Being single again can leave you feeling as if you were dropped off in the middle of the Mojave Desert with no map, no compass, no guidebook, no guide. Your bags? Bulging with loss, sadness, and a desire for connection. Here are four randomly-selected suggestions for you to consider to get you started on the path toward a civilized recovery.
1. Your emotional health comes first
To ease any confusion that you might have about where to begin, consider your state of mind. If you’re thinking that you want to “replace” the partner you no longer have, resist the urge. Unless you’ve healed from that loss, you’re not ready to jump into another relationship. Other people may have already told you that. Or well-meaning friends might have advised you to “Just get out there and date. Forget about her [or him].”
Sorry, but letting go is not that simple. Here’s why. Your mind holds a full-sensory imprint of your ex-partner. Your mind and every cell in your body is still attuned to the other person. If you lived together, slept together, shared emotions and feelings, it’s all still locked in memory. So, a shared sensory stimulus like hearing your favorite song or seeing her [his] social media page or smelling the shampoo she/he used can wake up longing for the other.
If you start dating right away, in all likelihood, you will project your ex on to the other person. Are you attracted to the new person or deluding yourself into thinking she or he is your ex? Regardless of how miserable the two of you were at the end of the relationship, you shared intimacy and joy at one point. Otherwise, you never would have gotten together. If children are involved, there’s even more of a connection.
2. Let go of expectations of perfection
Everyone hopes for hassle-free intimacy. But that’s like saying I’ll have a double-dip ice cream cone with chocolate sprinkles without the calories. It just isn’t possible. Intimacy comes from working through each other’s imperfections. Certainly, it’s human nature to want to avoid making the same mistake twice. Your last relationship had problems, otherwise, you’d still be together. So you want the next relationship to be better than that one and all others before it. So far so good. But, a list cannot prevent heartbreak or conflicts. If you have a long list of wants and don’t wants for a new relationship, you will miss out on the spontaneity and wonder of getting to know someone new. Mindfulness practice can help you let go of grasping. The image of the perfect partner is an illusion.
3. The exception: meeting someone online
Some people do meet, date, and marry people they’ve met online. According to the Pew Research Center article titled 5 Facts About Online Dating, “5% of Americans who are in a marriage or committed relationship say they met their significant other online.” Those odds are better than winning the lottery. But is that potential ROI worth the time you spend looking for someone online? John McElhenney said no it was not and deleted all of his online dating profiles.
“…the illusion created by social media makes us think we have a pretty good idea of who these “potentials” say they are, and what they look like today, while in truth we don’t.” Read his article at Good Men Project, a site dedicated to changing the stereotypes of men. “Guys today are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be.”
Online dating “success” stories travel fast because they are the exception. If you remember the movie He’s Not That Into You Anyway, you might remember Drew Barrymore’s character learning that stories that she had heard about married men leaving their families for the “other” woman are the exception to the rule. Online dating companies make a fortune promising the exception.
4. Be happy.
I know. I know. It’s more complicated than a two-word sentence. But think about it. Who would you rather fix your friend up with? Someone who’s miserable or someone who’s happy? Whatever it takes on your part, practice being happier. Sometimes, this can be done simultaneously with healing, but most of the time being happy has to wait. Notice that being happy does not depend on another person! When you’re ready, this Time Magazine article, lists four ways you can create more happiness in your life. There are other articles on the internet all backed by scientific research. But these four are a good place to begin. UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb found that these four practices spiral people up into increased happiness.
- Get in touch with gratitude.
- Label negative feelings.
- Make the decision you’ve been avoiding.
- Touch people.
Like all well-meaning articles, this one is limited. The information is solid. You might feel inspired and hopeful that you have a plan. The follow through will take determination and practice. Changing old ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving means practicing the new ways every day.