How to Date Again After a Serious, Long-term Relationship

By Wendy Rose Gould

The emotional aftermath of the breakup of a serious relationship is painful, sometimes confusing, and often difficult to navigate. It forces us to pause and reflect on why things ended, and also invites us to consider what sort of relationship might serve us better as we move forward. 

Getting “back out there” looks different for everyone. Some need more time to process their previous relationship, while others feel ready to get back on Bumble and into the dating pool more quickly. Whatever the case, it’s important to be gentle with yourself and date with intention. If you’re feeling ready to begin dating again following a serious, long-term relationship, take this expert advice to heart.  

It’s normal to feel however you feel 

Every breakup breeds its own set of emotions, and every person processes them in their own way. Common feelings people experience after a breakup include fear, insecurity, guilt, relief, sadness, and a combination of all of the above. 

“Any emotion is fair game when healing and getting back out there,” says psychologist and breakup coach Dr. Andrea Liner. “I’m often asked ‘Is it normal if…’ or ‘Am I weird if…’ and my response is always that anything you’re feeling is completely valid.” 

In other words, whatever you’re feeling right now is completely normal. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings so you can better understand and work through them. Dr. Liner says to be aware of your emotions rather than ignoring them so they don’t subconsciously derail your efforts. 

Give yourself time 

There’s no set time frame for when you “should” start dating again. For example, if the breakup was a long time coming, then you may have already been processing its ending for quite a while. Conversely, if the breakup was sudden or you still have deep feelings for your ex, then you might need more time. 

Divorce expert Ilyssa Pantiz says that it’s helpful to “date yourself” before dipping your toes back into the dating pool. This means taking time to better understand who you are and what you want. “Spend time asking yourself what you want in your next relationship and what your priorities in a future partner are,” she says. “The number one sign you’re ready to date again is that you’ve made peace with your past.” 

Try to stay positive 

Even amid a sea of complex emotions, you can foster joy and excitement by telling yourself how lucky you are to get another chance to meet someone right for you. Only this time, you get to date with more experience, a better understanding of yourself, and a clearer outline of who you’re looking for. 

“Daydream and fantasize about who this person is,” says Pantiz. “Think about the bright future you and this person can create because dating after a breakup is all about building back better.” Navigating your new life post-breakup can feel intimidating and scary, but reminding yourself about the exciting possibilities ahead can help keep you going.

Start connecting with potential partners 

The first step you take toward anything new almost always feels a bit nerve-wracking. That’s true whether you’re starting a new job, dabbling in a new hobby, or re-entering the dating world. Once that first step is taken, though, the rest that follow are much easier. 

When you get back on Bumble, remember that you and your potential matches are all there in the hopes of meeting someone special. In other words, everyone else is in the same position as you, and experiencing similar feelings—nerves, excitement, hope, and eagerness to make new connections. Challenge yourself to match with, and talk to, three to five people whose profiles look interesting or especially compatible. This exercise can help you break through that initial nervousness and get the ball rolling. 

Don’t just stop at online chatting though. Once you’ve connected with a Bumble match, make plans to meet up IRL within the first week or two to see how you interact in person. Remember, the date itself doesn’t have to be overly grand, and you don’t need to assign the meetup a ton of weight. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or the date. 

Remember to be a good date 

Being mindful about what you’re looking for in another person and being intentional about who and how you date is imperative. That said, make sure you’re showing up for the person, too, whether you’re on a first date or seeing someone for the 10th time. Avoid talking about your ex, making quick or harsh judgements, relying on small talk, or comparing this new person to others you’ve dated. 

Make sure you’ve spent time investing in yourself, too, and make sure that you’re modeling the characteristics you’re seeking—like, if you’re looking to meet someone generous, you should approach the date with a spirit of generosity. “The key to dating successfully is not to get back into the same patterns that don’t serve you, but to learn from your past and either choose differently or show up differently,” advises life coach Jacqui Pugh. “The people who are looking for the same thing as you will be excited to hear where you stand,” says Pugh. And those who aren’t? Let them go, and focus on matches who are more suited to your wants and needs.

If you’re seeking new connections after a big breakup, remember: be gentle with yourself, be honest about your requirements, try to maintain enthusiasm about dating, and be proactive about meeting people. That way, a new Bumble match can lead to an even more meaningful relationship.