I recently had an email from a senior dater about her online dating experience. While everyone who embarks on this journey will have their share of stories – good and bad – what struck me as particularly interesting was what she said about finding herself newly widowed, long before she even considered the online dating scene.
It occurred to me that before we can talk about picking a site, setting up a profile and considering all the “dos and don’ts”, we should look at this situation that many find themselves in and consider the major changes in our lives that eventually lead us to being ready for senior dating.
I have heard similar stories from other seniors I have known, so you’ll know you aren’t alone if any of this strikes a familiar chord.
Many of you were in long term marriages and had a circle of friends, usually couples that your social life revolved around. These couples you may have raised your kids with, travelled with, gone to parties with, played bridge with, belonged to supper clubs with, gone sailing with, lawn bowled with, or even just had a regular evening at each others homes.
All these years have passed and you suddenly find yourself alone. Your partner has died or divorced you and you may feel utterly lost. Your natural instinct is to find comfort in all your old friends, but slowly you realize your place in the group was dependent on your “coupleness”, and you are made to feel like the fifth wheel.
The once happy welcome you used to receive isn’t there any more and the invitations are dwindling. No one can seem to relate to you without your other half. They may find discussing your loss depressing or they don’t want to face the fact that they may find themselves in the same position one day. Maybe some even see your sudden “availability” as a threat to their own relationships. It’s incredibly unfair and selfish that “friends” could abandon each other like this. But they do.
So now what? Well unfortunately this is the bumpy part of the journey that brings you to a fork in the road. (We always hate these forks in the road because they usually lead to the thing we dread the most – change.) This is the point when all old friends who just aren’t there anymore have to be put to one side (if they suddenly have a crisis of conscience, let them come back to you!) and new friendships have to be pursued.
Now you will be standing on your own feet and letting your own light shine. When you find yourself in new social situations remind yourself of your many qualities and talents and that you are complete as an individual – not just as a half of a couple. You have a lot to offer as a friend and do not let the bad experiences tell you otherwise.
One thing to consider if you find yourself in this troubling situation, and you cannot seem to shift the sadness, is a grief workshop. Here they can help you, not just through the grieving process of losing your spouse, but also adjusting to the incredible changes that you are faced with (including the loss of life-long friendships). Here you will learn the tools to begin the healing process which is where you need to start before you can ever consider another relationship.
Once you start to feel that you are beginning to come out of the darkness, consider book clubs, fitness classes (great place to meet friends – every seniors centre will offer them), garden clubs, lunch clubs, consider going back to school or go on a cruise or organized tour of a place you always wanted to see. There are so many places to make new friends – and sharing something in common is the best place to start.
Even if your friends have been there for you through your loss, you need to make sure you are ready for the next phase of your journey. Spending some time developing your interests and changing the way you have always put others first (spouse, friends and kids) to putting yourself first for a change, will help to refocus you.
Believe it or not this will be an incredible time in your life where it’s all about you now! You have done your work raising your family and being a good partner. You get to choose the people you want as friends and your time is your own, so spend it wisely to find out what makes you tick and associate with people who make you feel good.
This will boost your confidence tremendously and when you are ready, you will be able to embark on the senior dating journey.