Many of us have experienced the loss of a loved one due to circumstances beyond our control–such as death or even the breakup of a long term relationship.
If this is the case, it’s important to pace ourselves gradually at first and reenter the dating world very slowly.
Because if we still feel the need to mourn our loss by discussing it openly and in great depth with a new acquaintance or potential love partner, we may be rushing into a new relationship prematurely–which isn’t at all fair to the other party.
So let’s allow ourselves the necessary time to heal so that the memory of our former love doesn’t dominate and eclipse the new life which is out there waiting for us!
People often wonder how long we should wait before dating after experiencing deep loss. Since each person’s needs are different, it’s understandable if we all move at our own comfortable pace, regardless of what others think. A good rule of thumb, however, is approximately a year.
Why? Simply because we’re stronger in the long run if we can face all four seasons and special holidays without a mate before settling in to a relationship with a new love partner.
As time moves on, it’s a very natural outcome to feel lonely for love and companionship again.
And if we happen to worry that we’re betraying our former love by seeking out new love and friendship, it is a very normal part of the grieving process. Just because we feel lonely doesn’t mean that we aren’t carrying love and respect for the person who has died.
One of the reasons it may take a long time to get over the death of a mate is because we didn’t have a say in the final outcome and permanent parting.
But if and when we feel ready to rebuild our life again–yet feel somewhat awkward and self-conscious–we might begin by attending group events such as one of those large country western dance halls where no one is conspicuous if they’re just sitting down and watching. Or attending Karaoke Night, sitting and sipping on a coke while getting used to the feel of being out alone.
Other group events might include bus trips to fun destinations. In fact, the list is endless…there’s travel, enrolling in classes, attending opening nights at art galleries or fund-raisers where people tend to mingle over refreshments.
Since part of dating involves a fresh start we’d be wise not to seek out an exact replacement—a mirror image—of our former love.
After all, we must accept new people for who are they are.
So, for goodness sake, let’s resist the temptation to spend all of our first date talking about our past love—it’s not fair to the person we’re with.
We can most certainly give the highlights and overview, but not all the details because part of our challenge is to show that we’re ready to move forward.
And once we do begin dating again, let’s bear in mind that it’s not appropriate to wear symbols that remind us of our former love–such as a wedding band.
Otherwise, we might send the signal, “I’m here in body, but am not emotionally available.” We might keep the ring with us, but carry it in in a pocket or wear it on a different finger.
And I personally don’t think it’s considerate if we have new people calling us when the voice of our former spouse is still on our answering machine.
It’s also not appropriate to have a million pictures or momentos from a past relationship on display in our home if we’re inviting someone new to come in. A few is okay, but we don’t want to scare someone worthy away. Best to leave room on our mantel for memories of a future relationship.
Overall, dating is a balancing act.
Of course we may not wish to forget all those good moments which we shared with a love mate in the past, but we also must not allow them to overshadow our new relationship.
There’s a new life waiting for us out there!
It may take time and courage to explore what awaits us “in this jungle of life”, but let’s pledge a willingness to give it a try when we’re ready. Only we can decide when that is, and then give it our best effort!
NEXT WEEK: Don’t miss “What do you want in a new mate?”