Being a widow has lots of challenges. As we all know, dating again after being married, or in a long-term relationship, usually comes with adjustments. After six years of "adjusting," I have been able to observe dating from several different angles. First, as the Spectator, you are sitting back and watching how other people handle the whole process. Then, when you are ready to get your feet wet, you become the Tester. You are testing out the atmosphere to see if you are ready and if the world is ready for what you offer. You will transition into a Participator. You jump in the ocean with the rest of the fish to see what happens. Things get a little more interesting at this point because you have some options. You can meet your "second chapter," the one who moves your spirit enough to want to try the relationship thing again. You can remove yourself from the dating game altogether. You have decided that another relationship is not what you need. Adopting all those stray cats is a much better alternative to human contact and companionship. You can also choose to stay a Participator because you are not sure if you have found the right person. This choice is a brave one though because you find yourself having to say goodbye to a lot of people. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you have been ghosted. After six years of crazy situationships, and not even a firm offer for a real relationship, I have become a professional at getting over heartbreaks. I am qualified to guide others away from the light they see at the end of the tunnel. Most people do not understand that the light is attached to a train. To help other people avoid disaster and quickly recover so they can move on to their next prospect, I will take on the role of the Facilitator since all of these breakups that I have been through should go to something meaningful.
I have put together an easy guide to moving on during the dating process. These tips will have you back swiping on Tinder in no time.
Tip #1…Learn how to laugh. You have to laugh at yourself and the situations that come up while you are going through this process. As widows/widowers, we have had our fair share of tears for all the right reasons. As we move forward, we must embrace laughter in every way it comes. Laugh when your date dips out on you before the check arrives. Laugh when his car runs out of gas on the first date. Laugh when she tells you that she has to cancel the date because she does not have anyone to watch her cats. (Yeah, I know I need to get over this cat thing.) Whatever comes your way, keep your joy. Dating is not for the faint of heart, and plenty of these scenarios we find ourselves in are hilarious.
Tip #2…Don't remember the good times. When people break up, the first thing people want to say is to remember the good times. I strongly disagree. If you remember the bad times, then you will not answer that 3 AM call which you know will only lead down the road of more 3 AM calls with no commitment. Remember the time he invited you to his birthday party, and then he proposed to another woman. Remember the time you spent a fantastic evening with him only to be ambushed by some woman at 6 AM as you were leaving who said she was his girlfriend of three years. Remember the bad times so you will never go there again.
Tip #3…Write out your answer to the question that is coming from family and friends. You already know they are going to ask. "What happened to so and so?" Put together the facts, and the alternative facts, to come up with a statement that you can live with but also say without either cracking a smile or balling up in tears. Come up with something like "He left on a mission trip to Cambodia and didn't think it was fair to leave us up in the air." Another appropriate one would be, "He decided to stop dating until he can afford to move out of his baby mama's house." You do whatever it takes to keep Uncle Willie from asking about your latest breakup from over the grill at the annual family Memorial Day barbecue.
Tip #4…Start looking at the goals you have neglected. We all have goals in life. Write our first book. Climb Mt Everest. Complete the Iron Man Triathlon. The funny thing is none of those things happen once we think we have an excellent prospect for love. We put all our dreams and wishes into this person so when things go wrong, we can be left feeling unaccomplished. Most of the time, we wait for that right one to find us again to enjoy our lives. Instead, throw that energy into figuring out what you are passionate about and do the things that make you happy.
Tip #5…Comfort yourself but not too much. This one I can positively speak to as I look at the 20 pounds that I have added since my last situationship ended. I am an indulger, and I indulge in all my favorite foods. I love Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Thai…just keep it coming. I know a lot of other people self-medicate in the same way. Nothing wrong with comforting yourself in this way as long as you do not go overboard. You do not want to run into the last person you went out with, and they don't even recognize you. Find other ways to lift your spirits.
Tip #6…Get your Netflix/Hulu lineup ready. Let's be honest. When you are dealing with the ending of something that seemed like a great potential, you can feel very disheartened. What better way to heal than a good weekend binge-watching "Game of Thrones," or whatever floats your boat. Personally, I like to binge watch "Top Chef." The show works in conjunction with the whole "comfort thyself" theme.
Tip #7…Take a temporary break from social media. Let's keep it real. You know as soon as you have a break-up. All 700 of your Facebook friends either announce their engagement, post wedding pictures, or posts pictures with their new boo. To keep from feeling like you are the last man standing, take a little break from social media. Give yourself time to heal a little so that you can genuinely post "Congratulations" under their pictures without feeling like you want to add a side-eye. Sometimes less exposure is better especially being exposed to other people's happiness when you are in a different place.
Tip #8…Throw yourself into your career. You were doing very well at your job. You were on the fast track to that leadership position. Then, you met Mr. or Ms. Potential. You started spending a lot of your day on phone calls with him. You began making mistakes from daydreaming about your future. You skipped those essential networking meetings to be booed up. You were late to work from all those late night shenanigans. Guess what? The time to redeem yourself is now. If you are still in a good place with your job, show them how serious you are. Tackle new projects with a better attitude. Find ways to improve your team or department that saves your company money. Start looking like the rock star that you are. If you are not in a good place at the job, do all the things above and take the time to spruce up your resume, just in case you cannot redeem yourself. You will at least look like a rock star on paper for your next employer.
Tip #9…Come up with a reason why he/she was there in the first place. I truly believe that people come in our lives for a season and a reason. You may not know, or understand, why you met this person. Everything that happens in life provides some lesson to be learned. Your lesson may be not to date anyone you meet at a traffic light or stay away from women who carry catnip in their purse. Whatever it is, come up with the best thing to make you feel better.
Dating is hard, but dating in the midst of widowhood is rough. If finding your chapter two is what you want, then go for it. Please prepare yourself for all of the bumps in the road that you will have to get over on the way to your Prince. I know you can do it though. We are all in this together!