Breakups are rarely easy, and there's often a lot to think about and process once you find yourself single again. Perhaps hardest of all, though, is figuring out the best time to date after a breakup. If you ask one friend, they'll urge you to get back out there immediately. If you ask someone else, they'll claim it's best to wait six months minimum. Everyone will say something different — and it can get confusing.
That's why the best place to start is by shutting out all the outside advice, and focusing on how you feel post-breakup. If the relationship was long, and it meant a lot to you, chances are you'll need a significant amount of time to heal before signing up for a dating app. And that's OK. "Breakups can have a profound mental and physical impact on a person," Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Some experts have compared getting over a breakup to a grieving process."
You'll want to spend time focusing on yourself, going to therapy, and rebuilding your schedule, before you even think about adding someone new to your life. The process can take months, if not years, but it's often well worth it to wait. Not all breakups are this devastating, though. Sometimes, they actually come as a huge relief. And when that's the case, you may be ready to date within a week. "For some people the feelings have ended before the breakup, and the breakup is actually a moment where they are set free to feel for others," Dr. Josh Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle.
You should focus on yourself and your unique situation, first and foremost. But there are other signs to look out for that may mean you're ready, especially if you really want to be emotionally prepared for your next relationship. Here, 13 experts weigh in on the signs you're ready to date again after a breakup.
1. You've Learned A Lot About Yourself
There's no specific timeline when it comes to grieving a breakup, moving on, and starting to date again, so feel free to take "however long you need to work through the anger or sadness," Janet Zinn, LCSW, a New York City–based couples therapist, tells Bustle. Take a month, take six months, take a year — whatever feels right. And make it more about focusing yourself and what you've learned from the breakup, than about counting the days.
"It’s better to get through the breakup and learn what you can from the previous relationship so you’ve grown," Zinn says. Once you've figured out a lesson or two — what you want in your next relationship, what you don't, etc. — go ahead and get back out there.
2. You're Ready To Be A Good Partner
You won't be able to bring your best self to a new relationship if you're still focused on the past, so wait until it feels like you can actually be a good partner before getting back out there, Rosalind Sedacca, a certified relationship coach, tells Bustle. "Do the inner work first," she says. "Work on healing yourself of baggage [...] Work on forgiving yourself for choosing a partner who wasn't a good match. And on forgiving your partner for the disappointment and hurt related to your relationship."
Your future relationships will be so much better if you let go of old pain, resentments, doubts, and anger, Sedacca says, or at the very least start the process of doing so. Meeting with a therapist can help you assess all these areas, so you can give to a new relationship the same type of energy you hope to get back.
3. You're Enjoying Being Alone
We're often told that being single is "bad," and being in a relationship is "good." But having this mentality can result in feeling the need to rush back out and find someone new, before you're truly ready.
Try giving yourself a chance to breathe, first. Give yourself time to process the breakup and to create a life that feels whole. Hang out with friends, take classes, pick up hobbies, and then see about adding a partner, as a sort of bonus.
As Bennett says, "If you’ve reached the point where you don’t mind being alone and can enjoy it, it’s a good sign that you’re ready to start dating again (for the right reasons)."
4. You Feel Happy With Yourself
Tammer Malaty, MS, LPC, a licensed professional counselor, echoes the sentiment that there isn't a definitive amount of time to wait before you start dating again. You can, however, take it as a good sign if you've begun to feel better about yourself as a person — especially if the breakup left you with a few insecurities.
"A significant other can make us feel better about ourselves temporarily, but it usually is not enough to sustain it in a healthy relationship," he tells Bustle. "It is usually once we break out of the honeymoon phase of a relationship that our insecurities begin to flare up. My advice is to work on those insecurities while single because they are likely to pop up in your next relationship. Being aware of those insecurities can help a person cope with them when they arise."
This might mean having long talks with friends, or even going to therapy. "Therapy is a great place to learn about yourself and to figure out why it is that you do the things you do," Malaty says.
5. You No Longer Want Your Ex Back
It's common to miss an ex after a breakup. But if you'd happily get back together with them tomorrow — even if you know that wouldn't be a good idea, Bennett says — don't try to date anyone else just yet. Give yourself time to officially move past this stage, which you'll know has happened when you're able to think about the relationship in a nostalgic way, instead of soul-crushingly sad way.
"You'll feel, you'll remember, but you don’t get stuck," Klapow says. "Old memories will just be old memories. They won’t keep you from going to work, engaging socially with friends, or doing what you need to do in your daily life." Once you get to this stage of the breakup, you're well on your way to moving on.
6. You Can Envision A Different Future
In a similar vein, if you can think about the future without feeling like a giant piece of you will be missing, that's a great sign!
"Whatever events in the future you had planned as a couple, whether it was a family vacation or the next step of moving in together, you've started to visualize yourself going through them without that person," Kara Lissy, LCSW, a psychotherapist at A Good Place Therapy and Consulting, tells Bustle. "The end of a relationship is a grieving process and a crucial part of that process is reorienting yourself to a life without them."
The future will no longer seem like a blurry mess, where you struggle to accept things will be different. Instead, Lissy says you'll be able to think things like, "We're broken up, and that's OK."
7. You've Done The Math
Many times, people are ready to start seriously dating anywhere from six months to a year after a major breakup, but it still largely depends on the length of time they spent in the relationship, Alexis Nicole White, an author and relationship expert, tells Bustle.
That's why, if you still aren't sure where you fall on this spectrum, and are looking for a little outside guidance, you may want to do some quick math. "Theoretically, I would give two to three months for every year you all were together to process the loss of a relationship, grieve, and pick yourself back up," she says. In other words, you need solo time to be ready for the next.
While this math isn't based in any actual data, Klapow says, it's a great way to check in with yourself as you go about the process of moving on. If you were together for five years, for example, give yourself 15 months to focus on yourself, then take the time to reassess. At that point, you may realize you're ready to date.
8. A Little Voice Is Urging You To Try
If you hear a little voice in your head urging you to sign up for a dating app, or if you find yourself daydreaming about finding someone new, take that as your cue. "You will often have an inner feeling when you know you're ready to start dating again," Carolyn Cole, LCPC, LMFT, NCC, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
You'll want to ignore the voice, however, if it's stemming from loneliness, or the notion that you're "running out of time" to find a partner. If you were to start dating again under these circumstances, Cole says, you may start to get to know someone and then back away as old fears begin popping back up, which is a sign you aren't ready.
"On the contrary," Cole says, "if you are dating again because you truly feel you are ready to date again — you've healed from the last relationship and feel ready to meet that person who will add value to your life — then it's time."
9. You've Improved Bad Habits
It doesn't matter why your relationship ended, or whose fault it was. All that matters is that you take the time to think about any bad habits you brought to the table, so you can work on them before dating someone new.
"If you had bad habits and patterns that played a part in the relationships demise, it would be a very good idea to work through these as well first, so that you do not carry them into your next relationship, which can poison it from the start," Dr. Nikki Martinez, a psychologist and author of The Reality of Relationships, tells Bustle. Once you've taken adequate time to heal and work all that stuff out, feel free to give it a spin.
10. You're 75% Over It
Experts agree there is no one way to know how long you may need to wait after a breakup. "The only way to tell is to be honest with yourself regarding your feelings over your ex," Kali Rogers, a certified life coach, tells Bustle. How over them are you, really? "If you are 100 percent — or even 75 percent — over them, it's safe to date. If you're not over them — not even half way over them — do not date."
It's all about fairness, and if you're still hung up in the past, there's nothing fair about that. It's not fair to you, and it's certainly not fair to your potential partners. "I'm sure you wouldn't like it if you started dating [someone] who wasn't over their ex, so don't do that to others either," Rogers says. "Putting a Bandaid on an axe wound never helps — do the hard work first so you can heal properly, and then go out and date."
11. You've Fully Accepted The Breakup
It's amazing how long you can hold onto the idea of getting back together or thinking the breakup was a fluke. So if you're still staring at your phone waiting for your ex to call, turn your attention to some of the aforementioned recovery skills, like going to therapy and focusing on yourself.
If you've truly accepted it's over, though, go ahead and date. "Acceptance does not mean that you have to know why the relationship ended, as in some cases, you may never know this," Darcie Brown, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "In these situations, acceptance means finding a way to be OK with not knowing and being able to move forward."
It means you're fine with the idea of never hearing from your ex again, because you know it's time to start over fresh and continue on with your life.
12. You're Sure You Aren't Rebounding
If you want to experiment with casual dating after a breakup, or are craving a quick hookup, go for it. But if you're still hurting, try to wait until those initial pangs of separation lessen, or else you might end up doing more harm than good.
"Rebound relationships create a lot of heartache when you realize the person you’ve invested in isn’t right — and you didn’t see it from the get-go because you were so invested in replacing what was lost in the breakup that led to the rebound," April Masini, a New York–based relationship expert and author, tells Bustle. "Wait to feel truly single before dating if your breakup is super painful." Go slow, and be careful out there.
13. You No Longer Compare Anyone To Your Ex
If you go on a date and can't even hear what the other person is saying because you're too busy mentally comparing them to your ex, and it feels like they aren't measuring up, please delete your dating app and wait a bit longer. "Take time off until you can appreciate each date for what he or she has to offer," Anita Chlipala, a relationship coach and therapist, tells Bustle. Because if you can't, it means you're still too hung up on the past to appreciate the present.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when to date again after a breakup, hopefully these tips will help guide you towards figuring it out. Don't be afraid to take time to yourself, and wait until you know what it is you truly want.
Dr. Josh Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist
Janet Zinn, LCSW, couples therapist
Rosalind Sedacca, certified relationship coach
Tammer Malaty, MS, LPC, licensed professional counselor
Alexis Nicole White, author and relationship expert
Carolyn Cole, LCPC, LMFT, NCC, licensed marriage and family therapist
Kali Rogers, certified life coach
Darcie Brown, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
April Masini, relationship expert and author
Anita Chlipala, relationship coach and therapist