We’ve all seen those people who move from relationship to relationship, some of which are extremely long term, without so much as a couple of weeks in between. We wonder what’s going on with them and why they can’t stop. Maybe as you’re reading this you’re one of those people. It’s okay, well it’s not, but we’ll get to that in a minute. What I mean is, there is still hope and you’ll find that taking time between relationships can help you be better equipped to achieve what you really want in life.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy a couple of miles away I went out with a woman a few times during which she was chastising a previous date who turned her down. His reason was that he had told her she wasn’t ready to date yet. She felt that was patronizing and a bit patriarchal. I get that. However, I’m guessing what he was saying, perhaps poorly, was that she was still carrying around too much unresolved pain to begin a relationship from a place of strength. He didn’t want to be the partner who was chosen because of her insecurities.
I actually agreed with him, I could also sense this tendency in her. She was still too upset about her recent divorce and the insecurity it left her with to be dating me or anyone else in a healthy way.
Some people in this situation would date her, either because they are oblivious to what is happening, have their own insecurities, or because they have hope that things will work out. I wasn’t about to become a patch for her personal issues. Folks like her in this situation tend choose partners to make themselves feel better, not necessarily because they are a good match. Keep in mind it is possible that someone could still stumble onto a good match for the wrong reasons. It happens. Generally though, insecurity blinds us to who is truly a good match.
I want to say from the outset that I don’t know all of this from intuition. I know it because I have been down and dirty in the trenches of insecurity myself. I have made all the wrong choices in partner selection before. In the hopes that I can help you from making my mistakes, here are my stages of recovery for judging when I can enter a relationship again. Hopefully you find it instructive.
Stage One: I need it!
If you have an emotional urge to go on a date then it’s too soon. In this stage I guarantee you will find someone with whom to start a relationship. The partner you find is likely acting from a weakness as well. Folks that are emotionally aware and balanced do not generally choose folks who are in the midst of emotional turmoil because it feels unsteady and it takes them in a direction they do not want to be.
You are still too close to the trauma of either the breakup or your emotional insecurity to make wise choices about a partner. You are seeking to fill a void with someone else. It’s not really a void mind you, but that is what your subconscious is telling you. Really, it’s just our unwillingness to go through a little emotional work. We know that work will be unpleasant so instead we opt for pleasure and comfort in the form of a new partner.
In this state, even casual encounters (where hopefully each person knows it is casual) are troublesome, because there is too much of a tendency for people to want to settle back into a relationship. That person you found a few weeks or even a few months after your last relationship ended is probably not the person with whom you will be compatible. Too many one night encounters end up long term for all the wrong reasons. It is perfectly understandable as we are all just seeking comfort, but comfort at this point needs to come from within and not from without.
When this relationship ends, and they generally always do, you will find that you didn’t do any of the personal work that you needed and you are back to struggling with your insecurities. The kicker is you may find that these insecurities are even worse now having been magnified by another dissolved relationship. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.
In case it isn’t clear, this is the point where you should not be dating, it is where you should take some time and be single. Learn how to be content existing within yourself. Get used to the lack of communication from a significant other and focus on friendships and hobbies. Basically, just take time for you to get used to this new phase in life.
Stage Two: I could take or leave it.
This is where you feel like you could take or leave dating. This is actually a good place to be and it often feels like it is enough of a calm. However, I’m going to make the argument that you are not quite there yet.
I say this because this stage is generally where people try to date but get overwhelmed by some aspect of the dating experience. This is evidence that there are still some issues you need to work through.
Everyone has disappointing dates that wear on us and make us wonder if any date is going to work out. This is normal. What I’m talking about is more than that. This is when we get overwhelmed fairly early in the dating experience.
This is also the stage where I find I can still get hooked on someone before we even meet. Not always mind you, but if that happens then alarm bells should be going off.
Stage Three: Do I even want it?
The final stage is where you will wonder if you’ve gone too far the other way. When I start to question whether I want to date at all because I’ll have to change my routines and accommodate someone else then I know I am actually in a good place and now is the time to start swiping on those dating apps.
Many people envision this as having gone too far the other way but I couldn’t disagree more. You have found comfort in being single and now you are questioning changing that comfort for someone else. Accordingly, your comfort will only be amended for someone who is worth incorporating into your life. This is far better than the other stages where comfort is seen as coming from someone else.
In this emotional state I’m pretty even keel. No matter how many of my boxes someone checks off before we meet I rarely get excited. Even when I do, it’s still a state of being wide open to possibility but simultaneously aware that statistically there’s a better chance of things not working out.
It’s just being at peace with the fact that you are going to meet far more people that you don’t click with than you do. If you’re falling for everyone you date then you are still back in stage one.
This as you can imagine is the hardest place to reach and one that I fear many people have never experienced in their life.
If you have never done this before then expect to have some uncomfortable things revealed to you. There can be moments when this is difficult especially as one tries to move out of stage one. Knowing that you should wait but dealing with your emotions that tell you to throw your hat into the dating ring can feel horrible. It’s the realization that your brain is trying to self-sabotage. It might make you realize just how out of control you are and that ain’t a pretty sight. Believe me, I know.
Objections and caveats
Some people say that you can come to terms with your emotional state while dating. This is true. This is also what I am trying to help you avoid. That sounds weird doesn’t it?
Coming to terms with your emotional state while dating is what will likely end your poorly chosen relationship. You will realize that this person is not a good fit for you. The reason for that is you never achieved clarity between relationships. This guide is meant to help you choose better partners by not caving into your insecurity.
Plus the time is only going to do you favors in your next pairing. I guarantee when you find a partner who wants to be serious that they will appreciate the distance between your last important relationship and them. No one wants to enter a relationship with someone fresh out of their last one. We only do so, out of fear.
I should also say that this whole thesis depends on whether you are looking for a long term relationship. There are those folks who are not. I am not asserting that a committed relationship is the gold standard. It is however, what most people at least claim they are trying to achieve.
I also think this applies to polyamorous breakups even when a person is maintaining a relationship with other paramores. Heal from the loss of one partner and check any insecurities it creates before setting out to find another.
I’m also not suggesting that your emotional house be completely squared away. I’m not even sure this is possible. You don’t have to be perfect before you start dating, rather you should just make sure that you have done the emotional work so you are not acting from insecurity. Hopefully, this will help you better choose your next partner.