Remember dating in high school? The awkwardness of guys working up the courage to ask that one special girl out, the feeling of exhilaration when she said yes, and the agony of defeat when she said no. Of course there were also a lot of guys who never worked up the courage, and a lot of young girls that never got asked out. It doesn’t always seem very fair.
So now here it is, you’re in your 30s or 40s, coming out of a bad relationship or a bad marriage, and looking to re-build your social life, and I’ve got news for you….some things never change. Dating at middle age is just as difficult, rewarding, heartbreaking and enthralling as it was in high school. Just because we are more mature doesn’t necessarily mean we get it right any better.
For starters, go slow. Don’t be quite so eager to jump into the dating pool again. Following a breakup, or worse yet, a divorce, your emotions have been injured. You need to take the time necessary to take care of you, sort through your emotions and feelings. Jumping in with unresolved issues may only serve to make a bad situation worse.
Ask yourself if you are emotionally removed from your former significant other. If the thoughts of your ex still make your heart skip or a tear to your eye, you are not ready for the dating scene yet, and the dating scene certainly isn’t ready for you.
The common wisdom is that when you can think of your ex without watching your blood pressure spike, when you can honestly and with feeling wish nothing but the best and much happiness for them in their lives, it is at that point that you are ready to step out again.
Make sure you have gone through the grieving process. This occurs in a number of commonly agreed steps, such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. The first four may occur in any order, and you may actually repeat a couple.
Let the past be the past. Bringing baggage into your new relationships is like Kryptonite to Superman. You need to let what was be what is before you can let what will be become what it wants. Did that make sense?
At the risk of stating the obvious, when you do become interested in someone, make the call and ask for the date. If you call from out of nowhere, they have a pretty good idea what you are calling about. Keep the small talk to a minimum and get it out there. And if you are the one asked, let your yes be yes and your no be no.
Break the mold. I was married for twenty years to someone who shared the same religious and political beliefs, with the same family values and parenting styles, and we hated each other. I am currently dating a woman from the opposite side of the political spectrum, who has never had kids, and has had a lifestyle markedly different from mine, and we get along like a house afire (that’s a good thing, if you were wondering). So don’t be afraid to date against type….you might surprise yourself.
Get out and live life. You won’t meet anyone sitting at home watching “Family Guy”. Get out in places where you can meet people. If the bars and nightclubs aren’t your scene, then get involved with a singles group at your church, or participate in a local community theatre. You have options.
Don’t discount online dating websites. These have become quite popular, and all of us know at least one couple who met online. What was once the purview of socially challenged geeks has now become an established part of our culture.
Don’t discount blind dates. That’s how my parents met and they went on to have a wonderful marriage (not to mention a heck of a son who is writing the words you see before you). If your friends want to set you up, let them.
Above all, be yourself. I know it has almost become a cliché, but it is a genuine cliché. No matter what heirs you try to put on, or what personality you try to manufacture that you think looks more impressive, eventually the real you will come out. Let it come out first thing, and make a great impression for who you really are.
Now, go therefore and meet the man or woman or whatever of your dreams…..