Whether your last relationship ended through divorce or bereavement there needs to be a period of mourning the loss before you re-enter the dating scene. How long this period needs to be will vary from person to person and will depend very much upon factors like how long they were with their previous partner; the reasons the relationship ended as well as many other factors. As there is no blueprint that fits everyone we have put together 5 questions to help you determine for yourself whether you are ready.
1. Have you let go?
This is the first and most important question. Before there can be room for a new relationship you need to have let go of the past. If you have been bereaved then it is a case of allowing yourself enough time to grieve and to fully let go of the person that you loved. Grief can take different lengths of time for different people. According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross there are five stages in the grief process – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance – people go through them in different ways and not everyone will experience them all. The one you need to have reached before you begin dating again is acceptance. Letting go of a loved one who has died doesn’t mean erasing every trace of them from your life, it means coming to accept that they have gone and are never coming back. Once you have fully accepted your loss you will be able to live a full and happy life with someone else without it feeling like a betrayal of your loved one’s memory.
If you have been divorced or separated there may be more work to do around letting go especially if the separation was the result of a betrayal of your trust. You may have been unhappy for many years before it eventually ended and that too will take some work to come to terms with. If you have been hurt, or your trust betrayed, it can feel as though letting it go is like opening the door to someone else who may hurt you again. Holding onto bitterness and resentment will keep you stuck in the pain. Some people find it hard to let go because they fear that they will be condoning what the other person did to them but actually the best thing you can do to get even with someone who has hurt you is to let it go and allow yourself to be happy despite what they did to you – remember the Gloria Gaynor song ‘I will survive’?
2. Are you doing it for the right reasons?
The only right reason to want to start dating again is because you are ready to open your heart and let love in. Lots of people start dating because they want to avoid their feelings, get back at someone else or to find a quick fix to their life problems but sooner or later whatever they are running from catches up with them. Relationships are about sharing your life and growing together through intimacy not an anaesthetic to numb the pain of the past. No-one can fix you except you.
3. Have you recovered your sense of self?
Coming out of a long term relationship can leave you feeling like you don’t know who you are any more because you have spent so long being a part of a couple. Do you know yourself? What do you like to eat? If you didn’t have to consider anyone else what kind of things would you like to do? These are important questions to answer if you want to avoid getting into another relationship where you lose yourself again. Having a strong sense of self means that when you do meet someone you won’t cling to them because you have no idea who you are on your own.
4. Do you know what you want?
This is another important question and the eHarmony process will help you to clarify this. When you are thinking about this question try to be really concrete and use your past relationships as rich source material to help you identify what you do and don’t want in a future relationship.
5. Have you got time?
It may sound like a silly question but actually in order to get the very best from the online dating experience you need to have some time to devote to it – to browse profiles, answer messages, chat online and to go on dates.