This came in last week from Lana.
Question: "I was married for 23 years. I'm ending a four year relationship that began the last year of my marriage. I'll be living alone. The thought of making new friends and dating at 50 seems dreadful. Any help on how to build a new life?"
Being alone. Entering mid-life. Re-entering the dating world. Oodles of what would be termed "psychological stressors".
And dreading it.
The only other fact Lana told me in our brief exchange was that most of her family lives thousands of miles away. So she is on her own, for the first time in around 27 or 28 years. More than half of her life.
Yes. I have suggestions.
1) Wait to date.
Get closure on one relationship before you begin another. There is a reason why relationships don't work. You have to have time to figure that out. To understand what your part of the problem was. So that you won't make that mistake again.
Did you get lost in the relationship? Were you too angry? Not assertive enough? Were there control issues? Trust problems? What is the work for you to do as you leave?
Lana may be considering dating before she has really gotten this kind of closure and understanding ("I am ending a 4 year relationship".... "the thought of dating...."). The few words she has spoken to me might even indicate this is a pattern ("... am ending a relationship that began the last year of my marriage").
By the way, this piece of advice is probably the least followed of any that I give to people. I didn't follow it myself one time.
That didn't end well.
People are frightened of being alone. They are hurt because of one relationship ending, and need comfort.
When you are older, you can rationalize that "time is of the essence". My thought is that if you don't wait -at least a little while - time will just be wasted.
2) Realize dating is just messy sometimes. It's a learning process.
You go out on a few dates with someone for fun. They get really into you. You don't. You are going to have that not so fun conversation.
Or they might have to have it with you. If the shoe is on the other foot.
It's messy. Uncomfortable. Hard to hurt someone's feelings. Hard to risk being hurt.
That's the dread part Lana is talking about.
I remember Brett (not his real name, BTW). First guy I dated after marriage #2. 3 whirlwind weeks. We worked together at Parkland Hospital in the Psych ER. He was great. I was hooked.
He ditched me. I wandered around the hospital like a drenched cat.
Brett was no where to be seen. He switched shifts.
I licked my extremely bruised ego for months after that. Took me some time before I risked again.
What I learned at that point, and have worked with others since, is that you have to become more comfortable with being alone.
3) You have to focus on yourself instead of on the dating. Make your life what it needs to be.
"Well that's easy for you to say. You are married and have somebody...". That's what my imagination just told me someone who is reading this might shout at me when they read the above statement.
I still believe it. I believe that if you focus on making your own life as happy and full as possible, you are very likely to attract someone who wants... guess what? A man or a woman who is happy and content with their life.
You won't attract a savior. Or a control freak. Or a Brett.
That doesn't mean you quit Match or EHarmony. That doesn't mean you don't go out on dates. Or talk to your friends about potential people about there.
It's just about what you focus on. It's the only thing you really have control over. Your own choices.
You keep open. Keep positive.
You won't dread your life.
4) When you do date, listen to how that person talks about their their past relationships.
How someone talks about their past is how they are going to think and talk about you. If they blame their ex for all the problems in their marriage. If they attribute never having committed to a relationship to having "needy girlfriends" or ""guys that didn't pay enough attention".
That's how eventually they will think about you. Not at first. But it will happen.
You need to listen for what they have learned from their years of relating. For example, a recent study showed that cheaters will tend to cheat again. I think they are far less likely to stray if they were truly remorseful and did something with it.
Obviously this relates to the above except it focuses now not on yourself. Now you are making sure the other person has followed the same process you have!
5) Just don't ignore that thing that you really want to ignore because you are in lust-love. Just don't.
Like he drinks too much. Or she hasn't paid her taxes in 8 years. Or he never got that annulment. Whatever.
Listen to your gut.
So head out there! Don't settle. It's supposed to feel like it did when you were 17. Or at least it will for a little while.
Enjoy. Fall in love.
Just keep your head attached.
You can enjoy more of Dr. Margaret at http://drmargaretrutherford.com. Please send this on if you enjoyed! Would love comments and questions! Either below or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for over 20 years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She began blogging in 2012 after her only son left for college, coining the term "NestAche" for her empty nest experience. Not only here on Boomeon, she has been featured on the Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, BlogHer, Readers Digest, The Cheat Sheet and ArkansasWomenBloggers. Her new eBook, "Seven Commandments of Good Therapy", a basic guide on choosing a therapist or evaluating your current therapy, is available for free on her website. You can find her at DrMargaretRutherford.com or on Twitter @doctor_margaret.
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