Perhaps you’re wondering why, on a mature dating blog, I’m writing about how to be single after a long relationship. Well, that’s part of the secret to successful dating after a breakup—learning how to move on and be happily single.
Is Life Better After a Divorce or Breakup?
It certainly won’t seem so in the beginning. Yet as you’ll see in a minute, your life will be better as a single person if you can pull the lessons from the wreckage of your past relationships.
But at the start, no matter which side of the split you were on, the one leaving or the one being left, it’s not a happy place.
There are the immediate needs to attend to such as finances, a place to live, furnishings, and simply trying to remain productive at work and in the world. Fear and anxiety are simmering away in your psyche.
Loneliness is a constant companion. The temptation to find someone to fill that void can be hard to resist.
It’s a vulnerable time. With all the emotional turmoil at play, you’re hardly a good candidate as a dating partner. And your judgement in picking a new partner is almost certain to be impaired by your fears, both conscious and sub-conscious.
Loneliness is not a good motivation for starting a new relationship.
Yet loneliness and this swirl of emotions after a breakup do indeed serve a purpose. Writing in Loneliness Has a Purpose in Psychology Today, Mary C. Lamia Ph.D. says,
“If you consider how this emotion makes you feel and think, then you will easily recognize that it alerts you to the fact that your relationships are inadequate and your needs to belong are not being met. Beyond that, loneliness motivates you to take necessary action that will relieve it. Emotions do have a purpose, regardless of how unpleasant some of them can make us feel.”
After my second marriage failed, those emotions were a sign that I needed to get my emotional house in order.
The Search for Hope After a Divorce
At that point I did at least one thing right. I committed to giving myself at least a year before I’d even think about dating.
But I made two big mistakes in my search for healing.
The first mistake was that I didn’t really do a thorough examination of my life and what it was that caused my relationship problems.
The second mistake was that I didn’t bring the second marriage to an official close. We were legally separated but we both procrastinated on the divorce for many, many years. There was never any closure.
Both of these errors led to my next mistake. A woman I knew asked me out for coffee a few times. My intuition was strongly urging me to say “no.” But the desire for companionship caused me to ignore that little voice and relent. “What the heck, it’s just coffee.”
I also fooled myself into believing that the prior year, free of relationships, was enough time to avoid the classic rebound relationship.
The fact was, I wasn’t free of relationships because I was still legally married and tied together financially. And a rebound relationship has nothing to do with time and everything to do with those sub-conscious motivations that never get examined.
Learning How to Be Single and Happy
The good news is that there are lessons in every mistake if we’re open to them.
My relationship recovery was not a straight path. At this point I was years into a new relationship and not yet divorced. Not a recipe for a fairy tale ending.
The details of the end of the new relationship don’t really matter. The underlying facts were that relationship history was repeating, and we were incompatible. It never had a chance because of my unresolved issues.
When it ended I was determined to get to the bottom of this relationship problem. This time I enlisted the help of a professional therapist. I told her I would do whatever it takes to figure out why relationships were such a mystery for me.
I also went into counseling with the attitude that if I couldn’t figure this out, I was prepared to move into old age, single and alone.
That commitment to self-examination proved to be the key to getting to know myself. Gaining such an understanding made all my relationship mistakes crystal clear. Hindsight’s a beautiful thing when it hits!
Self-knowledge also made it possible for me to confidently re-enter the world of dating.
Although the future can never be as crystal clear as the past, I no longer feared that I was simply going to repeat one bad relationship after another. I could now see the red flags that someone probably wasn’t a good choice for a partner or even a friend.
Here are eight things I learned about how to be happy and single after a failed relationship.
8 Tips on How to Be Single After a Long Relationship
1 – View Your Relationship Failure as an Opportunity for Self-Improvement
Get professional help from a therapist. It’s money and time well-spent when you do the work with the right counselor. Keep at it until you resolve those issues that have plagued you.
If you don’t have any issues, (unlikely if you’re going through a divorce) a counselor is great support to have during the breakup process. They’ll keep you level-headed and prevent further trouble.
2 – Get Full Closure on Your Past Relationship
Don’t let things linger. It’s difficult to find happiness when you don’t have closure.
Finish that divorce or bring that relationship to its close. Perhaps you’re procrastinating because you want to fix the marriage or relationship. Whatever direction you’re headed, get to work on it.
3 – Watch for Addictive Behaviors After a Breakup or Divorce
Don’t drown your sorrows in alcohol, drugs, sex, food, or any other addictions. Addictive behavior only drowns your emotions and steers you away from the lesson you need to learn, or the action you need to take. Addictions always delay your happiness.
If you’re already in recovery, go to your meetings regularly. They can be a lifesaver.
If you’re not an addict but were in a relationship with one, try going to Al-Anon meetings. You’ll get insight on why you’re picking addicts as partners. You’ll also get a great support group in your time of need.
4 – Exercise
Stay fit or get fit. Exercise is a remarkable aid in healing of all kinds. Taking care of our body helps our spirit and mind.
If you’re just starting to exercise, pick an exercise you’ll like. There’s biking, hiking, swimming, kayaking, walking, jogging, fitness classes, personal trainers, dancing, tennis, basketball, baseball, softball, yoga, and more to choose from.
5 – Stay Active
It’s tempting to sit at home every night, eating pints of ice cream and binge watching your favorite shows.
While we all need occasional times like that, it’s not a good idea to get into this habit after a breakup. We only feel worse about ourselves.
Instead, find positive ways to stay active. Re-start an old hobby or find a new one. If you’re a church-goer, get active in church. Join a club. Look in the Activities section of your local newspapers. They’re full of weekly activities to suit the interests of mature singles. Do community service. Volunteer. Join a local meetup.
When I was single, I usually had an activity to attend every day. Sometimes I had two or three things in one day, especially on the weekends, when loneliness tended to sneak up on me.
6 – Get Outdoors
There is something restorative about taking a walk in a park or on a trail. Mother nature’s incredible beauty is a pick-me-up from the turmoil of a breakup.
7 – Don’t Isolate After a Breakup
Isolation just reinforces feelings of loneliness and separation. Addicts in recovery know to avoid this at all costs because it eventually leads to a resumption of their old vice.
Just remember—your best thinking is what got you into this breakup in the first place. It’s common sense that the last place you want to be in times of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual turmoil is alone with only your own thoughts to guide you. It’s easier to get a proper perspective with the help of others whom you trust.
8 – Have Fun
Be sure to treat yourself weekly to some healthy fun and play. You won’t feel like it at first but eventually it becomes…fun!
Learning how to be single after a long relationship later in life can seem daunting. In the beginning, the thought of being single may not even feel desirable as you long for the comfort of companionship—even if it’s flawed companionship.
Resist! In the end, learning how to be single and happy is the best work you can do to prepare yourself for dating again.
A solid self-appraisal, combined with the necessary change, turns you into the partner you want to be. And in turn, this will attract the partner you’ve always wanted.