Dating While Newly Single Is About Finding Yourself, Not Someone Else
It’s not just the scene that’s changed – it’s also you
By Ashley Kelsch
Ashley Kelsch is Austin’s top certified, professional dating and relationship coach and former owner of Teddies for Betty’s, the lingerie boutique on 2nd Street that she ran for a decade. She offers one-on-one life-coaching programs to help clients acknowledge and understand limiting beliefs, to set boundaries and to learn how to change mindsets so they can get what they want in their romantic lives and feel empowered. Ashley helps men and women of all ages, single and married. She has a weekly podcast called Modern Renegades, and you can follow her on Instagram @AshleyMKelsch.
If you’ve ever found yourself feeling relief at the end of a relationship or once you’re newly single, your brain may be flooded with thoughts about the freedom you’ll finally have. Closet space? All mine. Snacks in bed? I do what I want. Go out after work? Why not?
You might fantasize about texting your heart’s desire. You may find yourself wondering if so-and-so is single. How will you meet someone new? Will it be in line at Whole Foods? Love at first sight? You might imagine what a first date will be like with someone who’s caught your eye.
You have options once again – and they’re endless. It’s exciting. There is an energy that you haven’t felt in some time. A charge. The sun shines brighter. You feel alive. You’re thrilled by so much possibility.
So, you hit the ground running. Instagram visually indicates “not in a relationship.” Dating apps? Even if finding someone isn’t the focus, why not? It might be nice to see what’s out there…
And then, you can’t believe how easy it is. How fun. The flirting. The banter. You think, “At this rate, I won’t be single long!” So many swipes. Not enough nights.
There’s an intensity to new conversations. It feels real. Instant. As soon as you connect, your brain can fire in every direction. You may imagine the date, what you’ll wear, where you’ll go and what you’ll say. You might even think about a future with someone you barely know.
Once you’re sitting across from someone, your mind is processing – just like a computer program – the interaction at a rate that you can’t comprehend.
He just laughed. He thinks I’m funny! He’s not talking. What do I say? He didn’t comment on what I’m wearing. Do I look okay? Did he say he’s not looking for a serious relationship? Am I looking for a serious relationship? Is this a waste of time? Is there food in my teeth? Would he tell me? Would I tell him? What did he just say?
That’s just on the date. After, hundreds of new thoughts may follow: Should I text right after or in the morning or wait longer? What does her text mean? Should I share this song? Is it too soon? Will I ever see her again?
“Be patient with yourself. Wiggling out of what was into what is can be like putting on a new pair of jeans. You got to break it in.”
Even if a new relationship stretches into weeks or months, the questions racing through your head can continue. He left me on read for two hours – who is he with? If she invites me to her friend’s birthday, that means we’re fine, right? Why did he mention another woman? Are they just friends? Are we even committed?
If your emotional wellbeing is based off every move they make, you can feel like you’re losing your mind. You want it to end. Or at least know the ending.
Whenever doubt creeps in – whether it’s justified or not – what started out fast and strong and seemed right now appears to be dissipating at an equally rapid pace. If the consistent texting, the flirting and the effort become less frequent, you may question your decisions, your worth or the entire connection. It can be difficult to understand when it seemed like the perfect alignment at first or even for a while. How could they not want to date you? What is wrong?
This can repeat itself as you chase one spark that fizzles and then the next. The fun and excitement of possibility may now feel exhausting. Maybe you’d like to skip an entire process that once felt sexy and get right to the comfort of sweatpants and the security of having a binge-watching buddy and cuddle partner. You may crave someone to boo up with, someone you know will be available at the end of each day. Less possibility and more certainty. A companion. A relationship.
It may not have occurred to you that dating would be a roller coaster ride. Maybe you thought you were prepared, but now it feels like something has gone wrong. You hate being single. You vent to friends about the dating scene and how hard it is to meet people. You’re convinced you’re bad at this, that you don’t know what you’re doing. You might question whether you can emotionally handle the array of feelings that flood your brain and body.
Welcome to dating, my friends. Like any other human experience, dating will feel good 50 percent of the time and the opposite for the rest.
I want to propose a slightly different approach to dating again: What if you dated in an effort to get to know more about you? Read that again.
You are not the same person that you were in your last relationship or even before. How you dated before will not be the same. You’ve never been the person you are now, because everything that came before has shaped your present self. Being newly single is not only a time to meet new people, but also a time for you to get acquainted with who you are now.
When you’ve just come out of a relationship – a shared union of energy, time and space – there is a need to grieve its end and who you once were. Regardless of how badly you wanted to leave or who made the decision to end the relationship, you deserve to honor it and yourself with a proper closing.
Dating is a process that should reveal who you are, what you want and what you want to leave behind rather than what it can reveal about other people or the scene. Dating is an exercise in self exploration – and it’s a beautiful opportunity. I encourage you to remain open to all the anxiety and heartache it may bring rather than hide from it.
If you can maintain an awareness of yourself, what you’re thinking and doing and spend less time and focus on how he or she is behaving, what he or she is saying, doing and not doing, you can soften the experience.
Watch what thoughts come up in your mind. Observe how they make you feel. How does that influence your behavior? This is how you learn about yourself. Then, practice observing your thoughts and feelings before responding. Awareness allows you to put space between the reaction and the action.
This approach to dating is so valuable but it takes effort and practice. Mark my words: shift happens. In time, you won’t find yourself freaking out about some of the things that once caused your head to spin and unpleasant emotions to consume you. This will allow you to date purposefully and be driven by clear and healthy motives rather than the mess of feelings that come with being newly single and getting back out there.
Be patient with yourself. Wiggling out of what was into what is can be like putting on a new pair of jeans. You got to break it in.