So let’s get right to it. For the first 3.5 years after my beautiful husband died, the very idea of dating or “someone else”, literally made me sick to my stomach. It made me feel physically ill, and I couldn’t even discuss it without having a slight panic attack. The idea of someone else talking to me, touching me, or being anywhere near me, made me want to vomit. That’s just the way it was, and I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I was in way too much grief to even come around to THINKING about how freakin’ lonely I was.
Then, around the beginning of year 4, there was a slight shift inside me, for no reason whatsoever, or because it was finally time for that shift to happen, that went from feeling physically ill – to feeling sort of “okay” with the idea, but still not willing to actively pursue anyone. Then, about 10 months ago, someone appeared out of the blue. This person was not pursuing me, and I was not pursuing them. But they appeared in such a way and at such a time that it felt like it was meant to happen. This person was not only a fellow widow(er), but also knew my husband. We started talking, and over time, building a budding and wonderful friendship. We met in person in March, and our connection felt more real, because now I could touch it. I could look into this person’s face, and in it, I saw not only kindness and a beautiful soul, but also being around this person face to face gave me this overwhelming feeling of protection and safety – like Don had specifically chosen this man to protect me, because he could no longer do it himself. The details of why I feel this way don’t matter here, because I want to protect this person’s privacy, but the time we spent together over those few days was meaningful, beautiful, and the perfect mix of familiar and brand new, all in the same moment.
In the widowed community, the topic of “dating again” seems to be somewhat of an obsession by many.
When did you start dating? How did you know it was time? What did you do to “get yourself out there again?” Knowing this about others seems to fascinate everyone, and it usually begins with a list of probing questions and possibilities about wedding / engagement rings.
Some people continue to wear them. Others wear it but move it to their opposite hand. Some people keep their rings tucked away in a jewelry box or safe somewhere. A lot of widowed people add inscriptions to the rings, or add the rings onto a chain to make a special necklace. Some widowed parents might hold onto the ring to give to their son or daughter one day. The combination of things that people do or don’t do with their rings is endless. And really, it’s a highly personal choice, and everyone is different. I remember, awhile back, one widow friend telling me that after awhile, she took hers off, because she was no longer married, so wearing it “felt like a lie.”
I remember thinking to myself: That’s funny. That’s the exact same reason that I keep my rings on. Because taking them off feels like a lie.
The truth is, 5 years and 4 months after my husband’s sudden death, I still feel married. I still feel like Don’s wife. I feel that lifelong bond and that forever connection and promise and vow, and I don’t know how to figure out the rest of my time here, knowing what I know, (that he is dead and I can’t be with him anymore) yet feeling what I feel. How on earth do you just stop feeling that? It doesn’t make any sense to me. None of this does. And it never will.
Ever since losing my husband, people have been constantly asking me about finding someone new. Dating. Everybody has to know if I’m dating yet, or when I will be, or why I’m not yet, and if I’m not, maybe I should get on that immediately in order to make them all feel better or more comfortable or less awkward with my existence. I have been asked and probed rudely about the dating thing by friends, non-friends, co-workers, family, and total strangers. Never was the very fine line between the comfort of the widowed community and the return to the harsh, brutal world more clear than on my return flight from San Diego to New York, after spending a week in the understanding company of a couple hundred other widowed “family” members at Camp Widow.
Your 30s are an interesting decade and if you are single, we put together some tips on dating.
Whether you’re just getting out of a long-term relationship, divorcing, or seem to be perpetually single, dating in your 30s can often be tough yet eye-opening. So, we put together a guide for those who might need some extra dating help.
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Here are 15 tips on dating in your 30s.
1. Don’t settle!
This is the number one piece of advice for women not only in their 30s, but any age. Your 30s in particular though are the in-between, often confusing decade. You are no longer a teen or 20-something but not quite an experienced 40-something. It’s important to remember that you never, ever have to settle. Everyone has been single at some point—you were a strong and independent woman then, why not now?
2. Don’t get too giddy about each new date.
I’m all for getting excited and optimistic about things (you should see me at Christmastime). However, with dating it’s important to stay calm and focused and remember to really think about whether or not you’re truly compatible with the person. Sure, there’s physical attraction, but know that will eventually fade. You’ll need to think about whether or not you can be best friends with that person.
3. Don’t get too hung up on your age.
If you’re 35, so what? Even if you’re approaching 40, who cares? Age is really just a number. I’m not saying date the first 18-year-old you meet, but remember that if you’re compatible with someone significantly younger or much older than you, it’s okay to go for it. You never know where the relationship will go.
4. Do use apps.
This one is for those getting out of long-term relationships. Chances are, your ex-husband or boyfriend was not met over one of the numerous dating apps out there. Now that you’re newly single, check out the options. I have known many, many people who have met over online dating apps and ended up married or in a wonderful, loving relationship.
5. Take advantage of work events.
Work is probably where you spend most of your time, right? Those happy hours or networking events are great places to meet people. Even if you’re not into anyone from work or don’t believe in dating someone you work with, you could meet a friend of a friend. That friend of a friend could be perfect for you!
6. You’re not as young as you were.
This may sound harsh, but it’s essential to remember that you might not want to meet someone at a bar. In your 30s, you may find the love of your life at the gym, in the grocery store or even waiting in line at the post office. Never lose the optimistic romantic views you once had in your 20s, but keep an open mind as to where you could meet someone.
7. It’s okay to be confused or on the fence about someone.
You may read about people feeling so confident or knowing exactly what they want in their 30s, but it is totally and completely fine to not feel that way. Not freaking out about your confusion is important. Just take things one step at a time.
If things like faith and family are important to you, stick to your guns. Same with any sort of values, be it political, drugs, alcohol, or just plain being kind to others. If someone you meet does something that is just not okay, don’t stick around just for the sex, or just to be in a relationship. It’s not fair to you or to them either.
9. Kids can complicate things.
This one is especially for those who’ve been previously married. If you ended up with kids and are now finding yourself single, just remember that dating can be hard. Many men can be scared that you already have kids or just plain don’t want them. It’s important to weed out those types of men and find one that you and your children especially adore and love.
10. Issues get heavier and darker.
As sad as this one is, be aware that the older you get, the more life happens to you. You could meet someone dealing with a sick parent or a parent that has passed away. Others can be dealing with health issues themselves, including things as serious as fertility problems to more everyday concerns like changes in diet.
11. Don’t be so set in your ways that you aren’t open to new experiences.
You swore you’d never date a Republican. You said your whole life you would never ever be in a relationship with someone who was a fan of your most hated sports team. Things like that are better off abandoned in your 20s. In your 30s, it’s crucial to be able to keep your mind open to new experiences and not become a curmudgeonly old biddy decades too early.
12. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is perfect.
Absolutely nobody is perfect and it’s so critical to remember this, especially in your 30s. You will never find a flawless man. After all, isn’t that what love is about—knowing and accepting a partner’s quirks and differences?
13. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, but it’s okay to be vulnerable.
This may seem like contradictory advice. However, it is true. Don’t open yourself up to just anyone. As I previously mentioned, you may have more baggage in your 30s. Not being completely trustworthy of someone right off the bat is okay. At the same time, even if you’ve been hurt in the past, it’s okay to open yourself up to that vulnerability. It will be scary at first, but I promise it’ll be worth it.
14. Be aware you may be intimidating to younger men.
You may not have officially reached cougar status yet, but being aware that you may be a little on the terrifying side to young ones is an aspect of your age to remember. Embrace your age and use it to your advantage. Feeling sexier, more confident and beautiful is a great asset to being in your more experienced 30s.
15. Have fun!
Last but not least, life is short. Have fun dating. If anything, you will have some wonderful, hilarious stories to share with friends and loved ones.
Looking for ways to meet people besides dating apps? Check out this piece.
Meeting someone special and going out to dinner for the first time can be exciting, but after a few evenings out, the same old date idea can get, well, a little monotonous.
Maybe dinner gets dull because you run out of things to talk about or you realize you’re not connecting… but I think a dinner date can get boring because sharing a meal isn’t always the best way to get to learn a person’s complexities, personality, and strengths. You won’t learn about his or her wacky sense of humor in a fancy restaurant and you’re probably not going to swap deepest darkest secrets in a crowded café.
In order to get into the real relationship stuff, to truly bond, sometimes you have to step away from your comfort zone (and I’m not just talking about ordering that strange oyster appetizer the waiter suggested).
Whether you’re just getting to know someone, or are looking to spice it up with your long term significant other, trying a new date could be just what you need to connect on a deeper level. Here are my seven favorite spring activities to help you break away from the safety of the dinner date and get closer to each other this season.
I would specify by saying that you should take your date “indoor” rock climbing, but, who knows? It is springtime, so if you two are outdoorsie (and I mean really outdoorsie), maybe climbing in nature will be just fine.
But, no matter where you choose to go, rock climbing is a great activity to help a new couple bond. The whole date is like one giant trust fall exercise, which will help you build confidence in each other (and hopefully build confidence in your relationship).
Usually, in climbing gyms, one person will climb while the other will belay the climber with an attached rope, making sure the climber gets back to the ground safely. It requires a lot of communication and trust, which is exactly what you need to build a stronger connection.
When I went rock climbing with my fiancé for the first time, I was nervous. I’m a little afraid of heights so the idea of going up a wall was terrifying. Being held up by only a belt and one single rope made me extra unsure.
Still, being forced to put my well-being in my date’s hands really helped us build trust early on. You might even say it made our bond “rock” solid.
2. Size your date up… by going shopping
Bringing your date shopping shows that you care about their opinion and respect their taste. Whether you’re shopping for a new spring wardrobe or browsing for a new couch, taking your date to the store can be a great way to get to know each others’ styles and get a hint into what your lives might look like if you took the relationship to the next level.
When I moved into a new apartment a few years back, I took my fiancé (then boyfriend) to Ikea to get some furniture. We had a great time looking around at all of the model rooms, choosing our favorite furniture pieces, and talking about our styles.
By the end of the day we were both happy with the furniture I’d purchased: I was glad to have had someone to bounce ideas off of and he felt honored that I had cared enough to take his opinion into consideration.
Of course, if you haven’t been going out long, you’ll want to start out small: let your date help you pick out an outfit or let him or her help you pick out the menu for that party you’re planning. The important thing is that you learn about your date’s style, and let them know that you care about their preferences.
3. Get on the relationship path… with a long hike
Hiking is a great way to get in shape, relieve stress, and get in touch with nature, but did you know it can also be a great way to strengthen your relationship?
Hitting the trail together this spring is the perfect way to get some one-on-one time in a romantic, flower-filled, spring setting, but it’s also a great opportunity for you and your date to learn to support each other. Even a short hike can be difficult and learning to encourage your partner, work together, and challenge each other can do wonders for a new relationship.
My fiancé and I have been going on hiking dates since we first met and we love trying new trails and seeing how far we can go on new paths. We’ll find nearby trails, plot out a path, then, over the next few weekends, build up our endurance and challenge ourselves to get farther every week.
Between the fresh air, teamwork, good conversation, and physical activity, hiking can really get your relationship headed in the right direction.
4. Prove that you’re not just playing around… by hosting a game night
As spring really gets going, and the days get longer, your friends might want to start planning more events and parties together. This is great because group activities can be a perfect place to bring a date to see how they interact with your friends, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more about his or her personality.
One great idea is to host a game night. If you happen to choose games where you work in teams, like Pictionary or Charades, you and your mate can have fun as you practice working together. If you decide on games where everyone plays as individuals, like Monopoly or Clue, this can be a great way to see how your date reacts to competition.
Game nights will give you a chance to learn more about your date, but it will also allow him or her get to know your better through your friends. Plus, you’re both sure to have a good time hanging out together. Looks like everyone’s a winner!
5. Improve your relationship… with an improv class
Being able to laugh with a partner, and learning to understand their humor, is incredibly important to any relationship. Take this idea to the next level by attending an improv class with your date.
You’ll let loose as you giggle your way through warm-up exercises like “what are you doing?” and “zip zap zop,” then you’ll have fun creating scenes with classmates. Improv class is a perfect activity because you can impress your date with your best jokes while you bond over trying something new.
When my fiancé and I first signed up to take an improv class together, I was afraid I would look silly. Of course, I looked very silly, but I found that acting goofy was half the fun. By the end of the class we were both creating scenes and making jokes just like the cast of “Whose Line is it Anyway.” Or, at least, pretty close.
6. Avoid relationship roadblocks… by taking a road trip
I’ve heard it said that you never really know someone until you travel with them… and I’m pretty sure that whoever said that was talking specifically about road trips.
Sitting in a car, staring at nothing but billboards for hours at a time, can drive a person stir-crazy, but a road trip can also be great fun, especially if it’s with the right person.
Once you and your mate have been going out for a little while (and gotten comfortable with each other enough to commit to a weekend together) consider taking a spring break road trip. Traveling with him or her will tell you a lot about their personality. Between the way they drive, the way to the way they deal with stress or boredom, to the activities they get most excited about, there are so many opportunities to learn something new about your partner, and so many opportunities to make memories together.
You’ll always remember that crazy themed diner with the Elvis impersonator and you’ll be able to laugh looking back at the time you almost ran out of gas. You’ll treasure the pictures you took in front of the world’s biggest yarn ball and think back fondly on the time you kissed by the grand canyon.
Road trips aren’t always perfect, but they’re a great way to see what it would be like having a future with your partner, learn a little bit more about them, and create memories.
7. Wash away any dating nerves… by creating a water park
Everyone has a child-like side, but sometimes it can be hard to see it right away. Take advantage of the warming weather by building a DIY waterpark, it’s the perfect way to encourage your date to get playful and silly with you.
What might seem, at first glance, like a simple grassy backyard, can turn into a mini waterpark designed for hours of fun. Set up is easy: turn on the sprinklers, fill a few water balloons, set up a kitty pool, and get in your swimsuit.
Spending an afternoon playing in the sprinklers will definitely bring out that playful side in both of you, plus, it can open you up to great conversations about childhood memories. After a water balloon fight, you can bask in the kitty pool as you talk about that summer at sleepaway camp or bond over stories about your crazy siblings.
When it comes to getting closer, these seven spring dates are just the beginning. The truth is that any activity can be a bonding activity, the key is to just be willing to try new things together. Step out of your comfort zone, share a secret, do something that seems different or even a little scary.