Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“How Do You Know You’re Ready To Start Dating Again?”

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About a year ago I ended a relationship that wasn’t satisfying with a guy who emotionally abusive. I had a string of unsatisfying relationships before that one, including one that was horribly physically abusive. Now, I can see the signs of a physically abusive relationship, and avoid being in one. After these relationships, I took an extended period of time off from dating to go to therapy and become a better version of myself.

I’ve made a lot of progress, but I feel so unsure of myself now when it comes to the idea of dating again. I had started to feel like I was in a good head space to resume dating, but then I had a series of terrible events occur, including a death in my family and a major increase in stress at work. I know that right now is NOT the time to start dating again as my feelings are so raw and I need to get back in a good head space where I can look for a good potential partner and when I can also BE a good potential partner. But how I will I know when the time is right? I’m in my late 20s, so I know from reading this site that I have so much life ahead of me and time to find the right person, but I wonder when you or other readers have decided after a series of significant losses that it’s time to get out there and date again. How will I know when I can be available and open without putting my stress and grief on someone else? — Not Yet Ready, But When?

You’ll know you’re ready to try dating again when the risk of being ghosted, rejected, led on, “used for sex,” or dumped after developing feelings and investing significant time doesn’t feel so overwhelming that you don’t know how you’d survive that. You’ll know you’re ready when you reject the mantra “all guys are jerks” (or, conversely, “all women are bitches”). You’ll know you’re ready when, despite past hurts, you have genuine faith that there’s a match for you — someone who is as flawed as you are, but who is willing and eager to work through challenges and build a mutually-supportive and loving relationship with you. You’ll know you’re ready when the idea of spending a few hours in the company of someone new fills you with more excitement than dread, and when you’re as interested in the impression he’ll make on you as you are on the impression you’ll make on him. You’ll know you’re ready when you view past relationships more as learning lessons than enormous emotional set-backs. You’ll know you’re ready when current challenges take a small part of your psychic space and mental energy and you aren’t routinely having meltdowns over the state of your life and fantasizing about someone somehow saving you from emotional turmoil with the power of his love.

In the meantime, be your own savior. Love yourself through your challenges and potential emotional turmoil. Remind yourself of the work you’ve already done, the progress you’ve already made, the lessons you’ve already learned, and the success you’ve already achieved, and tell yourself you are capable — professionally, socially, and emotionally — of so much. Reject bitterness. Embrace fortitude. And keep looking forward.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

10 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ktfran February 2, 2016, 10:33 am

    I knew I was ready to date when I was perfectly happy spending the rest of my life alone. That I didn’t need to check off lots of boxes about how my life should look. Because for me, that’s when you settle for anyone just so you can be married, or have kids, or whatever it is you’re checking off. I knew I didn’t want that. I knew I wanted a life long partner who was awesome. And so, I made a fulfilling life I was more than good with. That’s when I knew I was ready to date.

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    • avatar

      haggith February 2, 2016, 10:44 am

      “I was ready to date when I was perfectly happy spending the rest of my life alone” YES to this a million times!!!!

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    • avatar

      Essie February 2, 2016, 12:27 pm

      Yes, yes, this! If you’re dating because you’re looking for someone to fill a role, or you’re afraid to be alone, or you think being single makes you look like a loser, or your mother is nagging you to find a husband, or all your friends are getting married and you want a big fancy wedding too – you’re doing it wrong. Stop.

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    • avatar

      Hobbesnblue February 2, 2016, 12:57 pm

      Eh, I hear this advice a lot, but it hasn’t really rang true for me. I feel more fulfilled and happy when I have someone to share my life with. Always have. To say it’s about “checking boxes” or “filling a role” or being “afraid to be alone” is dismissive of the value that people can find in love and relationships. Because it’s important to me, finding the right person is something I’ve prioritized, just as I would prioritize other personal goals in my life. Now, I wouldn’t get involved with someone wrong for me purely for the sake of being in a relationship, and if I couldn’t find the right person, I’d be single until I did, even if that took forever. But I’m very comfortable saying that finding lasting romantic love is important to me, and despite being a generally fulfilled person, I’ve never perfectly happy with the idea of spending the rest of my life alone, nor do I feel the need to try to change that about myself.

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      SpaceySteph February 2, 2016, 1:01 pm

      Idk, I don’t think I ever could say that I was perfectly happy spending my life alone. I wanted to be married and have children (in that order, but no judgement if you’re taking a different path). That was something I wanted for my life. Now I wasn’t like “let me just go marry the next guy who looks good on paper and doesn’t beat me” but I was looking for a long term commitment leading to marriage and then babies.
      I don’t think this means I wasn’t ready to date. I do think it’s good advice to not go into it with a checklist, but I think its unreasonable to say that wanting to start a family means you shouldn’t date.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover February 2, 2016, 1:14 pm

        I agree with this and Hobbesnblue. While I think I could have been happy alone, I don’t know if I ever would have been “perfectly happy”. It would have been fine, but I don’t think I’d have ever felt like it was better than having a spouse. That doesn’t make you not ready to date.

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        ktfran February 2, 2016, 1:18 pm

        That’s why I said for me. I by no means think all people are the same, but that’s how I knew I was ready… when I was no longer worried about finding someone. Because from my personal experience, worrying about finding someone led to staying in a not right relationship too long and I didn’t want to go through that again. And hurt someone.

        People know what they want and go after it. Great. I don’t begrudge anyone their method to fulfillment or happiness.

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  • avatar

    Loo February 2, 2016, 10:53 am

    I love this. Thanks, Wendy!

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  • Cleopatra_30

    Cleopatra_30 February 2, 2016, 10:59 am

    A couple things, when I thought about dating and it didn’t feel me with dread. Then thinking about it and being okay with it, and game to get back into the dating realm. It is honestly different for everyone. It seems you have a lot going on that is affecting your mental ability to try dating again, and it is totally fine to push it off to the side for a bit till things blow over and you actually have the mental and physical time to dedicate to seeing someone. Don’t rush into it thinking it will just happen. Wait till you feel like you can take dating head on and not worry about sacrificing your own time and energy. Good luck!

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  • avatar

    Bree February 2, 2016, 11:29 am

    Wendy, as always, is spot on. I went through something similar to you several years ago. My ex-fiance was emotionally and verbally abusive, and I completely lost myself in the relationship. When I finally ended things, I was so afraid to be alone and thought I’d never find anyone else ever again. That wasn’t true at all. After about 6 months of grieving my lost relationship, I finally started to enjoy being single and continued to enjoy it for another 2.5 years. I traveled, discovered new hobbies, and nurtured friendships that I had neglected during my relationship. I also worked really hard on myself, to reduce the likelihood of ending up in another abusive relationship. Those 3 years were not easy by any means, but they were so valuable. Finally, I just knew that I was ready to start dating again. I joined a popular dating site, and two days later, I was matched with a wonderful man, who would become my husband slightly less than 2 years later. We will have been married for 6 months in a few days. Our relationship is healthy and happy, and has its issues. However, we are a team and talk things out. There is hope for you. Being a victim of abuse does not condemn you to always be abused. You can break the cycle, but it will take time and lots of hard work.

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