I’ve experienced two major losses – divorce after a 23-year marriage and the death of my firstborn five-year-old son, Avi. My son died 23 years ago, and my marriage ended almost 7 years ago. I’m in a good place now. I’ve processed the losses and moved on in the best way I could – by grieving, learning the lessons of loss, and eventually teaching others how to manage their losses better. All of you have experienced some type of loss in your lifetime – the death of a pet, a parent, a spouse, a marriage, or a breakup.
I’m lucky that it’s my nature to be resilient. I recover quickly from shocking news, getting into “what can I do to make it better” mode. But what I’ve recently discovered is that us resilient types sometimes suppress pain in order to function well in times of crisis, especially if everyone around us is falling apart.
In order to fully experience love again, you have to process the pain. You have to move through it by facing it, not burying it like I used to.
And if you’ve over-functioned during crisis, you’ve probably given up bits of yourself to make everyone around you happy or comfortable.
Honor yourself, and don’t give up your core needs for another.
I became a dating coach in 2010 because I wanted to learn from my failed marriage and do better this time around. I wanted to teach others the skills necessary for attracting and sustaining a healthy relationship after divorce or loss. And I wanted to model what a loving relationship looks like for my children and change their legacy so they make healthy choices in their partners.
If you want to love again after a divorce or loss of a spouse, it’s important to learn to open your heart and trust again. This will take time, some inner work, and a degree of faith, but a great relationship is well worth the effort.
Ten Tips for Finding Love After Divorce or Loss:
- Seek out acknowledgement. The first step in opening your heart to love is to love yourself more. If your self-esteem is suffering, find two or three good friends and ask them what they love about you. It may feel a little awkward, but it will help you remember that you are lovable.
- Tackle those gremlins. Your saboteur wants you to stay small and safe, not open your heart and risk feeling pain again. In order to tackle your gremlin, identify him/her when he/she shows up. Noticing is the first step. Once you notice those negative voices, you will realize that they are not YOU, they are just voices in your head. Quiet the negative chatter. Thank your saboteur for keeping you safe and trying to protect your heart. And then send him off to do some errands while you work on getting ready to fall in love again.
- Get fit. After the initial grieving period, don’t stay home. Get out and exercise. The endorphins will make you happier and your body will feel great. Your workout regiment doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. You can find a walking partner and walk every morning or evening. The most important thing is that you find what works for you and be consistent.
- Do what you love. Is there a hobby you’ve neglected? Now is the time to take that photography/painting/horseback riding class you’ve always wanted to take. You’ll become busy with things you enjoy doing, which will take your mind off of your pain and make you a much more interesting person!
- Take your time. Don’t jump right back into dating until you’ve healed for the right amount of time. After any long-term relationship that lasted more than a year, I suggest you wait at least a year. You need time to discover who you are as a single person. If you date again without properly healing yourself emotionally, you might make big mistakes on the rebound and fall for someone for all the wrong reasons. Healthier you = a healthier relationship.
- Strengthen your intuition. When you’re ready to get back out there and date, balance your head and your heart. Your intuition is brilliant. Don’t sweep red flags under the rug. Let your intuition help you choose a good match. Look for compatible values vs. the external package (height, hair color, etc.).
- What’s on your list? Now that you’re ready to date again, you’ll want to know how to sift and sort through potential matches. To do this, think about how you want to feel when you’re in a relationship. Make a list of your five top emotions. For example, do you want to feel safe, acknowledged, understood, sexy, and joyous with a partner? Make your list. Now, think of who your future partner needs to be in order for you to feel those feelings. For example, in order for you to feel safe, does your partner need to be financially responsible, accountable, and loyal? Once you have your list, these become your must-haves. If a person doesn’t have your five must-haves, the relationship is probably not going to work no matter how strong the attraction.
- Pace yourself. If you meet someone you’re interested in, take your time in developing the relationship. Don’t spend hours on the phone before you meet. Don’t get intimate before YOU’RE ready, no matter how ready he/she is. Value yourself by reserving the most precious parts of you until you’re ready to share them. Don’t let yourself feel pressured into anything you’re not comfortable with. The right person will honor your timeline. The wrong person will get frustrated and walk away.
- Sex makes you a little stupid. Once you sleep with someone, your expectations can change, no matter what your brain says about being casual. Your heart can become very vulnerable. I recommend taking baby steps sexually. Do what works for you. Eyes wide open. I recommend monogamy before intimacy. Deepen your relationship before you take this big step. Make it important and special.
- Know your deal breakers. You have your list of must-haves. Now make a list of five things that are not negotiable. If you are not able to relocate, don’t date someone who lives long distance and won’t relocate either. Don’t get involved with him/her and then try to change his/her mind over time. Your heart is likely to get broken.
A good relationship is one in which there is mutual trust and admiration. You’ll feel that you are learning as much as you are teaching each other. If those basic components are not there, keep looking. Don’t give up your heart before you build trust. Take your time and choose wisely. And remember – it’s never too late to go on your last first date!
Sandy Weiner, CEO and founder of Last First Date, is devoted to helping women over 40 achieve healthy, off-the-charts love in the 2nd half of life. Sandy is an internationally known TEDx speaker, dating coach, blogger and workshop leader. She’s the resident dating expert at Better After 50 and writes for many other publications, including DivorcedMoms.com, the Huff Post, and YourTango. She’s also the host of ‘Last First Date Radio’, an exciting show about attracting and sustaining healthy relationships in midlife. To grab a copy of her FREE report, “The Top Three Mistakes Midlife Daters Make (and how to turn them around to find love now),” please click here.
I’m so excited to debut the Life Starter’s Blog Series. I have had the greatest honor and fortune of hearing your powerful stories of personal transformation and I wanted to share them all. Because I know that together we can help support, inspire and lift one another. Every Tuesday, we will proudly feature your stories. If you’d like to submit a post, please go here for guidelines and more info. Happy reading!