Beginning to date represents a major life passage. Whatever your age, it’s thrilling, it’s scary, it’s filled with mystery and usually excitement. Some people sail through this passage with barely a blip of discomfort. Their “bashert” turns out to be one of the first few young men or women who come along. From the get go, it’s smooth sailing. After what’s considered a reasonable amount of time, he pops the question, she is only to happy to giggle back a “yes,” and wedding plans begin.
And so it goes in a perfect world. Though most dating stories are filled with much more intrigue (not necessarily the good kind), confusion, ups and downs – ultimately two people take the plunge and go on to create a happy family together. This is the scenario that we all like to hear about.
But what about the “second timers?” The people who once again find themselves back “on the market,” due to divorce or widowhood? Somehow, this population is less talked about and their particular issues, less regarded. Which is a shame, since the “second timers” are dealing with many of the same issues the “newbies” have to deal with, and then so much more.
So what’s it like to be a “second timer?” Hard – very, very hard. Since such an individual has been out of the dating scene for a while, maybe even a very long while, it’s easy and natural to feel insecure and out of touch. After all, one’s very social status has changed dramatically, which can create a bewildering feeling, as one’s sense of self has been truly compromised.
I’d like to offer some practical tips for those of you who are presently navigating this particular stage of life.
(1) Before you make a move, make sure you are truly ready. Caring friends and family may be nudging you to get moving forward. Their intentions are no doubt honorable. However, what they may not realize is that you may need additional time to heal from your trauma. Listen to your heart and until your heart tells you it has adequately healed, don’t allow anyone to push you into doing what you are not yet ready to do.
(2) Once you know you’re ready to start dating, make sure you have a clear understanding of what happened. You may think you understand fully what happened, and you may in fact accurately know, but you will be asked questions about your history and you want to make sure that you are comfortable with your story. That it’s honest, that it comes from a place beyond anger (so you don’t come across as someone still seething over what happened to you), and that it reflects a mature, compassionate individual who has grown from the experience.
(3) Try to psyche yourself into believing that dating will be an adventure. You’ll have good stories to share with your friends and definitely some horror stories. But it will all be part of the journey that is meant to lead you to your best ultimate place. By incorporating this attitude, you’ll find it easier to have fun on each date. Start off keeping it light and easy. Don’t approach your dates as if your life is depending on it. It’s not.
(4) Do you have a clear vision regarding what you really need in a spouse in order to be happy together? Try to figure out what is really just fluff and what is non-negotiable in a mate before you start dating. You’ll save yourself and your date some time and some ambiguity.
(5) Before you take the plunge, if you have children, engage in a light conversation with them, without making it sound as though tomorrow they will find themselves with a new father or mother. But do discuss the fact that you’re feeling a bit lonely and are considering going out on a date. Let them have time to question you, get angry at you, and process what might happen. Better to work out their issues concerning your dating possibilities before it happens, rather than after.
(6) Before reentering the dating arena, it’s a good time to do a quick, personal inventory to make sure that you’re on top of those little (or big) projects that you’ve been putting off, and threaten to make a statement about yourself that is less than flattering. For instance, did you replace that favorite pair of gloves that just happens to have a little hole near the thumb area? What about those scuffed up boots or extra five pounds that you know you can easily knock off? None of these things are important in the larger scheme of things, but first impressions count. Make sure your’s is crisp, together and confident.
(7) When you have firmly decided to start dating, don’t keep it a secret from family and friends. Besides the fact that they may know of someone to set you up with, you’ll need their support and appreciate having a cheering squad, cheering you on during this new adventure of yours!
(8) Finally, before you go out on your first date, and frankly all dates, prepare yourself mentally for the event. Figure out what relaxes you. Yoga, a bubble bath, listening to your favorite music. If you’ve mastered the art of emerging yourself into a Zen zone, this would be the time to do it. Feeling relaxed, refreshed and calm are the first ingredients toward a successful encounter.
Esther Mann, Navidater