Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at SKuburic@gannett.com.
Question: "After a couple of tough years emotionally (dealing with assault and PTSD) I recently broke up with my wonderful boyfriend to focus on my own health, recovery and well-being.
Since then, I have met at least five incredible men. All very, very eligible bachelors. Do I stick to my guns and take this time alone? Or give one of these guys a chance?
I'd go as far as saying one of them is everything I could have dreamed of and more – we've had a bit of a whirlwind romance but we made the decision that the timing wasn't right, and it would be best to cool it off for now.
It was definitely 50% my decision. But I'm actually devastated and can't stop thinking that I'm blowing off the only guy I've ever truly loved. I'm clearly smitten, but is it real?"
Answer: We've all been there – swearing off dating to work on ourselves. The intention comes from a good place, but it’s often challenged when we meet incredible people. Whether the time is “right” to date has less to do with who we meet and is more to do with the state of our relationship with ourselves.
Even the right person can become the wrong relationship if we are not ready.
The decision to date can become even more difficult if we feel infatuated. Infatuation is intoxicating – a whirlwind of immediate attraction and connection.
First, it's important to try to decipher if your feelings for the person you'd like to date could be infatuation.
What does infatuation look like?
It’s that moment when you can’t help but smile when you think of the person (which is all the time), you slip their name into every conversation, you drop everything to spend time with them, and you find yourself day-dreaming about a future way too early on. In the haze of infatuation, the person you're into seems perfect and the lightning pace of the relationship can be exhilarating. We put that person on a pedestal and become possessive of their time and attention – and consequently shift our focus away from ourselves.
But it’s this shift that can make infatuation dangerous: It can be a state in which we are less likely to make grounded or authentic decisions. Allow your infatuation to subside before making any decisions about whether or not to end your pause on dating.
Ready, set, date.
It’s not always easy to know when you are ready to get back out there. The only way to answer that question is to be honest with yourself. Take the time to ask yourself these questions:
What has actually changed since my last relationship?
Why do I want to start dating?
Did I give myself enough time to heal?
Am I at a place where I can properly balance my self-care with a relationship with another person?
If I start dating, will I feel like I am betraying myself?
What is my hesitation?
Take things slowly. Just because you choose to enter into a relationship does not mean you have to throw caution to the wind.
Give yourself time to really get to know the person (the good and the bad) and assess the relationship as time passes. It’s great to monitor whether the relationship distracts us from taking care of ourselves, infringes on our sense of self, violates our boundaries, sets unrealistic expectations or leaves no space for our needs. It’s good to start by setting boundaries and expectations, and then see what happens.
Trust yourself. Regardless of how careful you are, dating always comes with the risk of getting hurt or realizing that you are not ready to date. At the end of the day, your decision is less about trusting yourself to know when it’s the right time to date and more about trusting that, regardless of what happens, you will be OK.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dating advice: I wanted time alone, but is it time for a relationship?