Recently Single? A Therapist Explains How to Tell When You’re Ready to Date Again

There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you decide.

I can’t even begin to count how many times my friends, myself included, have tried to hype each other up with the “the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody else” line. Sure, it’s a serotonin high—breakup, who?—but it doesn’t really change the matter at hand.  However, maybe it’s time to look at it from a different approach: perhaps the issue isn’t who you’re dating but your emotional capacity.

Think about it this way, “we attract what we don’t heal,” Patricia Lamas, LCSW, a licensed couples and sex therapist, tells HelloGiggles. “Sometimes, we are really eager to get back into the dating scene, but due to a tough breakup, betrayal, or past hurt, we may have difficulty opening up to the vulnerable space of dating.” Meaning, you may feel “logically” open to dating but may be emotionally lacking the capacity to do so, Morgan Anderson, a licensed clinical psychologist and attachment theory and relationship coach, further explains. 

The lack of emotional capacity is typically tied to fear—fear of getting hurt, fear of rejection, or fear that this relationship will end just like the last one—Dr. Anderson adds that these unconscious fears can not only sabotage your tank of emotions, but also the way you think about and view dating as well.

So, how do you know if you’re truly ready to date? We asked relationship experts to unravel the answer.

How do I know I’m ready to date again?

On dates, do you resort to the kinds of questions you think you should ask because it gives you a break from having to be really present? If you answered yes, or find yourself continuously disinterested or putting up walls, Dr. Anderson explains this could be a sign you may not be ready to reenter the dating pool just yet. “When you can go on a date and feel genuine curiosity about the other person, and where the connection could lead, that is a good telltale sign you’re ready to date,” she says. 

How to heal before dating again:

1. Remember: Dating takes energy.

It’s important to understand that dating takes energy (and time), which doesn’t come in an unlimited supply. “We need to be able to give energy to dating in order for it to be successful. When we have not taken care of ourselves, or let go of past relationships, we simply do not have the energy to date,” Dr. Anderson says. 

2. Invest in yourself.

The best way to revitalize your “dating energy” is by investing in yourself, your self-worth, and your own happiness, Dr. Anderson says. When people start to depend on a relationship to fuel their happiness is when things start to crumble— you want a partner who multiplies not sources your happiness. 

3. Cut ties with past relationships.

Moreover, in order to fully engage with someone new, past relationships ideally should be out of sight and out of mind. “When we carry ’emotional junk’ around and do not deliver it to who it is meant for, we block off our ability to be present in new relationships,” she adds.

4. Honor your needs.

Lastly, acknowledge the emotional space you were and are in. “Validate your experience and allow yourself to honor whatever needs you have,” she says. “Invalidating yourself by saying ‘You should be over that relationship by now!’ will only slow your healing process!”

how to know if you're ready to date again

Questions to ask before getting into a relationship:

Before you go social media stalking a potential love interest, it’s important to ask yourself questions and be mindful of what exactly it is you’re looking for, Lamas suggests. The next time you’re thinking about agreeing to a date or swiping right on a profile, keep these therapist-recommended prompts in mind:

  • Do you want to be a conscious dater?
  • Do you want to find a partner who fits in well with your lifestyle, goals, and dreams?

Likewise, take a moment to look back on past relationships:

  • What didn’t work?
  • What is it that I want this time?
  • What are my nonnegotiable’s and deal breakers?
  • Think of the most important requirements you look for in a partner: is it respect, fun, adventure, loyalty, mutuality?

These are all questions and topics that’ll make you a more conscious dater.

At the end of the day, no two journeys are the same, and comparing yourself or a potential partner to other relationships will only hinder your own relationship journey. 

“Just because a relationship ends, does not make you a failure,” Dr. Anderson stresses. “When you see other people around you getting engaged, or married, wish them well and celebrate. When you celebrate the love you see around you, you are affirming that love is also available to you.” 

Everyone is worthy of love and being your most authentic self will attract the right puzzle piece. And if you need to take a break from dating, or find yourself happier living the single life, that’s perfectly okay, too.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more