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Back to Zero: What I Learned About Dating After a Long-Term Relationship

Back to Zero: What I Learned About Dating After a Long-Term Relationship

Man Giving Woman A Surprise
Man Giving Woman A Surprise
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I just came out from a five-year relationship.

I was 19, in third-year college, when my ex and I got together. I spent most of the major milestones in my life (e.g. getting an OJT, finishing my thesis, graduating, getting my first job, receiving my first pay, etc.) in a seriously committed relationship.

Now I’m thrown back into the world of dating. I took to a dating app that involved a lot of swiping and matching and went on a string of first dates. It seemed to work at first—but none of the dates amounted to anything, perhaps because I was still hung up on my ex.

A few months ago, I forgot what “flirting” actually meant, and now within a few months, I graduated from a crash course in everything dating app and hookup culture related. I had to put my training wheels back on, but the terrain is completely different than I last remembered.

Back to Basics

Scene From Bliss
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So, after those months of trying to get back on the game, this is what I think: nothing is harder than relearning the dating essentials. Nothing about dating felt familiar, and I was scared I couldn’t do it again.

I completely forgot how to be single. Now I felt like I needed to be reprogrammed.

I was caught in this tug o’ war of being nervous about dating someone who wasn’t my ex, and yearning for the comfort of being in a relationship.

Whenever I start to like a guy and allow myself to feel again, I take a step back. I mean, my heart is just starting to heal, why would I want to throw it back into a sea of potential heartbreakers? I tell the guy I’m not ready for a relationship yet. Then I meet someone new, and the cycle starts again. I step back. I dump the guy. I meet someone new. I develop feelings. I date.

It’s a never-ending cycle.

Until my best friend snapped me out of it.

The Rebirth


Dating AdviceGIF from

Fast forward to today and this time around, I am more patient when it comes to dating.

I don’t settle for anything I don’t like. Now I know that I’m strong enough to be on my own. If someone doesn’t text me “Good morning” and “Goodnight” every day, it’s fine. I won’t settle. I’m not interested in wasting any more time, so I cross people off the moment I see a red flag.

The Enlightenment

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I built some form of emotional resilience. During my blitzkrieg dating phase, I met a few idiots along the way. Because of that, I learned my boundaries and realigned my standards. I stick to them. And I learned to not get too emotionally involved.

But I learned not to become too detached, either. We still need to remain open-minded and open-hearted so we actually build connections. It’s all about finding that balance. Who knows, if you’re going through the same thing, being open will help you actually find someone decent enough to be worthy of your time, effort, and love this time around.

Overall, dating after a long-term relationship has been a reminder of how much I still have to learn, and that I’m still too young to be rushing into things. Somewhere between the horrible dates and the 500 Days of Summer nightmare, everything has been an adventure—as is should be in our 20s.

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  • “I completely forgot how to be single. Now I felt like I needed to be reprogrammed.”

    This entire piece you’ve written is on target. I also recently got out of a 3-year serious relationship where many of my major milestones occurred with it. The wounds and separation anxiety are still fresh since the breakup happened just two months ago, but I am grateful that I finally started the transition to singlehood. I don’t know how long it’ll take for me to reprogram my psyche now that my ex is out of my life, but I am positive that more good things will happen now that I am single. Just like you, I may have to don a new pair of training wheels so as to successfully navigate this new life and eventually find the courage to date again. And, just like you, I hope this time around I’d get better at setting my boundaries and upping my relationship standards.

    Thanks, Dyan, for writing this article. xoxo

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