Take some time for yourself. That’s often the top advice we hear after divorce or traumatic breakup. But what if some of your richest life lessons can only be learned in the presence of others?
When I first left my husband, I thought I would be alone for a long time. It seemed absurd, even wrong, for a woman in her mid-thirties with an infant and a toddler to re-enter the dating world. Most of the people who are closest to me agreed. The best thing for me to do was to focus on myself and my kids.
A few months into my time as a single mom, I couldn’t hold myself back. I still remember my first real date. I wore knee-high black boots and a short blue dress, and somehow managed to not trip in my heels. That night and many nights after, my mom held her breath as she watched me fumble forward through a string of men she knew were no good for me long-term, all the while telling me how beautiful I looked doing it.
It wasn’t pretty. But looking back, I was doing exactly what I needed to do. Because I left so suddenly and shut the door so firmly, I needed to be in relationship in order to experience the why behind the fallout of my marriage.
The people who came in and out of my life sharpened me back into functionality as a human being in search of connection. They each served a purpose, and I’d like to think I served them as well. You’ve heard all the reasons why it’s good to take some time for yourself after a heartbreak. Because of my experiences, I’d like to flip that script and highlight how diving head-first into the dating world can teach you things you’d never learn by playing it safe at home by yourself.
6 Reasons it Might Be Better to Date
1. Get practice. Stephen King says that the best way to become a better writer is to write and read. Likewise, if you want to find love again, the best way to do it is to get out there and start dating. You’ll probably be really bad at first, but we all have to start somewhere.
2. Build confidence. Dating is a concrete way to realize that people are looking at and interested in you. Getting out there helps you remember that you are more than a mom. You are a whole, attractive woman, and there are a lot of people looking for someone like you.
3. Learn what you don’t want. You’re going to go out with a lot of duds, and you’re going to try people on who don’t fit. That’s okay! Count it as practice and then do better as you clarify your vision of what you do want.
4. Discover your problematic patterns. Do you consistently attract men who are bad for you? Do your relationships all start or end the same way? Get curious about those patterns and ask yourself why.
5. Work on issues you skipped out on in your last relationship. You may still be blind to your codependent behaviors. You may still not know how to trust your intuition instead of waiting for concrete proof from a stab in the back. If there’s something you still need to learn, a new relationship will throw it back in your face.
6. Feel again. After extreme disappointment or betrayal, it’s pretty common to go numb. It’s an effective, often unconscious coping mechanism that cuts off pain and vulnerability. If you keep getting back out there, someone is bound to break through to you eventually. When that happens you’ll be surprised that you’re still alive enough to feel love and strong enough to survive rejection.
There is a time for being alone and a time for getting back out there. Only you know what the best course of action is for you. But if you think it may be time to put on your training wheels and actively seek connection, don’t feel guilty. It might be just what you need.
How long did it take you to re-enter the dating world, and what is the most important thing you’ve learned from your experiences?