When Do You Begin Dating Again After a Long-Term Relationship or Marriage?

Evan,

What are your thoughts of this “timing issue” following a long term marriage, as in when to begin dating again?

Eliza

Dear Eliza,

Sorry to say, but there’s not really a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Consider the number of variables involved in answering:

Are there children involved?

Was the divorce amicable and are both parties on good terms?

Are you actively involved in each others’ lives as “friends”?

Do you still want to get back together with your ex? Does he still want to get back together with you?

How long were you married?

How long was the relationship failing before you broke up?

You see how all of these things can radically impact your decision as to when to get back out there? And I don’t know the first thing about you or your individual circumstances.

But I thought it was an important question, which is why I want to analyze it with you.

The only “right” answer is “whenever it feels right, as long as you’re not hurting anybody else.” The thing is: you might be surprised when you’re hurting someone else. Especially since it’s not your intention.

The best example I can provide is from my own life. Had a girlfriend whom I loved. She dumped me pretty suddenly. I was devastated. But what could I do? I couldn’t convince her to take me back, so I did what I do best – I went back online – literally MINUTES after I returned home from the teary breakup.

Now, in some respects, this made sense, in that I wasn’t going wallow in misery and think about what I did wrong or how I could fix things. I made the conscious decision to move on instantly. To me, it was the equivalent of being fired from a job. You don’t sit around for six months waiting to heal. You go out and get another job. On the other hand, there are a completely different set of emotions surrounding a break-up. And while I WANTED to be ready to date, and definitely had the online dating skill set to be ready to date, I was not emotionally ready to date. Not at all. So what did that mean for me?

Well, it pretty much meant that I got back on JDate, found myself a cool girl a few hours later and was hooking up with her shortly thereafter. She was great. Three years later, we’re still friends and grab dinner once a month. But I never gave her the opportunity she deserved to have all of me. I was raw. I was closed. I was needy. I was in no position to be a boyfriend to anyone but my beloved ex-girlfriend. And it was completely unfair to her. My need to move on superseded her need to be with an emotionally available guy….

This pattern, by the way, continued for a few months (and a few more women), until I was truly and finally “over” my ex.

So that’s where I land. You need to be “over” someone in order to be able to date. If you are, you have something to GIVE. When you’re reeling from a break-up, all you can do is RECEIVE. And that’s pretty much the definition of selfish.

I remember reading once upon a time that people need half the length of the relationship to heal properly. If you were together for two years, you need one year of healing. I can’t believe that it’s true. I’d probably say it’s closer to one-tenth of the time. My Mom was widowed after 30 years and it took her about 3 years to be ready to date again. It would have been a shame if she truly had to wait 15 years, right?

Ultimately, the final arbiter is you. Are you being fair to your ex? Are you being fair to your kids? Are you being fair to your dates? And are you being fair to yourself?

If so – if you’ve mourned, if you’ve healed, if you’ve made peace – then you’re ready whenever you say you’re ready.

3
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  2. 2
    jacinta

    Great blog Evan, I think you are right, you might feel like you want to be in someone elses company, but it´s just not fair on the other person. At the moment I am kind of in that position (on the recieving end) and I am treading carefully and so is the guy, since his 4 year rel ended over xmas, and he is just putting the pieces back together. He told me he wanted only something casual, and so we kind of decided to go our seperate ways, but the problem is that we do like each other, so I kind of threw out there “if u want we can hang out as friends” but whether that is realistic (and whether he is interested in that at all) is another story. For me something casual would be painful, cause its kind of a false distance that you have to know how to manage and maintain. And really, i dont want to sleep with someone, but not be able to call them to talk about our day. Either way, I have decided to back off somewhat and see how things play out.

  3. 3
    Lily

    I have been recovering from an 8 year relationship for the past year and a half. It ended abruptly, and was not my choice. I was blindsided, and very very hurt by the breakup. I thought he was THE ONE. Obviously, he did not. To add insult to injury, a few days later he was in a new relationship with a woman we had known from church. The night he broke us up I asked him if there was someone else, thinking that was the reason he was dumping me, to be with someone else. He lied and said no. Obviously he had her waiting in the wings.We live in a small town, an now he shows up at all the social events we used to attend together with her. It is humiliating. The worst thing is getting over the FANTASY of what I thought my boyfriend and I had- I thought we had a fantastic relationship, great chemistry, amazing compatibility, we really enjoyed each other’s company and created a wonderful life together. I was shocked he wanted it to end. So to answer the question, for me it has taken almost 2 years to recover. I am still not entirely out of the woods yet, had to figure out what I did wrong so I do not repeat history. The main thing I realized is that I need to pay attention to his actions. If after 2 years he has not made a concrete commitment to me, a proposal, living together, etc, i need to walk away because it means he prefers to keep his options open rather than ensure I am his. A VERY HARD LESSON TO LEARN. And obviously our communication SUCKED otherwise I would not have been blindsided but would have seen it coming…
     

  4. 4
    Erica

    I have known my husband for 16 years been together for 14 and married for 10, he told me that he has not been happy for 5 years and left me and our 3 kids aged 11,8 2 for an 18 year old girl. We have only been separated for a month and they are already living together and making plans for their future, I have been told that he was cheating on me with this girl for months since April 2012 he left me on September 2, 2012. We had our 10 year wedding anniversary on August 31st and I found 2 pictures of them kissing on her camera. My husband just turned 36 this is a little soon for him to be moving on , he asked me last November to marry him again and then this fluzzy comes into our lives pretending to be our friend only to steal him away.

  5. 5
    Maria

    My husband of almost nine years left me for a 53 year od woman when I was 41.  That was last year.  For those of you who believe in Karma, please don’t, stop.  They are perfectly happy, while I am alone, and picking up the pieces and nowwhere near recovery.  I haven’t even met anybody.  So there you have it.

  6. 6
    susan

    i think someone can get involved, even fall in love, with someone else and not even realise they are over their ex, as happened with my recently departed partner. the reality is he thought he was ready to love again, and I certainly believed he was, but when one day he decided he just ”wasn’t feeling it” with me, it brought up all the unresolved stuff with his ex wife of 20 years that he had been separated from for just on a year when we met.
    it has been devastating and i can only hope he doesn’t race out and replace ”the feelings” of being in love with yet someone else. i firmly believe we had all the makings of a solid long term relationship but in the end, he just wasn’t ready to do it.
    I had spent 5 years working on ME and was ready, so that just makes it all the more painful, which also relates to another blog of EMKs that talks about the stages of love. if you are hooked on the in love feeling (which we all know can come and go) and aren’t ready to move to loving (as contrast with being IN LOVE) you are not ready for an  LTR

  7. 7
    marymary

    Maria
    I don’t believe in karma, I do believe that shite happens to good people for no reason,and there isn’t always justice. 
    My experience is that it can typically two years to get over a big loss or bereavement.  A friend of mine whose twin sister died said the same. You’re halfway there.  
     

  8. 8
    Melynda

    To be honest you’ll never know what’s going on behind the scenes.. I’ve been with my kids dad for 7years. The last 2years has been on & off.. He started dating his co worker behind my back. Once I found out about their affair, we’ll break up & make up until I got pregnant again.. His co worker and him have an understand, they pretend to be friends. But in reality their really lovers.. Its best to allow God to bless you with someone He ordains/intended for you. the signs will show before your in too deep.. Trust & believe in God!!!

  9. 9
    Debbie

    10 year relationship. Hes moved on. He was already living with someone less than a month afterwards. Its only been 2 months. And i still cry every day. Idk what to do. I feel so alone. I have men trying to talk to me but its like i dont even see them…im definitely not over my ex. But how does that happen when im still so hurt.
    I know, im a huge baby. Ugh…

  10. 10
    Bel

    Mark, thanks for writing such a candid, and clear blog about dating after a long-term relationship has ended. I needed to read this to keep myself from feeling depressed. I met a man whose marriage was ending, but we didn’t date a year later, when the divorce was going through. He confessed that he had feelings for me, but his actions showed otherwise. Yes, it seemed selfish because he had nothing to give – no time, no feelings, nothing. I decided to give him space to sort out his life, even though he didn’t want it. It left me feeling like he was simply not interested, and it felt awful. But after reading this post, I understand now.
    Thanks.

  11. 11
    MW

    Thanks Evan, for this insight. And I can recognise it myself, when I just finished a 6-year relationship. At this moment, just like Bel, I met a really nice man. We dated a couple of time and called eachother almost everyday and then I had the feeling it changed. And yes, with leading his own business, taking care of his son (5days a week) and the fact that the divorce  didnt go smooth (the fact he told his ex that he was dating..didnt make it easier..) he said that he couldnt give me what I would want at that moment. He tried, but he couldnt manage. At that time I already got feelings for him. But looking back on my own experience I also told him that I will give him space, that I am not going to wait and that we both should date further (this was very rationally and also i didnt want to be the reboundgirl..). Emotionally it’s hard sometimes (it very fresh, so  my heart and head are not on the same line;) I cannot wait for him maybe he needs 3 years.. I cannot wait for that! And if he really has those feelings.. Well then, who knows… But I really try to put the hope aside..  

  12. 12
    victoria Green

    Hi, I’m new to this sight. I’m divorced 3 years now. I haven’t really met anyone I connected with until recently. Unfortunatley he is currently going throught a tough divorce that leaves him feeling emtionally empty. I find this sad because he is the first person I felt comfortable with in a very long time. I know he has feelings for me, but he says he’s just not ready for more. So I had to call it quits. I needed more…But I miss him and think about him alot. We’re both 47. I don’t want to be alone and he has young children who take priority. So it seemed the right thing to do. He just wasn’t ready:( Even though he had been living on his own for almost a year. Him and his wife were still doing things together with the kids. to me that ment he was still holding on to that life even though they were no longer intimate. I found it a little strange.

  13. 13
    Michelle

    I am just recently talking to an old friend from school that is going through a divorce.  We have a little bit of history together and we really have a lot in common.  We almost dated about 2 years ago when he separated but I pulled back and convinced him that he should go home and give it is all and try to work things out.  He did and now he is filing for divorce.  We have been talking about “dating” once this is past him.  I have never dated anyone that is in transition and I myself have been single for almost 5 years (my husband passed away).  I haven’t been ready to date at all until now, he sparked something.  He and I do not talk much since he is going through all this and I think this is for the best.  Once he has things more settled we can figure out what we are going to do.  I find myself wanting to call or text him, I want his process to hurry!  I know I can’t and I don’t expect things to be rushed, there are children involved.  I guess the meaning of this post for me is that the more I read on relationships and getting back out there once you are divorced, I am concerned what he will really want to do.  I don’t want to waste my time and he doesn’t expect me to wait for him.  But I am finding myself wanting too, but will he be ready?  It’s a chance and I understand that but now I am just left with too many thoughts.  not sure how to approach this now. 

  14. 14
    D

    My husband of 11 years came on night out of the blue and told me that he’s done. He doesn’t love me anymore, and never accepted who I am. We have 2 children together. We never, and when I say never, I mean never had any fight. We had civilized arguments,  but we never disrespected each other.  I thought we had a good communication, I thought we were honest with each other about our feelings, at least I was. 
    I met him when I was 23 year old, he was 31. I didn’t fall in love right the way, but he won me over with his kindness. He was the perfect gentleman! He was always there for me.
    Last month,  August,  we celebrated our 11 year anniversary. He was sooo romantic,  he planned everything. Couple weeks after he came with the big news…I am done! I was in shock, and still am. I asked what happened,  he simply said that he stop love me for about a year and he never been attracted to me. Just fyi, our sex life was good. I asked him how come he had sex with me if he’s not attract to me?  He said, I have my needs, and you were there. I asked if he has somebody else,  he said no. I asked again and again getting the same answer. I couldn’t understand anything,  something was off, so I decided to check his phone,  and there it was…He was having an affair with a 23 year old bimbo. Beautiful girl! Very skinny, no stretch marks from any pregnancies,  full of life…she’s me 11 years ago. Btw, he’s 42 now,  and he’s getting bald.
    After reading his texts, I had a breakdown. I felt my whole world just ended. He destroyed everything! His beautiful family. He moved out of the house, and guess what…she doesn’t want to carry his baggage,  so he’s alone now. It’s sad to see him picking up the children, but I have my pride. He decided to move on. I’m not ready yet, but I will be! I did open an acct in one of the dating sites. I know I’m not ready to date anybody, but I was curious to see if I’m still game, if anyone finds me attractive. Can be selfish of my part, but when the person that you love comes to you and say I’m not attracted to you,  you’re not pretty…your self – esteem goes way down in the drain, and it’s good to know that are other men that find you beautiful =)

  15. 15
    Brad

    I don’t think there can ever be a hard and fast rule that always applies. In my own situation, I had been with my wife for 15 years (married for 12) with a daughter. The relationship had been deteriorating for some years and by the time I actually moved out, although there were a lot of issues that arose when we were together, I was able to have a genuine wish for her well-being and successful relationships in the future.

    Following the actual breakup, it was fantastic to be able to reconnect with old friends and work colleagues and I found that giving of the time and resources that I had to them without any expectation of getting anything back was not only deeply satisfying but also ended up leading to social invitations and opportunities to meet new people and begin to develop a new life.

    I then felt ready when 11 weeks after breaking up, I met someone that I felt a real connection with and was able to start a new relationship (despite still being technically married to someone else). So far, although we’re only a couple of months down the line, it is going from strength to strength and, to me, one of the keys is in being able to genuinely give, not just gifts but my time, service and appreciation for what she does. I was not particularly good at doing this in the previous marriage – however I don’t begrudge it for failing because at least it has highlighted where some of my faults were and, although I never seemed to be able to put them right in that relationship, the new one is a chance to get things right.

    So yes, I think half the length of the marriage is particularly excessive. Even 10% (eighteen months) seems a long time. Half a week per year of the relationship may seem quite quick, but I think that with a focus on giving love and learning from the experiences of failure, things can still work out in a very positive way.

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