"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

I didn't kiss dating goodbye

..... but I should have, at least for a while.

Single again
Becoming single again in my mid-40s was without doubt one of the hardest things I've ever had to contend with. I was terrified about so many things. Looking back, I wonder how I went so quickly from independent, sassy, capable, competent, professional woman, to sobbing, shaking, snivelling wreck, wondering how I would ever survive. I remember a few people saying to me that eventually this would pass (it did), and I would one day start dating again (I did), and the time would come when I would meet someone new and wonderful (I did that too). In those early days though, nothing could have been further from my mind. I had zero interest in dipping my toe into that particular body of water. None.

Of course, the reality is that I loved being married, being a wife, having a husband, being part of a team, a partnership. And it was just a matter of time (and plenty of it to allow true healing to take place) until I would recover enough to be healthy and ready to explore relationships again, but it sure took me a while to get to that point (ummm......... I learned the hard way).

I distinctly remember lamenting to a girlfriend that I really didn't want to "go back to the beginning" again. The thought of having to start from scratch was awful. Repeating all those years of learning how to relate to a new man as friend, partner, husband and lover, like I'd done through the years with my ex-husband, since we were young. How we'd moulded together into a certain fit, how we knew each other so well, likes and dislikes, quirky (and annoying) ways, and endearing qualities. I didn't want to have to do all those hard yards again, and I certainly didn't want to spend years and years repeating the same relationship mistakes with someone new.

My friend's wise advice was this:
"You're not starting from the beginning. 
You're bringing all your years of hard-won relationship experience with you. 
You're not starting from scratch, you're starting with a distinct advantage."

Okay then!

Getting some tips, learning from mistakes
My biggest mistake in starting to date again was that it was simply too soon. I was lonely, and figured that was reason enough to start meeting men again. It wasn't, and I crashed and burned a couple of times, which set me back in the healthy healing process. In spite of these experiences that hurt at the time, at no point did I lose heart about dating, or men in general.

When I discovered that my stepsister had started online dating, I was intrigued. I asked her loads of questions, taking careful note of her acquired dating wisdom. Aside from the fact that I went into online dating way too soon, before I was anywhere near healed from the train wreck of my marriage and the trashing of my heart, I learned a few things.

Dating can be a real boost to the ego. Going "live" with an online dating profile can be a bit like flicking a switch - the contact starts to pour in. I was flattered, and at first it was a giddy experience, seeing new contacts in my account, reading profile after profile, deciding how to respond. How quickly that turned to feeling completely out of my depth, frankly terrified at what I'd started, and certain that I was in way over my head. I pulled my profile and took a long, deep breath. Eventually I relaunched it, and after the initial few days of overwhelming contact, things started to settle.

Another rookie mistake was saying "yes" to everyone, simply because I couldn't bear to hurt anyone's feelings by refusing their contact. I didn't want to be the cause of anyone feeling rejected. But it wasn't sustainable, and eventually my more pragmatic side won out. I learned how to say "flattered, but no thanks" rather than letting my soft "pulling for the underdog" heart dictate.

I'm a details girl, so of course I had a list - not a long list, but an important list. I became more fussy. I became more bold in my profile. I made it abundantly clear what I was and what I wasn't. Several men still made contact even though it was clear we were not on the same page. Some even kindly said "That's okay, I don't mind if you're a Christian" as if they were doing me a favour by accepting my quaint little "quirk". Ummm, not quite what I had in mind. In a way, being so up-front about my non-negotiables gave me a kinder way to say "thanks, but no thanks".

It helps to have rules!
I had rules of dating that helped me to feel safe (probably had a few too many of these but hey, it was a whole new world since I'd last dated in 1985..........). I always told a trusted person the details of my dates. This happened to be my eldest son, and once he recovered from the apparent hilarity of his mama dating again "like a teenager", he took his appointed responsibility quite seriously. I always asked to meet in public places - usually a local cafe - and preferably in broad daylight. I decided early on not to let the email interchange or insta-chat go on for too long. I didn't want to find myself being wooed by someone I'd never even met face to face.

After some initial wishy-washy-ness, I eventually decided that the man had to be divorced or widowed. In other words, completely done with his past relationship. I wasn't interested in the complications of anyone's unfinished business, I was quite sure there would be enough baggage to deal with as it was, without adding that into the mix!

On a slightly humourous note, I also kept track of the men I was communicating with (yes, in a spreadsheet), and some of our conversations. That way I knew what information each had given me and also what I'd told them. I had a couple of "ooops" moments where I used the wrong name, so after that it made sense to keep good records!!!

The final foray
I had a couple of hiccups along the way, followed by a self-imposed dating hiatus of 9 months or so when I just felt I needed to take a break for a while and let God do some more healing. Then, about three and a half years after my marriage ended, I happened to be out for dinner with friends. One of them had just joined a Christian dating site and proceeded to tell me all about it. After this providential conversation, I decided I was ready to go back into the fray. I checked out this new site, uploaded a fresh profile, had the first face-to-face meeting with my (now) husband a couple of weekends later, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So I guess it's not surprising that I'm a fan of online dating. When care is taken, and wise decisions are made, when values are upheld and respected, when kindness prevails, it can be a wonderful forum for cautiously exploring, or fully embracing, the exciting world of dating as a "single again" woman.

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