Some of us have been off the market for awhile. The dating market, that is. And we’re daunted at the thought of plunging back in – or even sticking a baby toe in the worrisome waters of social interaction.
I’ve had my own experiences in and out of the post-marital dating pool. And if you’re sizing up re-entry – my advice?
Not so fast. It’s rough out there!
But more to the point, it may be rough at home.
Not only do we have to recover from breakups – in particular, the turbulence of the divorcing process with all its tentacles – but adjusting to the anxiety-producing aftermath may involve unexpected responsibilities, ongoing dramas with exes, and recurring legal matters. We may be operating under financial burdens that make it hard to stay afloat, much less get out of the house.
Meanwhile, issues of self-confidence are threatening to pull us under.
Then there are the children. They have their own timetables for healing, and it is my belief that our responsibility is to do our best for them – first. That may mean dealing with growing demands for our attention, riding out the testing of boundaries (and love), not to mention an unwillingness to accept that our lives are changing as well as theirs.
Taking a chance and getting back out there may sound like a good idea, but time and timing both play a role.
Dating requires evenings or weekend hours we may not yet have, emotional commitment we cannot follow through on, and resources of various sorts to facilitate the entire meet-and-greet process. It’s not a race, though at times it may feel like it.
As for me, scrapping to cobble together a living and raise my kids, by the time I ventured back into dating, age was a factor.
Now, now. Let’s be realistic. When it comes to marketing the feminine vehicle, the 40-something or 50-something model with kids in tow is a tough sell. Even if you’re well-built and properly maintained – it’s a niche market. Supply outstrips demand, and competition is tough. You’re up against the younger and rebuilt versions, not to mention those without kids and debts.
- They have routines. You have sitter snafus.
- They have free weekends. You have soccer practice.
- They get facials. You get ulcers.
- They grow their hair. You grow a muffin top.
Thoughts of remarriage? Are you kidding? You’re long past believing in rescue fantasies, and you barely have time to care for yourself much less another adult in a relationship. And time is the key – for exploring the self, trying new partners, allowing relationships to run their course, or putting in the effort to sustain their development.
The coffee date? That one, you seem to manage. But what about more? Is it a matter of timing, or of time? Do you honestly have the time to invest in serious dating, or a full-blown relationship?
When I look back at my checkered post-divorce dating history, I realize that time was a factor at least as much as timing. The occasional date? Workable. But a sustained relationship? That was a whole other matter.
No time, no crime?
If you have no time for traditional couplehood, does that mean that sex is out? That any sort of love life is impossible?
Oh, you already know the answer to that. Sex is always possible, and post-divorce, highly advisable! But for men and women alike, when the newness of freedom wears off, you may be hoping for more.
Maybe you have a cooperative ex and a schedule you can depend on. Maybe you have single parent friends, or family nearby, and they’re willing to assist. But sadly, some of us find that friendships change dramatically with divorce, and without scheduled time off from work, from parenting, and from the work of parenting, relationship options evaporate.
So hear ye, hear ye! If you find yourself female, over 40, and getting divorced – yes, do take time to heal, take care of your kids, and shore up your finances as best you can. If you’ve lost your network, build a new one. Is that easy? Of course not. For most of us, nothing about post-divorce life is easy.
But don’t wait years to begin the dating dance. Because 50 and looking? 60 and looking? In my experience, it’s harder. Much harder.
As I find myself nearing empty nest (at last!), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m imagining the possibilities of investing – happily – in pursuing a relationship. We all may want that crazy chemical connection, and of course, the elusive emotional bond we loosely term “love.” But the question is – will it be too late?
I suppose I could throw up my hands and adopt a few cats, but I prefer the risk of putting myself out there – one tremulous toe at time or diving in – knowing this: I must take care of myself, and if I feel beautiful or at least good – I will project a more positive and welcoming self.
The bottom line? I persist in the belief that we can all evolve if we want to. We can reshape our lives and re-establish a sense of our worth. We can capitalize on the fullness of our experience, and opt to keep trying.
It may not be simple, but then – what is?