This month’s advice column explores dating at 50-plus.
Q: A friend and I were talking about getting into the 50-and-over dating scene. She's recently widowed after more than 30 years of marriage, and she’s clueless about what to do and expect. What should I tell her?
A: Hey sis! She’s blessed to have an amazing friend like you to support her and share her journey. It’s understandable that she’s feeling less than confident about reentering the dating scene. The world has changed. Her life has changed. And undoubtedly, she’s been changed by her love and loss. Reassure your sister-friend that it’s OK to date, find a new companion, even fall in love again, if that’s what she desires. When she’s ready, here’s my advice to her:
Take it easy, keep it casual. Don’t set out with the goal of looking for your next spouse or even a serious relationship. Focus on meeting new people. Appreciate the moment-to-moment interactions you have with a potential love interest. Figure out the type of person you enjoy being with, the conversations that satisfy you and the experiences that bring you joy. There’s no rush to settle down again. You’re not dating to fill the space left by the loss of your spouse. This is a new phase in life, so take your time.
Be open-minded. You and your partner probably had a way of doing life together that felt like home — comfortable, consistent and familiar. As you start dating again, make space in your heart and mind for a new lover who does life differently than you have in the past. This person may be completely unlike your spouse, but give yourself permission to change and the freedom to consider new adventures.
Start with folks you know. A first date with a total stranger can be awkward and feel more like a job interview than a romantic rendezvous, and the idea of a blind date or online meetup may not be initially appealing. Consider reconnecting with a friend, past lover or acquaintance for a safe space to begin dating again. We meet lots of people we vibe with on different levels, so take advantage of the familiarity that exists with someone you already know, even if it’s for dating practice only.
Be prepared to feel all the feelings. Dating after the loss of a spouse is going to bring up lots of emotions. You may feel shame, guilt, sadness, happiness, joy, attraction and anger all within just a few moments. Grief is not linear. If negative feelings come up as you begin dating again, give yourself — and your new love interest — some grace. Write in a journal, confide in a trusted sister-friend or consider seeking support from a group or counselor. You’ll know when your heart is healed.
For an inspiring, true story about finding love after loss, check out When Granny Gets Her Groove Back here on Sisters.
With love and support,