“It’s mating season" my girlfriend mentioned, now that parkas were finally being traded for bare legs with the hotter weather.  She was encouraging me to write a post on dating.  Hmm…where to begin?! Back when I got divorced, I had originally felt like my dating muscles had atrophied to jello. But now I'm grateful that my curiosity for what’s possible has long overshadowed my shyness and fear of rejection. So this post is to encourage those who deep down want to bare their legs again but are feeling hesitant about jumping back into the dating scene after a break-up.

It’s normal to be nervous but do it anyway (!). The idea of finding a new rhythm with a potential partner can feel overwhelming. But none of us ever feel 100 percent ready (ever) and confidence in dating comes through familiarity and practice. My first date in a decade was painfully awkward and I was so out of practice that I wrapped it up like a business meeting (literally). But in the end who cares? I’m no worse off and luckily we never bumped into each other again at my doctor’s office. Plus I developed a better sense of who I was looking for.  

You’ll realize that not all guys are your ex. Dating can help us tangibly understand that guys have their own diverse passions, pasts, Myers-Briggs combos, and power animals. Just because one partnership ends (and perhaps that was for the best?) doesn’t imply other fulfilling romantic connections aren’t possible. I have met solid men who are trying to create genuine long-term relationships and have felt their own share of heartaches. Understanding what we have in common can also help shift the ‘us versus them’ mentality that keeps us walled up.  Of course, if every date appears to be an exact replica of our ex then there’s always an opportunity to dig deeper because ultimately we’re the common denominator.

It’s fun to flirt. We’re wired to want connection and a playful smile can have a positive ripple effect on our health when it releases those feel good neurotransmitters. Dating provides us with the opportunity to build our confidence with giving and receiving that playful energy. It’s not about manipulation or getting the upper-hand but getting out of our head while helping to put someone else at ease. I’ll attest that I can be a bit shy when it comes to receiving a flirtatious look but I’m learning to be more present and available. It’s all a work in progress.

Online dating can work. I have friends who have fallen in love as a result of swiping. It’s not for everyone but I personally like the convenience and ease of dating apps. The hardest part is putting that first pic and profile out there but rest assured you’re definitely in good company. Online dating is way past taboo with close to 50 million people in the U.S having been on some dating site. Obviously, we all need to be discerning and consider safety, but so far I’m glad I’ve experimented with swiping right. I enjoy talking and meeting new people period, so as long as he’s respectful it’s never a wash. Of course online dating can get tiring but no method of dating is a guaranteed homerun.  You never know unless you try!

 Moving past the fear of rejection.  We all want to feel accepted and have a sense of belonging. After a breakup the risk of opening our heart may seem way too risky and we can tell ourselves that we’re better off alone. But that just keeps us stuck in old stories. Instead the fear of rejection can actually be a window to work on those hurt feelings, they’re not meant to be ignored or pushed aside. I still catch myself looking for external validation when it comes to dating and that fear of not having my feelings reciprocated creeps in with a tightening of my chest and a really loud inner critic. Getting honest with myself is the first step and talking about the uncomfortable feelings with a trusted tribe is key. When it comes to first dates, it also helps to hold the perspective not to take ourselves too seriously - test the waters and meet someone for a drink without expectations. If mutual attraction is lacking that doesn’t automatically imply either person is inadequate. We’re not all meant to be energetic matches to one another and that’s the reason dating exists.

In the end, past relationships don’t define our future and ex’s don't hold power over what’s possible in our romantic life. Dating gives us the chance to build a romantic connection, foster a friendship, and offers the opportunity to get to know ourselves better. Plus who doesn’t like a good smooch? No doubt there are countless other heartfelt encouraging tips for dating after a breakup, so please feel free to comment and share your wisdom!

With love, Sonya

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