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Ms. Opinionated: I Don't Think I'm Ready To "Get Back Out There" After My Break-Up

image of Megan Carpentier

Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.

Dear Ms. Opinionated,

The kind of break-up described in your last column is thankfully in my rearview mirror, but now I face a whole other problem: everyone keeps telling me to "get back out there" but I'm not sure I even remember, let alone ever knew, how! My ex and I were together practically since college, he asked me out and things just went from there. But now it's like... I'm not 22 anymore, I'm almost 30, I'm not as cute as I used to be and I feel like any guy I would want to go out with could totally do better. (And, before you say it: yes, maybe I'm not over my ex. I'm working on that in therapy.) I don't want to go sit in stank bars and make out with gross guys or just take random people home, and all I ever hear anyone say about Internet dating is totally negative, so no way. Where do I even start? Should I just get resigned to being alone?  

There is no time more suited to dating clichés than the post-break-up "you've been in mourning long enough" conversation with friends. (Full disclosure: My recent semi-serious addition to the genre was, and I'm quoting, "Separate him from the pack like an injured gazelle. You're a lioness! Take the meat you want for your own." I also made a lion hand motion. She laughed, which was mostly the point.) So I'll try to avoid that.

What you don't say is whether you are ready to "get back out there." The only time to start dating/making out/sleeping with people again is when you are ready for it, not when it seems like the thing to do or like you ought to. Your internal clock, your sense of self, your desire to engage with others on a romantic or sexual level is the only barometer you need to focus on, I promise.

You do have to pay attention to the signs a bit, though. They could include (in no particular order): having sexual fantasies about realistic partners, possibly for the first time in a while; actual physical attraction to someone; stomach butterflies; severe horniness; and/or major crushes. They could include none of them! Your signs could be totally different. But you should be having some sign other than that you are -- HORRORS! -- not in a relationship before you declare yourself ready. And, having been in a long-term relationship, it may be hard to listen to yourself on that level anymore, particularly if, to you, being a relationship often means cutting yourself off from experiencing any attraction to others.

Also, I have often heard from friends of all kinds that it can be very difficult to switch from boyfriend/girlfriend/partner mode to just-dating mode, especially when b/g/p mode has been your dominant relationship paradigm for so long. (I'd say the early-b/g/p moding might also be called "being on the rebound," though it's only one methodology of assuaging the potential weirdness of new singledom encapsulated by "being on the rebound.") So if and when you do decide to engage with others on a romantic or sexual level, you have to be careful of not only the boundaries that other people set for you or seem to expect from you, but really make sure you understand your own emotional boundaries and ask other people to respect them. If you don't want a make-out buddy, don't go there with someone you want to date-date. If you want to date someone, make sure you are engaging with that person and that specific relationship, as opposed to just falling into old habits of your past relationship. (These, obviously, are just some common examples of ways in which people fail to recognize their own emotions or emotional boundaries. Yours might be different.)

In terms of accepting "being alone" (which lends itself to the "you have to learn to love yourself first" cliché, which, gag), when my last really long-term relationship ended, it actually helped me to make peace with the idea that, yes, I might be alone. It helped me to learn to set boundaries for what I wanted in general from romantic and sexual attachments and from people in particular, how to ask for it, how to say no when it wasn't what I wanted. It helped to let go of the social expectation that we will all have lifetime partners and the idea of "The One" and accept that not only might I be alone, but that alone might be a better way for me to be rather than to be in a flawed and even damaging relationship. It also made me realize that "being alone" is not the same as "being without a partner," and that I could focus on the other meaningful relationships in my life -- my friends and my family, both biological and chosen -- and build (and in some cases rebuild) relationships that I had not tended to not just because I was in a relationship, but because I was in a dysfunctional relationship.

It's great that you're working on your esteem issues in therapy (in reference to,"I'm not as cute as I used to be and I feel like any guy I would want to go out with could totally do better"), but I would also encourage you to look at dating not just in terms of who might "pick" you, but who you might yourself pick (i.e., with an eye to your own agency in the process). You mention that your long-term relationship began with him asking you out and you acquiescing, but not whether there was a mutual attraction, and you frame future dating around your own perceived value on a market you seemingly feel revolves around your physical attractiveness to others. In other words, you view yourself, at least in part, as someone with less agency in dating than the men who might pick you, and you view those decisions as based around your physical attributes.

So first off, grab your agency with both hands. View dating as your choice, your prospects as your choices, your decisions as yours. Yes, I acknowledge, looks play a role in dating, and men (in your case) are certainly socialized as much as women to view women's looks as a significant factor in their attractiveness. But all men aren't (I swear!) ultimately deciding on who to date based on cuteness alone. Many men are ultimately complex people as well, and lots of factors often go into their decisions about who to date or make out with, including perceived availability, emotional and intellectual compatibility and physical attraction that might or not be based in what the eyes can see or the nose can smell or the hands can feel. Grant anyone else's decision about who to date the same complexity you would say your own has and, if you end up disappointed in a potential person here or there, that's their loss and not yours.

There is no one right way to date (or date again). Making out in bars is good, if you want to make out in bars. Online dating clearly works for a lot of people -- else why would so many people do it -- so the horror stories shouldn't be the only reason to give it a pass, but give it a pass if you want to give it a pass. At its core, the cliché of "getting out there" means putting yourself in situations that you might've given a pass to while in a (potentially monogamous) relationship -- situations where flirtation is appropriate, inhibitions can be lowered at your own discretion, where there are people you might not know yet but could find attractive, or where you create space in existing situations that something more than friend- or acquaintanceship might develop. Which circumstances feel comfortable to you is your call -- but if you keep thinking of reasons that none of those circumstances are right, then the simple fact of the matter is that you probably aren't ready yet. So if that's the case, give yourself time and space to heal, breathe, and want again. Then figure out how.

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Photo credit: Kate Black, kateblack.com

 

 

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Comments

21 comments have been made. Commenting is set to read-only for this post.

Thank you guys

Thank you both for this question and this answer... especially, "and you frame future dating around your own perceived value on a market you seemingly feel revolves around your physical attractiveness to others. In other words, you view yourself, at least in part, as someone with less agency in dating than the men who might pick you, and you view those decisions as based around your physical attributes."

I do this too. Thanks for smacking me around a bit. :)

Love,
Sometimes Feels Too Much Like 31 Years Old Means Not Pretty or Wanted

Bitch, PLEASE don't use that font

Bitch, PLEASE don't use that font for articles. It makes them very hard to read. I know it sounds weird, but I lost my place a few times.

yes!!! i was thinking of

yes!!! i was thinking of copying and pasting it in word to read the whole thing, the font is so terrible.

Serious question

When are you writing a book? I would love to read your considerate, thoughtful prose in long form.

This Was Super En Pointe

Thanks so much; I especially appreciate your insight about the difficulty of making that switch from boyfriend/girlfriend/partner mode to just-dating mode. (Default settings and the gravitational forces of habit are so powerful!) And it does feel like a uniquely feminist struggle, in some ways, too, part and parcel of questioning the normativity/default settings of marriage, as you mention, too. On the personal and collective levels, I have found this insight helpful, too:

"When we feel like we're not 'ready,' what we might truly feel is that we're just not interested in having the kind of relationships we've had in our past." —Claire Zammit

More of this, less of that.

""being alone" is not the same as "being without a partner,""

Thank you!

I feel very much like the minority when my friends treat being single as a horrific illness and commit to ending their own temporary states of single-ness with all the fervor of an Olympian in training.

That said, I can see the practical use of a partner. Shared financial burdens, a safety net when problems arise, someone to fetch you things when you're sick... ;) But that's not how my friends see it. I've asked on occasion and the underlying message I always get? "I don't want to be alone."

And I think, with friends often just as obsessed with their partners, with parents and siblings moving away or dying, with changing jobs... I think I can see the appeal of someone who will *stay* and be a reliable point of human contact.

People leave their families as part of 'growing up', only to desperately try to recreate what they abandoned. :(

So I guess it's not their fault, to be so obsessed. We need dependable human contact and our society has developed in such a way that there's really only one way to secure it.

Striving for the impossible.

dr.abegbehelp me get my ex back

I will love to share my testimony to all the people in the forum cos i never thought i will have my girlfriend back and she means so much to me..The girl i want to get marry to left me 4 weeks to our wedding for another man..,When i called her she never picked my calls,She deleted me on her facebook and she changed her facebook status from engage to Single...when i went to her place of work she told her boss she never want to see me..I lost my job as a result of this cos i cant get myself anymore,my life was upside down and everything did not go smooth with my life...I tried all i could do to have her back to all did not work out until i met a Man when i Travel to Africa to execute some business have been developing some years back..I told him my problem and all have passed through in getting her back and how i lost my job...he told me he gonna help me...i don't believe that in the first place.but he swore he will help me out and he told me the reason why my girlfriend left me and also told me some hidden secrets.i was amazed when i heard that from him..he said he will cast a spell for me and i will see the results in the next couple of days..then i travel back to Germany the following day and i called him when i got home and he said he's busy casting those spells and he has bought all the materials needed for the spells,he said am gonna see positive results in the next 2 days that is Thursday.My girlfriend called me at exactly 12:35pm on Thursday and apologies for all she had done ..she said,she never knew what she's doing and her sudden behavior was not intentional and she promised not to do that again.it was like am dreaming when i heard that from her and when we ended the call,i called the man and told him my girl friend called and he said i haven't seen anything yet... he said i will also get my job back in 3 days time..and when its Sunday,they called me at my place of work that i should resume work on Monday and they gonna compensate me for the time limit i have spent at home without working..My life is back into shape,i have my girlfriend back and we are happily married now with a baby boy and i have my job back too.This man is really powerful..if we have up to 20 people like him in the world,the world would have been a better place..he has also helped many of my friends to solve many problems and they are all happy now..Am posting this to the forum for anybody that is interested in meeting the man for help.you can mail him to [email protected] , I cant give out his number cos he told me he don't want to be disturbed by many people across the world..he said his email is okay and he also have a web site if you want to visit him there' he will replied to any emails asap..hope he helped u out too..good luck. his email address: [email protected]

HOW I GOT BACK MY LOVER BACK THROUGH THE HELP OF A SPELL CASTER

Hello every one out here
Am Mrs Morgana want to share a testimony of my life to every one. I was married to my husband james Mark, I love him so much we have been married for 5 years now with two kids. when he went for a vacation to France he meant a lady ;, he told me that he is no longer interested in the marriage any more and said we should go for divorce. I was so confused and seeking for help, I don't know what to do until I met my friend miss Edwina who told who gave me the solution to my problem. she told me not to worry about it that she had a similar problem earlier and introduce me to a man called Dr iayaryi who cast a spell on her ex and bring him back to her after 24hrs.I contacted him to help me bring back my husband and he ask me not to worry about it that the gods of his fore-fathers will fight for me. He told me by 24hrs he will re-unite me and my husband together. After two day my husband called and told me he is coming back to sought out things with me, I was surprise when I saw him and he started crying for forgiveness. Right now I am the happiest woman on earth for what this great spell caster did for me and my husband, his contact is:Dr iayaryi. He is the best spell caster on the internet so far email:[email protected] Thank you once again father, I will continue to share your good work as long as I live and I will advice everyone in similar situation to try and see. thanks [email protected]

thanks be to the great spell caster for helping me

Hello every body....
My name is Conrad Eve, my family and i live together live in USA. It was after seven years i got to discover that my Husband was unfaithful to me. I didn't know what was going on at first but as he got deep in the affair with his new lover, i felt that our marriage was on the rocks. I notice that he no longer light up when i touch him or kiss him in his neck and his chest cos he really liked it when i did that, he also usually get naked in front of me but when he started seeing that woman he stopped it. I remember asking him if i have done anything that makes him feel irritated when i am around him then he gives silly excuses that he has been feeling stressed up and that he need space for a while. I know when you are been asked for space its usually because there is something fishy going on. I hired a private investigator to help find out what was going on. And in a week time he brought me prove that my Husband that i have lived with for seven straight year is cheating on me with his high school lover. I had picture of him walking out a of a restaurant with her and many other photo of them kissing in public like he will never be caught by someone that knows he is my Husband. I asked myself, even when we had a daughter together he could do this to me. That same night i showed him the pictures that i got from my private investigator. He didn't look at it before saying, that he is seeing someone and he know that i just found out about it. Then he said that he is in love with her. At that moment, i didn't know if to kill myself or to kill him but the button line is that if i was going to kill anyone it was going to be me because i was so much in love with him to even think of thinking to hurt him. As time goes on he asked for a divorce and got it and i got custody of our daughter and i weep everyday seeing my daughter with out being around her daddy. I just couldn't get my mind off my Husband and all i could think about was getting him back and live as every family should. For a year i tried all i could to get him back with the help of my seven year old daughter. Even at that all effect was in vain, i used the help of his friend but turned out all bad. I know most people don't believe in spell casting but believe me this was my last option and the result i most say was impressive. And i know it difficult to believe but A SPELL CASTER Dr iayaryi really made my life much better because he gave me my family back. He didn't ask me to pay for what he did for me all i was to do, was to provide the materials for the spell and i should believe that he had the power to help me. Like he said, he was going to do something that will make him reset his love and affection for me just as it has always been. My Husband told me he woke up and realized that he should have never left me that i am all he needs.To make thing clear, his life with his high school lover was great before Dr iayaryi cast the spell, they had no disagreement on anything. My Husband said it himself that why he broke up with her is something he can not explain just that he woke up on the same bed with her after a very romantic night saying he is breaking up with her for no reason at all. Only Dr iayaryi can do such a thing, contact him to solve your problem with his email [email protected]

thanks to the great DR ODUMDU

My Name is Rebecca,
I want to testify to the general public on how my relationship was restored back i was married to my husband for 5years and we were both bless with two children living together as one love until 2013 when things was no longer the way it use to be when he lost his job But when he later gets a new job 4 months after he stated sleeping outside Only for me to find out that he was having an affair with the lady that gave him the job and when i called him he say sorry that he has nothing to do with me again that is over he is not come back home i felt so empty inside me then i say to myself this can not let happen to me i was the one he was marry to so i say to myself i will have to get from any were ever from anyone i was told if i contact Dr Odumdu the great Africa man that he can help me so i do as i was told all thanks to Dr Odumdu for his help. You can contact him on his email if you have similar problem he has the solution to it contact him via email [email protected] you can also reach he on this number +2347053319835

HOW I GOT BACK MY LOVER BACK THROUGH THE HELP OF A SPELL CASTER

Hello every one out here
Am Mrs Morgana want to share a testimony of my life to every one. I was married to my husband james Mark, I love him so much we have been married for 5 years now with two kids. when he went for a vacation to France he meant a lady ;, he told me that he is no longer interested in the marriage any more and said we should go for divorce. I was so confused and seeking for help, I don't know what to do until I met my friend miss Edwina who told who gave me the solution to my problem. she told me not to worry about it that she had a similar problem earlier and introduce me to a man called Dr iayaryi who cast a spell on her ex and bring him back to her after 24hrs.I contacted him to help me bring back my husband and he ask me not to worry about it that the gods of his fore-fathers will fight for me. He told me by 24hrs he will re-unite me and my husband together. After two day my husband called and told me he is coming back to sought out things with me, I was surprise when I saw him and he started crying for forgiveness. Right now I am the happiest woman on earth for what this great spell caster did for me and my husband, his contact is:Dr iayaryi. He is the best spell caster on the internet so far email:[email protected] Thank you once again father, I will continue to share your good work as long as I live and I will advice everyone in similar situation to try and see. thanks [email protected]

thanks to [email protected] for what you have done for me

I want to testify to the general public on how my relationship was restored back by the power of Dr Odumdu and to share my happiness with the world, In this life there are some people that we always live to remember, as for me i will always live to be grateful to DR ODUMDU of land of solution temple for helping me get my lover back within 48hours for helping me get my lover back after he has left me for another lady when he broke up with me, i was not my self again, i felt so empty inside me my lover called me after my contact with Dr Odumdu my lover come back and asking me forgiveness, now we are happily married with two kids. All thanks to Dr Odumdu for his help. You can contact him on his email if you have similar problem he has the solution to it contact him via email [email protected] you can also reach he on this number +2347053319835

the great spell caster from Africa who help me is landofsolution

I am here to say thanks and appreciate Dr ODUMDU of [email protected], for all his help toward me, He really take his time to help me to cast a spell that brought back my lover, when i lost my lover to another woman. Thank you for the spell you cast that brings him back to me,we are now happily married with kids and we are more happier than never before, all thanks to you, Long leave Dr ODUMDU and Long leave land of solution temple. A temple were all your problems are solved, email [email protected] if you need help or call +2347053319835

My Name is Elisabeth
from Norway

how i got my ex back

Is OGBENI you can email him if you need his assistance in your relationship,I
promise you.your problems will be solve immediately. After being in
relationship with him for seven years, He left me, i did everything
possible to bring him back back but all was in vain. I wanted him back
because of the love I have for him, I begged him but he refused until I
explained my problem to someone online and she suggested that I should
rather mail a spell caster that could help me cast a spell to bring him
back but I am the type that never believe in spell, I had no choice than to
try it, I mailed the spell caster, he told me there was no problem that
everything will be okay before three days, that my ex will return to me
before three days, he cast the spell and surprisingly in the second day,
that was around 4:00pm. My ex called me, I was so surprised, I answered the
call and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened,
that he wanted to return to me, that he love me so much. I was so happy and
surprised. Since then I have made a promise that everybody I know will
never have a relationship problem, that I will refer them to the spell
caster to help them. Anybody could need the help of the spell caster, his
email [email protected]

Finally my wife is back want

Finally my wife is back want to me i give all the glory to dr ekuku if not for him i don't know what i would have done. After my wife left me and took my kids away my friends told me to pursue the case legally but i loved her so much and was not ready to go to court with her.
i was duped twice by fake spell casters until i finally meet dr igodo who wipe my tears away with his famous reunion spell ...may your mighty name be praise i say and may almighty God continue to empower you so you can keep up the good work.
I am writing this testimony to tell people out there that there ae still great and sincere spell caster on the internet and dr ekuku of the temple of solution and success is one of then and also give out his contact.. Email: [email protected] and phone number :+2348111957679.
Paul from VA, USA

CONTACT PRIEST ODUMA VIA EMAIL SPELLOFSOLUTION@ GMAIL.COM

I want to say thanks to priest oduma for bring back my lover to me , my husband said he want to divorce me for him to get marry to another woman after will have be together for 6 years few days for us to go and divorce i say some body testify of what a spell caster have done for her so i desired to give a try it was 7 days to go and divorce and when i contacted him , he said that he can get him back for me' the third day my husband stop the divorce and now will are together for good .....if you in any type of problem in your relationship contact him via email: [email protected] OR call him on his cell phone +2348153363047

Elli Avain

A BIG THANK TO DR GOODLUCK FOR BRINGING BACK MY EX LOVE

An amazing testimony on a spell caster who brought my wife back to me.. My name is johnson smith i live in Australia,and I`m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she did not love me anymore So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{[email protected]}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day what an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who did not call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {[email protected]},i f you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to "bringing your ex back. So thanks to Mr ogboni for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.([email protected]}, Thanks..