Are You Ready to Date Again?

February 5th, 2014 | Posted by Erica House in Life

I have an extensive amount of dating experience.

I’ve been going at it for 15 years now, or half of my life (that is a frightening realization.) Two years ago I started a list of guys I’ve dated, adding notes beside each name to help me keep them straight, and it’s now up to 32 extremely diverse members.

The first real relationship I had was with Jake. We dated for about 3 years throughout high school and he is the only one I’m still friends with.

246652_10151609487972674_1744650858_nAfter him came Jared (‘J’ names are a reoccurring theme.)

319985_10150427223232674_1274760931_nThis guy was a few guys later. He was the first military guy I dated. We got tattoo’s on our first date (dinner at Olive Garden) and got into a car accident on the way to the mall after. I got a star on my foot and hid it from my parents for weeks by wearing socks around the house 24/7. I also had black hair and tanned too much.AdamI could be here all day sharing dating stories but that’s not why I’m writing this. Since starting this blog almost 2 years ago I’ve had one serious relationship which ended a few months after I began writing here. I know many of my female readers empathized with my break-up and were interested to see how I’d readjust to single life and the dating scene. I ended up taking about a year off from dating, and finally got back on the saddle in November. The last guy and I dated for a few weeks, and prior to us deciding to go our separate ways I thought about doing a post on realizing when you are ready to date again. Then, almost immediately after I had that idea we broke up, and I thought ‘well, that post seems kind of inappropriate now.’

But, it’s actually perfect timing.

See – the fact that I am 100% okay, not emotionally scarred, not drunk texting him, and not pining over what went wrong is precisely why I feel semi-qualified to talk about knowing when you are ready to date again. Clearly, I was ready after taking that year off. I think you are ready to date again when you know that you will be okay if things don’t work out. Here’s how to do that:

  • Support yourself: Do not put yourself in a position where you will  be dependent on someone for your housing arrangements or financial stability. When I worked at a vet hospital many moons ago I had an uber girl crush on our office manager. She was in her 40’s, gorgeous, and happily married with two kids. I forget what her husband did but he clearly made a ton of money and she really didn’t have to work, so I asked her why she did. Her response revolutionized how I viewed dating. She said as happy and secure in her relationship as she was, she’d never been 100% happy if she thought she couldn’t support herself and her daughters if shit hit the fan. Knowing she could be independent if she had to made being in the relationship a choice, not a chore. I can’t tell you how many female students I’ve had come to me outside of class and say the are miserable with their significant others, but trapped until they finish their degree and can get a job. I promise you will be so, so, so much happier in a relationship if you know you are there only because you want to be, never because you have to.
  • Make yourself happy: Everyone has one relationship that absolutely destroys them. Mine came at age 25, and it took me a few years to truly get over it. The best thing that came out of that experience was realizing I need to always make myself happy, and not let my happiness depend on other people. I let my happiness be dependent on a man and guess what happened when he left? So did my happiness, and it wasn’t pretty. Now, I prioritize making my life effing awesome so that if I date someone and it doesn’t work out it’s okay because my life still rocks.
  • Have goals, hobbies, and friends that you will actively maintain independent of a significant other: I realized after my last two serious relationships ended that I was more upset about losing the future we had planned, then the guys themselves. In both situations we talked often about fantastical dreams like traveling the world or moving cross-country. I believed what they said to be truths, and maybe in some way they believed it when they said it, but I’ve learned now to always remember that there are no guarantees for the future. Honestly, in my experience, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put to much hope/energy into future plans until vows have been exchanged. As far as dating goes I know I will benefit more from keeping focus on my goals, hobbies, and friendships that will still be there post-breakup (should there be one) then pouring my emotional resources into common goals which can be quickly taken away.

I hope I don’t come across jaded. I’m trying to be more of a realist. Statistically most of us are screwed when we start dating someone. Chances are things won’t workout, and that’s okay. I used to get really hung up on feeling like things ‘failed’ when a relationship ended with someone. Now, I just try to focus on the relationship as a learning experience and appreciate it for what it taught me or made me realize about myself or my needs.

Look at me getting all wise and shit.

Further Reading:

10 Ways to Tell if You are Ready to Date Again

Am I Ready to Date Again?

How to Successfully Navigate a Break-Up I wrote this article almost 2 years ago and I think the first step in being ready to date again is properly healing from your last relationship

How can you tell when you are ready to date again?

What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give yourself at 18 years old about dating? 

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35 Responses

  • The biggest clue that I am ready to date again is that it has been a decade since my breakup. After, I just had no desire to try, and I didn’t care. Now, I know I am ready, however I am still hesitant because I am terrified that anyone who I meet won’t bother to get to know me, once they see me on the outside. I know I shouldn’t let it get me down, because I’m worth more than my appearance, but . . .

    • Erica House says:

      Any guy that puts more value on appearance than personality is a douche bag and your better off without them! Good guys still exist – they are just becoming more difficult to find ;)

  • Linz says:

    make yourself happy – that’s the best advice ever, dating or not! :)

  • dotsie924 says:

    I have a recurring “J” theme as well.

    I dumped the bf back in June and I still don’t feel ready–mostly because I don’t want to. Have you SEEN the fools in this town?!

    I ain’t ready! And I am glad you wrote this, because when I am, no doubt I will be looking for articles about it!

  • Meg says:

    I have a recurring ‘R’ theme. ;)

    My best advice to myself would be to stop chasing guys. I’m not proud that a good portion of my dating life was devoted to that. I’m wiser now, and much better off for it.

  • Katie H. says:

    I don’t think you sound jaded at all–I think you sound wise. I agree with everything you said. It is so important to have a strong sense of individuality. As the wise Jillian Michaels says, you have to love yourself before you can expect anyone else to love you.

    When I started dating my husband, I purposely went into the relationship with a completely different mindset than before. I told myself that it probably wouldn’t work out, I didn’t push the relationship to be something it wasn’t, and I continued to see my friends and family on a regular basis, instead of dropping them to see my new guy 24/7. Amazingly, these little “rules” I created for myself led to great self-confidence, which my husband said was really attractive.

    Great post!

    • Erica House says:

      Katie, thank you for reaffirming I’m doing things ‘the right way’ now! I suspect my mentality in future relationships will resemble yours. I hope my outcome is equally as nice :)

  • I don’t think I have anything to add to what you said, other than–it’s a minefield out there! BUT, I absolutely believe, with my heart & soul, that you must never give up on love. I know that everyone can find love, & is deserving of love. It takes time (& in my opinion, a lot of work & willingness to be vulnerable). I think becoming the sort of person you want to marry/be & having confidence in who you are & your worth is crucial to finding that “right” person.

    Thanks for sharing (I love the “my hair was black & I tanned too much” bit!). All I can say, is don’t give up…I’m one of those romantics that believes in old-fashioned love & marriage. It may be a beat up institution, but only because people are stupid, not the institution itself.


    • Erica House says:

      I don’t think I’ll ever give up on love, but I have come to the extremely unfortunate conclusion that not all people will find it. I know a few amazing women through work who are 50+, never married, and fairly certain they will not find ‘the one’ in their lifetime. I’m convinced that there is an epidemic in our generation that makes it difficult to find someone, and stay with that person. I’m not sure the cause of it. I have a few theories, and have been half-halfheartedly working on a book that would touch on this subject (and many others) for years now. Going to spend tomorrow & Friday trying to finish up that dang proposal!

      • I’m the first to admit I have a rather Polyanna view of relationships, particularly in light of the fact I was blessed/”lucked out” to have found my partner so early in life, which I know has caused me, in part to have such a rosy view. Also, I acknowledge that logistically speaking, there’s no way around the fact there are more women than men who want relationships/marriage–the ratios don’t quite balance out–so it’s inevitable there will be those, as you’ve suggested, who never find ‘the one.’ I’d love to hear more about your theories on why this has become such an epidemic, certainly warrants some discussion & thought!

        • Erica House says:

          Ohhhh man do I wish we could meet up for coffee and have this discussion! One of the most unfortunate causes is the following trend that started being picked up on by researchers in the last 10-20 years:

          Women prioritize getting an education and want to work in their careers a few years before getting married (yay!) So, they are waiting until an older age to settle down.

          Men are starting to view their 30’s as a sort of extended adolescence/time of epic bachelorhood. When they near the mid-end of their 30’s and are ready to settle down, they typically look for younger women in their mid-20’s.

          This leaves many women in their late 20’s to mid 30’s age bracket unable to find a suitable partner because the men their age aren’t ready to settle down, and those who are older are looking for younger.

          Obviously this is not the case for everyone, and not all men are like that. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this pattern play out many times for both male and female friends I have.

          • Wow, this makes a ton of sense! On that note, there are so many amazing benefits to the post-feminist revolution, but I think we (both men & women) need to continue to address the shifting dynamics that better opportunities for women create. And yes, it would be so lovely to have a face to face discussion–I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about!

  • Olya says:

    I couldn’t agree more with each and every word, Erica. I would say this advice is equally important for a married person, at least in my experience. When my husband and I first met, I let my life revolve around him, and it did not take long for him to start taking me for granted. So I changed my attitude and started living by these rules, and my husband’s attitude changed for better. And I wholeheartedly agree with a proposition of supporting oneself and not being dependent on a partner financially. Knowing that I can leave anytime but willingly choose to stay in this relationship makes me feel in control of my own life and happy.

    • Erica House says:

      Yes, this advice should definitely apply to those in relationships as well! I think both men and women tend to ‘assume’ their partners will do things for them, and that they are responsible for providing them with happiness. I think the best marriages are based on the idea that the individuals remain individual, and unfortunately usually the opposite happens and ‘two become one.’ Sounds romantic, but when 50% of marriages fail that means spouses are often left feeling ‘broken in half’ after the relationship ends.

  • You sound like you have got it right!! I would tell my 18 year old self to be happy on my own without a man and only then will a fulfilling relationship come. I was so into just having someone at all times that I didn’t focus on myself. In retrospect it was because I was insecure and needed a man to tell me I was beautiful or worth something.

    • Erica House says:

      Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of my friends do the same thing. Even though I’ve dated a LOT of guys I’ve never felt compelled to or felt like I needed to rush back into a relationship. I’ve always felt comfortable being on my own (usually prefer it!) A friend of mine was 27 and already going through her THIRD divorce. She’d overlap all of her relationships so she’d essentially never be single. I just don’t get it.

  • I love this! Although I’m married now, this is all great advice. I completely agree that until vows are exchanged, everything else is just talk. My husband and I never discussed rings (he picked it out on his own) or even what our future plans were even though he moved across the country for OCS. I obviously thought about it, but I concentrated on myself and let him get through school and training. I’m with you on supporting yourself. I had so much anxiety quitting my job and transferring universities after we got engaged (and married a week after we moved to El Paso- we were only engaged for 2.5 months, lol). Tyler wanted to fully support me while I finished school and got accustomed to this new life. Now that I’ve graduated, I cannot wait to land a job and make my own money again (okay I guess it’s ours, but you know what I mean!). It’s imperative to have your own hobbies, too. I actually like being alone (is that super weird?), and with him being away for training weeks/months on end, I’ve learned how awesome it is to have our own activities to do outside of your relationship. Love your approach and sorry for writing a book today :)

    • Erica House says:

      I told the last guy I wasn’t moving in with him until we were engaged/married. I just refuse to go through the ‘dividing of the property’ again, or getting rid of half the stuff I own to only have to re-buy it all in a few months! I really wish younger women would understand that nothing is a ‘sure thing’ and that you should always, always, always have a back-up plan.
      I certainly don’t think your weird for enjoying being alone! But, I love being alone, and have been called weird often, so maybe I’m not the best person to judge :)

  • David says:

    “Honestly, in my experience, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put to much hope/energy into future plans until vows have been exchanged. As far as dating goes I know I will benefit more from keeping focus on my goals, hobbies, and friendships that will still be there post-breakup (should there be one) then pouring my emotional resources into common goals which can be quickly taken away.”

    I absolutely agree with 95% of everything you’ve had to say. And thats good! I don’t necessarily believe that the remaining 5% is wrong, but I surely hold it in question. For that matter I have written the following about the above quote from your post.

    May I dissect?…… I’ll take your silence as as “yes!”. Why thank you!

    1) “Honestly, in my experience, I don’t think …until vows have been exchanged…”

    First, when someone starts their sentence by saying, “Honestly, in my experience, I think…” it stirs the notion within myself that you MAY be trying to convince yourself to hold this next coming statement as true, and give yourself extra sway by using the word “Honestly”.

    Next, would it be rational to think that the exchanging of vows between two people would change the constructs as to when it would be beneficial/detrimental to exert “too much hope/energy into the future”? How do you justify that statement?

    2) “As far as dating goes I know I will benefit more from keeping focus on my goals, hobbies, and friendships that will still be there post-breakup (should there be one) then pouring my emotional resources into common goals which can be quickly taken away.”

    Okay. I’ll make an assumption upon this next question. My assumption is, that you have a goal to be in a wonderful relationship that gives way to a happy life long marriage… maybe a cat tag along… or 50. But minus the cat thing, my question is to follow holding my assumption to be true.

    If you make a propositional statement as such, I would like to point out that your statement of “focusing on your goals” vs “pouring your emotional resources into common goals” could be seen as invalid, at least when you argue it by mean of sentential calculus (ya know, argues the p’s q’s r’s and s’s). If my assumption stated early is true, then one could say that focusing on your goals would also include focusing on “pouring my emotional resources into common goals.” Would you like to elaborate or clarify on this position?

    That is the end of my dissection. Hopefully, it just give you more to think about, for by no means do I want to come off as an attack on you or how you feel about your personal life. But since you give the option for feedback, I felt permitted to give it. Love reading your stuff btw.

    • Erica House says:

      I used both ‘honestly’ and ‘in my experience’ as a way to avoid any contention I anticipated arising from some readers who disagreed with my idea of not making a whole lot of future plans with someone until marriage is imminent. Surprisingly, almost all people (who commented at least) agreed with me!
      At some point, focusing on my future goals will include putting my time/emotion into shared goals and making someone else happy. I just think most people would benefit from not intertwining the two for some time after they start dating.

  • Amen to bullet point number one sister!!! You and I have had that discussion in the past! I feel like that woman is my soul sister. And it’s precisely how I roll! :)

  • Taryn says:

    I didn’t have a real relationship until college, so I don’t have a great deal of experience with it, but I’m actually glad I waited as long as I did because I was very much my own person by the time I did start dating. I think your points are valid for people who are single AND people who are in relationships – being able to support yourself, having your own interests, and being able to make yourself happy are all things that should be goals while IN a relationship as well as when you’re deciding if you’re reading to date. This is a post all girls/women should read!

  • I feel like I am hopeless in this department. Admittedly I have been married for almost 6 years, and we dated for 3-ish years before that. I can’t even remember how to date. So…no advice in this department. Just wanted to say that I adore you…that is all!

  • I think all those tips are keys to a happy marriage as well. In May, I will have been married 20 years, and I think that the key to our success has been that we each have some separate interests as well as ones we share. That makes the time we spend together more fun.

  • Jess says:

    I’m glad you posted this. I realized I wasn’t “ready” to date again, because, well, I had given up on it. I thought my last chance at love was done (he didn’t return the feelings) and figured I would just be alone and watch my friends with their children, being the favorite “aunt.”

    And then Fidget happened. We didn’t intend to date; we just couldn’t not be together. I had been planning to move back to Jacksonville when we meet in September; I was leaving after the first of the year. 2010 was my year to rock and roll before I was back with my parents. I fell in love instead.

    I agree about having your own autonomy and support. The reason why we’ve been together so long (among many, duh) is that I don’t have to “watch” him. My ex-girlfriend couldn’t be alone in a crowded room. She would always follow me because she didn’t know how to interact with people. I get bored easily, and as a Southerner, make friends no matter where I go. It’s comforting to know that we can go out and I’ll do my thing and not have to worry about my partner. Our friends used to find it odd, but my point is, I live with the man and know he’s coming home with me. Why go out if I’m just going to spend the time with him? And he’s off talking to somebody else anyway.

    Regarding the “relying to live on” piece. I think it’s sad to hear about your students, but MANY partners are in the same place. Traditionally, I’m in that place as well. Fidget is paying all of our bills as my salary is going to graduate school. HOWEVER, I have excellent credit. I know if something were to hit the fan, I could apply for a loan and continue on my grad school journey. I appreciate that about what your coworker said; even if I didn’t HAVE to work, I still would. I like to be self-sufficient, even if I have no “reason” to be.

    This post really hit home for me. Sorry for the long comment!

    • Erica House says:

      “as a Southerner, make friends no matter where I go” <--- So my personality! I loved your long comment, thank you for sharing! It sounds like you are in a good place mentally to be in a relationship with someone. I know a lot of women won't ever realize the value of maintaining your own independence while your dating someone, and I think those women who do will have a much deeper, more intense relationship because of it.

  • This one hit home! Just about 5 months out from a breakup that really made me rethink myself. I arrived at a lot of the points you hit on here. Glad to know I’m in good company and on the right path!

    • Erica House says:

      It’s been a culmination of 15 years dating experience to get me to realize these points. Not the best approach I’d recommend for learning them, but I’m pretty stubborn sometimes! Hope your transition into singledom is a smooth one!

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