Dreading getting back into the dating game.
June 10, 2012 12:07 AM   Subscribe

First date after a breakup. I am dreading it, and getting back into the dating game in general. I've never felt this way before. Has anyone ever experienced this before? Does jumping back into the dating game help these feelings go away, or would I be better off waiting until I feel excited about dating again?

My girlfriend of 2 years broke up with me about 4 months ago. I'll have my first date since the breakup tomorrow, and I am dreading it! It's an OKCupid date, so we've never met, and she actually asked me out, I'd set up the profile but I haven't been actively looking for dates.

I've been in a few serious relationships before, and gone through a few breakups. In the past, I've come out of the breakup feeling ready to date again and find someone new. I've actually gone on dates arranged through a dating website before, and one of them even ended up being someone I dated for about a year. Previously, before a date like this, I've been a little nervous but also had a sense of excitement and a sense of optimism.

But this time, the idea of dating again is hard to wrap my head around. I can't imagine going through the whole process of building a relationship with a new person all over again. I know a date is just a date, not a commitment, but you need to have at least some hope that it might lead to bigger and better things, right?

I think these feelings are pretty closely connected to my last relationship. This last relationship was definitely the most serious I've been in and I really didn't want it to end. I was planning on asking her to marry me. I thought I'd left the dating game far behind, and that was more than fine with me. I turned 30 not that long ago. Most of my 20s were a fairly tumultuous decade, but in the last year or so, I'd started to feel like I was coming into my own and finding some sense of stability in my life. My girlfriend as a large part of that. This breakup has left me feeling really unsettled again.

Anyway, that relationship is definitely done, so I figure I should get out there and try again eventually. The girl who asked me out tomorrow actually seems like a nice girl, but for whatever reason, I am dreading getting out there again. Has anyone else started dating when they really didn't feel like dating? Did it help to get out there, or did it just suck? Would I maybe be better off waiting until I actually feel excited about dating again?
posted by tokaidanshi to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This nervousness is a sign that you are not emotionally or mentally prepared to be dating yet. Go on the date and try to enjoy yourself, but don't force yourself to go on more future dates until you know for a fact you are over your last relationship and are really ready.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 12:42 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know that you have to hope that it will lead to bigger and better things. I think it doesn't hurt to meet new people, I think ambivalence about dating is okay too. You might find it turns out to be difficult and tedious, or you could be pleasantly surprised that it is nice to meet someone new. Try and be open to it though.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:00 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're not ready. Give yourself time.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:09 AM on June 10, 2012

Did it help to get out there, or did it just suck?


I would start dating, and expect it to suck at first but get better with time.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:57 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

In agreement that you are still in the process of healing...

This last relationship was definitely the most serious I've been in and I really didn't want it to end. I was planning on asking her to marry me. I thought I'd left the dating game far behind, and that was more than fine with me.

I can't imagine going through the whole process of building a relationship with a new person all over again. I know a date is just a date, not a commitment, but you need to have at least some hope that it might lead to bigger and better things, right?

Four months is still relatively fresh, when you consider that you had your life mapped out. You had left the dating pool, you had a different future in mind, and two years of momentum toward that future.

It's a substantial adjustment, and not one that you intended to make. Thus, a bit of cognitive dissonance maybe. You're doing something that you do not really want to do. You would have rather had The Other Situation work out, but it did not, and that is bleeding over onto this situation.

If you can separate them out a bit, it may help. It is possible 1) to continue mourning your last relationship, whilst 2) finding the next one. There is nothing to say that process must be sequential. All that you need to do is put things in their proper context. The date is not the time to mourn your last relationship, thus make other time for that. The date is time for you to begin taking your own next steps toward a future that you desire.

Also, you're coming from two year momentum in terms of how to treat a partner, and thus it is just natural for you to make the statement about bigger and better things. Sometimes, after breakups, people start dating again, and they want to pick up with new people where they left off with the last person. They were ready for a next step in a relationship (engagement, marriage, babies, house, dog, whatever), but then it fell apart. When they meet new people, sometimes, they try to insert them into their own progression.

Not inherently a bad thing, as once you have developed and matured, that's not easily undone. But also, one has to realise that a first date is a first date. Whilst you were ready for the wedding, this is not the audition for who goes into the wedding dress – if that makes sense.

You're taking a few steps back, and that's okay. As mentioned, it will be easier if you can separate the mourning of your former relationship out of this. In fact, dating can be very healthy for you, as simultaneously, you will both appreciate your last relationship, whilst making forward progress toward meeting a permanent partner. Respecting and loving both aspects will be a great step toward feeling a bit more reintegrated and at home within yourself.

Further, the age context may well be quite different. As people move from their 20s to their 30s, often the bulk of people go from being single to begin in relationships. Thus, dating moves from 'that thing everyone is doing' to 'that thing you do to get to where a lot of other people are'.

Overall, what you're feeling is certainly natural. If you want to have another relationship, you're going to have to go on this date at some point. So in some senses, get it out of the way. Don't put a lot of pressure on it or make it a big deal. You've dated before. You're dating again. Go out, have a nice night. Look at it as an opportunity to get out of your head and start leaving your recent past in the past. Don't look for a wedding out of it really, rather, just look at it as an opportunity to go enjoy the company of someone new for a few hours.

The rest of life will take care of itself.

And as far as your previously relationship being a reason for your stability in life, it could also be that your previously stability enabled the previous girlfriend. Don't let your grief get in the way of celebrating the accomplishments you have made, or the life you have made for yourself. Yes, she was there as well, however, you put your pants on each day and went a made a life you enjoyed.
posted by nickrussell at 2:24 AM on June 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yeah, it sounds to me like you're not really ready to be dating again. There's no rush, and, in fact, I think there's quite a lot to be said for spending a good amount of time single after a major break up - it gives you a chance to rediscover yourself and what you want, and also distance between the previous relationship and the next one can reduce the amount of comparing you do between the two.

That said, dating can sometimes kind of suck. It can help to go into it with the mindset of "I'm just meeting new good people to expand my world" than of "I'm trying to meet the person I'll marry".
posted by rosa at 5:01 AM on June 10, 2012

divorced guy here. getting out there and having some dates will probably accelerate the healing process - i suspect that overall it would be better for your psyche to go ahead and jump in instead of opting out just because its a bit painful. of course it's painful! comes with the territory.

that said, if you try it a few times and find it just unbearable and unremittingly unpleasant, screw it; take a break from dating and don't beat yourself up about it. give it a few months or even a year, if you really need you too. no one will blame you. either way, when you start dating again, try not to give it too much weight. rosa pretty much nailed it - "go into it with the mindset of 'I'm just meeting new good people to expand my world" than of "I'm trying to meet the person I'll marry'" is spot on.
posted by messiahwannabe at 9:42 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that you may not be ready to date, and you don't need to push yourself if so. Time alone is healthy and necessary in order to fully move on and recalibrate your life properly. However, I think there's something to be said for dating casually with a "being social" orientation rather than a "finding a partner" orientation.

A few years ago I was in a spot pretty similar to yours--on the receiving end of a painful breakup when I had planned on that relationship being a big part of my future. It was rough. I realized at a certain point that I had been inside watching Project Runway reruns and crying for longer than was probably productive, and decided that I needed a push to get out of the sad rut and on my way to healing. I decided to join a dating site, not with the intention of finding a new partner or even having a fling with someone, but with the intention of meeting a few nice, interesting people to go on dates with. I ended up being contacted by a nice, funny, smart guy--not my usual type at the time, but he seemed like a fun person to be around, so I agreed to go to dinner with him. I had the same kind of uneasy feelings you did beforehand. It still felt like cheating on the ex-boyfriend who had dumped me to go on a date with someone else. I was still sad. Etc. But I went anyway, and had a wonderful time. Dinner turned into dinner plus dessert and wine. I mostly forgot my heartache for a few hours and it was refreshing to be reminded what just being happy, having a good time with a man felt like.

I will admit--I sniffled on our second date, which was totally embarrassing. I was honest about where I was at, and that I wasn't ready for a relationship at the moment. He was very understanding and we continued to casually date. He put zero pressure on me, but was a supportive friend and (later) partner as I put my life back together in a new, happy configuration following the breakup. We're married now, and are headed toward our second anniversary. (We laugh about the date-sniffling, btw.)

If I had turned the date down merely because I was still hung up on someone who had decided not to be with me anymore, I really would have ended up missing out on a lot of happiness. And, frankly, even if we hadn't ended up getting together, the date itself was still helpful for me in terms of getting back in the world and seeing that new, amiable people who weren't my ex were plentiful. (Like other posters have pointed out.) It's just good to make the conscious decision to move on and see what else is out there. It's good to give yourself a conscious, gentle push to loosen your grip on the shell of the past.

So much possibility is waiting for you in the world, and so many cool people! Breakups do happen because the relationships are broken, and this is your chance to get back to building the stable life you want in a way that won't break this time. Think of meeting new people to expand your circle of acquaintance as part of that process. That said, if you aren't ready yet, you aren't ready yet. Take good care of yourself and do push yourself to move on--but not too much.
posted by anonnymoose at 10:07 AM on June 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

Awww... Well, I broke up with a boyfriend of 2 years whom I loved and started dating three months later even though I was still heartbroken. The first two guys I went on dates with were total duds but the third guy? Well, I met him 9 years ago this week and we've been married for over 3 years. The breakup was in April and we met in June. He's a thousand times better than the guy I broke up with.
So I always encourage broken hearted people to date. Great things may come!
posted by bananafish at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2012

This post brought me back to around 15 years ago when I was in your exact position - on the receiving end of a non "it was mutual" breakup from my girlfriend of several years and attempting to navigate the dating waters while knowing in my heart that whoever I went out with was not the woman I most wanted to be dating.

If anything, my first few forays into the dating scene only made me more depressed than I already was (and I was pretty deep). I have specific memories of sitting across the table from a few of the women I dated during this period and, as terrible as I'm sure it makes me sound, making myself miserable by thinking "This woman isn't in the same hemisphere of attractiveness/intelligence/personality of my ex".

I don't regret having gone on these dates though because ultimately I think the collective weight of them helped me move on, mainly by improving my self-confidence (realizing that even though one woman in particular was no longer interested in having an intimate relationship with me, there were several others who were), helping me recalibrate my standards and opening me up to new experiences and people.

I would go on the date. I think you need to look at reentering the dating pool as starting an exercise program: The beginning stages may be painful, awkward and uncomfortable and you'll be tempted to quit several times, but by sticking with it you'll be happy with the end results.
posted by The Gooch at 11:59 AM on June 10, 2012

A year ago, I did just this. I forced myself to go on an okc date even though I wasn't ready to date again after a breakup. In a week I'll celebrate a year with the guy I met who was so great I made myself get ready, ans every day I'm thankful for whatever compelled me to go anyway. It's one date. Go.
posted by OompaLoompa at 2:19 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok, well I went! It was a lunch date, so I'm already finished. It was basically good. She was pretty cool, and I had a nice time talking with her. No real sparks though, so I'm not sure what to do now. With my last gf, I knew within about 5 minutes of meeting her that this was someone I really wanted to know a lot better. That definitely wasn't there this time. I don't know if I should keep on going on first dates until I find that again (because that seems like a pretty rare thing to find), or if maybe I should give any potential partner a few dates to see if any kind of spark develops. I think the latter is probably the best way to go. But, yeah, as you've all mentioned it would be, it was kind of awkward and uncomfortable. During the date, I was definitely in the moment and had a decent time, but when it was finished, I had a pretty strong feeling of, "well, that was nice, but it wasn't anywhere near as awesome as my first date with my last girlfriend," and that was kind of sad. But I'm going to keep putting myself out there, because I do think it's better than just sitting around and waiting for the healing to finish on it's own.
posted by tokaidanshi at 2:54 PM on June 10, 2012

think it's better than just sitting around and waiting for the healing to finish on it's own

Please be careful, and please be honest - with yourself and others.

How would you feel if you WERE fully ready to date and went on a date with someone who WASN'T ready? Crappy, right? Just be honest with people if you go on these dates because it's the fair thing to do.

It's only been 4 months. That's not a lot of time, especially where it sounds like you were pretty head over heels for your now ex-girlfriend. There's nothing wrong with just being for a little bit; it will help you digest your relationship that just ended. You don't have to be non-social and stay in the house, but give yourself time. If you're not ready, you're not ready and these things truly do take time (oftentimes waaaay longer than we think they would take, unfortunately).
posted by floweredfish at 10:45 AM on June 11, 2012


I'll certainly keep that in mind. The last thing I want to do is hurt someone else, believe me. I guess I don't think it's too bad to go out on first dates, and if it seems like there's something there then to maybe go on a second date. But I won't take it any further unless I'm sure that I'm ready, so thanks for the advice.
posted by tokaidanshi at 10:07 PM on June 11, 2012

« Older now the $6/gallon organic milk isn't good enough...   |   Where can two people watch the Tony Awards in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.