• by Pat Butler
Originally published at Medium
Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash
No matter how low you feel after a love relationship dissolved, life holds surprisingly positive new connections. Here’s a plan forward.
There’s a new interactive book on the self-help scene. My Divorce Journal: A Guided Path to Moving Forward was written by David Frenkel, a divorce lawyer, and Pat Butler, a counsellor. Paired with a blank journal, written exercises keep readers grounded and engaged as they create a road map to their new future.
After Pat’s 41-year marriage dissolved, she took time to recover (at least partially) before entering the dating scene. After nervously posting a profile on a dating website, it took her three more websites to successfully find love again. It was a complete coincidence that Eric, a widower, proposed marriage three years to the day after she signed her separation agreement. The universe is full of surprises for those with drive and perseverance.
In this excerpt from My Divorce Journal, Pat shares tips on how to safely find a new partner.
Learning from experience
During the time between her first marriage ending and meeting her new love, Pat spent time with a total of 10 different men. While single after his wife’s death, her new husband met 26 women, the shortest date being just a coffee. This section covers crucial lessons learned by each of them during this dating process, grouped by topic and numbered for easy reference.
Making an effort
If you find the concept of finding new love intriguing, step up to the plate and put yourself out there. You must make an effort! Singletons who just expect Cupid to appear unbidden (“I’ll just wait for The One to come along”) are likely to remain permanently single.
When checking out acquaintances for a possible date, practice focusing on the person’s interior more than their exterior. You’re no teenager, so a new companion being drop-dead gorgeous shouldn’t be at the top of your must-have list. Remember that you’re like a fledgling bird about to try flying beyond the nest for the first time (since your divorce), so dial back expectations and relax. Breathe.
If you decide you’re fully recovered and have set a goal to find a new partner, stay persistent until you reach that goal. Be patient. Stay optimistic. You’re worthy of happiness.
If you have single friends who’ve had some success with dating online, turn to them for guidance. Ask which sites have been helpful.
If you’re building an online profile, use a photo less than two years old. Be totally honest about your present age. If your date lied about their age, what else are they lying about?
Online dating involves inventing a nickname. Don’t share your real name or home address until you’ve met and approved the candidate. Early correspondence will be conveyed through the site, so your email address is confidential until you decide that you’d like to meet or talk again.
If you and a candidate have corresponded enough by text or email to decide to meet, arrange a phone call. You can tell a lot about a stranger by the way they talk to you. Do they ask anything about your life? Or is it all about them? If your initial interest wanes, make an excuse and move on. You’re under no obligation.
Handling your first date
On your first date take the trouble to dress appropriately for the locale. When you arrive, relax. You’re just getting to know a possible new friend, not deciding if this is The One.
Stay physically safe by meeting initially in a public place, like a coffee shop, restaurant, or classy bar. For some, it may be wise to avoid alcohol on the first date, to ensure you two get an accurate picture of the other’s true self. If you feel too uptight on a first date, one drink may be a good way to loosen up and show your carefree side.
Once you’ve met up in person, be polite. Mute your cellphone and focus on your date.
If you’re a little disappointed with your date’s physical attributes when you meet in person, remember that it’s just a coffee or a drink. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Most of us look more attractive in a carefully chosen profile photo than in real life. This person may turn out to be surprisingly interesting and fun. Give yourself a chance to find out more.
Always pay your own way at the start. You want to stay on equal footing and not feel beholden because they treated you to an expensive lunch.
When dating new people, pay more attention to what they do than to what they say. Actions speak louder than words.
Telling friends about your dates
Your friends will be curious about your interactions. Let them stay that way. If you happen to run into people you know while on a date, pretend you don’t see them. Or make quick introductions and move on.
Your coupled friends are not in your position, so they may have forgotten how it feels to be making small talk with a stranger. Keep quiet about your dates. You’re putting enough pressure on yourself to keep expectations in check; no need to blather to others at the start.
After you’ve introduced your new friend to a few old friends, receive their comments — both positive and negative — with a grain of salt. Only you know whether you’re developing feelings of affection, so end it or proceed according to your heart. Chemistry matters.
Stay discreet when you connect with somebody whom you find exciting. If you must, talk to only one confidant until the relationship really develops.
Seeing each other again
Don’t be too speedy returning calls or texts. Stay a little mysterious. Why not leave your cellphone at home or turned off on occasion? You have a life and don’t want to appear needy. Stay in charge of yourself.
If you’ve had several dates with one person and find you really like them, arrange a small gathering with another couple. You’ll gain insight about how well they fit your social circle.
Pay close attention to how your date treats wait staff, salespeople, and other drivers. Are they really a kind, thoughtful person or just acting like one to impress you?
Mature people often take turns setting up subsequent dates. If you’re always the one making the plan, think carefully about this pattern.
Always be true to yourself and listen to the little voice inside your head. Gut feelings matter and should be trusted.
If you met a potential new partner online, you can’t check references the way an employer can. Try to stay a little distant at first by not automatically believing everything they say, no matter how sincere you hope they’re being. Sadly, some people are less than authentic with strangers, so keep your truth-finding antennae active. Listen for details about where they live, where they work, what children they have. Then crosscheck.
Whether paying the whole restaurant bill or just their half, be suspicious if your date always pays only with cash. It could be they’re married (and looking for illicit sex) and therefore avoiding a credit card paper trail.
Stay financially safe by dismissing all requests for money. A sample horror story involves a new lover asking for a loan to help a family member overseas. When it turns out to be a hoax the duped person is often too embarrassed to tell the police.
If driving with a new acquaintance to a distant place, tell a confidant the details of the outing so they can check with you if you’re delayed. Always take your cellphone.
If you meet someone you want to sleep with, make sure you always practice safe sex. You and your new partner are equally responsible for this.
Dealing with disappointment
If somebody’s not treating you well, admit it to yourself, and break it off. There are plenty of fish in the sea, the saying goes.
Deal with disappointment head-on: write to/cry with/phone a friend; take a break from the dating process.
After disappointments, dust yourself off and stay socially engaged. We all make good and bad choices. As we mature, we learn to accept them for what they are — decisions made according to what we knew at the time.