You’ve just been through a rough breakup. Maybe you’ve spent a week on the couch, eating pizza and binge watching bad TV. Maybe you’ve even made a playlist of breakup songs. Maybe you’ve made more than one.
You know it’s time to stop wallowing in your heartbreak. But how? There’s a good chance you’re making that to-do list in your head already: get back in shape, take some classes, maybe even a group vacation with some friends.
And then there’s that other lingering thought…what about getting back out there right away? Does dating help you move on from a bad breakup? Ask a dozen of your friends and you’ll get a dozen different answers from what seems like it should be a yes or no question. Let’s talk through the pros and cons.
Pro: Getting Out of the House
If you’ve got good pictures (make sure they’re not just you with your ex’s face cropped out!), you may be motivated—or nudged by friends—to make a dating profile. In theory, there’s no harm in it. It’s a good exercise in boosting your ego as you realize what you have to offer another person. Plus, you may discover new restaurants or hot spots in town you never knew existed!
Con: You May Want to Do Some Processing First
Online dating is a great way to polish up your conversational skills as you begin to move on, whether you make it to dinner or you’re just on the chat screen. Do you find yourself referring back to your ex a lot in conversation, whether positive or negative?
If they’re still on your mind, that’s a red flag that you’re not ready to move on. Plus, no matter how sympathetic your date may be, there’s a twofold reason not to go on about your ex.
First, it’s a signal to them that you’re either not capable of something serious or may get clingy too soon. Second, they’re not there to play therapist. While some people will instinctually have sympathy for you and be willing to listen, dinner and drinks aren’t a fair trade-off for a night of talking about your ex-love.
The might may seem to go well, but if they don’t answer your text asking for a second date, you may have shown them you haven’t really moved on yet. You may think you’re in a good spot, but if you find yourself doing this on a date, you’re probably not ready to get back in action.
Pro: You’ll Get to Know Your Type
If you were in a relationship for a long time, you likely got to know your ex really well. What attracted them to you initially may not be what you find attractive now. And if it’s been long enough, getting back into the dating field right away will let you know what dating etiquette is and how it may have changed since the last time you were single.
And while you may be tempted to date someone as young as you were the last time you were single, dating someone younger may show you how you’ve matured, and that you may run at a different speed than you used to.
If you’re getting out of a five year relationship, you may find that you’re no longer up for late nights partying at the bar on a Wednesday night. Or just the opposite: you may have been tied down so long that you’ve missed getting wild.
That may even have been what ended your relationship in the first place: no matter how much you care about someone, sometimes you and your ex just wanted different things.
Con: You Could Get Too Serious Too Soon
If your goal is to truly move on, finding another special someone right away isn’t the way to do it. While you may hit it off with someone right off the bat, getting serious quickly doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve moved on.
Feel free to explore the relationship, but there could be a lot of other factors in play, like simply wanting someone to wake up with, or even more complicated matters like codependency.
Replacing one partner with the next too soon doesn’t help you move on. It prolongs you having to think about what it takes to move on: Why did your last relationship end? Who ended it? Even if you ended it, you may have recognized that your partner wasn’t for you but may not have addressed factors that led to the breakup.
Take a step back and see if there’s anything you’d like to change before you get involved in a serious relationship in the near future.
So, does dating help you move on? Sure, in some ways. You’ll get to meet new people, you’ll get a good idea of what you’re looking for, and it’ll get you out of the house instead of wallowing in your own regrets. If you communicate to your date—without oversharing—that you’re fresh out of a relationship and not seeking a serious relationship, you can have a lot of fun dating around, and remembering the fun of being single can definitely help you move on in some fashion.
Ultimately, though, if you want to get serious again in future, you should spend at least a little time alone with your own thoughts thinking about what you’d like for your next relationship to look like and what you can do to make that happen. Whether you journal, work with a professional counselor or therapist, or just talk things through with your friends, working on yourself can never hurt as you move forward. For some people, this is a process that takes months. For others, they’ve bounced back in a day or two.
You know what’s best for you. As long as you’re respectful to your ex—for example, don’t immediately date their best friend—and pay attention to your own goals and emotions, go out and have some fun. It may well help you move on from your last relationship.