Dating Again…On the Far Side of Forty
Elaine Williams ©2008

Due to life circumstances, the death of a spouse, I had been out of the dating game for some time and reentered the scene after a 27-year absence. I experienced what I like to call “culture shock”. One definition is as follows: “A state of bewilderment and distress experienced when suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment.”

That was me, a 48 year old widow with three children, experiencing true culture shock when I began dating. I thought it would be a relatively uncomplicated process to jump back in. (Yes, I laugh when I read this) You go out with someone who shares mutual interests, you go to dinner, the movies, sometimes you stay in and watch movies or…Stop. That wasn't what happened.

The above is what I considered the normal dating process, but I found there was nothing approaching normal in today's dating scene. Having been married 20 years, I naively believed in happily-ever-after when the two right people found each other. I knew what relationships were about and I also knew they could be hard work at times.

My experience with online dating is as follows: Online dating felt similar to a smorgasbord. If you don't like one dish you try, throw it in the trash and proceed to the next as quickly as possible. There's always something different and new on the table. There's nothing wrong with variety and trying new dishes, but at least admit if you don't like the current dish. Don't play with your food.

Dating at 48. In my admittedly limited experience, I discovered a variety of issues that came into play. My age group, as perhaps is true with other age groups, many of us have been wounded in minor and major ways by life and by society in general. Some of us carry the baggage from the wounding on our backs, others leave the baggage at the train station.

Based on my experience, some individuals have never learned basic relationship skills. Early on, I attracted only emotionally unavailable men. Men who were still in love or emotionally attached to other women. Men who preferred to remain single and just do surface dating. Whether intentionally or not, they played at dating with no real intent to take it further into any kind of emotional commitment; for whatever reason. Most of these men were good men in their own right and perhaps best kept as friends.

One dating experience I had was a man whose company I really enjoyed. He was a good father, an excellent businessman, but when we were together, he never showed interest in my day, activities or what was happening in my life. I hoped he would change. We had been “dating” about three weeks when I finally asked myself why was I hanging around with someone who made me feel so unfulfilled and contributed nothing to my life? I realized that even though he was a good man, he was not good for me. It was still incredibly difficult to make the break but I knew I deserved more.

My dating helped me learn additional life skills I myself lacked. I learned that dating should begin as friends, and I shouldn't drop everything because a guy calls. My most important skill learned is letting someone show me they're truly interested in me before jumping into intimacy.

These simple pieces of experience are often learned by kids today in their teens and twenties. Somehow, I had missed these lessons some thirty years ago.

When I realized by being true to myself is my real power, I also decided that for now, I choose to be alone. I choose to be alone until the right person comes along who will enhance my life as much as I enhance his.

A Journey Well Taken:
Life After Loss by Elaine Williams

Can You Talk about Grief too Much?
Elaine Williams © 2008

When does talking about the loss of someone get to be too much? Is it still grief or is it descending into depression?

Talking and writing about grief for me has been a catharsis, a way to heal my thoughts, emotions and fears. It is a slow, sometimes excruciating process. Not linear, and sometimes unexpected.

At times there seems to be a fine line that can be crossed. I met a woman who had been widowed after six years of marriage. Nine years later, she still does not sleep in the bedroom she shared with her husband, nor can she bring herself to open a birthday gift she found after he passed away. She feels stuck in place but sees no way out.

We all have to be gentle and considerate of ourselves or others who are traveling through grief. But I have seen in my own grieving, that sometimes we run the risk of being stuck in place. I met another widow who spoke incessantly about her husband. She refused to even consider the idea of going through his clothes or personal items, even after five years. She was adamant she would never date again, even though she also admitted her marriage had not been a happy one. Again, it is all about our personal choices. Our lives have formed how we handle stressful situations and circumstances.

The way we handle our grief and emotional outcomes is of course a personal choice, but I feel that some people allow their grief process to make them bitter. I know sometimes I've fallen into this myself. I consider it a trap to allow the hurts in my life to weigh me down. Well on my way to healing, I refuse to be consumed by anger and regret.

Grief is never easy or quick. It can be hard, painful and unpredictable. If we stay rooted emotionally in the same place over many years, we're doing ourselves an injustice. Why not answer the door when opportunity for growth knocks?

There were many days in my grief process where I felt at a really low point, and sometimes, in my mind, I made my marriage out to be something more than what it was. I had a good marriage, but like any other relationship, it had its problems, too. After twenty years, not everything is rosy, and yet many times in the early days I viewed my marriage through rose-colored glasses. I glorified the good times and glossed over the days I wanted to pull my hair out with frustration. My husband and I were two people who had grown through the years. I learned for my own benefit I had to remain honest about my memories. Nothing is perfect. No one deserves or wants to be on a pedestal. By staying grounded in reality, I decided I would not be stuck in place. I firmly believe this thought process made my grief journey a little easier. I also knew my husband would never want me to stay perpetually unhappy. I have grown enough to know I deserve a full life once again, in whatever way I manifest. But I choose happiness over living in a past that cannot be changed.

What if?
Elaine Williams © 2008

What if as a new widow or widower you began dating again after not dating for many years? What if you had high hopes of bringing love once again into your life? What if you met a scammer online but thought they were a real person, with feelings and hopes and dreams, just like you held deep in your heart? What if you held a secret hope they may be the one for you? What if you believed someone was telling you the truth, because you always told the truth? What if you just wanted to connect with another being so you could once again know you were desired by someone? What if your biggest fear was being alone the rest of your life?

What if you corresponded with this person for many months and they said all the right things and made you feel special? What if they promised to travel to come and see you? What if they couldn't wait to meet you and sent you little gifts and trinkets as symbols of their caring for you?

What if you fell in love with someone through their emails over the internet? What if they expressed joy at the thought of meeting you for the first time? What if you knew the dream had come true that this truly wonderful person had fallen in love with you also and couldn't wait to meet you? What if this was you? Would you fall into love based on email correspondence? Would you hope that the hole in your heart was finally starting to be occupied by another? What if you felt this was your one and only chance at love? Would you pass it by?

What if you didn't hear from them for a week and you become frantic, wondering if something happened to them? What if they finally email to say they were mugged, hurt and lying ill in an overseas hospital? What if you expressed doubt when they asked you for money to help them come home? What if you told them to go to the US consulate? What if they said never mind about the money, if you didn't trust them, they just wanted to die anyway?

What if they emailed you sporadically because they said they were too ill to do otherwise? What if they said they were finally coming home, gave you their airplane itinerary and it all checked out? What if you went to the airport to meet them? What if you waited plane after plane and they never showed up? What if you went home crying in your car? What if you decided never to trust anyone again? What if you vowed life sucks and that's it? What if you shut yourself down from all future opportunities out of fear and bitterness? What if you contacted the dating service where you met and they did nothing about this scammer?
What if you just gave up?
What if you used this as a life lesson and tried to warn others of similar scams?
What if you chalked it up to one more experience?
What if you learned it's better to meet someone in person and get to know them before getting too involved?

What if sharing your experience kept someone else from being hurt? Would you still regret the experience?

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