Lifelines: Get back in the dating game

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WHEN a relationship ends, whether it lasted two months or 20 years, part of the deal is to move on.

This is a very individual process – sometimes we can do it quickly and sometimes we go through depression and wallow for months, and sometimes we spend a few days pity-partying, then start the process of getting over it. I've done all three, with varying degrees of success. There's no right way to do it. Eventually, though, you'll get to a point when you're ready to start dating again.

There are, inevitably, issues with getting back 'out there': not being over your ex enough to start dating (even though you want to), not knowing how to go about it (especially after a long relationship) and being terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing on that first date. We all experience these issues, and they are all completely natural reactions to the process of opening yourself up to new love.

OPEN ATTACHMENT

My ex ended our relationship of two years about three months ago. I am no more over him than when it happened, and I'm horribly unhappy. I want to move on, but I don't know how. Help.

You definitely have the right attitude – wanting to move on is a major step in recovering from a break-up. You said you're still unhappy and grieving – the best thing you can do right now is let that process run its course. Take time to focus on you. Do things that make you happy: hang out with friends that make you laugh, take a class you've always been interested in but never had the time to do, volunteer at your favourite animal shelter (cuddling a critter is a proven mood-lifter) and get in some good, long walks. Your goal is to remember there are good things in your life.

NEW TRICKS

I ended a long-term relationship about a year ago and I think I'm finally ready to start dating again and potentially meet someone else. The problem is, I don't know where to start. I was in a relationship for ten years. Things have changed.

Things haven't changed as much as you might think – it's still all about making a connection. However, this is a big change in your life, so take your time and re-learn how to be single again. Your goal is to get used to meeting new people as someone who's available, versus someone who is one-half of a couple – and when you've been the latter for ten years, the change can be a little disconcerting. Go to a friend's party and talk to someone you don't know or ask your friends to bring you along when they go out so you can get used to being out there again. Be open to meeting someone, but don't make that the focus of your social forays.

DATE FRIGHT

I went through a traumatic break-up a few months ago (he cheated on me), moved on and am proud to say I have my first date with a very nice guy from my gym next Friday. My issue is that I'm terrified – what if I screw it up?

The first date after a break-up is a big step so it's natural to be nervous. We fear what will happen, what won't happen, and whether or not it will go well. But if you make it as low-key as possible to take the pressure off it being a "date", your fear may melt away. Make it about getting to know someone new and just enjoy yourself.

Samantha Scholfield is a dating coach, freelance writer and author of The Sassy Girl's Guide To Picking Up Fit Guys, published this week. You can contact her at www.screwcupidthebook.com.

&#149 This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday, June 6, 2010