Finding love after the loss of a spouse or beloved partner is a psychological stew of anxiety and guilt. Part of you feels as though it’s been too long and you should be moving on. Isn’t that the message of every movie with a widowed main character? And another part feels as though you can never date again without betraying your loved one.
There’s no right answer! Here are some ways to figure out whether or not you’re ready, to help yourself move on, and to have the best possible luck when you hit the dating scene again.
Be Honest About Your Feelings
Before you consider finding love again, you need to be absolutely sure that you’re at peace with your feelings for your lost love. You still miss them sometimes, of course, and you’ll honor their memory as long as you live, but overwhelming grief will prevent you from starting a new relationship. Do you feel guilty about “betraying” your love by dating again? Do you secretly hope to find someone just like your lost loved one? Do you still feel depressed more often than not? If so, you probably aren’t ready. A strong support network may be able to help you move past these feelings. If not, consider finding the help of a therapist.
Remember, though: there’s no need to rush. If it takes a few years, it takes a few years; if it takes a few months, it takes a few months. Everyone is different.
Enlist The Help Of Positive Family And Friends
You can’t move on without a support network, and the people in that network actually need to be supportive. Resilience expert Ken Druck calls these people “energy givers,” people who are willing to give you the support and encouragement you need rather than forcing you to cope on their timetables. A well-meaning but unhelpful friend might urge you to start dating before you’re ready, or guilt-trip you for wanting to date “too soon.” Avoid the company of these friends, or tell them gently but firmly that they aren’t helping, and stick with a support team that will provide you with the positive feelings you need in order to find love again.
A support network serves a purpose beyond putting you in a good frame of mind: the presence of loving friends and family can ensure that you’re looking for love specifically because you want a romantic relationship, not because you’re generally lonely. If you don’t have many strong relationships, you may be desperate to find a new partner simply to fill the void. If your social calendar includes regular lunches with your girl friends and weekends with your kids and grandkids, you’ll feel less pressure.
For months, years, or even decades, you haven’t just been one person; you’ve been part of a couple. That may be cliched, but it’s true. Take some time to figure out who you are without your partner. You may discover that you don’t enjoy watching bad movies anymore without your husband’s funny commentary, or that you really want a dog but convinced yourself you didn’t because of your girlfriend’s allergies. All of that is OK, but they’re things you need to know about yourself before you date again. If you’re still thinking of yourself as one half of a couple, the only person who can make you whole will be a carbon copy of your lost love, and you won’t find that. Take some time to try things you’ve never tried before, or to do things you used to enjoy with your spouse to see if you still like them alone.
Get In Shape
If you’re going to feel dateable, there’s nothing quite like looking dateable. Try out a new, attractive haircut or wardrobe, or hit the gym for a few days. Even if you don’t really need the help because didn’t let your appearance go at all when you weren’t on the dating scene, it’ll put you in the mindset of someone who’s about to start looking for love again. And if you find yourself having a panic attack in the process, it’s a good sign that you need to slow down and revisit the first three steps again.