Should I start dating again?
April 3, 2014 2:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm still hurting form a recent break up. Would a foray back into the world of online dating help me get over it and move on?

I was dumped 3 months ago by a woman I've been in an on/off relationship with for past 4 years. It's the third time she's dumped me, this last time by text and I was/am pretty heartbroken by it. I’m trying to move on but it’s a slow process. I’m keeping fit, eating well and sticking to no contact, but I still find myself ruminating the break up and my ex all the time.
I want to let go of all these negative thoughts and feelings but they don’t seem to be shifting.
I wondered whether I should start dating again to speed this process up and give me someone else to think about ? I'm an older guy (50 this year) so I don't feel time is on my side and don't want to waste too much time pining over her when I could be meeting someone else.
Any advice greatly received.
posted by blokefromipanema to Human Relations (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. I was in a similarish situation a few years ago. Don't think of it as dating but as moving on by meeting new people and developing a new life after the breakup. If something happens then great, but move on. The quicker you can reframe your ex- as "the prevous one that didn't work out" the better. Even meeting a new person once for coffee is a break with the past. Oh, and the on/off thing was probably both of you, so no contact for the indefinite future.
posted by epo at 3:32 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, absolutely. See a bunch of new people and if you connect, you connect. If you don't, you don't, Be honest with yourself and with the people you see about where your head is at. But I really do see a benefit to getting back out there and dating.
posted by inturnaround at 3:49 AM on April 3, 2014

I'm gonna be the first "no". Because - while it's wise to try to meet new people, and it makes sense on paper to go into online dating thinking "oh this is just gonna be for fluffy fun and not be serious", I suspect that in practice you're gonna have a hard time not getting blindsided by your breakup hangover still. (I know because I've tried online dating after a breakup for the same reason and had it backfire on me for precisely that reason.)

Everyone suggests volunteering or taking up a new hobby after a breakup, and that is actually one of the reasons why - you meet new people. The thing is, you're meeting them in a non-dating scenario, so your "oh this is dating and dating equals my ex and now I am sad" thoughts are short-circuited. I'd try that instead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on April 3, 2014 [13 favorites]

You can only do what you feel comfortable with. Why not give it a try and see how it goes? I think if you go into it with good intentions to be honest and open with the people you meet you will be fine. If you try it and it doesn't work because you are still thinking too much about your ex, you can always take a step back and take a break. I would just caution you not to rebound with someone just because they are a distraction from your pain.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 5:27 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's working for me. I'm not even *close* to over a recent(ish) heartbreak, and I've been doing the okcupid thing for a few months now. It's been really nice to meet some good people and get reassurance that, yeah, a lot of people out there are cool and fun and also not jerks. It's kind of restored my faith in humanity, actually.

I have, I think, especially good okc luck. And I went into this looking for fun, casual things, not seeking The Love Of My Life, which also helps, because it's a much more achievable goal. But it's been great for putting that breakup in perspective. It hasn't entirely gotten me over it, no. But if I hadn't started dating again, I think I would still be lying in bed crying over what happened last autumn every night. This is a definite improvement.
posted by Because at 5:28 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think you're ready to date. You're ready to mix and mingle though. I recommend getting a social life that's more about meeting all sorts of people, than it is about finding someone to date.

1. Volunteer. Do things you enjoy. I like building houses with Habitat for Humanity, my sister holds babies in NICU at a hospital.

2. Joint a faith group. I like the UU church because it's so hippy-dippy. Lots of off shoot groups within the congregation, lots of social activities, hell, after services on Sunday, you go on the patio and drink coffee with people.

3. Take classes, either towards a new degree, or a certification, or just for fun. There are a million unexplored things to learn about!

4. Travel. Join a travel club, or go on group tours.

You can't use new people to help you get over heartbreak. I mean, you can, but you'll just be comparing and it's icky.

One day, you'll be involved in something, and you'll realize that you haven't thought about your ex in weeks. THAT'S when you're ready to date.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:40 AM on April 3, 2014 [14 favorites]

when it comes to breakups i believe in the half-life theory. it will take you half the time in which you dated to get over said person. so if you dated for four years, it will take you two to get to a place where you are really ready to be with someone else. but who wants to wait TWO YEARS?? i think you should still date. dating and being with someone are two entirely different things, and you don't have to get serious if you don't want to. a lot of things i hear while dating is "i'm not ready to commit" and also sometimes people date just to date or make friends or have sex or adventures in life and nothing else. not everyone is in the dating world because they are looking for the perfect mate to settle down with. there's a lot of potential to head in many different directions - why shouldn't you be part of that as well?

one thing i will say though - when you do decide to go out on dates, for the love of god don't talk about your ex. you've got some baggage right now, and it's hella raw, but i think you can have fun regardless as long as you don't dump it all on someone new and be like "waah my heart is all mangled!" they are your date, not your therapist. not saying you would do this but i've met a few freshly broken hearts that didn't know the difference :)
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 5:52 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know if dating is right at this time, but getting out there might be a good thing. Go out with people, one-on-one, but don't add the pressure of dating to it. If you click, you click, but just have a good time. Good times outside of the house tend to help heal a lot of stuff.
posted by xingcat at 6:15 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think that if you have to ask that you are probably not ready.

You already have someone else to think about right in front of you: yourself. Your most important relationship is with you! I would encourage you to take a bit of time to take care of yourself and learn about yourself first. It sounds like you want "someone to think about" which to me equates to "something to distract me from my pain" which, when I have those feelings - and believe me, I really understand where you're coming from here (I'm a serial monogamist and have huge issues with being alone, apparently - I don't think I do, but my behavior suggests otherwise) - but when I have those feelings, I've learned that it is a little alarm that is really saying to me "hey, work on yourself, sockermom, you've got some stuff to figure out here!" And then I circle the wagons and hunker down and spend a lot more time with myself trying to work through whatever is going on. That, to me, is not a time to start new relationships - maybe new friendships, but for me it is not a time to date.

Something that I have trouble remembering sometimes - and I am trying to figure out a gentle way to say this - is that entering a relationship involves another person. And that other person deserves to enter a relationship with a person who is ready to have a full relationship. I personally define ready as someone who is fully engaged in their life. He does not need a girlfriend, doesn't have substance abuse issues, has at least one hobby, has been single for at least 6 months, has already had at least one serious relationship, has at least one or two friends, has a job and can support himself, and who is confident and has self-esteem (but isn't egotistical). This is my list. Perhaps you might think about what your list of "ready" looks like. Would you date yourself?

If not, take care of yourself and learn about yourself and push yourself to your limits until you see what a catch you are.

Dating when I am not ready has always been a big heartbreak for me. The guys I date are nice but I have yet to date one that doesn't have serious baggage or some kind of major issue that makes them unsuitable as a partner. And that is probably because I subconsciously look for people who also were not ready to date, or I attract only people who are not ready to date because I was a giant mess of red flags for a long time. The only people who wanted to date a woman waving those red flags were also waving red flags of their own.

I think that some people can date casually and they can truly date casually and be happy and it's great for them. But something about the way your question reads to me suggests that you are not one of those people. And that's OK - I'm not really one of those people, either, as much as I've tried to squish myself into the "I like dating casually!" box in order to please men who wanted to date me casually, and in order to use them for that emotional comfort and that distraction from my pain.

Dating casually on OKC can apparently be really awful and demoralizing too, from what I've heard (I had a good experience myself but my female friends have had some really bad luck with some really goofy people). Are you ready to be rejected four times in a day? How about 15? Because that can happen on OKC. I don't think you're ready for all that, based on your question.

On preview, as the wise Ruthless Bunny said above: it sounds like you're not ready to date, but you are ready to mix and mingle. Her advice is spot-on and you should take it. Volunteer, pick up a social hobby, get to know yourself. When you are ready, you'll know, because you won't be interested in dating to distract yourself - you'll want to date because you'll be happy and you'll want to share your awesome life with another awesome person. And you'll be centered enough that you'll be able to truly say to yourself: "Hey, self, it'd be great to date again, but if it doesn't happen, I'll be just fine."

Good luck to you on this journey.
posted by sockermom at 6:21 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

ps - a little mental trick that I use to deal with those recurring thoughts that you mention in your question is that I imagine that I can step outside of them and "see" them from afar. Then, I like to say to it: "Hello, thought. We've met before. I remember you. I have to go now; see you later," and then I just sort of... walk away and disengage from the thought. And of course it comes up again, and again, but each time I just gently say: "Hello again, thought. You are not being very nice today. I have to go now; see you later," and repeat. And repeat.

It sounds hokey and a little weird but it really does work. It helped me let go of a ton of negative feelings and thoughts and sadness after I finally left my abuser (I was in an abusive relationship for about 3 years). This technique was really helpful to me, and perhaps you might try it to see if it helps you let go of and detach from your negative thoughts and feelings.
posted by sockermom at 6:27 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Rather than avoiding the pain you're feeling, go towards it and use this as an opportunity to reevaluate who you are and what you want. Sometimes we have to go down in order to go up. Don't start dating again just to distract yourself. You'll make the same mistakes if you don't do some self reflection first.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:32 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I read your earlier question. Did you ever do the breakup ritual? I have done rituals for closure on various situations, and I find them helpful.

Also, stick to No Contact. It's going to feel weird since you guys were off and on. But it's for the best. I can say that from experience also.

When you feel down on yourself, remember that your ex had issues. It's obvious that she had attachment problems and intimacy avoidance and such. This is not your problem anymore. Yay!

And as far as your age goes, emotional healing is no respecter of feeling pressed for time. You have to do what's right for you, otherwise you will waste even more time. I think what's right for you is not dating. Don't feel desperate! Fifty is not that old. It's just the media that tell us it is. I can think of five guys, off the top of my head, who are well over 50 and have found women to date (the guys' ages are early fifties to late sixties and the women they are dating range from late 30s to late 60s). One of the guys is the 60-something widower who met my divorced aunt several years ago and is now buying a house with her. Another aunt of mine got divorced at 60 and had men aged from 40-70 fighting for her soon after. In our culture today, midlife dating is more the norm than not.

I think it's attractive and a bit mysterious when a person isn't needy. I mean, the media tells us that anyone over 35 or 40 who isn't married is probably desperate to get hitched. Personally, when I meet someone in that age range or older who is happy in their own skin and okay with being single (though not at the other extreme of pushing people away like your ex) I admire that person. They've got balls (or ovaries)! They're brave enough to love themselves when society tells them something is wrong with them. Society is always telling single people they need a partner, and those who call bullshit on that are pretty cool, in my book. It makes me want to know them better and find out what makes them so confident. Give yourself a year to become that person and heal from this toxic relationship. Start working out and taking good care of yourself if you're not already. There is a book, Younger Next Year, full of awesome advice. My dad started doing the regimen and is now the same weight he was in high school. While all of his friends are falling apart, he is like a youth in comparison. (He's 74). There is no reason to despair. Your time for dating will come. Work on yourself first.
posted by xenophile at 7:00 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

So I had my heart broken by this guy whom I loved. I am the kind of person who feels better when I'm taking active steps to address a problem. 3 months in even though I still loved him and was still grieving, I started dating. I wasn't ready yet, but I immediately met this guy who was adorably funny. I think this month is the 11 year anniversary of that horrible heartbreaking breakup. My husband and I will have been together 11 years in June. The only real downside to having not waited until I was completely healed is that I twice called my husband the wrong name (not in bed!), but he handled that with good humor.

So I say go for it. If you think it's making things worse give yourself permission to stop. Here's an internet hug. Oh and my dad started dating his partner when he was your age. They are ridiculously in love and have been together 20 years. He says the second half of his life is better that first. Internet hugs

Ps anyone who ends a relationship over text it's not worth keeping.
posted by bananafish at 7:45 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

entering a relationship involves another person. And that other person deserves to enter a relationship with a person who is ready to have a full relationship

Having been on the other side of this—dating someone who wasn't over his ex, and who was really dating just to try to distract himself from his pain, rather than to actually form a new relationship—I would say you have to tread very carefully. Even going out for coffee once with someone who is truly ready and looking for a serious relationship could be sort of wasting their time. It's not to say that you couldn't fall in love with someone new. But please stay conscious of how you're affecting the people you're meeting.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Thanks for all the advice. I do agree with many about starting to date when still hung up about an ex perhaps being a bad idea, but I find myself in a somewhat Catch22 situation:
In order to get over ex I need to meet someone else but I shouldn't meet someone else until I'm over my ex.
Whilst I am confusingly pining for my somewhat emotionally abusive ex (does dumping me three times by text completely out of the blue and constantly blowing hot and cold with me count as emotional abuse?), I've not locked myself away, living the life of a hermit. I am out and about doing lots of sporty stuff and spending time with my grown up sons.
It's not that I immediately want to jump straight into another relationship. I don't. But I also don't think all the navel gazing I'm currently embroiled in is helping me either. Yes I want to process the heartbreak, but it feels like 3 months has been a long enough time to do this and at the moment I'm just spinning wheels within wheels.
Perhaps getting out and dating will at least offer some relief from this. Perhaps it won't. I'm veering towards giving it a go and seeing how it feels. Should I date I'll try to do it asethically as I can.I don't intend to lead anyone up the garden path.
posted by blokefromipanema at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I find myself in a somewhat Catch22 situation:
In order to get over ex I need to meet someone else but I shouldn't meet someone else until I'm over my ex.

...NNNo, it doesn't necessarily follow that the only way to get over your ex is to meet someone else. At least, not strictly dating-wise. Sheer time will also take care of you getting over your ex, after all.

The meeting-other-people is more of a way to remind yourself that there are other people in the world, and some of them are good. And maybe in the future when you are ready for it, you may want to date one. But it's not necessarily true that the only way to get over your ex is to find someone else to date, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think that if you feel ready to date, you should date. And it sounds like from your update that you thing you're ready to date casually a bit. You should try it if you want to try it, certainly.

But I think that this statement is completely untrue: "In order to get over ex I need to meet someone else." What makes you think that? I might examine that outlook were I you.

I cannot comment on the abuse - my abusive relationship was very dramatic and contained physical and emotional stuff that is just beyond the pale in terms of what is normal and healthy. But what I can say is that hot-and-cold and being dumped out of nowhere does not feel good. It is not OK. And if you were in an abusive relationship - again, you didn't give nearly enough details for me to assess that - that what you need right now is more time alone, not less.

Trust me on that last sentence. If you were in an abusive relationship, the last thing you need to do right now is date again. Being abused takes a toll. It makes future relationships really, really hard to navigate and manage. At the beginning of our relationship when my new, non-abusive boyfriend didn't text me for a day, for example, I would sometimes spiral around and think he probably hated me and was secretly planning a breakup. Nope, he was just at work, busy working like a normal person, but my brain is so incredibly used to being stonewalled and then being verbally or physically assaulted, so I was for a long time primed to think that any lack of contact from my boyfriend was just him gearing up to abuse me. And like I said: new boyfriend is not abusive, but even now, after a year of dating, I sometimes feel very scared and frightened.

And that means that yeah, I probably wasn't ready to date when I started dating him, and that fact makes our relationship a lot harder.

Best of luck to you.
posted by sockermom at 9:25 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think dating and meeting new people is a fine idea, but yeah maybe no relationships for a bit. But it really does work I tell you. Meeting new people, like classes and new hobbies and travel and such, all work under the same principle -- they distract you from your pain while giving you the chance to logically work out what was wrong with the relationship and what factors went into you finding yourself in said situation.

It was almost the only thing that worked for me. I got to do my breakup deconstruction in some degree of relative peace after that. This was after 2 years of emotional hell where I tried to "remain friends" with him.

If you're asking for permission to have a rebound relationship to get over your ex though, trust me, it's not going to work. You will find yourself not only still thinking of your ex, but also guilty that you're wasting someone else's time.
posted by rozaine at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Feel free to be upright and honest in your profile and/or in person: you're getting over a breakup, which takes time, so you're on okcupid to meet new people and date casually until enough time has passed that you're ready for a serious relationship again. If someone doesn't want to be a part of that, they don't have to go out on a date with you.
posted by davejay at 10:47 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Perhaps getting out and dating will at least offer some relief from this. Perhaps it won't. I'm veering towards giving it a go and seeing how it feels. Should I date I'll try to do it ethically as I can. I don't intend to lead anyone up the garden path.

From the sound of it, I think you might actually veer into the opposite direction. You sound ripe for a rebound relationship. Go ahead and start dating (or meeting people), but be wary of trying to turn your dates into serious relationships too quickly to divert yourself or soothe yourself from the pain of your last relationship. If you find yourself infatuated with someone new, remember to take things slowly to make sure you're really crazy about them and not just about having someone in your life again.

Whatever you do, don't cut short the time you're spending on yourself and with your sons. I think maintaining those relationships will help you heal as, of course, will time.
posted by gladly at 1:07 PM on April 3, 2014

I dunno. Your question and follow up both have a lot of info and emotion about your ex. I guess that's what you're saying, that she's still occupying your head and you're still really angry about what happened. Dating now may well not distract you as you hope, but be the next detail to view through your current angry / hurt lens. It may not be like "oh a great new person," it could be like "oh this person's neat traits just prove what a jerk Betty was." Rather than "ugh, someone stood me up," it could feel like "another person dumped me disrespectfully?? Why are all women awful?"

I don't think there's much harm in trying - unless you live somewhere with a very small dating pool, in which case I'd say you should definitely wait until you can put your best self forward. But I do think that it probably won't go anywhere and you might introduce needless noise and drama into your life while you're still trying to heal.

I vote you focus on healing. Distract yourself from the pain and anger with a new goal (running a half marathon) and make new friends in the process (join a men's running group), maybe? Three months is too soon to expect your heartbreak and bad thoughts to have gone away. Another 6 months won't hurt, and it may well help you meet someone much better suited for you. Dating now also risks wasting time on a rebound.
posted by salvia at 5:48 PM on April 3, 2014

I would recommend that you stop trying to move on. Fully feel your grief and sadness from this break up. It's okay to still be experiencing the mourning process. And it's good that you're taking care of yourself. Continue to do that.

If you decide to date, understand that you should definitely continue to feel your feelings. Don't use dating and meeting other people as a distraction from your pain.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:01 PM on April 3, 2014

Firstly thank you for all the wise answers. They've really helped.
I also want to clarify that it wasn't an emotionally abusive relationship...not really... and I apologize to people who have been through that horrible experience if I have somehow diminished it by using it to describe mine. Yes she blew hot and cold, dumped me a few times and the rest, but as cold as that kind of behaviour is it's not emotional abuse.
It's probably a reflection of where my brain and emotions are at, at the moment, but I've now decided to wait before starting dating again. What I didn't reveal in my original post was that in one of the 'off' periods in my previous relationship I did try dating again and it made me sad. I invariably compared anyone I met to my ex and that wasn't fair on them. It was because I still wasn't over her...and I wanted her back. I'm still not over her, and I don't think I will be for a while yet. But the difference this time is that I have accepted that though I still love her, she is bad for me and I cannot go back with her should she get in touch. I'm hoping this gives me a better starting point and perspective for any future dating I undertake.
I'm going to give it another month, maybe another couple. I may even set myself a deadline to start dating again when it's been 6 months since my break up. This way I feel like I've given myself enough time to heal, and to hopefully get my dating Mojo back.
posted by blokefromipanema at 1:19 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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