You Need Help: Am I Really “Over Them” Enough to Date New People?

Q:

A few months ago I ended a relationship due it not being workable long distance. I’ve been trying to move on with my life and would like to start dating again, but I feel disingenuous. It feels like it would be unfair to start seeing someone when I know in my heart of hearts that if my ex-girlfriend moved to my city I would go back to her in a heartbeat. However, that’s not going to happen and I know that our relationship is truly over. Still, I’m agonizing over this a bit. What should I do? How do I figure out when I’m “over it” enough to date new people?


A:

Short answer: If you’re ready to date, you’re ready to date.

Long answer: There is no quantifiable metric for being over someone. It is possible that you will never be fully and entirely “over” your ex, although I hope that does not end up being true for you! But I’m just saying… getting over an ex is not a linear process nor does it look the same for everyone/in every situation. But focusing on hypotheticals won’t do anything other than create a recurring and potentially harmful thought pattern full of “What Ifs”. You said so yourself: Your ex-girlfriend isn’t moving back. So even if you “know in your heart of hearts” that you would go back to her, it isn’t happening, so it’s just one of those wispy What Ifs that might be intoxicating to obsess over in the moment but is ultimately holding you back from what you really do want.

As far as I can tell, what you really do want is to start dating again. That — unlike wanting your ex-girlfriend — is an actionable want! You’re really the only person holding yourself back from this, and you’re doing so by letting the impossible want get in the way of the possible one. Don’t worry: This is extremely common and normal lite self-sabotaging that we all can be guilty of, especially coming out of a difficult breakup.

While I do think that taking some time to be by yourself and assess what you want in a relationship is important after any breakup, I also don’t think there are any hard rules about when you’re allowed to date again — regardless of the length of the previous relationship. If you’re ready, you’re ready. Wondering if you’re “over it” enough to date again is just a way of holding yourself back, because like I said, there’s no way to perfectly measure if you’re over another person or not.

When it comes to casually starting to date, you don’t need to get too caught up on your relationship history or where you’re at. But if you find yourself wanting to get serious with someone, just make sure you aren’t lying to them. And that includes lies by omission. If you’re like fantasizing about your ex every day, that is, uhhhh, information that another person should have before they decide to enter into a serious relationship with you.

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But it doesn’t sound like you’re fantasizing about your ex every day. It sounds like you’re just having some lingering feelings for a person who you didn’t entirely want to break-up with but knew that you should. And btw: That’s very impressive emotional maturity on your part! Some people push through long distance even when it isn’t working, and that can have disastrous results. So you knew what you had to do, and you did it. Guess what… that’s applicable to your new situation, too! You know yourself and what works for you in a relationship. So if you think you’re ready to date, you’re probably ready to date!!!

And maybe you go on some dates and then realize that you’re indeed NOT ready to date. That’s okay, too. But I honestly think the opposite could happen for you. It might be easier to stop getting hung up on those What Ifs with your ex if you start seeing new people and opening up your imagination to futures that don’t involve her.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a writer and critic currently living in Miami. Her fiction is upcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. Her pop culture writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 242 articles for us.

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