Moving on shouldn’t have a timeline or set of rules. But Dr. Ashley Anderson shares her thoughts on when the time is right to re-enter the dating world.
Written by Ashley Anderson | Photo by Kylene White
Giving love another chance — that’s probably one of the most complex decisions to make after you’ve made the decision to leave a relationship. After spending time and building a foundation with someone you thought you knew, but who turned out to be someone completely different, it’s hard to trust anyone again, especially someone new.
There also seems to be an unspoken timeline that exists in the mind of some folks in our culture regarding how long you should grieve a marriage or partnership after a break-up. Moving on and being open to love again shouldn’t have a specific timeline or set of rules. It varies from person to person. But I do have some thoughts about when might be a good time to get back in the market.
Healing emotionally and mentally must transpire first before exploring something new, so the heavy baggage of the past doesn’t weigh you down. I’ve mentioned my commitment to therapy and emotional-healing work previously. There is no way I could be in the position to love again without it. I can’t ignore or wish away what I’ve been through.
I once read that you know you’re healed when you remember that something hurt, but you don’t quite remember how it felt. There was a period of time before my divorce when I took pictures of myself crying. I took them so that even when things seemed like they were improving, that I would be reminded of the deep dark places he took me to. When I used to look at those photos I’d cry for myself, for the situation at large, and for my kids. Now, I look at those pictures and smile saying, “Damn girl, look how far we’ve come! I’m proud of you!” That’s healing.
It’s also important not to move on until you fully know why your relationship or marriage didn’t work — especially whatever your part was in the demise. This can be worked out through therapy, but also through personal reflection. I asked myself so many questions about what I could have done better to prevent my marriage from getting to the point of beyond repair. I’ve wondered what I could have done differently with my time, my adoration of him, our sex life, how I supported his work, my willingness to speak up before things got totally out of control…etc.
Those were hard questions, but you learn exactly how you have to show up to give and receive love while dissecting the failed relationship. This will also be important as you move on because you’ll need to be vulnerable with your next partner. They will need to see your scars. This will help them to know how to avoid triggers as much as possible and support you when a situation makes you uncomfortable.
It’ll also let them decide up front if your package is something they’re willing to manage. I know that may sound harsh, and I know it’s not easy to share your hurts and pains with someone new, but if you want to have something special that can truly last a lifetime, trust and friendship must be the foundation.
Something I’ve promised myself during this season of dating is that I will not sabotage and I will not overthink. I’ve divulged this to my friends so that they will hold me accountable if they see any of those behaviors. I told my mother about six months ago that I felt ready to receive the authentic and genuine love God intended for me. I told her how I wasn’t going to hop on any dating apps in search of this, but that I would be open to exploring the options presented to me that I believe have potential. I desire an organic meet and greet with my Boaz.
The beauty in doing the healing work before starting to date again is clarity. Clarity allows us to know exactly what we need in a partner. It enables us to know our boundaries and protect them. Clarity gives you the peace of mind to say no, and walk away when you might really like someone but know they aren’t the one you’re meant to be with forever. Clarity also allows you to look at what you’ve learned about a person and decide if they can truly be a good partner for you. Can you build a legacy and future with them? Are they going to challenge you and make you better?
I can tell you that my future husband is getting the absolute best version of Ashley. He’s getting the best version because I’ve failed before and done the work to heal and move forward as a whole woman. The past will always be a part of my history, but I will not allow it to have any control over the progression of my future. Heal first, then move on. I deserve it and so do you.
Read Ashley Anderson’s Divorce column, “The Breaking Point“.