If you’re newly single after escaping a toxic partner, you’re probably wondering if dating after a toxic relationship is a good idea.
The idea of dating can be scary. Good for you for thinking ahead on how to do it in a healthy way — that’s an important element to avoid repeating old, toxic patterns.
You may be wondering, “Will I find happiness again?” Of course you will.
Fortunately, there are certain steps you can take to prepare and set yourself up for success in your next relationship, and important warning signs of toxic relationships so you can avoid them before they start.
Here are the 5 steps you need to take if you want to know how to start dating after a toxic relationship.
1. Get to know yourself again.
People who have been in toxic relationships lose who they are.
For months or years, they were told that they were less-than, that everything was their fault, that they were worthless, not worthy of respect, and that they were unattractive and stupid.
That takes a major toll on one’s self-esteem. And people who have low self-esteem attract other people with low self-esteem, starting the whole vicious cycle all over again.
So, when the toxic relationship ends, take some time to get to know yourself again.
Spend time with people who love you and re-learn how loveable you are. Do something that you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t believe you could.
Experience how strong you really are. Learn something new and get reconnected with your intelligence.
Building up your self-confidence is a key part of being successful in the dating world.
If you can go into it not thinking of yourself as a victim or as less-than, but as someone who had the strength to get out a toxic relationship, someone who values themselves and is surrounded by people who love them, you will attract like-minded people.
These are the kind of people you want to be in a relationship with.
The idea might be daunting, but getting to know yourself again is an important first step in dating after a toxic relationship.
2. Take stock of what happened in your relationship.
Toxic relationships are devastating — especially when they turn abusive.
You find yourself in a place where you’re constantly miserable, questioning yourself and everything around you, being subjected to verbal or even physical abuse and treading water just trying to prevent yourself from drowning.
But once you escape from that relationship, it’s important to take stock on how it got there.
Was it unhealthy from the beginning, or did something happen that caused the relationship to become toxic?
Did other people know how unhealthy your relationship was, or did you hide it? If you were being abused, were you aware of it at the time?
It’s also important to take stock of your role in the relationship.
Being aware of everything that happened in your relationship and recognizing things that you did and take responsibility for will allow you to take the first step back into dating.
You will have clarity about what happened and be determined not to let it happen again.
3. Believe in love.
Many people who are ready to take the first steps back into dating after a toxic relationship can be skeptical.
Their view of love has been tainted by the past. The prospect of meeting someone new — someone who could love their broken self — seems impossible.
Let me tell you, from years of personal and professional experience, that it’s not only possible but also probable that you’ll meet someone else out there in the world.
You’ll meet someone who can treat you right who will make you happy. It might take some time and you might need to kiss a few frogs, but your person is out there.
And while online dating may seem unpalatable, there are plenty of people who have met their person on dating sites and apps who are living happily ever after.
So, before you put yourself out there to start dating, ask yourself if you believe that this could work.
If you don’t believe you’ll find someone, you won’t. Putting out negative energy is going to doom your dating prospects from the start.
Believe that you will find someone and the positive energy will draw that person too you!
4. Choose differently.
Many people who don’t take stock of what happened in past relationships move on to relationships that are very similar to the toxic ones they had in the past.
For whatever reason, they find themselves attracted to the same sort of person — sometimes, over and over — and the relationships end up the same every time.
Now that you have awareness of what happened in your past toxic relationship, it might be easier for you to recognize the things that you need to do differently when it’s time to date.
You might now recognize the kind of person you want to date, the kind of behaviors you want both of you to exhibit, and the kind of feelings you want the next person to make you feel.
I have a client who was in a relationship with someone she didn’t trust. He had fooled around repeatedly and lied to her about it. She was determined to find someone she could trust the next time around, and she did.
And, while that relationship didn’t work out, she knew going out of it that there were guys out there she could trust, ones who are not only incredibly trustworthy but those who have many of the traits that her old boyfriend lacked.
5. Go slow.
So many people meet someone, fall madly in love, and then fall quickly into bed without even getting to know the new person.
When that new person finally starts to show their true selves, you’re often too far in to get out of the relationship easily.
If you meet someone you like, take your time. Get to know their likes and dislikes, their past relationships, their relationships with their parents, and their hopes and dreams for the future.
And don’t fall into bed with them!
Sex changes everything, especially for women who seem to get more attached to someone after they’ve had sex, even if they weren’t particularly attached before.
My boyfriend, the love of my life, was a friend for six months before we started dating. And because there was no prospect of dating, we were open and honest with each other.
We told each other many things about ourselves that made us quite vulnerable.
By the time we started dating, we knew and trusted each other. Our lovemaking was intimate, and our love grew quickly from there and was healthy.
As you take the first step into dating after a toxic relationship, take it slow. Don’t do it like you did last time. (You took it fast, didn’t you?)
Get to know this person before you give them your heart and your body. You will set yourself up for success if you do.
Dating is hard in the best of times, and knowing how to take the first step into dating after a toxic relationship is important.
You’ve just been through a lot. To embark on the search for another someone is scary. And you’re brave.
So, before you do, get to know yourself again. Fall in love with yourself again. Take stock of what happened in your past toxic relationship and familiarize yourself with the role you may have played in it.
Choose carefully and mindfully who you date, believe that your person is out there, and take it slow.
People can and do find healthy love after an abusive relationship. You can, too!
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