You think you know what you’re looking for until what you’re looking for finds you.”
I wrote a post last week, Do You Prefer Divorced or Never Married?, and I will admit, I dropped the ball entirely and was gently reminded by many of you that there is a third option: widowed! There were great comments not only about the perceived pros or cons of dating someone who is divorced versus someone who has never been married, but also about that third category of people who are in the dating pool who are neither divorced, nor never married, but rather widowed. I love your comments, and I love the healthy dialogue that ensues, so please keep them coming!
The point of my previous post was to provoke a discussion about people who feel very strongly one way or the other about who they will date. For some people, including the colleague I mentioned, dating someone who was divorced was not an option. She didn’t want to deal with any “baggage” and was certain that any divorcee would be bringing baggage to the table. Another friend couldn’t imagine dating someone (presumably in his 40’s or 50’s given her age) who hadn’t experienced marriage before. She assumed he would be too set in his independent ways to be successful in learning the art of compromise.
I didn’t, however, mention that third option of being in the dating pool as a widow, or dating someone who has been widowed. My bad! I heard from several of you directly via email with some really great insight about dating from this perspective, and I wanted to take the time to share some of these with you.
Some of you said dating someone who was widowed would presumably answer that question about whether the person “knew” what it was like to be in a committed relationship like marriage since they had experienced it directly. You also said that dating a widow, as opposed to a divorcee, might remove any “baggage” associated with having an ex-spouse and the challenges that are often found in dealing with the emotions of having an ex, a divorce in your history, co-parenting issues, etc. On the flip side, you wondered what “other baggage” might be there in terms of wounds that hadn’t healed, and wondered about ever being able to “measure up” to the memory of the former spouse. If children were involved, you wondered about being able to fill the void of “mom” or “dad.” It’s a bit different than stepmom or stepdad when the biological mom or dad isn’t around.
Many of you who are widowed were confused as what to put for your relationship status. Divorced isn’t true. Single doesn’t tell the whole story. Widowed isn’t even always an option. You wondered when the right time was to share that you were widowed. You thought if you shared it up front, that people would be scared off, fearful of any emotional baggage. But, if you didn’t share it up front, then when was the right time to bring it up? You said you didn’t want people to “feel sorry” for you. You have healed, you have the memories, and since you are back in the dating pool, clearly you are ready to move on and find love again. You wanted to be in charge of that decision, not have someone else make “assumptions” for you.
Several of you provided great advice: “Own it. You being widowed is part of your story. It’s not good, bad or indifferent; it just is.” And, just like you wouldn’t want a divorced person to talk about his or her ex all night long, so too, you shouldn’t talk about your former spouse throughout your date either. Address it, then move on to other more interesting conversations with your date to measure how well you connect and whether that spark is there that will lead to more dates and more time spent together!
At the end of the day, I take the perspective of one reader who commented that we should all get rid of our preconceived notions, stereotypes, and parameters that serve to box us in, and instead be open to meeting someone with whom we connect on all levels regardless of whether he or she was divorced, never married or widowed. We all carry “baggage” based on our life experiences, regardless of our former marital status or lack thereof. And, we all know that stereotypes are not applicable to everyone! I think it’s fair to say that each of us would like to be judged or evaluated on our own merit, our own personalities, and our own quirks, as opposed to being dismissed solely because of some preconceived notion about what it means to be a widow, or a divorcee, or a life-long bachelor or bachelorette.
As I said before, I’m glad my husband didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about what kind of woman he wanted to date when we met. If he had said he wasn’t interested in dating an older woman with two kids, we might never have gotten beyond hello!
What do you think? I would love to hear from people who met someone who fell outside of their initial idea of who they would date! What led you to remove your preconceived ideas? In the end, did those preconceived notions hold true, or not?
My latest from The Huffington Post …
A reader recently commented on one my blog posts something to the effect of, “This author believes that having great sex makes for a great marriage.” I think he intended for this to be a critical comment, but actually, I do believe that — with some caveats, of course!
Let me explain.
I do believe that intimacy is critical to a great and lasting marriage. I have yet to meet a couple who was having marriage problems and thinking about divorce who told me that they still had phenomenal intimacy. Instead, what I often hear is this: “Somewhere along the line we drifted apart… we stopped talking, we stopped kissing, we stopped hugging, we stopped making love. We became roommates, not lovers.”
And by intimacy, I mean physical intimacy and also verbal intimacy.
Physical intimacy is sex, but it also includes hugging, holding hands, walking through the room and running your fingers through his or her hair, and kissing (really kissing!). Remember the scene from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts, as a prostitute, is asked by Richard Gere’s character, “What do you do?” Her answer: “Everything. But I don’t kiss on the mouth.” That’s exactly right — sometimes it’s not the sex that is intimate, it’s the kissing on the mouth.
So many of the people I speak with tell me that all of this intimacy stopped. I often hear, “I get more physical touch from my friends than I do from my husband (or wife).” It’s hard to regain that physical touch once it’s gone; it’s awkward to get it back, and frequently easier to initiate with a complete stranger than with the person you married. And yet, physical intimacy is critically important to a strong marriage.
But verbal intimacy is also critical. Verbal intimacy is talking — not about the kids or your schedules for the week — but about your hopes and goals, your dreams and your fears. It’s being comfortable going out to dinner, just the two of you, and not worrying about what you will talk about. I’ve seen couples whose social lives and vacation planning always had to include others because they didn’t have enough to talk about with each other.
You may have heard the saying that, “couples who pray together, stay together.” That’s verbal intimacy. I heard from a man recently who told me, “I’m not sure when we stopped talking. I wonder when our communication stopped. I gradually allowed my emotions and ego to become anesthetized… then she left.” As with physical intimacy, it’s hard to regain verbal intimacy once it’s lost.
Both physical and verbal intimacy require a dedicated focus. They require time. They require intention. We lead busy lives. As a nation, we’re chronically tired. We have competing demands of work, children, extended family and volunteering. Because of these commitments, physical and verbal intimacy often fall by the wayside. No one wants to wake up one day and wonder, “I’m not sure when it all stopped. I feel like we are roommates.”
The bottom line? Great intimacy is the key to a great marriage.
I have yet to see a husband and a wife who share great physical and verbal intimacy struggling in their marriage. I’ve never heard, “She is always touching me,” or, “He always wants to open a bottle of wine and talk on the back porch,” from anyone in marriage counseling. I haven’t heard, “I love the way he kisses me when he comes home from work every day,” and “She always asks me how I am doing and really listens,” from anyone who is on the brink of divorce.
I’m curious. Do you know anyone in a strong marriage who doesn’t share great physical and verbal intimacy with his or her spouse? Is it possible?
Guest Blogger: Lilly Star
You’re going to be scared, and that’s totally normal.
There is nothing wrong with facing the dating world with sweaty palms and unsteady heels. Nerves, especially after having experienced a failed marriage, are normal. The biggest mistake you can make is to sit out a date because you are too caught up in the latent negativity we attach to feeling nervous when facing (possible) rejection.
Most women are worried first about the way they look, and second about what they wil say in front of potential suitors. It’s natural and not uncommon — you are seeking validation from a stranger when you are used to dealing with the mostly committed emotional partnership of just one person.
The things you don’t know feel like they could fill an ocean, and it’s easy to over-think things and end up feeling as if you are drowning in that ocean! But, take note: No matter if you are as effervescent as Emma Stone, or as unilaterally gorgeous as Angelina Jolie, the nerves are ALWAYS a part of the dating process, which means you should accept them as a passenger on your experience.
Too many women doubt themselves, and are doubly harsh on themselves when they feel that wave of nerves hit their stomach. By accepting nerves as your accomplice, recently divorced women can find new strength and faith in themselves. Rejection is an inextricable part of the dating process, and while it’s uncomfortable to place yourself in a position to be hurt, it WILL eventually pay off.
The best way to prepare for any date after divorce is to surround yourself with friends who are capable of giving you applicable advice (wear this, not that) and who will, predictably, buffer your confidence prior to your date. That type of friendship also works to let you know that, male or female, there are still people out there that you can trust. Trust is what we are all searching for in a relationship, especially after we have experienced a failed relationship.
It is also important to stay positive and discuss the things in your life that have made you happy, regardless of the divorce. Angst and anger can pollute any interaction and how you deliver the message about your prior relationship tells your date a lot about how you might treat them in the future (similar to the adage, “never talk bad about your old boss in an interview!”). Your date will want to know that you have created some distance or understanding with your prior relationship, so if you MUST recount some aspect of the marriage and partnerships, try to do so without passion or judgment – just a simple and dispassionate statement of facts.
Being divorced is no longer a scarlet letter. We understand that relationships fail, and by going out there with confidence and without anger you can and will attract mates that will merit your trust and confidence.
Thanks to Lilly Star for being The High Road’s Guest Blogger this week. Lily is the lead female voice at DatingWebsites.com, Lilly is a professional advice-giver with experiences in dating men of all types, including the good ones that got away. Her passions include white wine, purple peonies and relaxing on the chaise lounge with her dachshund Samantha. Lily’s work can be read on dating blogs for both men and women.
Here’s my latest blog post from The Huffington Post – January 12, 2012 – No Touch?
Several years ago, my kids participated in a program in their elementary school entitled, “Good Touch/Bad Touch.” As you can tell from the title, it dealt with knowing the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. It was a great program, and I wish more school systems had the resources to educate their students through programs such as this.
While the content was great, the title “good touch/bad touch” has become a joke in our house, and whenever we are tickling and laughing and wrestling and my son is “losing” he will suddenly yell out, “bad touch!” and we’ll all start laughing.
Less funny is that idea that neither good touch, nor bad touch, but absolutely “no touch” is happening in so many marriages today. Dr. Stathas, a marriage and family therapist near Lake Oconee, Georgia, and founder of the Stathas Life Development Center, writes that so many of the couples he counsels mention that being touched by their spouse is what is missing in their relationships.
I can relate. So many people I’ve spoken to also talk about having no touch in their marriage. In fact, I frequently hear, “I feel as if I am married to my best friend,” but I disagree. I know many best friends who still hug and kiss whenever they see each other. The people I talk to are saying that absolutely no touch is occurring within their marriages.
In this case, these couples mean that they have absolutely no physical touch left in their relationships. According to Dr. Stathas, “to be touched is to put your arm around him or her, hold hands, give a gentle caress or pat on the fanny, give a massage, give a gentle or passionate kiss, or make love.” He continues to say, “these are basic human needs — all part of a special connection you have with your partner. Giving this type of attention serves to enrich and deepen the relationship.”
If this basic need isn’t being met, then the impoverished spouse may enter into some type of self-defense mode and either dry up and withdraw, become angry and hurtful via words or actions, or go elsewhere to have those basic needs met.
How sad that so many couples lose that aspect of physical touch in their relationships. I know I did. And now that I have found it again, I can’t imagine how I survived without it. “Good touch” is amazing. It connects couples. You can’t start to build grudges or be angry or drift apart when you have incredible physical touch drawing you back together. It brings people together. It creates a chemistry. It builds bonds.
I hate to think that so many couples who need or want that physical touch within their own marriage are afraid to reintroduce it. They feel it would be awkward or difficult, and rather than face those challenges together as a couple who once knew what it felt like to have great touch with one another, one spouse instead chooses to have his or her physical touch needs satisfied by someone outside of marriage. Don’t we see this repeatedly within our social groups, the media, and our sports heroes?
I’m not sure what the solution is. Perhaps it’s not ever letting that physical touch disappear to begin with. Perhaps it’s making more of a concerted effort to regain that physical touch within marriage before straying outside of marriage.
What do you think? Does this apply to you and your relationship? What can you do today … right now … to rebuild some of that “good touch” into your marriage or current relationship?
If you have read my book, The High Road Has Less Traffic, you may recall chapter 14, “Celebrating 40: Will I Ever Have Sex Again?” You’re recently divorced. You haven’t had sex in a while. You meet someone and you know, “this is it!” But … are you ready to be intimate again? When Justin and I married, I have to admit, I was nervous about somebody new seeing my 40 year-old body.
I came across this article by Isadora Alman and I had to laugh! She nails it! Isadora (www.askisadora.com) is a California-licensed marriage and relationship therapist, a board-certified sexologist, author of several books, and a syndicated sex and relationship columnist. Her “Ask Isadora” column has been running in alternative weekly papers worldwide for more than 20 years.
Isadora writes, “This one is a definite possibility,” you think to yourself. You’re feeling flutters of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of a new romance—someone with whom to share talks and walks and important parts of your life. It’s been a long time. And then the thought hits you: This wonderful new relationship will at some point involve doing these longed-for things without your clothes on! How to prepare yourself?
When you are facing the prospect of physical intimacy again after being used to one partner, and perhaps after a long period of not being used to it at all, the idea can be as scary as it is exciting. All sorts of self-doubts can bubble to the surface like the ooze in the La Brea Tar Pits. Here are some pointers to keep in mind so as not to spoil the anticipation of new love.
Don’t play mind games with yourself. The other person has the same fears and doubts as you do. It’s only human. None of us looks like we did in our 20s. Our bodies and our psyches bear the scars of our years of experiences. You are coming together as two veterans of the Relationship Wars and will treat the other person — and yourself — with gentleness, humor and respect due a fellow veteran of the trenches.
Talking about your hesitancies helps. There is no need to pretend a bravery you don’t feel. Sharing your concerns out loud will help establish the emotional intimacy that leads to a better physical connection. Don’t believe there’s a rule book you didn’t get. There is no script. Rather than worry about how things are being done these days, remind yourself that you can have it any way you want it. Take it fast; take it slow. Jump right in, or dangle your toes in the water. There is no way a new relationship or its physical aspect has to be other than what you and this new person create together. Put all notions of third-date rules and two-day waits between phone calls in the trash.
Develop a dialogue about what feels good. Remind yourself as often as necessary that this is a new person with different likes, dislikes and ways of doing things than your previous partner. Examine old assumptions that “Men always…” or “Women never…” Also remember that just because your previous partner did or said or liked something is in no way indicative of how this new person will be or what he or she prefers. When in doubt, don’t assume—ask!
Experiment. “We always used to do it that way” is a perfectly good reason to not do it (whatever “it” is) that way again. This is a new you at a new time in your life. All the habits, both good and bad, you shared with your last love can be put away in a drawer with your old photos and letters, and you can create something new and wonderful with this new person. Explore. Test your limits. Enjoy yourself, and enjoy someone new as well.”
What do you think?