It seemed strange that one of the thoughts that flew through my head in the hour after learning I’d been widowed was the less than appealing, “Oh, my God, I am going to have to date again!”
Grief plays unusual games with the mind. Immediately, I felt a deep sense of guilt for spending even half a second in this space. Seconds after that, the oncoming waves of shock hit, dashing all this aside. It wasn’t until about six months later I began to seriously examine the reality that I would eventually have to rejoin the dating scene if I didn't want to be alone forever.
When I walked down the aisle wearing my fairy princess dress and married the love of my life, dating was not something I imagined would be part of my future. Then again, how many people actually get the exact future they imagined? While I’d never considered the possibility of being widowed in my mid-thirties, other friends of mine had also never considered they would end up divorced and dating again.
I had loved being married and thrived within a committed relationship. From there, the math was easy. If I wanted to have this kind of experience again, I would have to go through the dating process at some point. In my twenties, when I dated, my focus was getting to know the other person as a potential partner for marriage. My agenda was to meet someone with whom I could build a future with shared goals.
Jumping back into the dating scene took courage and, at times, a very good sense of humor. I'd often console myself that each guy who wasn't a fit brought me one closer to someone who would be a great match. When I was in my twenties, I remember asking a friend who had no intentions of marrying what the point of dating was if not to find a life partner.
"It is a way you get to know you better," was his response. I filed it under interesting point of view - not applicable.
During this second round mid-life, at some point it became clear to me that I was trying to find someone to fill the gigantic hole left by my husband’s death. What a huge weight to put on someone else. This is when I took an immediate sabbatical from dating and put the focus on me.
Are you dating again after a long-term relationship ended? Afraid you’ll be forever single? Or do you simply feel you're spinning your wheels and not meeting the kind of partner you want? Consider a short term dating sabbatical to:
1. Create a Live Your Life Inventory. What are your dreams and goals outside of being in a relationship? When you are doing something meaningful that you are passionate about you bring much more to the table in a partnership. Ask yourself, how can you begin to take steps to realizing your own personal goals, whether it is traveling more, learning a new language or advancing your career?
2. Identify activities you enjoy with a strong social aspect. These are things that help you answer the question, "...so, what do you do for fun?" Create time in your schedule to participate in them. This generates more life balance and puts you in an arena with like-minded people. For me, it was taking up salsa dancing that changed my life.