How long should I wait to start dating again after 11 year relationship?
October 2, 2023 3:42 PM   Subscribe

I ended a eleven year relationship (F32) with (M36) that was not working out for a long time due to verbal and emotional abuse and constant fighting from him. I realise I actually prefer women but repressed it, and I really want to date women now.

I technically feel like I have been single for the last five years with the relationship being so stale (we both have not been intimate all the way since I was 25) and I am 32 now. I feel so deprived from affection and love but I do not want to jump the gun and date anyone right now, but process and dissect this relationship that has ended. Should I wait until the New Year? I ended the relationship a month ago, and I feel like I need another month or two, or maybe more? As much as I miss intimacy, I can only have that through a deep bond with someone (a woman hopefully) and not casual. I am not sure if I should wait like half a year, another two or three months, or a year? Though technically, we felt like roommates for the past five years to be honest with hardly any affection at all. I also worry it will be hard to find a lesbian/bi feminine woman to date, but hopefully there one out there that is kind, intelligent, creative, and will treat me right. I do not think I ever want to date a man again to be honest. I feel so fatigued from this relationship, but not sure when is the best time to start dating again without jumping the gun. Many say take time to myself to find myself, be more independent, take up new hobbies, et cetera.
posted by RearWindow to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's no right answer for this. Take a month or a week or a year...or also get yourself on the dating apps and start looking and see if you find a woman you'd like to go on a date with. If yes, try to go on a date. If it's great, keep going. If it's not, stop and wait a bit until you think you might like to try again. You're the only one who can provide an answer.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:48 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]

I would focus less on setting a specific timeline, and instead focus on something other than dating for a while (but don't prohibit dating if it happens, just don't seek it out). You might even find yourself so into this new thing that you don't want to take time away from it by dating.
posted by wheatlets at 3:52 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]

You can't tether this to a specific external calendar timeline.

I think you are on the right track in terms of wanting to wait until you process leaving your relationship, but it's also not a black and white thing -- you are not done processing from one day to the next. But it's probably good to wait until you can be reasonably sure that intimate connections you make will be between you and that other person, without your ex being an invisible third to whom you are reacting or through whom this new experience is mediated for you.

Having said that, you might be in that place already, or you may well be very soon. For me, when I left my marriage, which was also basically over for years before it was literally over, I "pre-grieved" it while still within that relationship. I didn't have any significant emotions about it (like grief or anger) that were unprocessed, because by the time I actually left, I had already processed and largely integrated them. So I did not feel like I needed to wait.
posted by virve at 4:02 PM on October 2 [7 favorites]

I see that my comment of "December 3" has been deleted, which means some of y'all flaggers missed the point entirely.

Either RW reads Dec 3 and says "but what if I meet someone cool in a few weeks? I don't want to wait until December to date her!" Informative.

Or RW reads that and says "oh gosh, that's only 2 months from now, I won't be ready by then at all." Also informative.

Or RW is genuinely looking for an actual calendar date and for someone else to make this decision when feelings are complicated. In which case, December 3rd is great. It's a Sunday, which is a great casual coffee date day. You'll be fresh off of Thanksgiving, so you'll have a topic to talk about. And the holidays are coming up, so if you're feeling into each other then you'll have a dozen opportunities for parties and events to attend together. And if you're not feeling into each other or ready for anything serious, you've got a dozen "I'm busy that weekend too" excuses already built in.
posted by phunniemee at 4:11 PM on October 2 [62 favorites]

There's no time line. Right now you think you need another month or two, so that's how long you need. In another month or two, check back in with yourself and see how you're feeling then, and decide whether to give it another month. Keep doing that until you find yourself thinking "actually, I feel like maybe I'm ready now" and then set up a dating profile and see how that feels.
posted by Stacey at 5:04 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]

It's honestly so circumstantial and personal the only real advice I have for you is to be kind and gentle with yourself. Of two year-plus long-term relationships I've had, I was ready to go out on dates two months after one of them and not until six months after the other. It took me a full year after the 2.5 year relationship, which was my first, and that first-date-afterwards experience was so awful I promptly pulled myself off the dating market for another five months, until I met someone else in my local choir when I wasn't even thinking about dating anybody. The other first-times-after were better, possibly because I'd learned my lesson about building it up in my mind beforehand.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 5:11 PM on October 2

You say you feel like you need 'another month or two, or maybe more', so take a step back and not look to get into anything serious before you feel ready. But there's nothing stopping you from looking around and thinking about who and what you're looking for in the meantime. If it takes you a month to be ready, that's great; if it takes you a year, that's great too. Look after yourself and do what feels right for you.
posted by dg at 5:28 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]

I would say that the best time to start dating again is when you can say that you're not so fatigued from this relationship and when you feel that you've done enough processing and dissecting of the relationship. Obviously you can't put a timeline on that. Maybe one day you'll feel, hey you know what? I'm gonna try this. And maybe you'll fall flat on your face and it's back to the drawing board. Or maybe it'll work out just fine.

In the meantime I would expose yourself to as much queer content as possible if you haven't already. Autostraddle, r/actuallesbians on Reddit, podcasts, YouTube...
posted by foxjacket at 6:00 PM on October 2

With all due respect, which is about as much as I can muster, I suggest you forego "process [ing] and dissect [ing] this relationship that has ended."

Seems a lot like staring at a bloody car accident. Why?

Have you not suffered enough? And if you somehow feel you're jumping too quickly and want more time "to find yourself," I believe you're only prolonging that suffering.

Go out there, find ms. right, ms. wrong, or ms. maybe. You deserve better, higher grade possibilities.

Best of luck, and this post was not endorsed by anyone but me.
posted by lometogo at 1:27 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]

I'm recently out of a similar relationship and I think it's best to wait, not any particular length of time, but whatever amount of time is needed to figure out (probably with therapy) how I got into such an outrageously bad relationship in the first place, why I continued to stay for so many years despite hardly any affection and a lot of cruelty, and most importantly, what I can change to avoid going down that path next time. Maybe you're already there, but for most people it would take some time. Being starved for affection and love is very understandable but also very dangerous, because it can lead you straight back to the same place, of putting up with way too much for a few crumbs of affection. It's much safer if you can find ways to address those real needs outside of a relationship, by spending more time with friends (new or old) and trusted family, petting animals, getting a massage, etc.

Being in another relationship like that would be much worse than being single, and it's very common to end up in a similar situation later if you don't understand how you got there in the first place. I suggest prioritizing advice from sources who are knowledgeable about abusive relationships, because it's not the same as moving on from a regular breakup. There's a reason you got here, and if you don't know what it is, you could be jumping right back in to the same mess.
posted by randomnity at 5:18 AM on October 3 [8 favorites]

Nthing that returning to dating will happen in its own time. Self care while you come back to your 11 years wiser authentic self is the order of the day. If you are craving companionship but getting and internal vibe of “ooh, not ready yet” pursue an avocation, especially if it was limited by your ex. Take a class that indulges your inner 10 year old. If you are craving touch have a spa day, whether it’s a soaking bath at home or a pedicure with foot massage or back massage. Create a a practice or ritual that will help with accepting and honoring yourself (we can’t change the past, gather the learning but try not to ruminate) and moving on. Get back into pleasure at your own pace-Ross Gay’s Book of Delights and adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism are variations on bibliotherapy. Grieve, reflect, process, but above all else, take good care in this time of transition.
posted by childofTethys at 5:21 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]

Take the time you need to grow flesh over the relationship wound. Time with yourself as the partner you consider, refer to, contextualize, etc. Time to habituate with yourself as a fully autonomous entity. It took me almost two years after a 12 yr relationship (though I had some uncommitted fun in that time) to be able to present myself in a healthy full way to a new partnership. It was important to be able to frame the new dynamic according to my own metrics of what my values and needs are, instead of according to what the last relationship failed at.
posted by droomoord at 6:00 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]

i would start dating again when you find someone worth trying to date. No reason to put all these artificial limits on things and life is argualbly short.
posted by couchdive at 9:20 AM on October 3

One reason to wait longer is because it gives you a chance to settle into daily patterns which are focused on you, not a partner. Jumping directly from one romantic relationship into another can keep people from ever taking the time to figure out who they are and what they want outside of a partner. Especially given that you were with an abusive ex for a long time, that might make you extra susceptible to molding yourself around a partner instead of letting them make some compromises.

You will however get a healthy distance from your ex more quickly if you make some new interesting memories as part of your new life. Doing cool stuff makes older stuff fade a bit. So as others have said, trying out new things, making new friends, etc. is a really good idea.

I've also found it really helpful to schedule weekly massages after breakups to reduce how much I miss physical touch. (And I also like casual hookups but that's not for everyone.)
posted by metasarah at 12:00 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]

There are A LOT of women in their 30s - 50s exiting hetero relationships and realizing they've long suppressed their attraction to women. I personally know TEN women who are in this process! So you're not alone, and there are plenty of people out there you might like dating.

I would say, continue to work on yourself, but don't dwell on the past too much. Build a nice future instead. Declutter and refresh your living space, take care of your health in a new way (explore exercise, new foods, etc), upgrade your looks if you want to try anything new (can be very symbolic to get a haircut or whatever), and start a new hobby. Forget the calendar, and just try going to queer events or placing an online dating ad whenever the mood strikes you.

When you meet someone promising, you'll probably feel much more ready to move on than you think!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:56 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]

Honestly, just ask some women out and be upfront about where you're at and see where it goes. Dec 3 sounds perfect. Most gay women are all about processing so you'll get plenty of that in your next relationship.
posted by Summers at 6:23 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]

I would also say, gently, that dating women is not a panacea for preventing some of the issues you've set out above as things that didn't work in your relationship. Women can suck at this stuff too! Absolutely start dating whenever (and whoever!) you feel ready to, but do try to take as much time as you need to reflect on how and what *you* want to be different this time, be it establishing expectations or thinking about needs or boundaries, before the delicious butterflies set in!
posted by freya_lamb at 11:59 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]

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