While many say the best way to get over someone is to get under someone new, dealing with the wave of post-breakup emotions is no easy feat. And since every person processes loss differently, there is no hard-and-fast rule for when it’s time to give dating another go. The good news? Whether it takes three weeks or three months, eventually you will be ready to try again. Here are some signs that it’s a healthy time to start looking, as well as some red flags that suggest you’re not quite there. (Also watch out for your potential partner’s red flags: 4 Online Habits That Say He’s Not Boyfriend Material.)
Red Flag: You’re Still Monitoring His Social Media Behavior
“Keeping tabs on what your ex is doing is not only infringing on your recovery process, it shows that you’re not ready to commit to someone new,” says Tracey Steinberg, a New York City-based dating expert and author of Flirt For Fun & Meet The One. If you feel the need to snoop, your best bet is to cut those social ties, she explains. (Will stalking his Facebook help you heal? Find out: 5 Healthy Habits To Get You Through a Breakup.)
Good Sign: You’re Rediscovering Who You Are
Once you begin to feel content doing things alone versus always needing your partner around to feel whole, that’s when you know you can let someone new into your life, says Steinberg. In fact, research published in the journal Personal Relationships suggests that rediscovering a clear sense of self post-breakup is the key to moving on.
Red Flag: You’re Comparing a Potential New Partner to Your Ex
It’s common to have “selective amnesia” when it comes to previous relationships: If you’re really missing your ex, it’s only natural to think about all the sweet things he did for you or to solely focus on the good times, says Steinberg. Yet this becomes problematic when perusing a new love interest, because their efforts will always come up short if compared to your ex. “If you find yourself constantly drawing parallels between the two, you still haven’t found closure on the breakup,” says Steinberg.
Good Sign: You’re No Longer Hyper-Focused on the Ex
In the early stages of a breakup, people often bring up their ex in conversation on a daily basis—even if it’s subconscious, says Steinberg. When you reach the point where your ex is no longer impacting your day-to-day actions—like which friends you interact with, what places you go out to eat, what bars you may run into them at—you’re in the clear, says Steinberg. (Should You Be Friends with Your Ex?)
Red Flag: You Still Have His Stuff in Your Apartment
Still holding out on deleting those couples photos from your cell? Can’t quite fall asleep without his sweater in your bed? “While those behaviors are justifiable, that’s a major indicator that you’re still mourning the breakup,” says Steinberg. Your move: Give yourself a few weeks post-split to figure out what to do with the item, then get rid of it. Out of sight, out of mind—it will be much easier to move on once you’re not surrounded by your past, says Steinberg.