on from your ex.
- You’ve learned and grown from your past relationships. A sign that you’ve matured since your last relationship is having the ability to acknowledge the role you played in why it failed instead of putting the blame entirely on your ex (even if he probably deserves it). You know that the lessons you learn from the past can help you find a better relationship in the future, and you’re putting them into practice, which goes a long way in how you proceed when you’re ready to start dating again.
- You’re confident in who you are (most of the time). You don’t have to strut out every day like Beyonce, but if you’re comfortable in your own skin and know who you are as a person, it can make dating a whole lot smoother. Confidence helps you avoid drama and see toxic people from a mile away so that you can avoid them altogether.
- You’ve taken down your walls. You see potential dates as individuals with their own set of personality traits rather than making easy sweeping generalizations that “all men are (insert negative stereotype here).” You’re definitely ready if the possibility of making a connection with someone is something you look forward to rather than shrink away from. Willingness to be vulnerable is a must if you’re looking for a real relationship.
- You have grown-up relationship goals. You know that romance isn’t just about over-the-top romantic gestures of flowers and fancy dinners. You want someone who can muck through the daily ups and downs of life with you — someone who knows when to grab a Snickers bar at the gas station on their way home because you’ve had a long day and it’ll make you feel better.
- You’re ready and willing to compromise. Relationships are never about just one person, so before you’re ready to date again, you’ll want to make sure you’re in a place where you’re happy to give just as much as you get. “Partners understand that on different days and at different times, they each have different needs. In a particular situation, the give/take ratio could be 70/30, but over time, the average should be closer to 50/50, where each partner is feeling heard and having his or her needs met,” says psychologist Renée A. Cohen, Ph.D. Before you figure out how to start dating again, you need to make sure you’re actually in a good place for it.
- You’re actually excited to get back out there and meet someone. When you’re trying to figure out how to start dating again, you should recognize that as a major sign that you’re finally ready. It’s probably been a long time since you felt excited about the prospect of meeting someone new, so the fact that you’re finally starting to feel like that is a very good thing indeed.
How to start dating again when you’re ready
- Look for someone to complement you, not complete you. It goes without saying that you can’t rely on anyone else to fulfill your every need. You’re only in a healthy place for love when you’re a whole person on your own. As therapist and member of the media advisory group at Hope for Depression Research Foundation, Victoria Goldenberg, told Insider: “A person shouldn’t be in a relationship looking for happiness. You are the creator of your own happiness in life, and a relationship should supplement it.” Do the necessary work on yourself, and then you’re ready to get back out there.
- Start slow. It might be tempted to go full-steam ahead when it comes to finding love, but that’s a recipe for disaster. You need to pace yourself so that you don’t burn out too quickly. Keep dates light and casual to get a feel for the other person and ensure there’s not too much pressure on the situation. “I suggest my clients start off slow, going for a drink or coffee date that lasts no longer than an hour or two. If weather permits, a picnic or bike ride could be a great way to get the chemistry going,” advises relationship therapist Charisse Cooke.
- Be clear about what you want. When figuring out how to start dating again, it’s important to recognize that you’re starting with a clean slate. That gives you the freedom to redefine what you want from relationships and how they go. Figure out your deal-breakers and learn to differentiate between your wants and needs so that you have a better chance for relationship success. If you start seeing someone who crosses your boundaries or doesn’t meet your standards, cut things off rather than overlooking red flags. When you start dating again, knowing how to walk away from bad situations early will serve you well in the long term.
- Be open to meeting people in a variety of ways. You may think that dating apps are the only way to find love, but that’s not necessarily true. Figuring out how to start dating again means broadening your horizons. It’s possible to find love in a variety of places, from your book club to the gym to the grocery store. While you don’t have to aggressively search out people to date, be open to finding those people should they come along in the most unexpected of places.
- Enjoy the ride. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t put too much thought into how to start dating again or into the act of dating itself. It should be an enjoyable experience, not one you have to stress about constantly. And hey, if you happen to go out with someone and it doesn’t work out, that’s cool — that doesn’t mean it’s a total loss. “Even if it ends up not being a romantic or love connection, perhaps you will meet a new buddy,” relationship expert Tammy Shaklee points out.