This post is based on a column which first appeared at Daily Plate of Crazy.
Some of us have been off the market for a while. The dating market, that is. And we're daunted at the thought of plunging back in -- or even sticking a baby toe in the wicked waters of social interaction.
I've had more than my share of experiences in and out of the post-marital dating pool, so if you're sizing up re-entry -- my advice?
Not so fast. It's rough out there! But more to the point, it may be rough at home.
Not only do we have to recover from breakups -- the turbulence of the divorcing process -- but then there's the aftermath, and I don't just mean the first few months. Longer term, post-divorce life can bring unexpected responsibilities, ongoing dramas with exes, and recurring legal matters. We may be operating under financial burdens that make it hard to stay afloat, much less get out and socialize.
Meanwhile, struggles with self-confidence and trust -- especially for those of us who feel "wronged" -- could be threatening to suck us under.
Then there are the children. They have their own timetables for healing, and it's my belief that our responsibility is to do our best for them first, including the need to address demands for our attention, the dilemmas of divided loyalties (and homes), and riding out the inevitable testing of boundaries.
Taking a chance and getting back out there may sound like a good idea, but time and timing play pivotal roles.
Dating requires evenings or weekends which we may not have available, emotional commitment we cannot drum up, not to mention resources (money and energy) to facilitate the meet-and-greet process. In my case -- scrapping to cobble together a living and raising my kids -- by the time I ventured back into dating, age was a factor.
Now, now. Let's be realistic. When it comes to marketing the feminine vehicle, the 40-something or 50-something model with kids in tow is a tough sell. Even if you're well-built and properly maintained -- it's a niche market. Supply outstrips demand, and competition is tough. You're up against the younger and rebuilt versions, not to mention those without kids, debts, and other baggage.
* They have routines. You have sitter snafus.
* They have free weekends. You have soccer practice.
* They get facials. You get ulcers.
* They grow their hair. You grow a muffin top.
Thoughts of remarriage? Are you kidding?
You're long past believing in rescue fantasies, and you barely have time to care for yourself much less another adult. And time is the key -- for exploring the self, trying new partners, allowing relationships to run their course, or putting in the effort to sustain their development.
The coffee date? That one, you seem to manage. But what about more? Do you honestly have the time to invest in serious dating, or a full-blown relationship?
When I look back at my checkered post-divorce dating history, I realize that time was a factor at least as much as timing. The occasional date -- that I could manage. But a sustained relationship? Quite another matter.
So what about sex?
Oh, you already know the answer to that. Sex is always possible, and post-divorce, highly advisable! But for men and women alike, when the newness of initial freedom wears off, you may be hoping for something more.
Maybe you have a cooperative ex and a schedule you can depend on. Maybe family can assist, or single parent friends. Sadly, some of us find that friendships disappear with divorce, and without that support and assistance -- without predictable time off from work, from parenting, and from the work of parenting -- dating options evaporate.
So hear ye, hear ye! If you find yourself female, over 40, and getting divorced -- yes, take time to heal, to figure out what you want, take care of your kids, and shore up your finances as best you can. If you've lost your network, build a new one any way possible. But don't wait years to begin the dating dance. Because 50 and looking? 60 and looking?
In my experience, it's harder. Much harder.
After 10 years of single parenting, looking at the young men my sons have become, I don't regret a moment dedicated to their best interests, though it meant my social life sat on the shelf most of the time. And as I embark on empty nest, I realize I'm not quite ready to take in stray cats or hang up my stilettos. I find (to my own surprise) that I still imagine romantic possibilities. Midlife comes with its challenges, and its opportunities, but will time and timing finally be on my side?
What is to come, of course, remains to be seen. Yet I persist in the belief that we can all evolve if we want to. We can reshape our lives and re-establish a sense of our worth. We can capitalize on the fullness of our experience, and opt to keep trying.
It may not be simple, but then -- what is?