Let’s be honest, there are very few people who are 100% ready for a permanent relationship all of the time. We’re only human and no matter how perfect our partner, there will usually be a little voice in the back of our minds asking “Is there someone better for me?” or “What would it be like to be single again?”
I think it’s healthy to acknowledge that in a relationship and to occasionally joke about it, just like I believe we should all talk and joke about death more. (I mean it. You’re more prepared and cope with it much better if you’ve talked about it with the person who dies.) There is probably no such thing as the perfect person for you out there. You’ll have to make compromises and there will be little parts of yourself that won’t get expressed with that person. So part of being ready for a relationship is being able to acknowledge that real relationships are messy and imperfect. And that means you don’t have to answer a resounding “Yes!” to the question “Are you 100% ready every minute of the day to embrace intimacy, commitment, couply shopping trips and in-laws?”
On many dating sites, you will be asked what you’re looking for. Do you tick fun, fling, friends, short-term relationships, long-term relationships, or all of them?
I would advise ticking friends, short-term relationships, long-term relationships. Interviewing a new date about long-term relationship goals would freak anyone out, so why focus on this at the beginning? To start with, you have very limited information about each other which you therefore overweight or overinterpret. So it’s important to make salient the right things about you.
“My date just told me he’s not ready for a serious relationship. Why couldn’t he have told me that at the beginning?!”
We don’t always know until we’re IN a relationship that we’re not ready. If your date has emerged from a long-term relationship in the last two years, it’s quite possible that he/she isn’t going to be ready. But there is still that longing for intimacy and warmth, and so we pursue relationships thinking we ARE ready. Don’t be too hard on him/her.
Sometimes it’s that you’re not right for that person, and so they SAY they don’t want a serious relationship, when really it just means they don’t want one with YOU. They may not even be able to admit it or explain it to themselves, if the reasons are nebulous, or sound trivial.
Often after about three months of dating, things come to an end, because you’ve got to that stage where you’ve found out things about each other that you couldn’t possibly have known any earlier. At three months things start to settle down a bit and you may argue or have misunderstandings based on differences in values or assumptions. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not ready for a relationship just because you’ve had several of these short-term experiences – it could just be because you weren’t right for each other.
“I know I’m not ready for a relationship, but if I tick short-term fun as a woman am I going to attract all the wrong men? And if a man ticks this, will he get any replies on dating apps?”
Although these kind of stereotypical responses are prevalent, things are changing and the meaning behind “short-term fun” is less loaded than it was a few years ago. Gender differences are starting to reduce too. It is quite possible to have short-term meaningful, loving, intimate relationships, if both people are honest and clear about that from the beginning. Often an imbalance between the partners can develop, where one is slightly more emotionally “needy” than the other, but if you communicate you should be able to overcome this. For example, if your date is messaging you too often, why not just ask them not to? Perhaps say it makes you feel a little overwhelmed but it doesn’t mean you don’t care. Be clear about how much psychological space you need without sounding rejecting. You might want to explore your attachment style too, if you’re either being avoidant or getting too emotionally involved too fast.
Try to show in your profile that you’ll treat the other person well, and that you will want to go on dates and do things together. You’ll have to put in some effort however short-term it is, as you should do with any friend.
I was married for 25 years. How long will it be before I’m ready for a relationship?
Wait at least 3-6 months after all the practical arrangements and stressful legal stuff have been sorted. And don’t date while you’re still living in the same home. But it could take up to two years. You probably won’t know until you start, and you’ll need to be honest with your dates. Say it’s early days for you and that you’ll want to take it slow.
(Listen to my video, Am I ready for dating after divorce? here and visit The Divorce Club for more tips. I’ve co-written two articles about divorce and dating: What’s it like dating after divorce? and Mistakes to avoid when dating after divorce.)
I just want sex right now. I can’t handle any kind of involvement. Is this OK?
Only you can answer this. If you feel fine about it, OK! If you’re not sure, ask yourself:
Why do I feel the need to separate sex from emotion? Is this kind of dissociation going to help me to make progress emotionally and psychologically as a person? If I am vulnerable right now, will this damage me further?
What am I afraid of?
If you are afraid of the other person getting the wrong idea or turning it into something too “couply” too soon, could you communicate that gently and respectfully to the other person without merely treating them as a sexual plaything?
Is it just a fear of getting involved with the wrong person and not being able to escape?
Is it just laziness, in that you’re not willing to put any effort into making the other person happy and feeling good? Will you be like this in the bedroom too?
Or is it that you don’t have the resources (time or emotions) right now? Is there anything you can do to improve this?
Are you really going to feel OK about treating another person in that way? What will it do to you as a person?
Will this help to prepare you for a relationship again in the future or will it just create new neural pathways in the brain that will make it harder for you to get involved with someone later?
Is it just an illusion or fantasy that I CAN actually have sex without involving my emotions?
“After being in a long-term relationship, the idea of getting into another makes me feel trapped. Should I try polyamory?”
People who have been in open relationships often say “It’s not for everyone”. It’s certainly not about just having sex without any involvement or commitment. Both parties have to be very comfortable with it. But there are dangers of getting hurt, getting too involved with a new person, jealousy, and so on. And it can be a short-term thing, not necessarily right for the whole length of a relationship.
Remember, we are all imperfect human beings with different hang-ups about all kinds of relationships! Let’s be tolerant of each other and recognise that every relationship is unique, and can’t be put into a box or compared to previous relationships.