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The Risks of Getting Into a New Relationship

How to know when you're ready.

Key points

  • The healing process after a breakup requires time and patience.
  • Embracing your emotions is crucial to the process.
  • Readiness can be assessed throughout the process.

My husband is a paella chef/caterer, and I help him in the summer when he’s catering large weddings. Obviously, I had to learn how to make paella, and although I can now make one with my eyes closed, it wasn’t always easy. In fact, I screwed up plenty along the way.

Making paella is a matter of patience and trust. Whether I was cooking the sofrito in olive oil or seasoning the broth, each step required that I wait and trust the process. Because paella is ultimately a rice dish, it requires more than knowing which seasonings to add to the broth; you need to know when it’s ready for high heat, when it’s time to bring it down to low, and most importantly when it’s time to turn off the heat and let it sit.

Many times, I failed to trust the process and instead leaned on what I believed to be my instinct, which was dead wrong each time. “I thought it was ready for high heat,” I would tell my husband, whose own patience was tried many times.

“You have to wait,” he would say. “All of the ingredients need time to come together, and you can’t turn it up on high until you’re sure the broth is ready.”

“Yeah, but how do I know when the broth is ready?”

“You taste it. If it needs a little more salt or paprika, you add it. And again, wait. Trust that it will all come together as it should. Once you know it’s as good as it gets, you turn it up to high and let it boil.”

Eventually, I became adept at knowing what “ready” tasted like. But still, I struggled. I could easily remember the order of the ingredients, but it was hard for me to trust that I knew when it was time to turn up the heat.

It would take me some time to accept that a delicious seafood paella could only happen if I embraced the whole process with patience and that trusting the knowledge I gained along the way was the key to success.

If only I had learned to have patience and trust back when I was single and deliberating whether or not I was “ready” for a new relationship.

Taking time to process

Ending a relationship can be devastating. Even a civil and mutual break-up can take a toll on your mental and emotional health. Your emotions might bounce from relief to sadness to anger to happiness to guilt to worry, all in the span of a few hours or days.

Your friends and family tell you to take some time to “work on yourself” to process how you’re feeling. There’s a part of you that agrees with them, and so rather than immediately jump on every dating app, you choose to take some time to process the whole experience.

And what a great idea, right? With the best intentions, you spend some time alone, with no distractions to pull you away from this important self-work. And then you realize that sitting with your emotions is no easy feat; it requires a lot of patience and trust, and it’s easier and safer to distract yourself with any number of things.

But instead of jumping back into the dating scene, you fill up your social calendar with all the things you felt you couldn’t do before because you don’t have to consult with anyone before making plans. You come and go as you please, and you find a sense of freedom that you’ve never experienced before.

After just a few weeks, you’re telling yourself that you will never again tolerate getting less than you want from a partner. “I deserve the very best” becomes your new mantra, and you envision a future partner who gives you just that, day in and day out.

And then you meet someone, and much like my initial experience with paella, you go with instinct and decide to turn it up to high. “I think I’m ready,” you think, “and besides, they treat me like I wanted to be treated.” They text you every day, check in with you before they make plans, ask you about your day and listen when you need support. They give you exactly what you think you deserve.

But a few months later, you’ve slipped into old relational patterns. You’ve stopped hanging out with your friends, and your social calendar is more or less empty because your relationship has become your whole world. Again.

Because you’re sticking to your mantra of “I deserve the very best,” you analyze and interpret your partner’s every move and feel frustrated and hurt that they’re no longer meeting your expectations. They’ve stopped communicating with you on a regular basis, and they no longer make as much time to listen when you need support.

The relationship comes to an end, and you’re back to square one, only this time, you’re even more confused and emotionally distraught because you thought you’d done everything right. You took time. You focused on yourself. Only maybe you forgot some key ingredients.

It can feel scary to be alone with your feelings when a relationship comes to an end. It’s just so much easier to find comfort in places well outside of yourself. This is true for many people: Welcome to humanity.

Yet it’s important to process everything you feel when once again, you find yourself alone. But what does it actually mean to “process?”

Liderina/IStock
Source: Liderina/IStock

Process is permission.

The permission to experience all of your emotions with no judgments or interpretations. When clients share that they’re having a hard time with this, what we often discover is that rather than allowing their emotions to exist freely, they are judging them instead: “I can’t believe I feel sad. I shouldn’t be feeling lonely. I should be over it by now. They’re not worth me feeling this way.” This is not helpful, not even a little bit.

It's crucial to give your emotions the space they need to run their course without slapping a judgment on them or distracting yourself, and this means letting go of trying to control the healing process.

When you relinquish control, you’re better able to feel the depth of your sadness, hurt or fear, and allowing this process will help you develop the resilience you need to trust where these emotions are leading you. I believe strongly that all emotions have purpose and value and that if you allow them to exist together, eventually they will offer you valuable insight and clarity.

Equally important during this process is identifying the things you want from a partner and then asking yourself an important question: Do you give those things to yourself? If you notice that the things you want from a partner are not what you offer yourself, therein lies the opportunity to “work on yourself.”

Working on yourself means digging deep and identifying what you believe about yourself, and maybe in this process, you realize that what you think you deserve doesn’t match up to what you believe or how you treat yourself. “I thought I deserved to be loved,” a client once told me, “but I don’t really believe I’m worth it. I definitely don’t talk to myself with love, and my actions don’t show it.”

This kind of realization is possible when you accept that your emotions are not to be feared but rather embraced and when you take the time to explore how you treat yourself.

With insight and understanding, you can then make meaningful changes and never again worry about getting into a new relationship. Whatever you want someone to give you, give it to yourself every single day, and be consistent. This kind of personal growth requires stubborn persistence and patience, and trust.

Assess readiness and turn it up to high

Much like when we taste paella broth to assess readiness, the process of emotional and spiritual growth requires that you constantly check in with yourself and get a “taste” for where you are in the process. A taste might mean swiping left on a dating app or meeting someone for a coffee, and what happens next will help you figure out whether it’s time to turn it up to high or if you need more time.

If you feel anxiety when someone doesn’t text you back right away, or you’re constantly analyzing someone’s actions to figure out how they feel about you, it’s likely you are not ready. Take a step back and continue to work on yourself.

Another way to assess readiness is to consider this question: Are you focused only on what you’re hoping someone will give you or on what you’re ready to offer?

Readiness implies that you’ve come to believe deep down that you are worthy of love and that you’ve learned to give it to yourself. It also implies that you’re ready to offer this kind of unconditional love to someone else.

Readiness implies that you don’t need someone to actually give you anything at all; their existence in your life is a supplement, not the primary source of your happiness and peace of mind.

Readiness implies that how someone treats you has zero connection to your sense of self-worth, and this liberates you from an old pattern of constantly judging their actions and making meaning of them.

Most importantly, readiness is a willingness to share all parts of yourself and that you trust that what you have to offer is and always will be enough.

Not for them, but for you.

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