Why you may not be ready for relationship (yet)...


Melissa (not her real name) came to see me as she was struggling with her dating life. She had just come out of a recent relationship that had lasted about six months. This was her third short-term relationship over the last two years. She said that she felt increasingly let down and anxious after each of her relationships ended and that she had recently noticed a pattern in each of these past three relationships. Melissa had some personal issues which she believed classified her as ‘damaged goods’, and she consequently felt that any romantic partner may be turned off if she made herself vulnerable and told them about these issues. As a result, Melissa felt that she would never be accepted by a partner for who she really was, and she constantly felt the threat of abandonment and rejection which left her disempowered, anxious, and prone to overcompensating for her perceived flaws, by trying too hard to please her partners.

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People often come to counselling with a desire to know whether it is a good time for them to start dating again after a divorce or relationship breakup. One of the reasons so many people seek counselling for this matter is that they are not quite sure whether it’s too soon after their breakup to start dating again or whether they should perhaps wait a little longer. Sometimes, clients just want to explore the question: “Am I ready for another relationship?”

Most of us want to experience being in a safe, loving, and healthy relationship with another person. This desire to find a romantic partner to be with, is, for the most part, driven by our biological, emotional, and psychological need to find a mate. This stems from a blueprint passed down to us from our families of origin; after all, it’s what our parents, grandparents and their forbears did, so it’s what we feel we must do too.

Society almost demands that we be attached to another person, yet while there are societal pressures to be in a relationship, diving into one head-first can be disastrous if we are not ready. Knowing whether we are ready to enter into a romantic relationship with another person can be difficult to gauge. Rather than asking ourselves whether we are ready to enter into a romantic relationship, it may be more helpful to heed the warning signs that suggest that we’re not yet ready.

So, what then are the signs that you are not yet ready to be in a romantic relationship?

You keep attracting the same type of ‘unhealthy’ partner: If you seem to be attracting the same type of person in a romantic partner, who after the first few months slowly changes from Prince (or Princess) Charming into a reincarnation of Godzilla, you may notice that this is a pattern for you. If this is the case, you are not ready to enter another relationship until you have done some serious work on discovering why you seem to attract the same type of person to be in a relationship with time and time again.

Your last relationship ended very recently: If your relationship only just recently ended, especially if it was one that you had been in for two years or more, you will not be ready to move on to a new relationship straight away even if you think you are. Rebound relationships almost always fail. The individuals that jump from one relationship to another never take the time to heal, mature and learn from what went wrong in their previous relationship(s) and end up making the same disastrous mistakes time and again. Take some time to grieve, recover, reboot, and do some personal growth work to determine some goals and direction for your life before you take a leap into the dating world. Until you’ve come to terms with being ‘single’ and have healed from your past wounds, you just won’t have the emotional strength to sustain a new relationship.

You’re not yet over your ex: If you’re secretly longing to reunite with your ex, or even still have feelings for them, you simply aren’t ready to start a new relationship. Even if you were the one to end the relationship, take time to grieve the loss and heal from the breakup before you move on to a new one.

You fear being alone: Many people who are newly single again seek a new partner immediately, because being alone is something that they genuinely fear. Sometimes you just don’t want to be alone and at other times you’re just seeking to replace your ex with someone new. This is manipulative, selfish and it isn’t being fair to the person you are considering entering into a relationship with.

You just want to feel better about yourself: A low self-esteem and any insecurities, anxieties or fears you may have, won’t disappear by being in a relationship; in fact, it may even make them worse, especially in the beginning stages when you’re still getting to know a potential partner. If you’re looking for a relationship to solve all your problems and rid yourself of anxiety or fears, you probably shouldn’t consider entering a new relationship.

You haven’t done ‘the work’: You have to have a good, healthy relationship with yourself before you can hope to have a good, healthy relationship with another person. The one key factor in determining whether or not you are relationship-ready is how well you know yourself. Although this is a long-term process, your past, present and future are all parts of you that you need to understand, come to terms with, work through and plan towards. This is especially important if you have a history of trauma. Working with a qualified, professional counsellor can help you to discover and work through any issues that may have caused problems for you in your past relationships.

You’re not sure if you have enough time for a relationship: This is a big one! Sometimes the timing just isn’t right for you to consider being in a relationship. A good healthy relationship requires a serious investment of time, effort, and emotional energy. Maybe you’re at a point in your life where you need to invest your energy in another area of your life. Perhaps study, your career, travel or simply getting your priorities in order may be the reason, so do what you have to do and put dating and relationships on the back-burner until you feel you have the time and energy to devote to a relationship.

Whether or not you are ready to be in a relationship can sometimes be difficult to determine. Consideration needs to be given to your relationship history, your self-esteem, your personal history, and the way you view yourself in relationships. It will also depend on your attachment style.

If you are struggling in dating or relationships, or if you’re unsure as to whether you’re ready to enter into a new relationship, you should speak to a registered, professional counsellor.