Too soon, too long, too right, too wrong

Getting back in the saddle is something every new single has to do, at some point. But how do you know when that point is? Is there such a thing as ‘too soon?’ Conversely, is there such a thing as ‘too long’ – might one really go stale on the shelf?

And, while we’re talking about good timing, let’s also consider the subjoining head-scratcher that may follow: When is it appropriate to begin a new relationship?

‘Relationship’ being the key word here, not the sexy itch you need to scratch shortly after a long-term bust-up. I’m talking about the kind of connection that comes decked out in other so-called big-word baubles like “us” and “we” and could possibly lead to the largest remark of them all (you know, the one that begins with a little L, maybe involves a ring and could see you swearing you’ll part only when death becomes you).

So, re: relationships. What’s “right” when it comes to round two?

Before we get into social expectations – great ones being yours and those harboured by your nearest, dearest and every other nosy-parker you know – let us first dissect the data.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, couples who have divorced and later remarry usually notch up about three years as a single person before the second knot-tie. But that tends to follow three years spent separated from their spouse – they may not be officially ‘single’, but that does not mean they’re not dating anyone either.

So, in a sense, it takes about six years on average for Australians to get back in the saddle in the most serious sense of the metaphor (of course this completely discounts the growing number of people who aren’t getting married at all, and people who aren’t allowed to either).

Still, in the interests of this discussion, let’s suggest six is the magic, off-and-racing number. Would it be unwise to get married again before at least six years have passed? Of course, working back from the wedding day, in mind of the fact engagements average around 15 months and people tend to be together a while before proposals of marriage are made, the six is probably more like four.

Is four years after a serious relationship break-down too soon, or about right?

I’m happy to report the official advice from Relationships Australia is you’re ready when you damn well say you are. In their section on remarriage, RA suggests you do it when you have “fully come to terms with the end of your previous relationship”. But how long does that take? How do you know?

It’s easy to say ‘you just know’. Though there are some studies that suggest the adjustment process post long term relationship can take up to two years. Of course, things like age, children, length of relationship, style of relationship and hopes for relationships future are mitigating factors. The salient point here remains there is no ‘normal’.

But there is ‘sensible’.

(Back to the notion of great expectations)

Generally, when it comes to decision making about relationships, expectations are the killer issue. Quite often, we are too guided by big ideas that may not actually be ‘ours’. Society has a lovely way of encouraging us to think and do certain things, even if those things are not really in our best interests. Like, ‘you must wait x long before doing y’ or ‘never do z before you’ve achieved w’. It’s all good and well to be mindful of these ‘rules’, but it’s dangerous to become stifled by them. At the end of the day, you’re the one most informed about the issues involved, and you’re the one most likely to make the right decision. (And when I say ‘right’, I assume there’s an element of compassion involved in the decision making – there’s nothing civilised about dating someone instantly after a heart-break for reasons most vindictive for example).

Well, that’s what I think anyway.

How about you?

How long should you wait before getting back in the saddle? How long have you waited? And have you been hurt because you didn’t wait long enough (or you waited too long?)

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The story Too soon, too long, too right, too wrong first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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