How Do I Know If I’m Ready For A Relationship?

confident woman with world at her fingertips

A bit of background: I’m 36, divorced after a 9-year marriage (11 together). That was over 2 1/2 years ago now. I’ve been moving on with my life, getting my career going and chasing my dreams while dealing with the fallout that comes from a divorce. Overall, I’m happy with where things are headed in my life and I’m even fairly content being single. That being said, I’ve had a casual dating relationship (ie, no “long term” commitment) and found that after a couple months I was not as content with that arrangement as I thought. I wanted to be a little more important in a guy’s life.

On the flip side of that, there are things (career and my main hobby) that I refuse to give up for a relationship – doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t make time for someone, but those two things come first. I was raised just the opposite – the woman gave up everything for her man. My marriage was much like that, where my career and my goals were ALL secondary to his. I’m prone to defaulting to that when I’m in a relationship, but am not willing to live like that again.

How can I tell if I’m actually ready for a relationship myself? Personally I feel like I’m right on the cusp – it could totally work with the right guy, but I’m not desperate enough to give up my life to make it happen, either. Short term dating and relationships have been fine, with the usual ups and downs, but part of me wants something more committed, but I’m not sure if, in reality, I’m ready for that, or if it’s just my programming that tells me I’m not ready…any insight you have would be very helpful as I formulate my outlook on what I’m looking for in a guy!


Dear AJ,

Reread your own email, especially that last paragraph. You’re conflicted. Confused. You’re playing both sides of the fence, and you’re asking me to push you towards one side. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that, but I do think I can share something important today.

First of all, you need to understand the concept of “overcorrection,” as it pertains to dating. I’ve talked about this privately with my clients for years, but have never put it in writing before.

Basically, overcorrection is the act of overcompensating for the failures of a previous relationship by going to extremes. The woman who was in a sexless marriage chases passion. The woman who dated the slacker chases money. The woman who lacked chivalry chases a thoughtful, generous guy. And so on.

Overcorrection is the act of overcompensating for the failures of a previous relationship by going to extremes.

You happen to be the woman who had a husband who put himself first, and so your reaction to it is, “I’m not letting THAT happen again. This time, I’m putting ME first.”

You know the problem with that, right? We all want partners who are willing to put us first. Thus, if you continue to approach your life with a “me first” attitude, what kind of guys are going to stick around for that? Probably men who are a little weaker, a little needier, and a little less attractive. A more confident man is going to find a girlfriend who makes him feel more important – just as you did when you left your husband.

As always, this isn’t a black and white thing: I’m sure there are some alphas who think having a self-centered partner is kind of hot; after all, what’s more attractive than a woman with passion and purpose?

You don’t make time when you MEET the right man, you make time TO meet the right man.

The problem is that he doesn’t get much out of your goals and dreams and hobbies. You can make the argument that he gets a happier girlfriend, but again, what’s the value of a happy girlfriend if she’s theoretically busy 60 hours a week or 5 nights out of 7 You didn’t like being married to a man like this, so why would a man want to be with a woman like this?

It seems to me like you’ve turned this into a black and white issue, when it’s anything but. No partner should ask you to “give up” your career and your main hobby to be with him. At the same time, if you put your career and main hobby before him, a lot of men aren’t going to stick around.

You don’t make time when you MEET the right man, you make time TO meet the right man. And if you’re caught up in AJ-time all the time, you’re severely decreasing your opportunity to both meet him and keep him.

You want to have a healthy, long-term relationship where both parties feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal.

Hopefully, you can find a balance where you don’t feel you have to sacrifice yourself, but your boyfriend still feels like he’s a top priority to you. The reason you do this isn’t because you’re “desperate,” as you suggested, but because you want to have a healthy, long-term relationship where both parties feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal. That’s what marriage is all about.

You don’t have to lose yourself in a partnership, but you do have to be willing to give a LOT to be a worthy partner. That’s what you seem to be missing at this point in time. Good luck.

Join our conversation (13 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1

    Well done Evan. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. You were not happy with a man who placed himself first, do not expect a decent, loving, kind, committed to a balanced relationship, man   to put up with you placing yourself first.

  2. 2

    Thanks for the feedback and the response Evan! You’re spot on – I am confused right now, not 100% sure that I’m willing to put a guy first, but not sure that I wouldn’t, either. I’m very, very well aware that relationships are a give and take, and that it takes two to tango, but it’s still always a good reminder as well.
    I’m guessing you have other blogs out there that discuss finding that balance – on the one hand, being single and sitting at home, alone, pining for Mr. Right accomplishes nothing, but getting too busy with too many things can have just as bad of an effect! I probably need to start figuring out how to balance that a little bit better.
    Thanks for the perspective – love your work! Hoping I can afford to join sometime in the next couple months (just started a new job), most sites out there are too “fluffy,” love your practical and honest approach!

    1. 2.1

      It may take a while to figure out.   When I first divorced, I was needy and looking to find someone right away. The longer I’ve been single, the more conflicted I’ve become. But, I’m too old anyway, so I can probably forget it anyway, lol! 😃

      1. 2.1.1

        Only 2 yrs behind you & I feel the same. It definitely gets harder the longer you are single. Harder to share your space.

  3. 3

    Sometimes people in our life teach us what to be, sometimes what NOT to be. Heed the lesson. Instead of putting oneself first, you put yourself equal. Women should have an income, career, and interests both in common with and apart from a spouses.
    The presence of another person in ones life should complement it, not make it more stressful and vice versa. You’ve got some hard decisions to make; first, at 36, do you want children? That will have a lot to do
    with whom you choose and who chooses you. If you do not, then yep, at your age, focus on career, seriously save for an early retirement because you will burn out at some point, we women often do as our
    careers are not the sum total of who we are. What is the dating pool in your area? Is it possible to find your equal or will you need to change jobs and leave? Finding a partner/spouse is a lot harder work than
    accepting casual, requiring a lot more of your time both in the finding and the maintain of the rship. It needs to be a systematic, almost scientific approach that includes serious self reflection, deciding
    what you want, what behaviors are deal breakers, paying close attention. Maintaining a relationship is also very hard work; there’s constant compromise, dealing with another person who views
    the world very differently than you, it requires careful use of time, setting of priorities, but it is do-able.  

  4. 4

    Why does anything have to be done. When I feel the pressure of having to make a choice “right now” I take   a step back, because I know I’m not ready. Take the pressure off. Enjoy what you’re doing right now. What you had previously was not a good example of how you should be for the future. You’ve changed. You’ve grown. It’s a whole new relationship model now and only you will know what the rules are. Enjoy your life and even allow your relationships to be casual. It’s okay if you don’t want more.

  5. 5

    You’ll know you’ve met the right man when your “AJ time” (as Evan put it) starts to be replaced by AJ+man time, i.e. the time you both used to spend on your hobbies is voluntarily reduced in favor of spending time together.   (Obviously, the amount of hobby time suck varies with the hobby and seriousness thereof.)

    Your careers should continue apace, whichever way you both wish.

  6. 6

    It took me personally 2 entire years after my 7+ year relationship ended to “feel ready” to be in another relationship. I used the healing time to work on myself: went back to school, read inspiring books, reconnected and made new female friends. Best thing ever. With all of this work, I’m more confident than before.   I wanted, really wanted to be ready by month one but in my heart, I wasn’t. A guy friend of mine pointed this out to me. And while our romance never panned out, his compassion to help me heal was a gift and in many watys, I know I helped him heal as well.

    Tp0pp here is a ratio of years to healing, one year of emotional healing for evepry five years of the relationship. I know for me, I am really past the pain to be a great girl, sans baggage. Evan is right. By not making time, you are not available. I think you msy also be hiding behind you “non-negotiables”.  

    Ironically, last nite I met a great guy, good fit, similar personalities, political views, etc. and I broke Evan’s rule and slept with him. Yes, I know, I know. Being out of the dating scene (and not being one for random hookups) it was nice to have that connection (no pun intended). If you knew me, I’m replaying the evening and the point where it should have stopped. So, I sit with the icky feeing he won’t call even though he did mention coming over again.   And, I don’t want to be a friend with benefits. The worst part is his Dad was talking me up big time and really wanted us to get together. So, I feel in a way like I let his Dad down who is a totally awesome person. Worse yet, his reaction after we had sex, was almost “buyers remorse”:-( Thinking about it, that is what bothers me most. Ironcially, his Dad said he really liked me…:-(

    Had I not been ready to date again, I would be crying right now and partaking in a calorie fest. However, I look at it as lesson learned. My point is that if your not fully healed emotionally, stuff like this will only derail the much needed healing and rebuilding 🙂 Take your time and don’t let others tell you when your ready. You’ll know 🙂

  7. 7

    You wanna know if you are ready? Think about what you are willing to give. Don’t focus too much on what you will receive. If you are not willing to give your time or your committment, then no, you are not ready no matter how mature and desirable you are.  

    I don’t think I am ready simply because I have two younger kids (although I have been divorced going on 5 years  now).  Between  finishing my Masters, a full time job,  homework and time with them, I am  in no position to make space for a man.   I don’t have the kids  every other weekend but who will put up dating me every other weekend? And, I am not into him coming over and being around my kids unless a very long time has passed.   When they grow up, I will be in my late 40s which isn’t so bad to start over.

    On the  other hand, I want my children to see a healthy relationship.   Plus, right now I am considered very attractive by many men and honestly, I am  sort of concerned about the options I would have at 46 as opposed to today while I am 36. Ehhh…it’s a tough call.          

    1. 7.1

      I can’t speak for anyone but me, but I have found that when I am not working or with my friends, family, church, etc., I become a bit of a hermit.   I don’t know that I will ever belong in a couple again because I like a considerable amount of home time.   And while my kids don’t really need a sitter, I still don’t like to leave them to go on a date.

  8. 8


      “to make space for a man”… I like how you put that.   I was dating a guy a couple of years ago who said I have to make space for a man, and then he will show up.   This man who I was dating at the time is a wise long-time friend.   He was trying to tell me he does not see room for him in my life…and also.. that I have to focus on the post divorce stuff and deal with it.   He is still a close friend.   A couple more years have gone by and now I am seeing a great guy… But his divorce is fresh and he had in mind he would date around before finding someone. I think that we both feel we found each other a few months early.   But he is very special… so I am not sure what will come of it.   It feels so comfortable that I am really hopeful… but trying not to put all my hope in his basket just yet.   I am still dealing with some post divorce legal messes and other loose ends.   So.. even though Evan says a guy who does not make an exclusive commitment after two months.. move on. I think this one is just going to go slower.   He calls every day.. sometimes for hours and we have a very comfortable time with each other laughing and talking about business.   It is so comfortable that maybe it is love.   I can’t quite say yet.   But I did not feel like I was ready for a far as getting some hard work drek out of my life. I feel emotionally ready. So I am making a lot of time for this guy.. and he for me.   So from an investment in time point of view.. we are both into it.   But .. the feeling of readiness and what Stacy said about making space for a man.   I am still working on that.   I feel like this guy is amazing and I would be a total fool not to give him a lot of attention and a real chance.   But I was not done with my drek.. I have a lot of work to do, legal work, wrapping up stuff from two decades of a shared business with the ex.   I don’t want my to-do list to keep me from recognizing.. although this was very unexpected.. this guy is amazing. He has me firing on every level.   I don’t want to say like no one in my whole life ever has.. but kinda sorta.. he hits every point better than all of them that got away and the few that I had been in some kind of relationship with. He is far from perfect but he shares so openly.. and has done his emotional “work” to recover from his more serious divorce, and the last failed attempt.   It seems very rare to find that. I feel absolutely grateful to have found him.. but still, weirdly not quite ready. So even though my to do list is full… yeah I am making him a priority.. it is high risk.  

  9. 9
    Kristina Lane


    Wow, i hear your confusion and your how unsettled you feel not even knowing when you are ready for a relationship.   AND if I were you I would ask myself a different question.   “Am I ready for dating?”   And the answer is yes.   Attention that men will give you – their opening doors, buying you coffee and dinners, making plans… will help you heal and feel more confident and grounded, no matter where you are now.   And it is totally fine to focus on yourself.   YOU are the prize.   The right man will step up and find ways into your busy life.   When my husband and I first started dating, for our date #3 or so, he was supposed to cook for me at his place and pick me up at around 7.   On a Saturday.   And I was stuck at work until midnight.    He waited patiently, then brought me and some of the food to my place.   We had a nice quick dinner, and he saw that I was falling asleep and took off. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself as a queen and the right guy will too (while the wrong guy will complain that you are not giving HIM enough).   There is nothing we need to “give” to a guy other than our “thank you” for their taking good care of us.   They want to be our hero and they don’t feel so great when we make sacrifices for them.   

  10. 10

    I have been divorced for almost a year but was separated for three years before that. So in essence, I feel like I was divorced for over four years. The first year was the hardest to deal with of course. Gradually it got easier. After 17 yr marriage, we both just fell apart. I tried counseling, she refused so I moved on.

    My real problem is that at my age (over 50) I seem to attract only married mature females. The single ones won’t even look my way. I am not hideous, just average. I am fit and athletic. I am a good man and financially responsible. Tried many dating sites but as usual they are filled with women who want to travel, fly, eat out often, and who want to go out with guys over my height of 5ft 6in. Many consider me too short and not rich enough.

    I may just give up and live single the rest of my life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *