When to Date After a Breakup

The end of a relationship is never fun. It’s natural to feel a sense of loss, whether things ended in a knock-down, drag-out fight or an agreement that you’d like to stay friends. It’s totally natural to have questions about what comes next.

Each relationship is a little different, so the way you get over each breakup will be a little different, too—but there are some broad strokes to keep in mind as you make your way back to the playing field.

Broken Heart on a string

The Cooling-Off Period

Are you and your ex the on-again, off-again type? Are you really broken up or is this just another bump in the road? Even if you’re positive you really are through, it doesn’t hurt to take a little time to yourself—even just a day or two.

Sleep in, or take a vacation day and make it a long weekend (though it’s probably best not to tell your boss why you need the day off—it doesn’t matter that we all go through breakups; bosses are bosses after all). Once you’ve given yourself a little time to recover, you’ll be in a better position to figure out what—or who—comes next.

It’s possible you’ll recover quickly. Maybe the writing had been on the wall for months, so you’d been mentally prepared in advance. Or maybe it just wasn’t the right fit, so moving on is easier in this case than it would be in others.

If that’s the case, by all means date as soon as it feels right. You’ll know pretty quickly if you’ve miscalculated. There’s no harm there; you go on one or two bad dates, then decide you need a little more time on your own. That’s perfectly reasonable.

To Rebound Or Not To Rebound?

If the breakup was a nasty one, it can be tempting to get back out there right away, whether it’s a one-night stand or a real-deal relationship. There are no absolutes in life. You may break up with your significant other and meet the love of your life the next day.

But it’s unlikely. Be wary of getting too comfortable too quickly with someone else in place of letting yourself process whatever feelings surfaced during the breakup.

What about a hookup? Again, that’s up to you. No judgement if you do, but having a one-nighter seems to pretty much guarantee the universe will have you running into that person for months, whether you want to see them again or not. But if you wouldn’t want to see them twice, it’s probably not worth seeing them once.

Whatever the situation, it can be tempting to download a dating app as soon as they’re out the door. Believe it or not, this one isn’t a hard no. Putting together a profile can actually be a great way to take stock of yourself and what you’re looking for in a relationship.

Most apps will let you either deactivate a profile or set your profile to private. If you have the willpower, make the profile, keep it private, and come back to it whenever you feel like you’re really ready to get back out there—no matter how short or long term.

We’ve included some dating apps you can try if this sounds like a good idea to you.

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Are My Ex’s Friends Off-Limits?

This is a tough one. On one hand, you’ve probably spent a lot of time around your significant other’s friends, and you may have even felt a little spark with one or two of them. Staying friends with your ex’s friends isn’t completely off the table.

And you are a person, not property, so your status as an ex shouldn’t really be an issue among adults. Still, there are some people who uphold those silly social codes and may see you as off-limits forever.

But dating a significant other’s friend immediately? That’s definitely bad form, no matter how close you were when they were still “just a friend.” If your ex’s friends are decent people, they’ll wait a reasonable amount of time—probably at least until your ex begins to date again—before pursuing you.

Be wary of a friend that would swoop in immediately post breakup, no matter how attractive they are. If their etiquette is that poor right out of the gate, it should be a warning sign that they would have no qualms about treating you just as poorly.

Getting Back Out There

Don’t feel like you have to start dating right away, even if your ex does. Your ex is no longer your problem, so keep that in mind and do what’s right for yourself. It’s not a race or a competition. Reconnect with your friends.

Despite all of our better natures, it can be good to hear a friend say “I never liked them anyway.” Once the ex-talk is out of the way, spend some time with your friends doing something fun that will take your mind away from your ex completely, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Ask yourself: are you ready to date? What feels like a yes at first can morph into a maybe, then into a vow that you’re going to fly solo for life. That’s completely fine. Going on a first date doesn’t mean you have to go on a second date, or meet anyone new at all.

If you really are on the fence, it’s perfectly fine to test the waters. If you find yourself giving a perfect stranger a play by play of the end of your last relationship over dinner, you’ll have found your indicator that maybe you put yourself out there too soon. Live and learn.

Getting over a breakup takes time—and sometimes it’s not obvious that you’re not yet over it. At the same time, you’re likely never going to forget your ex totally, especially if you were together for a long time. You don’t have to have your ex fully erased from your brain to move on. You just need to be comfortable with how things ended. That can take time—and that’s fine.