After the death of my husband, the thought of dating again was frightful. I had two young babies and didn’t have a clue how to even get out there to start dating again, much less signal that I was “available”. Suddenly, my world had shifted from being married to being single. My life had been wrapped up in one man for the last seven years – where my every move, decision, and actions were in careful consideration of HIM. Now I had to re-establish an identity for myself, become the sole-caregiver for my two kids and figure out what I would do with my 31 year old widowed self and my social life. Through early widowhood, dating and remarriage, there are many lessons that I’ve learned about navigating the world of transitioning to dating again.
Here are 11 Dating Tips for Widows:
1) Trust Your Intuition
You will know in your heart when you’re ready to date again. Trusting your own intuition about the right timing will be key. We all grieve differently, process things differently, and we are all unique individuals – there’s no set time frame for anything. The heart is big enough to accommodate falling inlove after a loss. What’s more important is – don’t let anyone tell you when you should or should not start dating. It’s a very personal decision.
2) Don’t Feel Pressured to Compartmentalize
It’s tough enough that you have to put your anxieties aside to step out in confidence in the dating world again. Feeling like your past needs to be put in a black box and locked away, will just put added pressure where none is needed. A new partner who is sensitive to the needs of widows will understand that you can’t and shouldn’t be expected to compartmentalize your life.
3) Be Your Lovely Authentic Self
As widows were resilient, strong, courageous and we know what it is to have loved and lossed. What is more special is that now we’ve patched up all the bruises and were ready to give it a second chance – to have that opportunity to love like we’ve never loved before. We fully understand what it is to take nothing for granted and to live the fullest each day. Widows are a special bunch – so go out there and show off your lovely, authentic self.
4) A little Guilt may be Normal at First
For some widows a little guilt may be normal at first. I have to admit – if you’re 100% ready you might feel no guilt at all. If you’re still feeling guilty even after a few dates, then maybe its time to take a break and slow down. There’s nothing wrong with testing the waters, that’s a good way of knowing how you really genuinely feel. If it’s a bit awkward at first, then don’t rush it.
5) Always be Honest
Honesty is crucial. Nothing good will come from hiding a late spouse, or pretending you didn’t love them. It is completely normal to have had previous relationships, and this should be clear to your date. But don’t spend your whole date talking about someone else.
6) Focus on the future
We all have a past, but it’s also important to focus on the here and now, and to be present with the person you are on a date with. Ask your dates about their hopes for the future, and consider what it is that you want from life both in the here and now and going forward. For example, do you hope to travel in retirement, or do you dream of getting a dog?
7) Try Not to Rush Things
Losing a wife or husband is a huge shock to the system. Suddenly, you have lost the person who you were closest to, physically and emotionally. It is normal to want these things back in your life, but even if dating is going well, try not to rush it.
8) Don’t try to Replicate the Past
No one is going to be identical to your deceased spouse. You had something special, and that will always be the case. It’s important to treasure those memories, but dating again is not about finding a like-for-like replacement.
9) Don’t Feel you have to Commit to anything Serious (Yet)
You don’t have to rush into a serious, long-term relationship. There is no limit on having fun, and something less intense can be a good way of getting accustomed to seeing new people. However, this is the type of relationship where you will want to guard your heart and make it clear that you are not ready yet for a serious relationship.
Make sure not to make promises you can’t keep, or to lead others on if you are unsure about your own feelings. It’s important as ever to be open and honest, and not to find yourself seriously committed to more than one person.
10) Tread Cautiously, if there are young kids involved.
Choosing the right dating partners is critical when kids are in the picture. Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia, and the author of I Can’t Believe You Went Through My Stuff!: How to Give Your Teens the Privacy They Crave and the Guidance They Need, advises parents to first examine the quality of the dating relationship before worrying about how or when to introduce the kids. Once you’ve both decided that this is a serious, committed relationship, you’ll want to begin a meaningful dialogue with your children. Most importantly, you’ll want to affirm your commitment to the kids and respond to any questions they have.
11) Lastly, try not to compare.
It’s only human nature to compare – everyone does it! However, this will only cause more grief as you relive your past and the qualities you appreciated in another person (one that you don’t have now). Try to appreciate your new life, new partners and all the potential there. You have evolved, your life has evolved and you may find that the qualities that you’re looking for now in a partner weren’t the ones you looked for when you were 21.