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Carolyn Hax: How you know when you’re ready to date again


Dear Carolyn:

I’m newly single after being dumped from a serious, long-term relationship. I didn’t see this coming. I thought the relationship was perfect. It turns out my ex was telling me things were perfect but secretly romancing someone else behind my back.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m starting to move past the stage of wanting my ex back and into the stage of wanting to find a new person to be in a relationship with. However, I don’t want to ruin my chances with new people by trying to date before I’m really ready. How will I know when I’m ready? How long do I really need to wait?


As long as it takes to meet someone you want to date — which is very different from reaching the point of wanting to date.

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

“Wanting to date” is interviewing for a vacancy, and too often the first step in agreeing to the least unappealing candidate.

Another reason to be patient: You’ve positioned yourself to make that mistake, or one like it, before you’ve even accepted a date, with, “I don’t want to ruin my chances with new people.” You’re trying to impress these candidates, vs. treating them as people who need to impress you.

Think about your role here. Your job is to be you, which includes being the chief beneficiary of all things you do right, the chief victim of all you do wrong, and the one person on Earth who has to live with every choice you make. As gatekeeper to your life, you’re it.

Therefore, you will be “really ready” when you can trust yourself to mind that gate effectively — when you can think clearly, judge fairly, give wisely and, especially given your recent history, read accurately whether someone is good for you.

Your baseline for such accurate readings is the happiness of your life on your own — the phase between wanting the old and wanting the new. Nurture that, please, until someone deserves to be invited in.

Dear Carolyn:

I need a reality check. Is it out of line to want a preliminary family meeting to discuss next steps for our aging parents to include just the adult siblings and the parents, i.e., not my sister’s husband and brother’s live-in partner of several years?

I am single and don’t think that’s why I’m asking to limit this first major conversation to our family of origin. I also don’t think I should have to explain why I have this preference. Does this sound out of touch?


Yes, but maybe not for the reason you think.

Your parents get to decide who has this conversation, not you.

If they don’t care, are incapacitated or are vulnerable to arm-twisting, then it’s worth explaining your preference. Whether you “should have to” explain is irrelevant and, worse for your interests, defensive.

It’s also important to acknowledge, as part of your explanation, that partners and spouses deserve their say. Any “next steps” will affect them significantly. It’s important — and non-defensive — for you to acknowledge that upfront.

Once you do that, then your sibs will likely be more receptive to your thoughts on what you prefer and why.

Unsolicited caution: Unless you feel you must protect your parents, consider being flexible on this. Chances are good that you have bigger battles ahead.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at



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