5 Things to Know About Dating Again After Your Gay Breakup

Roughly two years ago, a notable number of the Autostraddle staff and also world at large went through what I now think of as The Summer of Breakups — long-term relationships that everyone had thought would last forever were suddenly turned on their head, including mine. Group chats were formed! Impulsive decisions were made! We started a channel in Slack! Pet custody was negotiated! Now, a few years down the road, some of it feels very distant (other times it doesn’t, like when my former landlord emailed me this week to find out if he needed to split the security deposit between me and my ex or not. I don’t know??). I’m not saying this summer will necessarily be a Summer of Breakups again — although it’s true there are two eclipses in Cancer season this year, yikes — but if you do find yourself suddenly among our number, I and many others are here to tell you that some semblance of a love life does exist on the other side of breakups, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

You aren’t alone!

If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, especially if you’re 30+, it’s easy to feel like the world moved on without you while you were taken. That everyone else is now in idyllic, perfect and endless relationships or marriages, and you have somehow found yourself the loser in a community game of musical chairs. This is not the case! As someone who left a very long-term relationship — an entire marriage! — and felt this way for a long time, I can tell you from personal experience it is really not the case. At first it felt like the only other gay single people on earth were 25-year-olds (no offense, 25-year-olds!) but that has turned out to be extremely not the case. People are single by choice and/or become single at all ages and all stages of life, for all kinds of reasons.

More than this, one great thing about dating post-divorce and post-30 was finding that not only were other people my age single, but a significant portion of them had also gone through at least one major relationship ending, either a marriage or a relationship they had expected to be in forever. Far from people thinking you’re weird or damaged or somehow off life’s track if a big relationship ended, it’s often an experience you can share and find that you’re feeling is normalized for yourself. So many other 30+ queer women have been divorced! I have been to the mount and I bring you this testimony!

Be flexible about ‘being ready’

If you’ve gone from a long-term relationship you were settled into for the long haul to being suddenly single, it may feel like you can never see that happening ever again. And definitely it makes sense to take some time and space for yourself! Maybe a very long time! Before looking for any new activity partners or partner partners. However, if you’re getting out of a big-deal relationship, especially if historically you’ve been a serial monogamist, it may not make sense to wait until you’re ready to once again share a co-op ownership and dog and Hitachi with someone to get back out there. That exact feeling may never arrive! And even if you are a serial monogamist, there are speeds between “alone forever, using the “haha” reaction in the group chat from the couch where you’re rewatching the musical episode of Buffy alone for the fiftieth time, alone” and “gay married.”

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It’s fine if you don’t feel ready for a relationship again, but maybe you feel ready to get a drink with someone! Or see a movie with them! It’s not dishonest or bad to date even if you don’t expect to be dating with the intent to enter a Relationship. It’s fine to just be having fun, and giving yourself a reminder that you’re fun and interesting. You don’t have to obsess over whether you’re ‘ready for a relationship’ again, at least not for a while; you can just ask yourself whether you’re feeling ready to like, text someone. Maybe eventually you’ll find you’re thinking you might be ready for a relationship with someone you texted — or not! Also fine!

Be honest about what you want

The only way to get to that being fine, though, is to be honest about what you ARE ready and looking for — both with yourself and with other people. I think especially given the tropes of lesbians who want to move in immediately and raise 2.5 shelter cats, it can feel like you’re doing something wrong or bad if you don’t necessarily want that. You aren’t! As long as everyone involved knows what the deal is, you are doing great. This also goes for impulses of guilt in the other direction — if what you want is a serious girlfriend and 2.5 shelter cats, it’s okay and good to say that, to yourself and others! You don’t have to try to be into casual dating, casual sex, seeing multiple people or remembering which tinder date named Kelsey is which if that isn’t what you actually want! You and the people around you will be so much happier if you don’t, and it will be so much easier to find the person or people you’ll be really happy with if you’re super clear on what you’re looking for rather than trying to accommodate.

You don’t have to hide your breakup

Returning briefly to point #1, you don’t need to be apologetic about the fact that you had a major and really difficult experience, and the ways it will probably impact you. You don’t have to hide that you’re still sad or that it was a big deal; if your date suggests going to the place you had your wedding rehearsal dinner at for drinks, you can say you’d rather not because it would make you feel weird! This doesn’t have to be the same as dumping stuff on your date; it can just be normal low-grade emotional sharing and vulnerability, like sharing that you had a bad day at work — your date knows you have a job! Your date knows you have had other relationships! It isn’t a state secret, and you don’t need to try to make it one.

You can also talk about things that aren’t your breakup!

AND YET. While it’s kind of a queer dating cliché to spend major parts of your first dates dishing about your exes — and that’s a totally fine thing to do! — it’s also true that part of dating other people is about moving on from your relationship, not finding a new space to rehash it in. If you’re finding that your ex or breakup is coming up nonstop, or you can’t stop comparing new people to your ex, maybe it’s time to take a step back! Life is long; it’s ok to need more time. Do you have a journal! No reason, just wondering! I love this one.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1098 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. Thanks so much Rachel, for this advice column ! What I found out when I recently and briefly dipped my toe into the dating scene, is that I really don’t know what I want in a relationship ! It’s been soooo long, the world has changed so much, and frankly, I only know myself as a partner, not as an independent babe.

    I don’t know about others, but my way of finding out who I am seems to be by crashing into walls a lot. I guess I’m finding my way through a series of “Hell No’s” rather than through a bunch of “Hell yeah’s”.

    If anything, I’m leaning towards becoming a hermit crab. My Moon being in Cancer I guess that makes sense.

  2. Oh, Rachel. I loved this article and didn’t even know I needed to hear some of these beautiful words. I am currently in a state somewhere between dying hourly and resignedly weeping over my ex-LTR (oh and the bursts of white hot rage are also a joy). This was a balm unto my soul. I bet this won’t be my only read. Thank you.

    • Take heart, dear I have no idea what rhymes with Delores. I’m about 8 months out of a break up and though it is still hard, it’s not as hard as it was last month or the month before that. Riese posted an amazing article years back about her friend’s advice to her after she went through a break up. It’s a gem and I think you should search for it in the archives. As for my comforting words to you…this sucks. But you’re making it through. You feel miserable most of the time, but there are little rays of hope that shine through every once in a while. Those rays of hope will begin to increase with each week behind you. It will always suck, the hurt you feel and will probably always be with you in some small capacity. It will not be the center of your being forever though. Just keep getting through the day, as miserable and heart wrenching as it is. If you keep doing that, you’ll come to the other side of it eventually. Even if I don’t know you, I’m thinking about you, Tyrannosaurus?

  3. I’m closing in on one year of being single for the first time in 10 years, and recovering from the worst breakup of my life — an intense two-year-long relationship where I was hopelessly in love with someone who didn’t feel the same about me.

    I am still not over that breakup, and definitely do not feel ready to date. Needless to say, I really needed to this. Thank you Rachel.

  4. Thank you! I really needed to read this perspective, especially the part about many other 30+ single people coming from the same experience (of an LTR). I’ll admit, in the dating app world, where anything is grounds for scrolling on past, I skip people who are divorced. But really it is all the same ol’ drama, I know I’m a bit of a mess… they’re probably not any messier just because they’re divorced. They might be even less messy, at least they knew what they wanted (twice).

    Anyway now that I’ve exposed my horrible judginess, I can face it and fix it… while I’m working on everything else.

    Also i’d love to hear more about moving on after significant break ups… I’m at the stage of looking back with rose-tinted glasses, which sucks 🙁 , but looking forward to getting past this.

    Aside to this… my ex and I are being friendly-ish, but I’m worried this is a terrible idea given the afore mentioned rose-tinted glasses, meeting up to do hobbies we took up together, thats a bad idea right?

    This comment is beginning to feel like a journal entry… apologies!

    • Hi turtle! I also appreciate the perspective and your comments, as I too recently went through a bad break up. Thankfully, it’s been long enough I feel like I’m recovering well and I could offer some advice for you.

      In answer to your question about dealing with the rose-tinted glasses, the way I went about it was deliberating thinking about the things I didn’t like about my ex. Every time I found myself remembering something awesome and cute about her, I would also remind myself of one of the little annoyances or irritations, or something that didn’t match well with me. This helped me remember her more realistically, take her off the pedestal, and avoid the rose-tinted glasses. Plus I think it’s helped me get over her faster. I hope it helps you too, though if you’re trying to be friends with your ex it might not be as successful.

      About the being friends with the ex question: I had the same thought with my breakup. Did I want to still be her friend? Was it healthy for me? After careful consideration, I decided I needed to wait. The relationship- and the breakup- are just too fresh right now. I broke off all contact, and I told myself we could try being friends in four months if I still wanted to. It sounds like you already think being friends with your ex while wearing rose-tinted glasses is a bad idea- so I advise you listen to yourself, you’re pretty smart!

      Good luck to you, take care!

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