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

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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.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Nicole Madlin

    Well this has been very helpful I have been in a relationship for almost 12 years minus one 6month break up where I had left due to him cheating after 6 months I had started casually dating and he decided he wanted me back I see now I should have stayed gone but we have a daughter together and I thought he would change well 3 years later he has decided he wants to leave and he has been talking to girls online and through text and it hurts just as much as him actually cheating and it’s sad that I still don’t want him to go but I know he has to I   think it will take me longer then 6 months to start dating this time as last time I was trying to show him I could move on this time I will wait until I feel confident I won’t go back to him because I don’t want to hurt anyone including myself

  2. 22
    kay

    better off on your on your own most of the time! Get a cat !

  3. 23
    Bill baran

    I was in a relationship for five years and only got to see her on the weekends!i stuck it out because she said i was the”one” but obviously i wasnt!its been 4 months and i cant got over her!she has moved on with someone else already and it kills me!i fell madly in love with her and now im the one with the broken shattered heart!i love her unconditionally and im stuck….love sucks!!

    1. 23.1
      Janelyn

      It’s totally the same of my situation. The worst part is we work together and I see him everyday it’s been 2 months already but I’m still crying over him. And we were seeing each other for almost 2yrs. But the most part I’m ok but once aweek it come back the feeling being alone and misses him. But to me things happen for a reason and time heals. Even he cheated on me I don’t hate him but I was mad at him for couple weeks but I’m still not comfortable talking to him. But I know one day everything will be fine.

    2. 23.2
      Danny

      I agree, love sucks bad! When it’s good, it’s good, when it falls apart, and you are the one left standing there on the corner with your bleeding heart in your hand and the only person that can mend your heart and place it back in your chest, is the VERY person that has left and caused you this very deep pain! We do somehow get through it, I’m just not sure how!!

       

  4. 24
    Carole

    Too funny, I agree.    I finally broke up with my boyfriend of 10 yrs.   Got tired of dating him for 10 yrs; it never went anywhere.   I think after being married for 10 yrs, then divorced, then 2 more long term relationships after that I’m happier, and way more at peace just spending time with my friends, family, and yes my CAT!   I don’t need to be in a relationship with a man anymore.   I have a couple of guys friends that I’ve known for years and men are so much more fun and enjoyable when you aren’t personally and emotionally involved with them as lovers.    Get a cat and a few friends, and you’re golden!

  5. 25
    HeatherF

    I’m “legally” married but have felt “divorced” in every sense of the word emotionally physically mentally & spiritually for years. Backstory: He moved to a completely different city in 2010 and we don’t do anything “married” & haven’t since late 2011.  We physically separated in 2010 and I dated a tiny in the summer or 2012 but didn’t feel ready. So, I took some time off & have stayed single until I felt completely healed. Which brings me to the present.  My therapist says that I’ve  mourned, healed, have made peace and am ready. This  is very financially tricky for me to divorce ATM. He’s  created such a huge financial biz $ IRS debt over $300,000, which I’m currently working very hard to pay off, so divorcing would add even more debt/finances. And I know without a doubt that we’ll never get back 2/gether and I know this bc and this is gna sound weird to some but he joined a cult. There were signs but, bc I was @ the time too hyper religious and also caught up in my own crazy fundamental mentalities, I didn’t really see them. I’ve had ALOT of support help education legal advice etc. Side note: but I didn’t give up for 5 yrs. I loved (passed tense) that man. This whole cult thing totally threw me off. This man was my BBF soulmate my 1st love. I did everything imaginable in my power to save him and this marriage even hired one of the countries top cult interventionist for 2wks but he was too far gone. So staying married or together is NOT an option now not ever. Wish it was. But divorcing ATM isn’t a great option either. I’ve been advised legally, I’ve had alot of time living alone, I’ve been in ongoing therapy (getting advice legally & personally) enough to know I’ve moved on & that I’m more than ready to have a long term bf. It really saddens me to hear a lot of your stories and I thank you for sharing them. You’re brave. However, I’m guessing that it’s not advisable to date someone like me. And the “why” (my story) of I’m separated doesn’t really get taken into account, nor the character I’ve built, the obstacles I’ve overcome, coming through PTSD, and all the lessons I’ve learned. Even tho, I know there’s no getting back together, absolutely no reconciliation happening in the future, I’m not a high quality dateable woman or should he considered for any serious long term relationship bc I’m separated. Maybe putting up a profile isn’t with it.

    1. 25.1
      Buck25

      Heather,

      Wow! That is a dilemma. On the one hand, you have come through a long and difficult   journey, and apparently have pretty much come out the other side. On the other hand, I have to tell you, that situation of your is a potential emotional (and maybe legal) minefield for a new man in your life.

      Couple of suggestions. First, there are programs that may apply in a situation like yours, where you may be able to get your (not his) tax debt to the IRS reduced; you might want to consult a tax lawyer experienced in dealing with such matters to see if they can help; Definitely worth a try. Second, reality is that you’re probably going to need to get the divorce actually behind you, however painful it is financially, before you can really move on; as long as that’s hanging over your head unresolved, it’s just going to make it very difficult to truly move on. If nothing else, the stress inherent in the situation is only going to bring you (and with it, any new relationship) down. I feel sure you are seeing this, however painful it is to admit it. However nice it might be to have someone to support you as you work through the ordeal, it’s probably not fair to either you, or a potential partner to expect to have that. I hate to tell anyone who’s gone through as much distress as you have, to bear more burdens alone, but sometimes we have to just gut it out the best we can in the darkness, to find the dawn of a new day. I know it hurts; it hurts a lot. If it matters, I battled PTSD for over forty years after I came home. The road back from darkness, whatever the cause, can be long and painful. Sometimes, it isn’t fair. Sometimes it seems impossible. Hang in there anyway. Do what you have to do. Keep putting one foot in from of the other. We are all stronger than we believe; we all can endure more than we think we can. Just know that you can eventually make it through, and however hard it is, however long it takes,   it IS worth it…because YOU are!

  6. 26
    Florence

    I am caught up in this dilemma thank God I came across this page. My baby’s dad broke up with me when i was just one month pregnant and I have been single parenting for   almost 2 years now. Our relationship had lasted for more than 6 months and everything seemed to be just fine until the day I told him we were expecting a baby. i am trying to figure out what really went wrong but cant get still get all the answers . Recently i met someone who is ready to start a relationship with me ,he is really nice but there is that something that is still holding me yet i am sick of being lonely

  7. 27
    Sdd

    I met this guy. He asked me out to lunch, and we exchanged numbers. We texted each other for about a week before we eventually went on a date to dinner. I felt that dinner went well. We had great conversation and share similar humor. Two days later we had a second date which also went well. He was thoughtful and we talked so much. During conversation he divulged that he’d been 7 months single from an 8 year relationship. After the date he went silent for nearly 9 days. At first I felt like he may have needed space. On the 9th day I received a dropped call from him. I tried to call him back but he did not answer. On day 10 he sent a text saying he had been dealing with “alot”. I asked if he wanted to hang out and talk about it. He did not respond after. On day 11 I asked of he was still interested. He responded that he was sorry, I was a great girl but he wasn’t looking for anything serious. Several days later after seeing him in passing he began texting me again and asking to go to dinner. It is obvious that he is not emotionally availible.

  8. 28
    BlingBlangGang

    It’s been about 6 months since my 2 year dating relationship ended. There were issues prior to the breakup though, concerning my passion being stronger than his coupled with him not having a desire to marry me or ever planning special/romantic dates (all things that I desired). While I knew that a breakup was imminent, I was indeed saddened and at a loss to see how easy & quickly he’d moved on emotionally; casually speaking about dating other people sometime down the road, not shedding a tear while I bawled my eyes out, getting back in contact with one of his exes while we were still living in my apartment etc.

     

    However, in spite of all of these things, the one thing that brought me strength, joy, peace, faith, optimism, humor and prosperity was my extreme faith in GOD. In the midnight hour as I lay awake , I prayed through all of the upset & disappointment. As months passed, I came to admit to myself that my past relationships were not representations of what I truly desired for myself. I am not interested in giving away my power, looking for another to make me happy, looking for a man to take care of me financially or to make me feel beautiful. I believe that these are things that every woman should provide to herself. You should never lose or submerge yourself within another; no matter if the relationship is good or bad. Its called “sharing your life” for a reason. You cannot share what you yourself do not value about yourself. It doesnt matter if a person left you for someone tall, short, rich, poor, skinny, fat, old, young etc. None of those things can dictate a healthy relationship. If a man has issues within himself, he will carry those same issues into every relationship, just because he dates someone younger doesnt mean that he is capable of making her or himself happy. Many times, the signs of dysfunction are there but go ignored. True connection takes time to build and a man that jumps into something shallow immediately following any longterm relationship is clearly looking for novelty, not deep connection as a mature & responsible healthy adult. I say all of this to say that The greatest love of all is within your love for yourself that you share with the world. Everything else is a hollow substitute. Ladies, dont ever forget to lift yourselves up and hold your heads & standards high. Travel, shop, work out, keep your hair/nails done, meet new people, pursue your passions, live life to the fullest. And then perhaps one day, youll meet a man worthy enough to earn a seat on your private plane:)

  9. 29
    Grant Harrod

    Man, thank you. This hit home. I actually just got out of a ten year relationship. The last two years were treacherous to say the least. We used to be so in love that most people could hardly stand us. I’d like to say we’re still best friends, but she still treats me badly, and sometime I her. We have been having sex, but she clearly states she has had sex with others, and wants to continue doing so. I am actually okay with it, I just ask her to be up front and honest with me. If she refuses or chooses not to, i get upset. Honesty is really the only thing I’ve asked for. I mean, I’m a dude. I get territorial, but I know she isn’t my property or my territory. She’s a beautiful human being, and we have children together. She’s been my best friend forever, so it hurts me   when she lies or omits things. I realize that in the past, I certainly perpetuated many of the things i reel from now. She stops answering my messages, and when it comes down to it, she can be down right nasty. I’m going to have to download something to stop me from what some call drunk texting, for me, more like idiot texting. I always seem to dig myself in deeper and deeper. Which is the worst habit I seemingly ever picked up. That is coming from a heroin and meth addict in recovery, so that should say a lot. Nevertheless, I seem to find myself at peace, and although I still have plenty of healing to do, I think I’m ready to move on. I know that I seriously need to first rebuild a portion of my life that is in desperate need of repair, but spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I feel better. I am getting there. I have no desire to use drugs, and I’m not a broken individual anymore. I love my kids, and I love myself, in a healthy manner. Sure, i need to stop drinking, smoking cigarettes, and address a few other behaviours that I feel are in the way of my moving forward with life, but i have a great deal to offer, and i am one funny mofo. I love to laugh, and I appreciate life, a great conversation, and am destined for great things. Positivity and spontaneous action is the key to keeping things exciting. That and a big penis helps.

  10. 30
    Kevin Honey

    It’s difficult isn’t it as I don’t believe there should be any hard and fast rules. If someone feels like dating again a few weeks after a break up, why shouldn’t they? But common sense would suggest that from an emotional point of view there needs to be a bit of time to come to terms with things before looking to date anyone else.  

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  12. 31
    Softside

    Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. I just ended a 2-year relationship that I had gotten into about a year after a 9-year failed marriage.

    When I started dating I was working on getting divorced but I was not legally divorced until I was one year into my new relationship. To be fair I had being separated for about 2 years before dating.

    Looking back on it now I believe that the excitement and a new person who wanted to spend time with me made me Overlook some of the flaws that would have told me this relationship won’t work. Once I started looking into the future in the discussion of kids and marriage happened, I realize that we both did not really have much in common other than we both wanted a second chance at love. He was a widower five years previous and I was the recently divorced. We could spend time together however some parts of our personalities just did not work together and we didn’t spend much time working and building our relationship. We were just kind of sliding into a life together   just as I had with my first marriage.   I wanted more of the family life, and he wanted the Facebook and single type life full of traveling and excitement.

    I realized this was not right for me and I ended it a number of months ago. To be fair it should have ended 6 months before it did. We started to argue and have power struggles over our difference of opinions and different wants in life. He wanted to fix things, but you can’t fix are fundamentally different life goals.

    If I can offer any advice to anybody. Please give yourself enough time before dating to be fair to yourself and all those around you. You have to get to know yourself before you know what you can offer a new love in your life. Thank you for this article it was very well written and insightful.

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