Divorce is rarely easy—and often it can leave you feeling totally disoriented. Who am I when my identity has for so long been tied up with another person’s? What do I want? Will I ever be happy again?

There’s a spectrum of how divorcees cope. At one end you have the people who are relieved, even dancing for joy at their newfound liberty. At the other are those who are quite frankly broken. They’d love to find love again—but they haven’t the faintest idea how to begin.

There’s no panacea, no one-size-fits-all solution to that problem. But the work starts at home—and work is the word. Because if you want to date after a long relationship, there’s no two ways about it: Some serious self-reflection needs to go down. And that’s okay—you’ll come out stronger for it. Question your desires, your motives, your aspirations—and if you don’t know where to start, here are the 7 questions to ask yourself when you decide to date again.

1. How can I avoid the dreaded “rebound”?

Three words: Take it slow.

You need time. Time to heal, grow, reflect. To stand on your own two feet awhile. To get to know yourself again. That’s no small feat after your life has been entwined with another’s for years, even decades.

We don’t recommend rebounding, tempting though it may be. Even if the rebound is strictly emotional (not sexual). A new apparent love interest might make you feel better for a little while—but what if you’re just using them as a crutch, so you can limp along until you stop fearing solitude, or until “something better” comes along? Then not only will you have been untrue to yourself—but you’ll have hurt someone too. Just like you may have been hurt. That’s not the right thing to do—and apart from anything else, you’ll feel terrible and guilty.

And remember the other priorities in your life too: family, house, career, friends, pastimes. You may well feel like a con on their first day on the outside—but resist going buckwild. Things will come if you’re patient—and the wait will make them all the sweeter.

2. How can I let go of my anger and resentment?

No matter your contempt for your ex—or fury, even—it’s unlikely to have any productive use. It’s a weight on your heart, and it needs lifting if you want to unburden yourself for the sake of a future relationship.

Hating your ex can be addictive—they become the incarnation of everything you perceive to have gone wrong in your life. But negativity poisons the mind. That’s not to negate your feelings, but what good is it actually doing you to carry on as you are?

So, if you can: Forgive. And when you sense anger rising up, recognize it. Acknowledge its presence—then breathe it away, and focus only on you, not them. That’s really the crux of the matter: Forgive your ex not for them, but for yourself.

3. How can I stop generalizing about potential partners?

Don’t write off all men or women based on one bad apple—even if that apple tormented your life for years of an unhappy marriage. Not everyone is like them, hard as it may be to believe in the here and now. There are incredible people out there just waiting to settle down. (And we should know—we have thousands of them on our books!)

4. What went wrong last time?

  • What was it about my ex that brought out the best in me—and the worst?
  • And vice versa: In what ways did I help my ex shine—and what did I do that caused conflict in the relationship?
  • What do I wish I’d known about them before walking down the aisle? How can I draw on that retrospect to shape my approach to future relationships?
  • What did I like and dislike about them?
  • What attracted me to them? And which of those traits that I initially noticed remained positive, and which became irritating over time?

Maybe what you need now more than anything else is someone utterly different. Perhaps go against your own inclinations toward “type”—and see what happens.

And one more thing: even if you’re against therapy and counseling, at least try it once. Everyone can benefit from speaking to a professional about their demons—and you might just be amazed at the clarity you achieve.

5. How can I meet new people?

Being newly divorced can be a seriously lonely time—but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re not already part of a club or community, head to place where you know that people with similar interests to yours congregate: a group, society, choir, sports team, charity, orchestra—anything to get you out, mingling, and preventing your social muscles from atrophying! Of course it can be nerve-wracking to go along to somewhere new on your own—but what are friends for?

In the internet age, the magic of meeting someone amazing in person has fallen by the wayside somewhat. Nothing beats IRL. But that being said…

6. Should I try online dating?

Yes! Absolutely.

The primary benefit of online dating is its efficiency. You can filter out unsuitable candidates in all of an instant, chat only with those with whom you have common ground (and whom you find attractive, of course).

Peruse literally hundreds of profiles a day from the comfort of your couch—just be mindful that swiping can become mindless, and you may risk no longer seeing the singles on the other end as people, but rather as objects to entertain you on a cold and lonesome night. That’s not your intention, but you can end up hurting them while alienating yourself from potential love interests.

So take online dating for what it is: a super way to be validated when you’re going through a rough patch—and a means to taking that spicy few days’ online flirting out into the real world, where you know it belongs.

7. What’s the single most important thing I should know when dating after divorce?

Simple. Let me turn to my good friend RuPaul—ahem:

If you can’t love yourself

How the hell you gonna love somebody else?

That’s it. Great people want people who respect themselves, who know their worth, and who believe their own time to be valuable. That’s one sexy triad of traits right there.

Loving yourself takes work. Especially if you blame yourself for having experienced an unhappy marriage. But endeavor to look after yourself; care for yourself like you are a person you were responsible for keeping happy and healthy. What would you do for that person? Well hey presto—do that. For you. Keep mind, body, and spirit nourished in equal measure. Work toward healing your wounds—and keep an eye out for someone who will love you, wounds and all. And if you need a little help dating again after a long relationship—we can do that.

Maclynn is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in New York, New Jersey, California, and London. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles, and our matchmakers are relationship experts in their own right. Get in touch today, and within our vast network of attractive, eligible singles you could just meet the one person who can show you what true love and happiness can really look like.