The thought of dating again can feel overwhelming at any stage in life but putting yourself out there after the end of a long-term relationship can feel particularly intimidating. So how do you know if you’re really ready to dip a toe back into the dating pool?
Ignore pressure from friends
Friends and family will no doubt have your best interests as heart, but you don’t have to jump back into the dating game just because they are pushing you to make that first step.
Dating coach, Jo Hemmings, advises avoiding being coerced into dating by other people. “Friends and family might be saying ‘Why don’t you give it a go?’, but you’re the one who has to feel that meeting someone would actually add to your life.”
Be clear in your own mind about what you want and don’t be swayed by what others say.
“When you’re young, friends who think you’re not settled down start trying to pair you off. This can happen again when you’re older; friends who are couples used to being together may think you’ll only be happy if you are in a relationship like them,” says Jo.
Do things in your own time, she advises: when you feel it’s right, not when someone else feels it’s right for you.
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Is this the right time for you?
However long your past relationship was, try living alone for a while to enjoy discovering who you’ve become in this new phase of your life. Get to know who you are as a single person, rather than as part of a couple.
Perhaps living alone for a time and seeing people socially is enough for you right now. You’ll be able to understand more clearly what your needs are and what you want from a new relationship: companionship, or something more intimate.
One of the best ways to judge whether you are ready to meet someone else is whether or not you are happy in your own company, says Jo. If you are, you’ll meet someone as an equal instead of looking for someone to make you feel whole again.
“Thinking about yourself in a positive way makes you are more available. It’s important for you to feel happy on your own, rather than looking for someone to complete you, save you or make you feel happy.”
After you lose someone it can take time before you are emotionally available to meet someone new. The death of a spouse can take years to come to terms with, before you are ready to open yourself up to a new relationship.
And when you start dating you may well feel guilty, as though you are cheating. That’s only natural. For most people those feelings will pass, but if the past relationship begins to consume you, it can hold you back.
Equally, if you’re had an acrimonious divorce or separation, have you got over any residue bitterness or anger? Remember the people you meet when you start dating are not your past love, and it will be a different relationship. Until you get over past relationships, you may sabotage any hope of a positive experience by unconsciously putting the face of your old partner on to someone new.
“When you are not ready is when it still feels wrong,” says Jo. “If you are really not over a past relationship, for whatever reason that ended, you don’t feel that you can commit to someone else.”
Just good friends
Of course, you don’t have to have to jump into dating straight away. If you’re looking for a friend rather than a lover, you can still find companionship on dating sites, so long as you’re upfront about what you’re looking for.
Or perhaps you start out looking for romance but realise you actually want a friend, in which case don’t be shy about being straight with your date. Jo says “If you’re at the point where you’ve sent each other a few messages and arranged to meet up for a coffee, that’s your opportunity then to say I’m not ready to go too far at the moment, let’s see how it goes.
"You may find that your date is happy about this arrangement, while others will probably move on, and that’s the way life is.”
Don’t hold back
Don’t waste time procrastinating.
“If you want to wait until the time is exactly right you’ll never do anything about it,” says Jo. “There are all sorts of excuses we give ourselves. You’re going on holiday, the grandchildren are coming over, there are work commitments to deal with, you’ll wait for the spring. There are a million reasons why the timing isn’t quite right, but sometimes you have just got to get on with it!”
Why now is a great time to give it a go
If you feel ready to start dating, you couldn’t have chosen a better time, says Jo. “The over 50s market is the fastest growing age range of any for online dating; it’s really taken off.
“People used to go online and find no one there, but it’s a great time to date now. It’s the perfect opportunity to dip your toes in the water and not feel under pressure to do anything.”
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