The dating game: after leaving a bad relationship, how to pick it up again, and how soon?
- You may not feel like looking for romance if your last relationship or marriage failed, but leave it a while and you probably will
- Experts offer tips on how to find love again
Being in a bad relationship can be so unsettling, even traumatic, as to put people off looking for romance again. So should you plunge back into the dating game, and how quickly?
Yes, say some relationship experts, and as soon as possible. They believe that facing your fears head on, and rebuilding your self-esteem, is the best medicine, much like dealing with post-traumatic stress order. If you don’t, anxiety could get the better of you, they argue.
No, say others, who warn you could get into unhealthy rebound relationships.
One thing is certain: the number of divorces, whether amicable or not, has risen steadily in Hong Kong – in 2016, courts granted 17,196 divorce decrees, compared with 6,295 in 1991.
Jacqueline Chia, managing partner and co-founder of Meet Mozaic, a matchmaking service for mature Hong Kong residents, says whether, and how soon, you get back into the dating game depends on how your previous relationship ended and what emotional baggage you are carrying.
“If you are just dating to numb the pain or to forget a bad divorce, you may well end up in a rebound relationship. If you have worked through all of your emotions and issues from the break-up and have a healthy mindset, you will be dating to create a new, positive relationship and be ready to invest in it,” says Chia.
She says some people benefit from some time for self-reflection, so that they know what they are looking for in a relationship, while others may have been in a relationship that was over for many years. “In this case, the couple often lead separate lives. These people could have already moved on emotionally and spent time on self-reflection, making it easier to date straight after divorcing.”
As for whether you are ready to plunge back into dating, Chia says there are a few signs to look for.
“Some common signs include finding yourself thinking less about the past and what happened in your previous relationship, rather than blaming your ex or yourself. Another sign is when you imagine yourself dating you are comfortable and feel positive about the idea.”
The final indicator is your physical desire for sex, she says.
On the topic of intimacy, Chia suggests it is better to hold back on sex for a while in a new relationship. “If you don’t hold back, there is a risk that your relationship won’t last. There is evidence to suggest that couples who wait fare better than those who had sex on the first, second, or third date. These relationships often don’t pass the test of time.”
If a potential partner wants sex on a first date, they are probably not looking for a serious relationship, she says, and even if you put them off until the third or fourth date, it is likely they are only interested in a casual, or purely physical relationship.
There are ways to make it easier to return to the dating scene, says Carol DeCandido, co-founder of Meet Mozaic.
“You must avoid negative thinking. Being optimistic about the possibility of a new lasting love is a good starting point. And don’t be afraid to ask friends to gauge how ready they think you are, because … they can give you honest feedback about your personality, looks, or habits. We often may be unaware of ourselves, or simply need a confidence boost.
“The next step is to create a relationship map and determine what a healthy relationship looks like. Be careful not to fall into the same traps that caused your first marriage to end. It is also helpful to determine your intentions, which means deciding on whether you are looking for a long-term partnership or you just want to have fun.
“When you’ve done all that, just relax, try to have fun and enjoy the process of meeting new people,” says DeCandido.
If there are children involved, working out when is a good time to inform them of your new relationship can be a delicate issue. DeCandido says: “It is best to introduce children to your partner once you have moved into a committed relationship where you both feel that it will be a long-term partnership.
“It can be unsettling for kids to meet many partners that come and go. But do talk to your ex before introducing your new partner to your kids. It is easier on the kids if the relationship is transparent and they feel comfortable to speak about your new partner.”
She warns that you have to be prepared for lots of drama and difficult situations when kids are involved.
Some say there are benefits to dating a divorcee because they are more committed, know themselves better, tend to see the bigger picture and may have learned from past mistakes. So if you are a divorcee, wear it like a badge of honour, enjoy your new-found freedom, and go out and find love again.
Luisa Tam is a senior editor at the Post