dried rose and broken heart-shaped bread that says "love"

I just broke up but now I’ve met the perfect partner—When is early too early?

Cindy and Adam had been living together for six years when Cindy realized that it just couldn’t last.  Adam just was too controlling.  It seemed to her that he had not always been that way, but her memories had become fuzzy. 

When they met at professional meeting, they had seemed like perfect partners.  But that was then.

After some amount of time, she came to feel, more and more, like he wanted a servant rather than an intimate partner. 

The demands had started off as small ones—he wanted his coffee and wanted it on time—and then they had escalated.  Then it was dinner, and then it was more and more and more.  Then she found herself living to fulfill his demands, which never seemed to stop escalating. 

Finally, she’d had it and she asked him to leave.  It was her apartment; he could go back to his old one or find himself a new one. She was done with him and, she thought, with men for a while. 

She now has been alone for just two months.

Breaking up was simultaneously liberating and utterly frightening.  On the one hand, Cindy no longer had to cater to Adam’s every whim.  

On the other hand, she was alone for the first time in five years, and she wasn’t getting any younger. 

She wanted to have children and she wanted to enjoy life with a partner before the children came. If she waited too long, that would become impossible.  She would have to rush into having children. 

But she also knew that the last thing she needed at the moment was another man.

Cindy was feeling very conflicted and somewhat out at sea when she and Oscar both tried to rush their shopping carts into a supermarket line at almost exactly the same moment. 

It didn’t go well. Their carts crashed into each other.  At first, Cindy was furious: Certainly Oscar must have seen that she had gotten there first. 

She started to give him a piece of her mind, when they both started laughing.  And then they started talking. One thing led to another and then they found themselves talking and texting throughout the day.

Cindy came to feel that Oscar was everything Adam wasn’t.  He was kind. He was undemanding.  He had a sense of humor.  He took life as it came.  He was looking for an equal, not a servant.

But Cindy had a worry:  She just wasn’t ready.  Things were starting to heat up and she did not feel like she could get into another relationship so quickly.  At the same time, she did not want to lose Oscar.  So, what to do?

People are getting together and breaking up all the time.  Break-ups are usually difficult and sometimes traumatic, especially if they are from longer-term relationships.

After a break-up, there almost always needs to be a recovery period.  How long the recovery period needs to be depends on the person.

There is no “right” amount of time.  It depends on the longevity and social/emotional attachment of the old relationship, as well as on the issue of legal or other possible disentanglements.

For those who have broken up fairly recently, the question inevitably comes up of how long one should wait until getting into another relationship, especially a serious one.

Although the “right” answer differs from one person to another, the right answer almost certainly is that one does not want to rush from one serious relationship into another.

Partly, the need to wait is a matter of giving oneself the time and space to figure out what went wrong and what one might want to do differently the next time around.  But there is one more serious matter.

If you get seriously involved with someone else during a period of recovery, your partner will be inextricably intertwined with the breakup and recovery.

Because you are likely not quite over, or possibly even not at all over your previous partner, your new partner will be bound up with your now not-quite-defunct relationship with the previous partner.

The new partner likely will become involved in what, in the theory of love as a story, is called a recovery story.

Recovery stories tend to be problematical in the long run, because when you are over the breakup and out of the recovery, you likely will continue to associate your new partner with the breakup and recovery.

You will be trying to move past them, but your new partner now has become part of them.  So, you may find that your partner during the recovery represents your past, not your future.

The annoying thing is that we rarely meet the right person at just the right time.  Life usually doesn’t work in that neat and orderly way.

It’s frustrating but simply a fact that life doesn’t care much about our schedule for what should happen when.

What do you do if you meet the one you think is the right person, but at the wrong time—too soon after a breakup?

I suggest you have four options, two of them good and two generally not so good, although there is no one magic formula that works for everyone. The first two below are generally the not so good ones; the second two are better. But as always, it depends!

Option 1—go all out for it!

If you feel you found the right person, great!  But did you, perhaps, feel the same way the last time around?  How about the time before that?

Would it make some sense to wait things out—to give yourself more time to figure things out for yourself?  Do you tend to decide too fast?  Do you have a tendency to keep looking for the same thing, which in the long-term does not work out?  Is there some hidden part of you that looks for things to fail?  Or are you perhaps unlucky—it happens?

If you go for it, what are you going to do to ensure that the new relationship does not end up in a quagmire similar or even identical to the one in which your old relationship ended up?

If you go for it, have a plan to keep the new relationship going after your period of recovery.

Option 2—give it up!

You just could tell your potential partner, and yourself, that you are not ready.  This strategy has the advantage that it recognizes you are not ready.

It has the disadvantage that you may be giving up your dream partner without even giving it the possibility to work.

If, five or ten years later, you are still looking, or if you have found the wrong person again, you may look back and regret that you were so quick to give up the possible new partner.

Option 3—go for a friendship.

Can you cool it?  Can you explain to your potential future—your analogue to Adam or Cindy or whomever—that you just are not ready to get into a serious relationship?

Can you keep it warm but not hot?  Can you take it easy without going over the edge?

If you can, that’s great. But it’s easier said than done.  Who really has perfect control over their feelings? Answer: no one.

The risk is that your efforts to keep it as a friendship will end up blurring into Option 1, whether you intend them to or not.

Only you know whether you can keep the relationship going warm but not burning hot.

And it may be that your potential partner, while you are being friends, will find someone else. That’s a risk you take if you follow this option.

Option 4—give it a pause.

Can you put the relationship on hold for a while?  Maybe a month, or two, or three, or even four, five, or six?

That’s hard to do. And there is no guarantee that the relationship will still heat up after a pause.

But if that’s what you need to get your life in order, well, that’s what you need.

You can take the position that if the relationship is really as good as you think it is, it can endure a pause.  Maybe if it can’t endure a pause—well, maybe then it’s just not worth having. Only you know.

And sure, you may lose your potential partner. But reinvolving yourself may doom the relationship with even more likelihood than getting involved when you are not ready.

Whatever you decide, good luck, and remember, we’re here for you!

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