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I was in a relationship since I was sixteen all the way until I was twenty five years old. Yes, you calculated that correctly, I was in a relationship for 9 years — so when it ended I was very confused about plenty of things. So many questions, but the single most terrifying ones were, “How do I even date?” and “When should I get back in the game?”

Throughout the grieving process a handful of people would always tell me that I should start dating people right away because “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else” — I knew I wasn’t ready for that. Others told me I had to wait at least half of the relationship’s run before I should put myself out there. Four and a half years is a long time to wait, but were they right? I’ve heard it said countless times before, from friends to family members, but had never been in the position to relate. In an effort to get these questions answered, I was able to connect with love and relationship expert, Lisa Velazquez. Within minutes of talking to her, she let me know that the time stamp on getting back into dating was just a myth.

“There is an unspoken rule that you should do your relationship jail time. I’d never recommend that because it’s the death of your dating life if you choose to wait based off of a timeline.” It’s not about a timeframe, but where you’re at emotionally. "You want to go into a relationship, not a situationship," she says.

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Really taking time to focus on yourself and process your situation will let you be the best version of yourself, allowing you to dive back into the dating world. People who can’t be alone at all start excessively dating because they don’t want to process. Velazquez suggests spending time by yourself, meditating, and just doing things you generally love doing will help you center your what you’re looking for in the next relationship.

“Recognizing and knowing people on an organic level is crucial. You need to know them at the core — beyond lustful attraction. Connecting and building intimacy will springboard you into a successful and healthy relationship,” Velazquez says.

The problem with getting back into dating is that they’re not taking the time to look at three important factors, which she lists as: 1) Beliefs about the relationship 2) Beliefs about the person you are interested in (men/women) and 3) Beliefs about themselves. We have internal desires, but that is wildly different than what your beliefs are. Desires are what you want and the beliefs are what support or block them. Since our beliefs about love and relationships stem from from our normal and immediate environment over the years, we can be hesitant when dating. This is where taking time for yourself comes into play. Without doing that, it will stunt your growth in other areas as well.

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“If you’re in a lot of pain, don’t date — work on healing that. Dating with that energy is gonna bring problems and attract another wounded person,” Velazquez stresses.

Instead, do some deep intimate work and a clear mind and heart will allow you to open up yourself in the most honest way possible.

Why is there a stigma of people moving on? How long are you going to wait to enjoy your love life? People think you should delay your happiness, but being your authentic self is key. "Don't sabotage opportunities to connect with the right person, building a foundation with interest, and letting it grow,” Velazquez says.

It all sounds easier said than done, but based on my own personal experience, you’ll be okay. If you feel like it’s all a bit too overwhelming, you can get a support coach, like Velazquez. Whatever path you end up on and no matter how long it takes, it’s all about you.