Love, Loss and Moving On

The transitions in our lives usually involve a loss; even when they are pleasurable transitions!  Going to college may mean separating from old friends and making new ones.  Maturing may involve forging a very different relationship with ones’ parents.  Geographical relocations may take us to new and unfamiliar locales that are initially difficult to adjust to and may make us homesick.

But the worst transitions, the toughest to negotiate, are ones that involve major loss – the loss of a spouse or a life partner.  In my next blog, I will talk more about the mourning process, and what it might entail.  But here, I’d like to skip that for a moment, and talk about what happens when you have survived the hardest stages of grief, and are, as a mature adult, allowing yourself to hope to find a new intimate relationship, and to re-enter the dating scene.

Nowadays, this ‘dating scene’ may look like nothing we could have ever imagined, I speak of INTERNET DATING, one of the more difficult transitions we may face as a single adult.

Well, romance has certainly taken a hit for those of us who are middle-aged.  Gone are the hopes of eyes meeting “across a crowded room”, or the possibility of meeting at a small bookstore (bookstores?  where are they?) when each of you “accidentally” reach for the same book.  Instead, there is the internet; a horribly unromantic and potentially ego-bruising method of meeting but a method which, in mature adults, may be the only game in town.  In middle age, natural social situations – college, classes, etc. – may be few and far between. Bars are for the young, and we’ve already met everyone we wanted to meet at the office.  So…INTERNET DATING.

Full disclosure:  the following DO’s and DONT’S were arrived at the hard way – from personal experience.  I’ve made every mistake I caution against here.  But I learned from my mistakes, trained myself to consider things differently, and succeeded in finding a rewarding relationship.  I’ll list what I’ve learned so that you may not make the same mistakes – or, at least, make different ones.

DO think hard about the QUALITIES you are looking for in the other – and about the KIND of relationship you are seeking.  Decide if you are looking for a committed long-term relationship or a casual romance – a monogamous relationship, or just a fun dating experience, or a friendship.  PICK 4 QUALITIES that are essential in a partner.  (Mine, for example, were honesty, smarts, humor, and stable finances).  DO NOT BEGIN A RELATIONSHIP with a person who does not have these traits.  Sooner or later their absence will begin to grate – or hurt.

DO NOT date a man whose on-line picture shows him with a younger woman – his daughter – wrapped in his arms, or who says in his profile “my daughter is the love of my life”, or “my family is the most important thing to me”.  You may be looking for a man who loves his family, but remarks such as these are unconscious distancing devices.  Will there be room for you in this relationship?

DO KEEP THE INITIAL MEETING SHORT – meet for a cup of coffee or a drink.  There’s nothing worse than knowing in the first few minutes that you are not a match – and having to sit through dinner.

DO NOT PRECEDE YOUR MEETING BY A LONG “COURTSHIP” by multiple telephone calls or emails.  People who demand a long preamble before setting a date are usually afraid to meet, and may ultimately cancel or disappear on line before you can meet.  Two phonically or emails should be your maximum.

DO TRY TO REMEMBER THAT YOUR DATE’S BEHAVIOR IS NOTHING PERSONAL!  Internet dating can be ego-bruising – there is frequently a lot of disappointment and rejection involved.  The person who claims he is eager for a committed romance may not be – at least not with you.  But many of the people you meet may not know themselves.  They may think they are available, but they may not be.  Or they may lie.  A casual inquiry as to past relationships may reveal the truth, as will the length of time your prospective meet-up has been on the dating site.

If potential mates, you meet are subtly cruel or belligerent or unreliable or manipulative – they were that way before they ever met you.  YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR BEHAVIOR.  And you will not be able to change their behavior.  Its BUYER BEWARE.  Pick men with qualities you desire or admire.  Don’t try and manufacture them in a mate.

DO NOT HAVE SEX UNTIL YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THE PROSPECT.  Somewhere out there is a book too many of the men you might date have read.  It indicates that if a woman is not willing to have sex by date 3, she will never be willing.  It makes men desperate.  But you are looking for a man who is confident and mature enough to wait until the moment is right for both of you.

DO CUT YOUR DATE SOME SLACK.  First dates are frequently awkward and nerve-wracking.  The person who is clumsy and mute on the first date may be more relaxed and quite debonair on the second.  Allow two dates with a person you think has potential.

DO BE PERSISTENT!  Don’t be discouraged.  Don’t let your search take over your life, but allow a certain period – maybe an hour – each week on the dating site.  Remember, when you were younger, and in natural social situations, such searches were a constant – but they were going on unconsciously.  You were probably swiftly, but unconsciously rejecting a lot of potential partners.  Now, the same process is being made conscious and explicit, and there may be no way to know whether a potential match is right until you meet.  It can be grueling and time consuming, and you may have to kiss many frogs before you meet your prince.

DO REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE WORSE THINGS THAN BEING ALONE.

And perhaps the most important thing.  DO NOT TRY TO DUPLICATE A PRECIOUS RELATIONSHIP THAT IS LOST IN A NEW RELATIONSHIP.  It is said that one never can step in the same river twice.  And that is true.  Do not compare.  Meet each relationship on its own terms, however difficult that may be.  Closure may be difficult.  But you may be surprised as to the new and entirely different joys you may experience in a new relationship – if you’re open to it!

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