After a divorce or break-up of a significant relationship, you may wonder when the time is right to “get back in the game” of dating. Begin too soon and you will destine yourself to repeat the mistakes of your past. Wait too long and you may find yourself settling for the familiar (but unsatisfying) habits of solitary life. Timing is important.

Usually, when a person jumps into dating soon after ending a relationship, it signals an attempt to avoid the pain of the current break-up. This is very normal, and in fact, it is often encouraged by friends and family. They urge us to “get over him/her”, after all, there are “plenty of fish in the sea”. The idea is that the quicker you can replace the lost relationship, the happier you will be.

This is bad advice. No, let me say it another way: This is terrible advice.

For starters, the ending of a relationship is a loss that requires grieving. We are not comfortable with grieving in our culture. We are a “feel good fast” society, impatient with the natural ebb and flow of emotion. We want -- indeed, we expect -- to feel “good” all the time, and when we don’t, we rush to anything that will quickly have us feeling better.

So instead of allowing our grief to express itself, we stuff it, avoid it, medicate it. We use drugs and alcohol, television, work and gossiping and . . . dating. But a loss un-grieved is a loss unhealed. It has been well documented that repressed emotion such as grief wreaks havoc with our emotional and physical health. It manifests, eventually, in depression, ulcers or insomnia. So before you begin a new relationship, you want to make sure you’ve given yourself adequate time and space to grieve and heal the old one.

There is another significant test for whether you are ready to date: have you done the work to learn your lessons from the past relationship? Experience alone does not make you wise. Gathering wisdom takes time and focused reflection, and often, an outside perspective. As obvious as it may sound, you can’t see what you can’t see. So, you may need an objective perspective (minister, coach, best friend, hairdresser) to help you glean the insight from your relationship and breakup.

To jumpstart your relationship preparedness education, evaluate yourself in the following categories (and be rigorously honest in your answers!):

o Letting go- Is there any part of you that hopes or fantasizes about reconciliation? Do you dwell on what did or didn’t happen? Do you “need” something from your ex for “closure” – an explanation, apology, admission of guilt? Do you still relate your ex’s faults on a regular basis to your friends and family?
o Emotional connection-Are you emotionally hooked by your ex’s every action? Are you still angry with him? Are you automatically triggered when you see his name on the caller id?
o Realistic view-Do you have enough emotional distance to see your ex in a balanced way? To see his light and dark, her gifts and her faults?
o Role in break-up-Have you done the work to understand the part you played in the break-up? Even if the other person lied, cheated or stole, a relationship dynamic is ALWAYS a two-way street. You need to be able to see what part you played to learn from the experience.
o Alone time-Have you learned to be happy alone? When we date because we don’t want to (or are afraid of) being alone, we make poor choices just to avoid spending another Saturday night by ourselves.
o Strength-Are you resilient enough to handle rejection? With dating inevitably comes rejection: some people you want to date won’t want to date you. Or this rebound relationship may not last-are you emotionally ready and sturdy enough to handle another breakup at this point?

If, after careful reflection, you determine you are ready to get back in the game, congratulations! Take your newly gained wisdom with you and use your insight to create the relationship you truly want.

Or, if you decide you’re not quite ready, congratulations also. Doing the personal work NOW is critical to the success of any future relationship. Acknowledge yourself for taking on this personal learning, and honor your own timing. Because there is no single right time, only the right time for you!

Author's Bio: 

As a personal coach at One Journey Consulting, Renee Cooper assists individuals in gaining mastery over the emotional roller coaster associated with divorce or breakups and determining their readiness to date again. For more information, contact or visit