AKA How To Do A Break Up In Reverse
Just as there is a process to going through a break up (successfully!), I’m starting to think there’s a process to getting used to dating again, and then getting used to being in a relationship. When you’re someone who has been single for a long time, who enjoys being single, there must be at least a thing you have to go through. I am pretty sure, about 75% sure, I’ve sorted it out by now.
Full disclosure: This entire thought process maybe one of those things that signifies me getting old, BUT I have a new theory. Those of you who have been through break ups will know, there’s a process to a break up that you have to go through. Whether you’re happy or devastated about the break up, the disappearance of an important person in your life is ever-present for the first few weeks, if not months. And now that I’m starting to date one person seriously, straight out of being single and without dating around first, I feel I’m starting to have to learn how to do break-ups in reverse. What’s the process for finding joy from a relationship again? For settling in to having a partner again?
There I was: I had been single for approximately two and a half years, and I loved it. I never felt like I was missing out on anything. I mentioned in my first ~Carrie Bradshaw-esque~ post that for a long time I feel so confident as a single person that I actively self-sabotaged any dating opportunities. Even with my last boyfriend I was adamant that it wasn’t a lifelong relationship. Then I spent years actively and openly avoiding dating, and then I moved to the U.K. Once I was here, the jig was up. I didn’t have an excuse not to date anymore, and then I realised I didn’t know how to ditch the habit. So, I made a plan: try to go on as many first dates as possible, just to get used to the idea of dating again… that way I wouldn’t be sick with nerves before meeting someone new when the right person came along! Spoiler alert: I made it to the second first date before I stopped going on first dates.
I thought going on Tinder dates would be relatively safe, that I would just be putting myself out there, going on awkward first dates, maybe the slightly less awkward second date, kissing a few faces, and then moving on to meet someone new. The plan was simply to date until I was over my fear of first dates and meeting new potential partners. I did not expect to meet anyone particularly special or worthwhile through Tinder — that just doesn’t happen. And the darnedest thing happened. I went on an awkward first Tinder date, I decided I’d like to go on the slightly less awkward second date and then I realised that I really, genuinely, very much liked him. Quelle horreur.
Now we’ve been on a few months worth of dates. If you’ve been reading the Carrie Bradshaw series, you know: I’ve touched his arm, we’ve kissed, we’re ~exclusively~ dating. But, if you ask me, the process from arm-touching to sleeping in each others beds isn’t as smooth as it seems when your friends do it, or when you watch it in movies. The transition from being happily single to being happily in a relationship often left me very confused, slightly anxious, and slightly nauseous. I have sent so many texts to friends saying “well this is a LOT.” But I’ve gone through it. Here are my best bits of advice for those of you trying to get used to dating again:
It will be weird having someone around a lot of the time. Everyone says the early months in a relationship are the ‘honeymoon’ phase: everything they do is adorable, everything they say is funny, the things you later find obnoxious are quirky and they can do no wrong! It is SO easy to want to spend every free minute you have with someone you’re absolutely smitten with. On the flip side, you don’t want to come off as needy. You’re told to toe the line between spending every minute with them, and seeming like you’ve got other important things to do. The catch? I found that I didn’t want to spend every waking moment with him. Not because the honeymoon phase wasn’t there, but because it was SO weird having someone around.
At first, dating was exhausting, I suddenly didn’t have the ‘me’ time I usually had and I felt like I was losing my head. In retrospect, this part of the adjustment period is actually really positive, because it meant I didn’t lose my perspective. You’re an adult, being in a relationship shouldn’t mean giving up your ‘me’ time, you deserve both, make sure you make time for both! Instead of freaking out about whether or not this meant I didn’t like him, we just had sparse dates for the first little while. Then, when we did meet up we would always do things where we could talk the whole time, which made it easier to get to know him and get used to him. Don’t freak out if you don’t want to spend every minute with them. If you’re really, really loving the time you are spending with them, that tells you everything you need to know.
You’re going to overthink things, of course you are. Don’t worry about the commitment question. This may very well just be me, but as soon as we started dating I worried about how I “really” felt. Was I really into him? Was I leading him on? Then, once I realised I was and I was not: How do I tell him I really like him? When should we have the ‘exclusivity’ conversation? Do I call him my boyfriend? Should he be meeting my friends? A bit of advice: this. is. all. baloney. It doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. It’s going to be alright. If you’re dating the right person, these conversations will happen when they need to happen. The best bits of advice I’ve found are: ‘dating is just going on dates until you decide you don’t want to anymore’ (and that’s OK), and ‘it’s time to talk about it if it’s playing on your mind a lot every time you’re with them’ (it’ll come naturally if it is).
You shouldn’t have to fight for a relationship in the early days. Don’t worry about the ‘is this it?’ question, your head will tell you how you feel about things. If you find yourself freaking out about it all too much, if it’s taking a toll on your mental health, get this: it is okay to not date someone just because you’re not ready. If you are ready, if they’re ready and you’re both the right person for the other one, it’ll just work out.
Take your time to find and adjust your us/me balance. Like I said, you may end up wanting to spend every second with them, you may feel like you should want to spend every waking moment with them, but eventually you’re going to want some ‘me’ time back. It is SO much easier to always maintain a degree of ‘me’ time than to take a step back from the relationship after a few months, which sometimes makes it seem like you’re ‘losing interest.’ Maintaining a degree of personal time where you do things like journal, or FaceTime with family and friends helps you keep a good perspective on the budding relationship, and keeps you firmly rooted as an individual. I tend to stop journaling whenever I’m stressed out, or going through life changes because I don’t have the energy to focus on it but it makes such a positive difference when you do!
At the end of the day, it’s all about taking your time, keeping perspective, and not losing sight of who you are as an individual through the process (I think). Whenever you find yourself freaking out over something, just take a moment to remind yourself that things will work out how they are meant to. Nothing will make or break you. If you think you’re losing yourself in the chaos of the new relationship, take a bit of a break – mentally and physically – to have some ‘me’ time, and chat with friends and family. My biggest piece of advice? If it is the right person it will flow relatively smoothly, there won’t be any big hiccups, or any big question marks. We seem to have convinced ourselves that dating should be hard, and we should have to fight to find love, but as it turns out… this really, truly does not have to be the case. Feeling safe and secure in relationships is so underrated, don’t you think?