‘How Do I Re-Enter the Dating World?’

Dear Sara: I just read your article about conquering the fear of rejection and continuing to put oneself out there. My question: How do I know whether my status is a stigma against putting myself ‘out there’? Why is a female widow viewed as unavailable?

I am a widow, and almost every [time] I get into a conversation with a man, I get asked the question, why haven’t I found someone yet? I try to carefully explain that it has taken me time to grieve and to accept going forward with my life after my husband of 29 years passed, but regardless of how politely and positively I explain my past, there is an awkwardness that creeps into the conversation that makes me feel like the man is pulling back, like there are red flags going off. Please advise your thoughts and opinions on how a widow restarts a journey towards a new relationship. — Thank you, P

Dear P: It’s puzzling that the men you’ve met so far want to know why you haven’t found someone yet. Obviously, you did find someone and you clearly were able to have a strong, lasting relationship with him. Far from working against you, it seems to me that should work for you.

My guess—and honestly, that’s all it is—is that these men are possibly threatened by your late husband’s memory. Most people who are in the dating realm are there because none of their past relationships led to lifelong love. That’s not true for you and your late husband: You two truly were “Till death do us part.”

That might be intimidating to some men. They might worry that they will always be compared unfavorably to your departed spouse.

So I think you were very wise to take time to grieve, and to explain that you have done so to the men you date. Of course, it’s important to let anyone new in your life know that you aren’t trying to replace your late husband, but you are ready to move forward.

But after that, any inadequacy a prospective suitor might feel is his problem.

Instead of seeing your situation as something that puts you at a disadvantage, or as a problem you somehow need to fix, I suggest you view it as a useful filtering device, one that can save you time and energy. If a man worries that your experience in a loving, nearly 30-year marriage has given you a standard or two, good. If he senses that the memory of your loving husband will prevent you from taking any of his nonsense, then let him take his nonsense elsewhere.

People assume rejection means there is something wrong with them. But very often, it means there is something right. Sometimes, the rejecter looks across the table and sees a person they can’t manipulate, intimidate or control. So they move on in search of someone more pliant.

The men put off by the time it took you to grieve are waving an even bigger red flag. You clearly deserve better than some guy who thinks the death of a beloved spouse is something to quickly get over.

So yes, I’m suggesting you continue to “get out there,” to meet the men who sound promising and give them the chance you’d like them to give you. If you meet a man who is freaked out by the prospect of dating a woman who already knows what it means to love someone deeply and well, then thank him for his time and move on.

I know this isn’t easy. Dating can be exhausting and disheartening sometimes. But it’s much easier if, instead of trying to fashion yourself into a person who will appeal to the masses, you stick with your authentic self and look for the guy who is man enough to appreciate that.

Yours, Sara

Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.

its not you sara eckel

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2 thoughts on “‘How Do I Re-Enter the Dating World?’

  1. I would like to tell P. that there are some people in the dating world who are very suspicious of others, and also rather rude at it (because you might wonder about certain things when meeting someone but submitting someone to a cross-examination is bad manners). I am not a widow, I was never married and I don’t have kid and that also seems to give me a stigma in the eyes of some men I met when I was still active in the dating world (I am currently on a break because almost none of these meetings offered the bare minimum – a friendly talk with a stranger who displayed a positive attitude towards me and life).
    I also got the question why I was still single, why I was never married and whether I ever had been in a long relationship. As if the fact of being single was some serious flaw. Never mind that apart from being single I am attractive, financially independent, smart and kind.
    The mind-boggling thing about it all is that at the very moment you meet these men, they are – unless they lied about their status – single as well. So you are in the same boat. And they should actually be happy that you have not found someone yet because it means that they can go on a date with you!
    The thing is: I am pretty sure that whatever your relationship status would be, these are suspicious, negative people who are so afraid to actually get involved with someone in one way or the other that they are looking for obstacles. If you would have been in a new relationship immediately they would be suspicious because they would say it is too early. If you would be divorced with young kids, that would also be seen as negative. It’s not you, it’s them. I see many of these guys who are on dating sites forever. They say they want a relationship but they are too damn afraid to actually get to know a real person.
    If I would meet someone who has been widowed after a long marriage I would basically see this as a quality certificate: this person has been able to make a long relationship work and the end of it has nothing to do with him/her. On top of that rather than being suspicious about why this person is still single I would feel compassion for the fact that this person has had to deal with the loss of his/her life partner.
    I hope for you that you will have some more positive experiences. Even if it does not lead to a relationship, at least meetings where you are respected and appreciated for the person you are.

  2. I agree with all said above and would like to add that after a divorce from a twenty five year marriage, I have not let that experience change the person my parents raised. My good morals and integrity are intact. No one should be able to change the person you are. I like who I am and do not blame myself for failing in my marriage and I certainly would NEVER let another person change the me that I love and respect.

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