- It can be difficult to know when you’re ready to date again, especially after a breakup or lots of time alone.
- Reflecting on past relationships, identifying your goals and values, and having personal passions and hobbies are signs you’re ready.
- If you talk or think about your ex a lot, or use dates to escape feeling lonely, you might have more work to do.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Singles are starting to come out of pandemic-induced hibernation with the hopes of revitalizing their dating lives.
But after a year of minimal contact with strangers, let alone friends, you might second-guess whether you’re ready to get back out there.
Reflecting on your personal growth and past relationships can help you gauge your ability to foster new and healthy connections with other singles, Victoria Goldenberg, a therapist and member of the media advisory group at Hope for Depression Research Foundation, told Insider.
To make sure you’re mentally and emotionally prepared to get back on the dating scene, look out for these signs.
You have your own hobbies, friends, and life goals
Whether you’ve recently exited a relationship or have been single for awhile, making sure you have a clear sense of self will set you up for a positive dating experience, according to Goldenberg.
If you can point to a handful of passions and hobbies you do for your own self-pleasure and fulfillment, it’s a sign you’re ready to meet someone new.
“A person shouldn’t be in a relationship looking for happiness. You are the creator of your own happiness in life, and a relationship should supplement it,” Goldenberg told Insider.
You use healthy coping strategies when you’re stressed or upset
Though time can heal the wounds of relationships past, there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how soon you should date again after a breakup, Goldenberg said.
The ways in which you heal during your time as a single person are more indicative of your readiness to date, she said.
If you spent time post-breakup attending therapy, processing your previous relationship, building up your self-love, and learning how to care for yourself in times of distress, you’re likely ready to date again.
But if you use dating as a way to distract yourself from feelings of loneliness, you may need more time to heal, Amy Chan, a veteran relationship columnist of 10 years and creator of Renew Breakup Bootcamp, told Insider.
“The emotions need air to breathe and the pain that’s not processed will only come out sooner or later. That’s when we bring ‘baggage’ with us into our future relationships,” said Chan.
You don’t compare new dates to your ex-partners
Comparing a new love interest to an ex is another sign you aren’t prepared to date yet, according to Goldenberg.
Although, you don’t have to feel completely disconnected from your last relationship to date again, she said.
But if you can’t help but bring up how horrible your ex was while on a date, or you catch yourself longing for your Tinder match to do something the way your ex did, you should take a step back.
The one caveat to this rule is for singles who have children from previous relationships and need to disclose that to a potential partner, according to Goldenberg.
You can identify the pros and cons of past relationships
Being able to internally reflect on your past relationships is a sign you’re ready to date.
If you can pinpoint the positives and negatives of those former connections, you can avoid falling into unhealthy patterns as you meet new people, according to Chan.
If you’re unsure where to start, Chan suggested making a list of the last few people you’ve seriously dated or had relationships with. Then, write down the top five emotions you felt in each of those dynamics, like anxiety, resentment, support, security, or sadness.
“Whatever comes up, don’t judge them. This is information gathering and that’s the first step of changing the pattern,” said Chan.
Next, reflect on the ways in which you personally allowed negative emotions to fester. Perhaps you didn’t communicate a boundary and that led to resentment, or you knew a partner wasn’t emotionally available but continued to date them.
“This allows you to see the choices you’ve made so that you can empower yourself to make better choices in the future. Write down a list of action items that you can take to start changing the pattern,” Chan told Insider, like learning to set boundaries or dating people outside of your “type.”
You have clear goals for your dating life
Last, be sure you have your intentions straight before you start dating again, said Goldenberg.
There’s no “right” goal when it comes to dating, but knowing whether you want to keep it casual and meet lots of new people, or if you’re looking for something more committed, will help you maintain integrity with yourself and any dates.
If you’re unsure what you want, Goldenberg recommended working with a therapist, who can help you better understand your values and needs. Also, a dating coach can help. They offer a free assessment, will discuss goals and a personalized game plan that works, and then coach you until you have a great girlfriend.
The goal is to be able to feel good about dates who align with your values, while also having the self-confidence to turn down someone who you learn doesn’t match your values.
“Dating is a process and teaches you about yourself, what you want, and most importantly, what you don’t want. Use your history to be a better architect of your future,” said Chan.