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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.