Losing a partner creates a range of emotions, from despair to guilt to loneliness. Whether you were married for 50 years or 6 months, approaching the dating scene after the loss of a loved one may seem like a insurmountable psychological hurdle. Take comfort knowing you’re not the only person in this situation, and although everyone has to deal with loss in their own way and in their own time, there are a few things to consider that will help you decide what’s best for you.
When is Too Soon?
The answer to this question depends on what is right for you. Remember that grief is an emotion, and like all emotions, grief has no boundaries, timetables or rules. It may take you five, ten years or only six months to grieve and feel ready to date again. There are lots of opinions when it comes to dating. Don’t listen to people who say you are dating too soon or who pressure you into hitting the singles scene right away. Listen to what advice strikes a chord with you, give yourself the time to grieve and heal, and ease yourself back into the scene only when it feels right to you.
Take the Initiative
Once you feel ready to date, it can be difficult to meet new people. Try meeting new partners by taking up an activity you’ve always found intriguing, one that puts you directly in contact with prospective new singles: walking groups, tango lessons, a class in portrait painting.
Although your friends should be there to support you in this new phase of life, sometimes they can hold you back from a new romance if they are too invested in the old relationship. Beware of attempts at sabotaging your dating efforts and be ready to move on without them if they can’t move forward with you. To avoid hurt feelings, think about finding additional friendships outside your immediate circle. Like-minded widows and widowers, for example, are ideal candidates.
Coping with Guilt
Guilt is one of the most common emotions felt by widows and widowers when they begin dating and start feeling romantic love again. Thoughts such as; enjoying yourself when a deceased partner cannot, betraying a loved one’s memory, being unfaithful to promises made to one another in life, all help create this. It’s perfectly natural to experience these feelings. Try to imagine what your partner would want for you. If you had a happy relationship with him/her, surely they would want you to live a happy life now?
Don’t put pressure on yourself when you first start dating. Be happy and laugh a lot. Don’t set expectations for yourself or others. After the death of a partner, some daters struggle with allowing themselves to be happy or find pleasure in dating, or they constantly find themselves taking note of character flaws. Don’t compare potential new lovers to your old relationship. Always remember that you are embarking on a new phase in your life and try to embrace these changes rather than trying to recreate the life that you once shared with your loved one.
Honor your previous relationship and don’t try to suppress their memories. This will only make you feel guilty. Talk about your departed partner with someone who knew them closely and be open with your feelings.
Let Happiness In
As the song goes, “Don’t worry, be happy”. Dating after the death of a partner is an emotionally challenging process, so it’s important to give yourself permission to carry on living, being happy and enjoying life. Experiencing romance for a second time might be the best thing to overcome grief. Don’t be afraid to try it, you have nothing to lose.
A guest post contributed by Samantha Harvey on behalf of Wink Bingo.