Angela walked into my office, plopped down in a chair and said “I have just been asked out on my first date since my divorce and I’m scared to death! How ridiculous, I’m a middle-aged woman who doesn’t know how to date. What if my “detector” for determining a good date is defective?” After her divorce and a period of recovery, these words were the tale-tell sign that Angela was moving into a new stage of her relational life, albeit with trepidation.
Are you, like Angela, one of the majority of women who married in their 20’s and whose marriage later became part of the nearly 50% that end in divorce? If so, you can empathize with Angela’s fears. And you are not alone. In fact, 34% of women born between 1945 and 1954 have been divorced.
Is there life after divorce? Yes! AND at 50+ it’s a very different life than you experienced when you were 20, 30 or even 40. Especially when it comes to dating. The biggest change is Internet dating, a paradoxical mix of remote contact with immense personal exposure. Add in a variety of other matchmaking services, headhunter-style consultants, and speed dating and you have a plethora of new and strange opportunities to become quickly connected to a multitude of potential partners. Finding the “Right One” is serious business. Even if it’s your closest friends who have decided for you and the “set-ups” are being strategically planned, it can be fast paced and intense. Prepare yourself! I suggest two sets of guidelines before you venture forth.
First, if you have started to feel that it’s the “right time” to date then its time to review your “dating rights”.
· I have the right to decline a date without guilt.
· I have the right to initiate a date.
· I have the right to have initial meetings in safe and neutral places and to start a relationship slowly.
· I have the right to say “no” to physical intimacy.
· I have the right to be myself without changing to suit others.
· I have the right to leave or redefine a relationship.
· I have the right to feel good about myself if the relationship ends.
· I have the right to be an equal partner in all relationships.
· I have the right to know what I want from relationship and not to settle for something less.
(Adapted from National Crime Prevention Council advice)
Second, take time to clarify your relational values, needs, and desires. It’s likely they aren’t the same as they were in other decades of your life. Giving yourself adequate reflection time to sort what you really want in relationship now will make the dating journey much more emotionally manageable. A good starting point is this list of eight traits in a partner (and yourself) that create a greater likelihood of relational satisfaction.
8 Traits to Date
Adaptability and flexibility. Being able to adjust to change and accommodate each other is fundamental to a workable partnership. But be true to your “true self.”
Empathy. Being sensitive to the feelings and needs of a partner is essential to creating closeness and intimacy.
Ability to work through problems. Life has challenges and conflicts are bound to arise. Being able to work through these provides necessary relational strength.
Ability to give and receive love. Barriers to giving and receiving will limit the growth of a relationship.
Emotional stability. Unmanaged emotions can damage or strain a relationship to a breaking point.
Meaningful similarities (family backgrounds, interests, values, etc). Knowing the similarities that bind your relationship day-to-day is a reflection of your purpose in being together.
Ability to communicate. Continuing to discover more about each other over time keeps a relationship fresh and alive. Communication is the tool for discovery.
(Adapted from “The Premarital Counseling Handbook” by H. Wright)
Make your own list of “Dating Rights” and “Traits to Date” then read Jaquelin Pearson’s article on Internet Dating. It can be found here on the 50Fabulous website by going back to the “Love” page and clicking on “for more Love & Relationship information.”