Someone has to be the one. The first date after a breakup. Whether it's the next day or weeks or months or years later, someone has to go first. There’s no right answer, and it will probably be different every time. I know it has been for me. After my first divorce, I didn't even know how to date, let alone have time for one. About a year after it was finalized, my friend, Ryan, told me we were going to a movie. And it was going to be a date because I needed to learn how to be alone with a guy again. He was absolutely right. And it broke that ice for me so that I could start dating.
What about when we don't have someone pushing us off the cliff? How do we know when our hearts are healed enough to be open or ready to jump back in to heal it a little more? How do we know when we're ready?
I get asked this all the time....and here's the thing...I don’t know that we ever really do know. I think it’s like anything else in life--we take action and then evaluate and decide whether to keep going forward or to change direction. So it starts by evaluating your reasoning--are you trying to make an ex jealous? Trying to prove that you can move on better? Trying to replace someone? Or do you want to be truly open to seeing what comes next in your life...even if you’re not so sure you’re actually open to that yet? If our reasons are neutral or healthy, then I think we just make a choice and take a leap. And if we know our reasons are a little dubious, maybe take another day or ten before hopping back online. If you're trying to make someone jealous, you're probably going to move way faster and do some future faking so that you can get those pictures in a public realm ASAP. I get it. But it's not worth it. Take the time to talk yourself off that ledge and take yourself out or go out with a friend or take a bath or read a book. Rename that phone number in your phone that you're tempted to text but know that interaction won't support your actual intentions in building the life you love. Our phones think they are super helpful in recommending we message someone we haven't messaged in a while....don't fall for the cute picture you have saved there. If you can't delete it, rename it! I have all kinds of funny names saved in my phone before I deleted them--I used to be morbidly interested in what they had to say, but now I just block and delete so that I don't have to expend the emotional energy. I had "You're not a backup plan" and "Stood you up" and "Still married" all in my phone at various times. It works. But regardless of the choice you make, observe your feelings and your own actions and then make follow-up choices that support the life you WANT to build. Whichever choice you make is the right one for where you are right now. And the great news is that you can change your mind at any step along the way!
After a recent breakup, I bit the bullet pretty quickly and went on that next first date. I did so as a way to remind myself that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and, while I'm not ready to be totally open to that yet, I also know that not dating in this particular version of breakup made me feel like I was waiting to be the back-up plan. Which I refuse to do. So anyway...we met for a walk on the river and had a great time. Kind of. I enjoy getting to know new people, hearing their stories, and asking questions about their lives. I laughed at his stories, I was interested in what he had to say. And when I realized that I wasn’t sharing much, I watched myself to see why. Was he the one not showing interest by not asking questions about me? No, he was definitely interested. But as I switched the topic back to him…again...I realized that I wasn’t sharing because I wasn’t interested in him getting to know me. I may share a lot of personal things here with all of you, but I’m a pretty private person when it comes to letting people get to know me in my private life. I realized that while he was fun to talk with, he'd disclosed a couple of things that alerted me to the fact I wasn't open to moving forward with him. So when he asked if I wanted to grab dinner, I knew my answer was no.
While I know he was disappointed that our date ended after a simple walk on the river, I also knew that I wasn’t willing to invest any more of my time. It’s the reason that I rarely agree to dinner for a first date, actually. One of my friends has this as an official rule--she agrees to a 30-minute coffee meet-up so that there is an end time and no one has false expectations. I don’t have hard and fast rules, but I definitely keep those things in mind. It’s absolutely okay to make an excuse if that helps you honor your time. It’s also okay to tell the truth! It's okay to thank them for a nice time without saying you want to see them again.
This is your life! You get to decide what your boundaries are, how you want to spend your time, and what you’re willing to do. And you get to change your mind at any time! Th date was going well and then you find out he was trying to get back together with his ex-wife just a few days before? That’s a hard pass for me and I see no need to continue. It’s not always that concrete. Sometimes it’s just an off feeling that you can’t put a finger on. Honor your intuition by listening to that feeling, too!
Nervous about jumping back into dating? Especially if it’s been a while? Totally normal. Here’s the biggest key--don’t make dating and "moving on" the focal point of your life! Keep it as simply a piece and remember that your worth is NOT determined by someone else choosing to have you in their life. Keep working on validating and loving your own self so that you aren't seeking to meet that need externally. Keep taking the steps forward into the life you love. And changing your mind mid-date? Totally counts as a step forward in your life. A really big one, actually, because it is often a tremendous step forward to recognize and respect your own boundaries and time!
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