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Is it selfish to go on dates when you’re not over someone?
Last year, I got out of a relationship that had lasted more than a year and a half. It was one of the strongest relationships I’ve ever had, and the most painful. We ended because I refused to get help, which led me to completely self-destruct.
After getting professional help, my friends encouraged me to date other people and [said] that time heals all wounds. I think the latter is bullshit, but that’s another topic. I’ve gone on dates since then, and they always follow the same pattern: a nice old-fashioned first date, we hang out more for a month or two and then, when it gets time to define the relationship, I know that my heart hasn’t moved on (apologies for the cheesiness). And I’m afraid that is selfish. On the third date should I say, “Want to talk about our emotional baggage?” To get it out in the open? Or have I simply not found the kind of person that will help me move on — if that is even possible?
Hey there Baggage Claim,
It sounds like last year was not very kind to you (and we got Trump as a President — What a double-whammy, baby!). I am happy to hear that you got the help you needed and are attempting to move forward with your life. I’m sure that if you’re as devastated as you are over this breakup, that your ex cared for you as deeply as you cared for them. I cannot imagine that it was an easy decision for them to leave the relationship or witness you in that state.
Now that your life is back on track, and you’re doing all the things you need to take care of yourself (such as seeing a professional), what’s keeping you from reaching back out to this person you can’t stop thinking about? If it’s shame or guilt, I see no reason to at least contact them about grabbing a cup of coffee to catch up. This could be your opportunity to apologize for your past ways and ease their mind by letting them know that you’re getting help now. Mending this relationship, even if just as friends, can go a long way toward allowing you to move on. You break that cycle that often drags us back into old situations. You know the one, where we want to recreate the scenario that went wrong but this time do it right. Just out here trying live life like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. Unfortch, it doesn’t usually work out for us. If you get this hurt off your heart though and really forgive yourself, you might find yourself fixating less on the past.
However, if you get together, and the spark seems to still be there, and the continued attraction to this person isn’t your desire for a do-over, and if they seem open to it, why not see if it’s possible to go round two?
Now, if your relationship reached a place that is too toxic to be revived, or the other person has made it abundantly clear they have zero desire to go there with you again, then I, of course, am not encouraging you to violate any boundaries the other person has in place. Which brings us to your actual question to me.
I think your instinct about being honest and upfront about your baggage when dating is the right one. There’s nothing worse than finding out you’re all-in emotionally, and the other person isn’t there and has no intention of getting there. But it takes more than just being verbal about your emotional distance. You have to make sure your actions match up. Don’t be engaging in convos about a future together if you don’t see one. Don’t introduce this person to family or make them your top call in the case of emergency. And regularly check in about where you’re at emotionally, and what you want out of the relationship. That way, the other person always has all the info they need to make the right choices for themselves when it comes to being with you.
We don’t need to abide by the notion that every relationship needs to end in marriage or is made for the long-term or must be monogamous. We just need to be honest about what we want and what we can give. You don’t have to mandate a lonely life for yourself just because you’re working through some shit. And, I know more than one happy couple — going on years — that met when one or both of them were sorting through the emotional wreckage of a breakup. The only thing more surprising than life is when and where you find love.