There’s no way around it: Breaking up sucks. But whether you initiated the breakup or not, taking the time to process your separation before dating again is crucial.
“It can be tempting to jump back out there and get over a breakup by finding someone new or distracting yourself with work,” says licensed clinical psychologist Shauna Pollard, Ph.D. “However, it’s usually more helpful to think about how you ended up at the point of breaking up and whether there’s anything you’d like to do differently in future relationships.”
It may not always feel that way, but the period of time after a breakup can be an opportunity. As Pollard puts it, breaking up can often be “the fuel for personal growth.”
“During this pivotal moment, reflection can help you process what just happened and help you create a blueprint for moving forward. Take this opportunity to process your feelings and learn from your breakup,” adds relationship expert and coach Emyli Lovz, co-founder at Emlovz.com.
If you’re on the fence about putting yourself out there again, here are five important questions to ask yourself before downloading Tinder on a whim:
1. What Went Wrong?
Were you and your ex on a different page about the future? Did you argue a lot? A breakup is rarely about a single event. Think about the series of choices and circumstances that led to your separation, and whether there were fundamental issues in the dynamic of your relationship, from communication challenges to imbalances in meeting needs.
“Ask yourself what went wrong, why, and how to address these issues in your next relationship,” Lovz suggests.
And while you do want to be honest with yourself about your role in the demise of your relationship, blaming yourself can be counterproductive, says Samantha Daniels, author, dating expert and founder of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking.
“After a breakup, it’s easy to blame yourself and continually think about things you said or did and what you could have done differently. However, it’s important to realize that it takes two to tango and that a breakup is usually never just one person’s fault,” she says.
Both Lovz and Daniels agree: Assessing what happened with a bit of distance is crucial before entertaining the idea of dating again.
“You need to be able to process your breakup in an objective and realistic way before you can start dating again or else your head won’t truly be in the new dating game,” says Daniels.
“It gives you a chance to reset romantically and emotionally so you’re able to give your everything in your next relationship,” adds Lovz.
2. What Went Right?
Obsessing over how perfect your ex was is not an objective nor realistic picture of your past relationship. And neither is ranting about how they were the worst person ever. Now that you’ve taken an honest look at what went wrong, it’s time to take an equally honest look at what went right.
For example, maybe you had fundamental compatibility issues around deal breakers such as having children, or where you wanted to live. But maybe you appreciated how unconditionally accepted you felt in that relationship.
Understanding the positive and fulfilling aspects of your former relationship is key, because it allows you to look for them and create them when you start dating again.
3. What Can I Do Differently Moving Forward?
With a more balanced, holistic view of the dynamic between you and your ex, think about what you would do differently moving forward. You don’t want to repeat the same patterns with a new partner, after all.
Dr. Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D, MFT, a relationship scientist and relationship coach for HILY, the dating app, suggests asking yourself questions such as, “In what ways was I able to show up for the relationship and my partner?” and, “In what ways do I feel as if I could have contributed more to the relationship?” to reflect on the learnings you want to carry into a new relationship.
4. What Am I Looking For?
Learning what you would do differently matters, but you also need to get clear on what you’re looking for in a partner the next time you open your heart to someone new.
“What does a fulfilling relationship look like? What traits, values, or worldviews is it important for you and your partner to share?” says Cohen.
According to her, asking yourself these types of questions allows you to conceptualize what a valuable and fulfilling relationship is — and will also help you determine compatibility with future romantic prospects.
5. Am I Still Grieving?
Finally, there is one more thing you need to get very, very honest with yourself about before considering dating again. Dating apps are full of people trying to get over other people by dating new ones. If you’re still grieving your past relationship, you’d be doing yourself — and others — a disservice by starting to date.
The thing is, there are no set rules or timelines about when you’re truly over someone. Grief is an individual journey, and the way your breakup unfolded can influence how you process the loss.
“When breakups feel sudden and are unanticipated, it can lead to a longer grieving process. Often, in a breakup there will be an initiator and a partner,” says Cohen. “The initiator is able to slowly contemplate life post partnership while in the security of the relationship.”
“For the partner, they have yet to go through this process when the relationship ends,” she adds, “so it may require more time to fully experience and process the emotions associated with the breakup before being ready to date again.”
“It is important to note that each person is different, each relationship is different, and the nature of the breakup varies, so you can’t draw a generalization such as ‘wait X amount of time before pursuing a new relationship,’” adds Cohen.
According to Daniels, signs that you’re not ready to date again include comparing every new person to your ex or still feeling resentment about the breakup.
“Do you still feel bitter about the breakup? If you do, that negative energy might come out on a date which would be counterproductive. It’s important that you can go on dates with new people with a smile on your face and positive energy,” she says