You’re dating again.
You’ve come out of a messy breakup, but you’ve had help to process it, you’re armed and, well, not exactly dangerous — but ready.
You meet someone. They’re hot, they don’t push for sex, they’re nice to their mother. They want to see you again. They initiate dates, they text back, they don’t ghost. Weird. Something must be wrong, right?
You ask your friends, you jump online, you identify the 125 red flags you need to look for in a new partner.
Argh. Confusing! Is she/he a narcissist in waiting? Will they hole up in their cave at the first disagreement? Will their emotional baggage overwhelm us? Will they spend hours in the bathroom with their phone?
Woah, hold on a minute. Too much, too soon. When dating — especially when you’re recovering from hurt — you need to tweak your mindset to make sure you are dating for the right reasons.
Because the biggest red flag in a new relationship is YOU.
Don’t Believe Me?
When people have come through a difficult relationship or breakup, their view of dating, others, even themselves, is skewed. Why wouldn’t it be? Every relationship, every heartbreak, leaves its scars.
A young man told me he was burnt out by women — he didn’t trust them and, right now, he wanted to use them in the ways he’d been used. To his credit, he knew it wasn’t a healthy mental platform from which to date anyone — that’s why he’d sought help.
There’s no perfect time to begin dating again; there are no rules. But the first step in checking you are dating for the right reasons is to rule out the wrong ones.
The 5 Wrong Reasons to Date
1. Dating to relieve loneliness.
Or dating because you’re not built to be alone. Being alone (and enjoying it) is a life skill but we can’t expect it to develop on its own. We need to cultivate it. Your own company should mean more to you than that of someone you just met. So aim for that.
2. Dating for revenge.
On the male/female species, because you’ve been hurt and you want to strike back. Wanting to date for revenge tends to mean you’ve been badly hurt; you need more time to process your pain and anger. Reach out for professional help if you can. If that’s beyond your means, do some reading about relationship recovery and take time to treat yourself well .
3. Dating for sex.
It’s common to crave physical intimacy after you’ve been on your own for a while and, if you (both) want sex, that’s your business. But take care of yourself too: yes, you may get a tiny psychological lift because someone wants you. But it’ll be fleeting and afterwards you’ll feel empty and bad, possibly worse, about yourself. Also, someone wanting you and someone wanting to have sex with you are not the same. Try to think about the difference.
4. Dating because your ex has someone.
“Catch up” dating makes you rush into unsuitable relationships. It makes you choose the wrong person. Comparison robs you of joy on every level. So if your ex has someone, do your best to ignore them for now. And (secretly) know that if you had problems with them, their new partner probably will too.
5. Dating to feel worthy.
For many people having a partner is tied to their own self-worth. Don’t be fooled. Having a partner doesn’t make you more likeable or a better parent or a more supportive friend or more amazing at your job. You are worthy in your own right. Try to remember that.
A new relationship should be treated as just that — a new relationship. If it goes well, great. If not, it can be ended. But the relationship you can’t end is the one you have with yourself. So, as much and as often as you can, put your best energy there.