Feelings are complex AF — and that's an understatement. After a relationship ends, your love for your former partner may fade with time, or suddenly come flooding back after an unexpected run-in or reminder of them on social media. The point is, you cannot predict or control how long it takes to move on — which can make things a little tricky once you start seeing new people. If you're dating again but not over your ex, experts say there are a few things to keep in mind that can help you to emotionally protect yourself as well as your dates.
First thing's first — while some may believe it's important to fully get over an ex before dating, dating expert and Dating.com vice president Maria Sullivan says there's no reason why you need to put your love life on hold just because you're still healing. In fact, she says it may help you to get your mind off your ex.
“Sometimes it helps get you over that last hump and helps keep you distracted," Sullivan explains.
That said, Sullivan notes that it's crucial to make sure you're dating again for the right reasons. Dating solely for the purpose of trying to forget about your ex, make them jealous, or give yourself a self-esteem boost isn't really fair to the other person you're getting to know. If your date begins to realize your true intentions, they may feel used. Not only that, but Pricilla Martinez, CEO of Regroop Online Life Coaching, tells Elite Daily that dating for the wrong reasons can also be a form of self-sabotage.
"Suppose you're using a new relationship to feel better or get reassurance that you were not the reason your last relationship ended," she explains. "In that case, you may not necessarily get the results you're hoping for. When you're vulnerable, you're more susceptible to dating someone who doesn't meet your usual standards. Then, you could mistakenly use that as evidence to support idealizing your last relationship or that there really aren't a whole lot of options out there."
Once you've established that your motivations for dating are solid, Martinez says it's time to get real with yourself about what you are and aren't ready for.
"Be honest with yourself first and foremost," she tells Elite Daily. "You don't need to share all of your feelings with a new person. However, you do need to be self-aware and present."
Consider asking yourself whether you feel like you still need some form of closure from that past relationship before dating again. You might also do some soul-searching on what forms of physical intimacy you feel ready for.
When you start forming a connection with someone new, experts advise being upfront with them about where you're at. That definitely doesn't mean you have to tell them you're not over your ex, but Sullivan suggests letting them know when your last serious relationship ended. Additionally, Martinez recommends being transparent about how much you're actually able to invest in a relationship at the moment. That way, they may be able to be more understanding and patient with you in the dating process. Keep in mind that for some people, this situation may be a dealbreaker — but that's OK.
"If you decide to share how you're really feeling about your ex, be prepared for the other person to understandably walk away," adds Martinez.
As hurtful as it may be if your date cuts things off after learning about your circumstances, Martinez says it could be a red flag that they're just looking for some fun and not willing to take things slow — so in a way, you can consider yourself #blessed that you dodged a bullet. After all, you want to be with someone who can respect your pacing.
If your date doesn't seem to lose interest after you fill them in on how you're feeling, then you may have found yourself a keeper. Just be sure to heed Sullivan's advice and avoid comparing your new boo to your ex at all costs.
"Try to kick off the relationship with a fresh start and clear mind," she explains.
Most importantly, remember that slow and steady wins the race — and as eager as you may be to fill your ex's shoes and dive headfirst into the excitement of new love, it's better to take baby steps and build a strong foundation of mutual trust before fully investing your heart.
"Dating after a breakup should be lighthearted and fun," says Martinez. "Take your time to heal."
Getting back out there again when you're not fully over your ex is one of the most courageous things you can do. It may feel scary at times, but as long as you can be honest with yourself and your dates about what you're emotionally capable of, you're in the perfect position to open up your heart again — on your terms, and in your own time.
Maria Sullivan, dating expert
Pricilla Martinez, life coach