Healing a broken heart is one of the most difficult and painful experiences in life. Often times after a soul-crushing breakup you’re left emotionally numb. When you’re binging on Ben and Jerry’s and obsessing about your ex, meeting someone new may be the last thing on your mind. But, dating can actually be a healthy coping skill to help ward off the depression and social isolation that comes with heartbreak, and curb harmful behaviors such as self-medication and emotional eating.
The amount of time between your breakup and putting yourself back out there is unique to each individual. If you were the one to initiate the breakup or you had serious doubts about your partner, then you’re likely more emotionally available to date than if you were taken by surprise or believed the guy who just dumped you was “The One.”
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be one hundred percent healed to enter into another relationship. It can be hard to give the new guy a fair shot when you’re hung up on your ex, but on the flip side, falling in love again can be exactly what you need to close the door and move forward.
In order to do this in a healthy way, here are four essential ways to bounce back to a happy dating life:
1. Reflect on your love lessons learned
After your break up, ask yourself the following questions:
- What did/didn’t you like about yourself
- What did/didn’t you like about your partner
- What are you willing to compromise on in the future?
- What are your non-negotiables (qualities, values or behaviors that prevent you from having a satisfying relationship)?
It’s also key to spend some introspective time getting clear on your core values since the way to create a successful, long-term relationship is to align these preferences and beliefs with another’s. Consider some of these core values:
- What is your work/life balance
- Do you want children and what are your child rearing expectations?
- How do you spend and save money?
- Are you religious or spiritual?
- What are your sexual beliefs and preferences?
Other types of values are less obvious. For example, how much energy do you have to go out and explore on a daily basis? Do you envision yourself with a couch potato or the energizer bunny? On a scale of 1-10, how much time do you like to be alone versus spending with your partner? What are your preferred love languages—the ways in which you like to give and receive love?
After each date or relationship, you want to collect as much dating data as possible so that you can analyze this information and have a clear sense of what makes the perfect partner for you. Ultimately the strongest partners will align with your core values, lifestyle, personality, and life goals. When you reflect on your love lessons learned, you can become a smarter, more intentional dater moving forward.
2. Create a strong support network
Rejection is one of the greatest pains in life because we depend on support and a sense of belonging to survive. Our species has evolved to be in close, intimate relationships. So when we are rejected we feel alone, unvalued, unprotected and that we do not matter.
If your self-worth is tied to your ex, then this feeling of rejection is the crux of the pain. Your entire sense of being and self-worth is wrapped up in that relationship from which you’ve just been rejected. That’s why having a strong support network is essential to getting through rejection because it’s full of people who can show you that you still matter, that you’re cared about, and that you’re loveable.
3. Have a positive sense of self
Having a strong sense of self, which may have been lost or muddied in your last relationship, is essential to creating a love that lasts. I’m not saying that you can’t find someone to love you if you don’t know who you are, or don’t like yourself. Anyone can find a relationship if they really want one. It’s easy to fall into something, but it might be co-dependent, superficial and self-serving. To cultivate a healthy, fulfilling relationship where both partners feel at their best begins when you put in the effort to be your best self.
You don’t have to go and love every single thing about yourself. We are a constant work in progress. But it’s about being confident, self-assured and proud of who you are. This positive esteem will attract someone who views you in a similar way. And when you truly like who you are, you won’t accept or settle for someone who sees you as anything less.
4. Stop trying to create a Frankenboyfriend
When you begin dating, you will likely start by comparing every new person you meet to you ex. Comparison is normal, but it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll find or create a Frankenboyfriend who has all of the desirable qualities your ex was lacking pieced together with the parts that you cherished about him the most. This naive goal prevents you from truly accepting someone new.
You must take off the rose colored glasses that see your ex as flawless. Of course there were great things about him, otherwise you would not have dated him. But I’m using the word dated—past tense because it didn’t work out. There are likely a few, if not many, things that you wish you could have changed about your ex, so take him off that pedestal.
Every person you date in the future is going to bring something new to the table. If you are expecting the exact same things that used to be on the table in your old relationship, then you’re likely missing out on something better for you. Remember, your ex is your ex because something was missing.
So, when you get back on the market, don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking you have to jump into something serious. Dating can be a fun, casual distraction to your heartache, and you may just surprise yourself how much better and more confident you feel mingling with new people and learning what else is out there. Just be mindful that if you’re pessimistic, negative and comparing every date to your ex, it’s not going to be a pleasant experience.
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