I have been struggling with getting back into the dating game for the last two years now. I waited a moderate 'grieving period' after my separation and didn't start thinking about dating until my divorce papers were on the judges desk.
My reason for this was to avoid 'rebounding'.
Oh don't get me wrong. I was completely done with Douchebag and knew there would be NO going back, but I gave myself time to make sure that the anger and bitterness was gone. And the drama. Oh my goodness I was so done with the drama! So I feel like I did the right thing. Waiting. It also gave me time to decide what kind of relationship I wanted and with what kind of man. So for the first 2-3 months I got the craziness out of my system. I found a 'f*ck buddy', and then had a few dates with some other guys of different calibers and was able to identify the characteristics that I really liked or disliked.
But ultimately I decided that I don't want to be in a conventional relationship. And 3 years on, I'm still not interested in living with a guy again. I love what Firefighter and I have had for the last 18 months (wow, has it been that long?). Some don't understand, but it works for both of us. Ok, so sometimes I miss words of affection, but there is a level of caring between us that goes beyond mere friendship and stops just short of uncomfortable emotion. Although, I think both he and I have experienced moments where we need to take a step back and breathe.
So after deciding that I should date other guys, I also set my own rules for doing so:
1. There will be no settling. At the first sign of a red flag, I move on.
2. There will be nothing more physical than a hug or maybe a kiss. If they are truly interested, they will wait.
3. Have standards. Don't make excuses when they don't meet them.
4. Don't have more than 1 or 2 dates with the same guy in a 14 day period. This helps keep distance, but also allows me to think about which ones stay on my mind, and which ones fade, but also, I learn which one is willing to wait.
5. Do not make myself available to easily. Don't accept a date right away, but don't come off as blase' either... this is actually pretty hard to do!
Then today, I saw this, which closely echos most of my own rules that I have set http://living.msn.com/love-relationships/10-ways-to-choose-men-more-wisely. I have had to learn to value myself much more highly than I have previously. I'm also more honest with the guys that I date and let them know my standards, rather than just accepting whatever attention I get. If they cannot respect me as a female, then I don't need to be with them. And I'm actually much happier with the way things are now.
I don't know what Firefighter's thoughts are anymore, but I no longer focus on that so much as what is making me happy. I treat him well, but I learned to temper how much effort I put in.