The question of whether you’re ready to date again, is something that perplexes many people. I’d love to say that you bounce out of bed one day and it’s shazam, you just know and you then hurl yourself back out there without issue, but the truth is, you’ll only be able to judge your readiness when you’re already out there dating, or when you’re experiencing Dynasty levels of internal drama and angst without actually having done anything.
Relationships serve to teach us about ourselves and they’ll keep throwing you the same lessons until you heed them. The key in rising out of previous experiences and knocking any ‘mistakes’ on the head, is in the application going forward.
It becomes somewhat of a distraction to essentially try and get a Ph.D in dating, or playing Columbo on your exes, or trying to acquire a ‘perfect self’ to put out into the dating world. This is like becoming immersed in the theory and understanding it on an intellectual level and then instead of going out there and living it, applying, tweaking, gaining confidence out of the results and taking action, you think “Nah…I need to do some more study…and actually, truth be told, I think that my last chance saloon has gone.”
There’s 3 specific questions that you can ask of yourself to gauge your readiness, although you can ask more:
1) Have you cleaned out your relationship house? Over your ex, not shagging anyone else, not keeping track of exes and even brief dates on Facebook, not dialling and texting to collect attention, and certainly not hoping that one or more of your exes might spontaneously combust into being The Person You Want.
Your past relationships are firmly in the past.
It also means dealt or actively dealing with anything that you’ve realised through your interactions and introspection is affecting your ability to have healthy, mutual relationships and good self-esteem. Again, life is an ongoing journey so if you’re in a good place, even with previous issues say from childhood to deal with, this can be dealt with in the background to your life. However if any issues are front and centre and greatly affect you right now, impacting your ability to be honest with yourself or even with others, to be responsible, functioning etc, you can’t. You’ll need to focus on those – the truth is that getting laid or starting out on dates can wait – you can’t.
2) Do you at the very least like you and have a reasonable grasp on who you are? Liking and loving you is an ongoing process – these feelings need to be growing not receding. I knew I’d made progress when I told a guy to beat it after dating for a few weeks and instead of feeling like the sky might fall down or busting my own proverbial nuts, I wanted to high five myself. In fact, if I’m honest, in the 8 or 9 months before I met the boyf, I felt relief when I walked away from situations or it didn’t work out – experience had taught me that I just wasn’t that desperate to make anyone into a ‘prince’ when things were far from being ‘princely’.
When you like and love you, you’ll listen to and trust you, so you’ll be OK with paying attention to the feedback from your interactions and acting upon it. This isn’t to say you won’t feel disappointed if something doesn’t work out, but you’ll be real enough to recognise and accept why and see the blessing in disguise instead of saying “It started out so great and they promised me a future that didn’t materialise – why can’t they go back to being that person and give me what I want? Is it because I’m not good enough?“
Yep – you’ll know you’re ready when you don’t make other people’s behaviour and everything going on around you about you. What’s your actions is yours, and what’s theirs is theirs.
You’re not ready if you’re malleable – that’s still relying on people who aren’t in your life yet or have been around for a wet week to validate or even define who you are. You’re definitely not ready if you start changing yourself up – that says you don’t like and value who you actually are and are willing to offload yourself if you think it would seal the deal. You’re also definitely not ready if you take your boundaries out on a couple of dates and then start making exceptions.
3) Are you feeling desperate? If the current person or someone you haven’t even met yet feels like they have to be ‘the one’, or the thought of something not working out or getting what you perceive as rejection scares the crappola out of you, you need to take it down from a 10 to about a 5 – that’s just too much drama to carry around with you. If you feel attached to them or the idea of the relationship you’d like with them, before you’re really gone through the discovery process of dating, it’s actually a signal that you need to make a very concerted effort to stay in reality.
If you start dating and thoughts of your ex increase, you start falling apart, or you feel tortured by your fears, you’ve got two choices – gather yourself together, talk calmly and rationally to yourself, check your internal and external fears while cross referencing against code amber and red and listening to what your discomfort is about, or, step back from dating.
Just like you may discover that you’re ready to date when you find yourself accepting one, enjoying it or not even being too dented if it doesn’t shape up into anything, you also may discover that you’re not ready to date when you’ve been on a few dates. This is OK. Dating is a discovery phase – as well as discovering the facts about the other party and assimilating what the possibility is of moving forward into a relationship, you also discover things about yourself.
You’re ready when you’ll walk and not treat them like they’re irreplaceable and your whole dating future depends on them.
You’re ready when you’ll stay, not because you’re afraid that if you don’t you’ll have missed your last chance saloon or because you can’t bear the thought of being ‘alone’/having to start over, but because there are valid, positive, mutual reasons to stay.
I’ve said this before, but there’s no fire. It’s not to suggest that people are expendable or that dating is easy, but the fact is, unless you’re dating for dating’s sake, it defeats the purpose of dating, especially when you’re claiming you want a relationship, if you’re barely able to cope with going out on dates or are still living in the past, because you’re actually undermining your own chances.
There really isn’t very much point sitting around worrying about something that isn’t happening, might happen, or hasn’t even got a cat’s hope in hell of happening – if you’re going to be worried, at least do it based on reality.
But remember this – the fear you have about things that aren’t happening yet is based on the old you that didn’t have the knowledge that you have now. It’s bad enough when shady exes show up hoping that you’ll be the you they used to know – honour yourself and the lessons you’ve learned, and give yourself a chance to be you and apply yourself.
Check out my book and ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl in my bookshop.