Getting back to dating after losing a spouse can be uncomfortable and in some cases, emotionally complicated. At the same time every human needs a companion to share his/her life with and give it meaning. So even as you think of dating again, go through the following steps which will help you to approach a new relationship as a healthy individual.
Take your time
The loss of a spouse is one of the most traumatic experiences in life. It is not only a permanent separation from the person who has come to mean everything to you but also the wrenching away of a familiar, loved way of life. So before you explore new relationships, it is crucial that you come to terms with your loss first. This usually means going through successive stages of shock at what has happened, denial in accepting the reality and then anger at why it has happened to you. Take as much time as you need to accept the loss of your spouse since unless you do that, it will be well nigh impossible to move forward in your personal life.
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Learn to let go
A period of mourning is also one of the essential stages in the process of letting go. While you may feel that you can never forget the person who had been your life-mate so far, it is necessary to recognize that that part of your life is over. It is here that emotional support from friends and family or even professional help in dealing with your loss can be most valuable. Learning to let go is essential in helping you to realize that while your spouse’s life is over, yours is still ongoing and must be lived in an emotionally healthy way.
Before you jump back into the dating game, get yourself comfortable with being around new people. One of the best ways to do this is to jump-start your social life in the midst of family and friends. Your family would try their best to draw you out by inviting you to Sunday dinners and celebratory occasions like anniversaries and Thanksgiving. Friends on the other hand may drag you out to nightclubs on weekends in a well-meaning attempt to stop you from brooding. Don’t refuse these invitations even if you suspect that you’ll be bored by endless expressions of sympathy or inane chatter. Rather look on them as opportunities to get back to the social circuit and prepare yourself for meeting new people.
Explore varied company
When you start dating, don’t restrict yourself to people with a particular group of interests or professional background. Even if you have for instance always been a lover of art and literature, think twice before refusing dates from potential partners who are more of the outdoor type and perhaps into adventure sports. Most of all avoid dating people just because they bear some kind of resemblance to your spouse. Rather be open to meeting different people with different strengths, weaknesses and characteristics and you may be pleasantly surprised at finding that many of these new traits appeal to you. The start of dating in any case is not looking for a replacement for your spouse but rather a part of the process of adjusting to a new way of life. And this would be good time to savor the joy of meeting new and interesting people. Losing a spouse doesn't have to deprive you of all future happiness in relationships.
Take up new interests
Even as you get back to dating, don’t look on it as the only thing that will provide meaning and fulfillment to your life. The only thing worse than being bound to the past is perhaps to use the present as a crutch to rush into the future. An essential part of coming to terms with a new way of life is to be comfortable with your new-found single status. Take up a hobby which you had never thought interesting before or join a language class simply because you are partial to the coffee in its cafeteria. Experiment with new activities and explore new venues by yourself at first and before long you will find yourself doing it in likable company. Throwing yourself open to hitherto-unknown experiences will not only broaden your horizons but also put you in touch with a lot of new and interesting people without the overt expectations that come with formal dating.
Don’t give in to guilt
Even as your social life gets back on track, it is important not to give way to guilt or feelings of unworthiness. Going out with friends and seeing someone special does not mean that you are letting yourself forget the love and happiness you shared with your spouse. Remember that your past is something that can never be taken away from you. Rather look upon it as an integral part of your life that will continue to inspire you to live better in the present.
Look for meaningful relationships
When beginning to date after losing a spouse, it is a good idea to take it slow. After you have graduated from socializing with family, friends and co-workers to going out on dates, take your time before making it exclusive or committing yourself fully. Even engaging in a sexual relationship before you are completely sure of your feelings can leave you vulnerable to hurt and dissatisfaction. So while you need not wait forever before finding love again, it is a far better idea to move too slow rather than too fast. This is because if you move further than you are emotionally ready to do, you will not only be setting yourself up for disappointment and regret but in fact even sabotage your current relationships with the burden of an unresolved past.
Different individuals take different lengths of time to come to terms with losing a spouse. Some may feel ready to move on within a matter of months while for others, nothing seems to dull the pain and loneliness caused by the loss. The important thing here to remember is that no matter how long or short the night of mourning, daybreak is sure to follow and bring with it the promise of a new relationship.