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I used to have nightmares about being single again, being set up on blind dates, and the awkwardness of first dates. I knew that someday it would be my life, but I did not look forward to it. When it happened, it was better, and worse than I had even imagined.
I kept a journal of all my dates, what I had learned about the person that I appreciated, and didn’t appreciate. What mistakes I may have made, and what I did right. It was invaluable to my dating education. I had dated a lot as a youth, I must admit, but looking back, I did not enjoy it much. I made a lot of mistakes. I felt every bloke deserved a chance. Not true. So I dated a lot of wrong guys.
I had no idea what I was getting into being in my fifties and back in the dating scene again. I just knew that I wanted that most sacred of human relationships before I died. I wanted to know what it felt like to be truly loved. I wanted someone who was secure in who he was, and who was not threatened by my success, who cherished me for who I am. I was going to do it right this time. Now, looking back, having successfully found exactly what I needed and wanted, here is what I would advise my fellow travelers through the same valley of single-hood.
1) Stay true to who you are:
It is tempting to change our persona to try to blend with someone we are dating. Don’t do it. Don’t lower your standards, or pretend to be more or less than you are. Be yourself. You don’t want to have to pretend to be someone else for a marriage. I know of a situation like that where the woman pretended to be this sweet and happy female, when she was quite the opposite, but couldn’t keep it up for long after marriage. It’s best that you both know exactly who you are. And love you regardless, and because of it.
2) Have a list:
You should have an idea of what you are looking for. It may seem silly to write down a list, but there is something magic about putting it down on paper. It also helps you to formulate in your mind exactly what it is that you are looking for. When you find yourself in a relationship, your list will help you recognize if you are settling, or getting exactly what you want. Pray for guidance, and pray to be introduced to this person. Enlist the powers of heaven to your aid.
3) Recognize the red flags:
If you are dating someone who has personality disorders, is abusive, or otherwise just not right for you, the signs will be there. Do NOT disregard them. Your gut instincts are always right, and are better indicators than your brain or heart. If there are red-flags, get out, now. (Read blog on red-flags)
4) Have fun:
Single people always dream of being married, and married people dream of being single again. Enjoy this time of independence. Make friends. Be active. Go out and have a good time. Invite friends to your place.
5) Don’t get physical too soon:
Don’t be afraid to build a friendship first, take it slow when it comes to new relationships. The fastest way to scare a woman off is to start getting physical too fast. First build trust, realize that these women are often coming from a place of shattered dreams. Don’t give them the message that you only want one thing in this relationship. Women, the second time around, are going to be wiser to shallow relationships. Take the time to get to know them, and them you. Prove you can be trusted with their heart. Make sure she/he is marriage material before you become “blinded by love” by getting physical too fast. Be friends first. Spend a lot of time together. If he/she is not making time for you, that is a sign. If he/she is interested in you, he/she will do back-flips to make it happen. If not, he/she will have many excuses. If he/she cannot make time for you while dating, he/she will not make time after marriage either. Give a relationship time. Lots of time.
6) Act your age:
The last time you were single, you were most likely a teenager. Your last frame of reference to single-hood is high school. It is a common mistake for newly singled mature adults to revert back to their teen-hood in their social relationships. Do not go back to your high school behavior and immaturity and dating practices. You are an adult now, act like it.
7) If it’s work, keep looking:
If your time together is exhausting, full of drama, causes confusion and hurt, move on. Period. If you are constantly trying to figure out what is going on, there is a constant lack of communication, contention at everything you say, this is not a fit, and there may be some passive aggressive behaviors at play.
8) Don’t bring them home to the kids until you find one you are serious about, then test them with the kids:
How they interact with your kids is an important factor. Kids are good “fake detectors” most of the time and can help you recognize phonies. If your kids are just not going to like anyone you bring home because they harbor hope you will reunite with their parent, do not let that deter you from dating and moving forward. Kids can be basically selfish, parenting alone is a hard business. They have no right to insist you carry the burden alone without support and protection. If they aren’t thinking about what is best for you, you need to. When you stand up for yourself, they will respect you more.
9) Set boundaries:
Every new relationship needs to have rules to go by. Having boundaries shows each of you that the other can abide by them. A red flag is someone who will cross the line just because they can, and not respect your personal protections. “I need to be home every night by 10 so I’m not exhausted for work the next morning.” “My Sundays are spent with my family.” “No inappropriate physical intimacy until after marriage.” Or what ever you need to establish. Respecting boundaries is a positive character indicator, and a green light in a relationship.
10) Communication on important expectations and issues:
At some point of your relationship, discussion needs to take place on what each of you expect from a spouse. Do you want to have more children? Do you want her to stay home and take care of the kids? Do you need help with the finances because you have to give half your pay to an ex? Do you like help around the house? Who irons his shirts? How is the money spent? How many times will you want to attend the temple each month? Is Friday night set apart for date night? How often do you want to visit the parents? The more you talk about and understand before marriage, the fewer contentions you will have after.
11) Only date those you think you could marry in the end:
Do not do mercy dating, just because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. It hurts their feelings more to be led on further before breaking it off. You can be kind, but firm. “No, I don’t think of you that way, but thank you for asking. I’m flattered.” Our guts and first impressions are always right. Don’t give your head and heart time to twist the facts and convince you otherwise.
12) Remember that having the right partner is worth the effort:
Studies have shown that the happiest people on earth are those that are happily married. Don’t give up and rob yourself of this life’s most wonderful status of the human experience. Romantic love, mutual respect, being cherished by someone you love is the highest form of humanness. Be patient, don’t settle, hold out for that right person for you. And when you find them, enjoy the happiness that is sure to follow. Don’t give up!
13) REMEMBER…..NO MAN (WOMAN) IS BETTER THAN THE WRONG MAN (WOMAN). It’s better to be alone than miserably married. Good luck, and God Bless you in your efforts.