After being broken up with, you think I’d be all gung ho about getting back out there and meeting new people, but the truth is, I was riddled with guilt at the idea of moving on. I thought maybe there were these expectations or rules for what you’re supposed to do or not do after getting out of a relationship – especially one that lasted almost 5 years.
What would people say if they knew I was dating so soon after leaving someone I was with for so long? Would that make me look like a bad person? Am I a bad person? Am I even ready? How do I know if I’m ready? Am I hurting myself by doing this so soon? How long do I wait? How soon is too soon?!
What I’ve learned in the last 2 months, is that there are no rules and there is no “right way” to deal with moving on from things like this, because we all cope differently. And who’s to say which coping methods are “right”? So long as safety is never compromised, I think any way a person can deal with what’s going on their life, is totally acceptable.
I told myself I was going to focus on the now, be present, put myself first, and focus on what I needed to do to get myself back on track after going through such a huge change. This included job hunting, getting back into school, and saving money to move back out. I wanted to focus on bettering my health, mental health, getting back in shape, and doing things that I truly enjoyed. And on top of all of that, I wanted to meet new people. I wanted a distraction. I wanted a reminder that there are still people in the world that I could get along with, vibe with, and have fun with.
With that said, after the initial shock of having my entire world turned upside down, I downloaded the infamous dating apps, and let me tell you. It’s been … interesting. Here’s what I learned:
- At first, it was incredibly weird. I felt weird for talking to other guys the way I talked to the person I thought I’d marry someday. But for me, I wanted to throw myself into as many uncomfortable situations as possible, as quickly as possible. I knew doing so would allow me to experience the weirdness of moving on and get it out of the way so I could detach myself from my past. It would allow me to get over that hurdle and move on easier. Almost like exposure therapy for anxiety. LOL. And honestly, I really didn’t want to waste any more time on someone I had no future with. I just wanted to jump back into a life that was just my own.
- Going on first dates is awkward. I was in a relationship almost all of my adult life, so I never really had the experience of dating. And I was kind of excited at the idea of it. Until I experienced several awkward first dates and realized that talking to people over the phone is totally different than meeting them in person. But something really important I’ve learned through that is that you’re not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s totally fine. I always had the feeling that going out with several different people and dating around would be hard on my ego and self esteem because sometimes you won’t get called back, or you’ll feel bad for not wanting to continue any further contact with someone after meeting them. But none of that really matters. Dating is meant to get you out in the world and see what’s out there. You’re not always going to like what you get and they won’t always vibe with you either- and that’s okay.
- Since I’m not dying to be in another relationship, I am having the wonderful experience of meeting new people with no expectations attached to any of it. It’s a really good feeling to literally be going with the flow and not expect anything from anyone, and vice versa. No expectations is a great mindset to be in because it’s allowed me to still focus completely on myself without putting to much on another person – while still being able to meet and get to know new people.
- Not everyone you thought you wanted to be around, will be what you thought they were. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to looks, personality, and things like that in their partners or prospective partners. And when you’re single, you’re in control of who you take those next steps with and you have the power to get involved with people that are aligned with every shallow aesthetic and ambitious personality trait you ever imagined. Which means you get kind of picky. Which is fine – be picky. Don’t ever settle. But it’s also a balance of expectations. While being picky is super fun and you get to meet all these really good looking people (a total ego boost in itself) or really career driven people, or really funny people, whatever it is you’re into – It is the giver of sobering realizations. Just because they’re good looking or everything you thought you ever wanted, doesn’t mean they’re engaging or able to hold a conversation. They could be actual horrible people. They could be mean, controlling, awkward in person – you just don’t know! The learning curve is so perfect though, because you get to really figure out what kind of person you like and what you value in a partner.
- Learning the etiquette is interesting. The first few dates were super weird because after being with someone for so long, you miss out on things that have changed in the “dating world”. What are the expectations for dating apps? What do I wear? What do I say? Where should we go? Are there unspoken expectations for first dates that I’m unaware of? Is it rude if I stop talking to them after a bad date? WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS? LOL. What I’ve sort of learned in all this, is that I don’t have the patience for bullshit, games, or weird expectations. It’s much easier to just be your damn self, and if they don’t like it, then OKAY BYE. I literally can’t deal with trying to be something I’m not anymore, or act a certain way to please someone I’m on a date with. 18 year old me would’ve given my life to anyone that gave me attention. A lot has changed. LOL.
- I’m a boss ass bitch, and I’m in total control. I love it. In a long term relationship, it’s a lot of compromise, not being able to control the feelings you have for a person, ignoring red flags because you’re in love, taking the good with the bad, and doing things because you feel like you should. Being single and being able to choose things for myself has literally breathed new life into me. I’m learning how to handle myself like I never did before. The sometimes blunt/harsh reality of online dating and dating in general has toughened me up in a way that I am so excited about. I’m learning that my value as a person lies solely in how I see myself, and not how another person sees me. How I love myself is how I will teach others to love me. And I’m learning to demand the respect from others that I know I deserve. I knew I grew up a lot in my last relationship – 19-24 are some of the most important formative years in a person’s life. But I didn’t realize how much I had learned about myself in that time until I was thrown into life on my own and only had myself to rely on. I feel stronger, more capable, and more confident than I ever did before.
Dating after the breakup has been a new phase of this life that I’m still learning to do. But I’m stoked at how much I’m learning and realizing about myself in the process. This in no way means I’m “over my ex” or not hurting or dealing with the aftermath of having my heart shattered. BUT – I’m no longer the person to throw myself a pity party over a broken heart. At almost 25, I know I’m better than that, I know I can do better than that, and I’m going to do better than that- for myself, and whatever this world decides to throw into my life as it continues.