If you've been in a committed relationship, whether it was for months or for years, you know that breaking up is hard to do. For some, the official ending of the relationship is something they expected for quite a long time, and when it happens, they experience a sense of freedom and relief. Others are blindsided by the relationships end and experience more difficulty trying to cope. And when we have a broken heart, friends and family are quick to offer support and advice on how to heal. Caution: there are no immediate fixes for a broken heart!
You've heard the phrase, "If you want to get over someone, you've got to get under someone new?" Yeah, that's a bad idea! While dating again can be exciting and offer some temporary distraction from your grief, beginning too soon may set yourself up for more disappointment. And too many disappointing experiences will cause you to doubt the possibility of finding viable and better alternatives and keep you stuck on your last relationship. That's why it's critical to know when it's too early to think about someone new. Here are six signs you should put the brakes on dating.
1) Communicating, Negotiating and Denial
The ending of a relationship means that two people who shared so much together must now untangle and separate so many parts of their lives. As you might expect, it's almost impossible for this to happen without a transitional period. Often, you have property to be exchanged and moved, as well as other loose ends needing to be tied up. These issues will require communicating with your ex-partner to accomplish the tasks of separating. Sometimes, these communications include negotiation and re-evaluation to confirm a separation is what you both want. This is also the time couples make another attempt at making a relationship work. If you are in this denial stage and still consider getting back with your ex-partner, dating a new person isn't something you should be doing.
2) Ruminating About Your Ex?
Psychologists define ruminating as passive and repeated focusing and thinking about a situation, its causes and its consequences. Ruminating is finding yourself caught in a loop, replaying memories and past conversations, or fantasizing about what you might say to your ex. If you catch yourself doing this, you haven't recovered enough to consider dating.
3) Anger and Guilt
Anger is the second stage after denial in the grief and loss process. We experience anger or guilt after our denial of the loss wanes and the pain of the breakup re-emerges. For most people, anger is directed at their ex-partner or at the circumstances that led to the breakup. For example, if your relationship ended because of infidelity, you might be angry with your ex-partner for cheating and angry with the other person for being a "home-wrecker." Or, if you were in a relationship with a person who was abusive, you might be angry with yourself for getting involved.
On the other side of anger, newly single people experience a tremendous amount of guilt and blame for the relationship ending. This is true for those partners who are guilty of engaging in outside affairs, cheating, or emotional or physical abuse. Knowing they are most at fault for the relationship ending, they may frantically attempt to undo the damage or "make up" for what they have done and recover the relationship. When their efforts are re-buffed, they experience the most trouble recovering from the loss. If this sounds like you, avoid single's events for a while.
4) Hunting and Haunting
When a former couple gets past the negotiation stage and all communication has stopped, many single people find they are engaging in what I call "hunting and haunting." Hunting involves going to places where there is a high probability of running into an ex-partner. This might include frequenting restaurants, bars and nightclubs that otherwise haven't been part of your stomping grounds. In doing so, the Hunter fantasizes that their ex-partner will have a sudden and dramatic change of heart after a "coincidental" meeting. The "coincidental" meeting is awkward at best, and might even look desperate. Haunting refers to stalking behaviors like driving by the ex-partner's home or monitoring their social media sites hoping to see that nothing in their life has changed.
Hunting and haunting is detrimental to your recovery for several reasons. First, it requires you to spend considerable time and energy thinking about your ex-partner and what they might be doing. And when you find evidence that your ex-partner might have moved on, you'll make unfavorable comparisons to your life and ruminate about your loss. Too often, the information you learn is incomplete, and you become more curious. Again, the focus is on your ex, instead of focusing on things you could do to speed up your recovery.
5) Desperation Dating
Sure, rebounding can help take the focus off of your ex-partner and provide a needed boost in self-esteem. But accepting an undesirable but available new partner could be even worse. If you are feeling desperate and you're uncomfortable with being single, then you are not ready to begin a relationship with anyone but yourself.
6) Making Comparisons
Dating too soon can also result in unfavorably comparing your new friend to your ex-partner, feeling disappointed, and result in an emotional set-back for you. That is, when you start to believe that no one can compare to your ex, your outlook for future relationships begins to look bleak. But disappointment isn't the only consequence! If your last relationship was unhealthy and problematic, you might make comparisons that idealize a potential date, because they seem to have the opposite qualities of your ex. While tempting, the fact you are even making such comparisons is a sign that it's still too soon.
The lesson here is a simple one: Dating again before healing from your last relationship isn't a cure for your broken heart. Remember, a breakup is a transitional period and should be a time for self-reflection and healing, not beginning a new relationship.