Dating Again After a Broken Engagement

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Everything is in place -- the wedding invitations, the caterer and custom-designed dress, the rented ducks to swim in the outdoor pond you landscaped just for the event. Everything is in place...except the person you're supposed to marry, who at the eleventh-hour calls the whole thing off.

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[Quote] | "The most important thing to remember when moving on from a broken engagement is that whatever happened in your previous relationship, you can't carry that into the next one,"

[Attribution] | Cooper Lawrence -- New-York based relationship expert

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[Body] | As your matron of honor scrambles to return the gifted Cuisinarts and coffee makers, and your bridesmaids rush to secure a refund on the Hawaii honeymoon hotel room, you're left to muddle through the devastation of having been jilted prior to a day that was supposed to be pure joy.

But time passes and you're finished weeping (for now, at least) into the copy of Martha Stewart Weddings where you and your fiancé got the idea for the jarred organic honey favors with your names and wedding date embossed on the label. You feel ready to move on. But how do you bounce back from a broken engagement while keeping your dignity, sense of humor and self-esteem in tact?

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[Body] | "The most important thing to remember when moving on from a broken engagement is that whatever happened in your previous relationship, you can't carry that into the next one," proffered Cooper Lawrence, New-York based relationship expert and author of The Fixer-Upper Man: Convert Your Dud into a Stud" and "Been There, Done That, Kept the Jewelry."

Cooper added: "You can't treat your new boyfriend [or girlfriend] like your old fiancé. You can't penalize him or expect him to act the same way as your ex-fiancé. He is a completely separate individual."

One major mistake people make, says Lawrence, is expecting the next person that comes along to erase or overcompensate for the disappointment and pain you've suffered.

"You need to look at what your role was in the demise of the relationship," Lawrence advised. "What choices did you make? Were they the right ones? Because ultimately the only person you can control is yourself."

When dipping back into the dating pool, you need to be keenly aware of any fundamental differences -- relationship red flags, if you will -- between you and any potential beau. Do not, Lawrence cautioned, make the same mistakes twice.

"If things are shaky from the beginning they'll only get shakier," Lawrence pointed out. "The best advice I can give to someone starting out again is that before you go into the next relationship you have decide what's OK and not OK with you. If your ex fiancé was an alcoholic and then you meet another alcoholic, you're going to need to figure out if this is the road you want to go down again. The person is not going to change. You need to feel that the new person you're with makes you his number one priority."

For this reason, technology should play a minimum role in the early part of a relationship, Lawrence says. No texts, no emails and no Facebook pokes, according to her.

"The only way to form a real relationship is by having real conversation," Lawrence affirmed.

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[Body] | Lawrence also set to rest the myth that you need to wait a particular amount of time following a broken engagement before dating again.

"Whenever it's right it's right," she said. "It could be a week later, or it could be two years."

Melissa Anderson Sweazy, Memphis-based children's portraiture and wedding photographer and author of Veiled Remarks: A Curious Compendium for the Nuptially Inclined, met her future husband three months after her former fiancé pulled the plug on their seven-year courtship.

"On paper, it was insane of me to try and date so soon afterward the bust-up of a seven-year relationship," Sweazy admitted. "I needed to be single, alone, find out who I was. Naturally this was when I met my husband. The clichés started ringing true: 'You find what you've been looking for once you stop looking.' And I knew I had found someone special."

Not to say the transition was seamless, for while Sweazy had met the man of her dreams, she couldn't completely brush aside the emotional fallout of the prior relationship.

"I felt like I was losing my mind," Sweazy said. "I was falling in love with someone while mourning the loss of another. But ultimately that's what I learned. The worst thing that had ever happened to me ended up being the best. It just took the gift of time to finally realize it."

Sweazy's most important advice is to be patient because it takes time to heal.

"Self esteem is obliterated, you second guess everything, and perhaps you should third and fourth guess your choices in dates post-breakup. I flung myself at some winners," Sweazy joked.

But there is an upside to a broken engagement, Lawrence promises.

"You have a great opportunity to emerge from the experience stronger," she said. "It's the perfect time to do some serious soul searching and ask yourself why the relationship ended, what was my role in it and what do I need to do now to move forward?"

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[Let's Make a Deal.] | "When setting out to date someone you need to establish deal breakers," advised Cooper Lawrence, New York-based relationship advisor and radio talk show host. "You need to be clear about what you want in a relationship and what you don't."

Lawrence suggested choosing between three and five deal breakers when drafting up a list.

"Your list is going to get shorter the older you get," she explained. "For example, if you're twenty, you want a guy who's got his own income so you don't wind up supporting him. But as you're approaching 35 or 40, you may be earning your own salary and that's not so important. If you're a 20-something guy and you want kids, it's important to look for a woman who wants the same thing. But if you're in you're older, divorced, and already have children, you might not care about that."

Trust, said Lawrence, should always be a dating deal breaker -- for both men and women.

"You want a person who won't keep anything from you, someone who will tell you everything, even if they've slept with someone else, because at least then you have a basis to work from. Always look to find someone that you know will tell you the truth."