Is Dating After A Bad Breakup A Good Idea?

Is the age-old adage that in order to get over someone you need to get under someone else true? Even if it isn’t always a certainty, at the very least, can it help?

The problem with all this, to me, is what asking these kinds of questions expose about the fragile underbelly of our intentions. Think of it this way, is your objective getting to know someone new for the sake of getting to know them, or is it just a round-a-bout way of resurrecting the past by filling the emotional void of a breakup with a quasi-familiar set of feelings?

In many ways, the answer to this question will determine whether or not dating after a bad breakup will, or won’t, work for you.

When And Why It’s A Good Idea

Despite the doom and gloom implied about dating in the introduction, I  do feel that seeing other people after a breakup is generally a good idea (save a few conditions — but more on that later). Here are a few reasons why:

  • It helps break the traumatic cycle of self-inflicted misery with the influx of new experiences.
  • It helps us move on, not just figuratively, but literally. Assuming of course, you aren’t looking for traces of your ex. In which case please refer to the next section!
  • It allows us to confront pent-up insecurity (dating can be useful precisely because it tends to stir painful memories or comparisons, the sooner we process these emotional land-mines, the better).
  • It reminds us of what we stand to gain, and frees us from introspective obsession.
  • It helps re-organize our priorities with our needs at the forefront, not our pain.
  • It can be fun, independently of any romantic expectation.
  • Meeting someone genuinely amazing is more than a simple blues cure-all. It is a chance to comprehensively improve our lives. Why waste the chance by sitting on the sidelines?

If going on a date is something you want to do, but are pulling back out of fear (fear of failure, fear of compounding your healing, fear of being used, e.t.c), I would urge you to take the opportunity to get out there if it arises. So long as a date is not solely used as a way of healing (because then it would be you using them), but because it sounds like — well — fun.

When Dating Isn’t A Workable Option

Sometimes it simply is too soon. While I am personally loathe to self-impose any limits on my freedom (because in the main healing is about just that — reacquainting ourselves with the veritable cosmos of opportunities and experiences that are available to us), there are two main factors that would delay my candidacy to the world of dating.

1. The fear of rebounding

The potential for an unhealthy rebound relationship is exceptionally high if we are using our dating experiences as a way to manage the loss of a previous love, and not, instead, as a way of paving our romantic future.

It can be tricky to tell whether we are genuinely falling in love with someone, or whether it is simply a case of trauma-borne self-deception. Here is an excellent article outlining fifteen signs you’re rebounding and not genuinely looking for someone new.

Needless to say, the inevitable collapse of the rebound (once your self-esteem rebuilds) will hurt not only you, but primarily your unwitting partner in crime, ultimately intensifying feelings of guilt and isolation. Do. Not. Want.

2. Fragile self-esteem

If I catch myself in a bout of self-victimization, or I wake up next to a complete stranger, I will always consider it a sign that my self-esteem has hit rock-bottom. While it is entirely natural to take an esteem hit after a breakup (yes, even if we are the dumper), now is not the time to make long-term decisions, particularly when it comes to our romantic lives.

Much like my previous point about the dreaded rebound relationship, once we begin to rebuild our self-worth, the house of cards collapses,and  it will leave us feeling suffocated, guilty and alone, and leave your rebound feeling used, bitter and resentful.

Is It Too Soon?

There is never a clear cut moment that denotes a fundamental readiness to date. No matter whether it’s been a week, a month or a year, there will always be the threat of emotional pitfalls or the promise of a reward attached to dating after a bad breakup.

I happen to feel that when it comes to moving on, practice makes perfect. And attempting to find closure is nearly always secondary to moving on in a more literal sense. Actively doing something. Thereby training the brain to accept a new reality by sheer force of will. But that is just me, and is certainly not for everyone.

Having said this, doing something does not always mean doing anything. And dating can be a painful reminder that shoring up self-esteem is a necessary per-requisite to opening the flirting flood-gates.

If your boundaries and standards are where they should be, even if breakup pain is right up there, dating can become a marvelous way out of grief, straight into a rosy new future of your choosing — whatever that may be (which is part of the fun!).