by Kriston Wenzel, LBSW, CT
The death of a life partner often leads to loneliness. It’s natural to feel lonely; it’s part of the grieving process. Part of normal human emotion is wanting to feel connected to another person again in a way that is unique to a partner.
There is no right or wrong time to consider dating again. You are the only person who can decide when the time is right. If connecting and having a relationship with another person again is important to you, embrace it. Everyone deserves to be happy.
Take time to reflect on what you are looking for in a relationship. You may want to write down your thoughts.
Feelings of guilt and second thoughts may arise, making you feel like you’re looking for a replacement for your loved one or like you’re betraying your late partner. These feelings are completely normal.
It might take some time for these feelings to subside. Go at the pace that feels right to you. This journey isn’t about forgetting what you shared with your late partner. Rather, it’s about honoring yourself and finding happiness again.
The following are dating tips to consider:
- Build a social circle – Find opportunities to get out of the house and meet new people. Putting yourself out there can be uncomfortable, but it’s a natural way to connect with others. Find activities to be involved in, take classes, etc. If you connect with someone in your circle, don’t be afraid to ask them out.
- Be yourself – Be gentle with yourself and your self-judgment. Being comfortable and confident in yourself will help boost your own self-esteem.
It will also help you feel more relaxed and self-assured during this journey.
- Do it for you – Know what you’re hoping to get out of a new relationship—and understand why you’re seeking it. Don’t feel pressured to date because others say you need to do it. Go out on dates and meet new people when and if you’re ready at some point and know what you’re hoping to find. It’s normal to want to find companionship.
- Go slowly – Try not to move too fast and rush into a new relationship. It’s OK to ease into something new. Start by being great friends first. Go out with groups of friends, watch sporting events together, exercise, take walks, etc. Eventually spending more one-on-one time together will feel more natural.
- Trust your intuition – It’s OK to be nervous and awkward at first, especially if you haven’t dated in quite some time. But if something doesn’t feel right, don’t force it. Watch for red flags, including displays of anger, attempts to pressure you, or disrespectful or demeaning comments. Remember to honor yourself in this process.
- Communicate – Be open and honest with a new potential partner. Set clear expectations and boundaries on what you are looking for in a relationship. Ask thoughtful questions about what he or she is looking for in a partner. Develop a natural curiosity in learning more about the other person’s hopes and dreams—as you share your own.
- Accept a new potential partner for who they are – Try not to compare a new partner to your late partner. Evaluate your experiences with them to determine if it’s a good fit, rather than comparing them next to your loved one, which can be counterproductive to establishing an authentic connection with another person.
- Have realistic expectations – Be open minded about finding happiness in unexpected places or with unexpected people. By approaching dating in this way, you may find someone who you wouldn’t have originally pictured yourself with.
- Share stories of your late spouse, when appropriate – It’s OK and normal to want to share stories of your late spouse. You shared a life together. Keep in mind that it may come up naturally in conversation during dating or it might be something you share when things become more serious. Recognize that you will always still love your late spouse while also still making a potential new partner still feel valued for who they are.
- Be safe – Practice safe dating by keeping your health and well-being in mind. When meeting a new person, plan to meet in a neutral, public place and tell a loved one where you’ll be.
- Have fun – Dating should be fun! Discover things you have in common with a new potential partner and find ways to connect through shared interests. Perhaps you both like being active or enjoy movies. Look for ideas to keep things fun and interesting.
|Take a cooking class||Take a dance class|
|Go out for dinner||Enjoy a walk outdoors|
|Go on a picnic||Go to a movie|
|Attend a book reading or play||Visit a bookstore or library|
|Participate in sporting activities||Attend a concert|
|Play cards||Grab a cup of coffee together|
Whatever you decide about dating after losing your partner, it’s OK. It’s your choice to make—and know that you can change your mind any time you wish. This time may be full of strong emotions for you. Remember to allow yourself grace and flexibility in this new season of life.
If you’re struggling with the loss of your partner, we can help. Hospice of the Red River Valley offers free grief support services to anyone in the communities we serve. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 237-4629 and ask to speak with the grief department.
Kriston Wenzel, LBSW, CT, is a grief specialist at Hospice of the Red River Valley. What she enjoys most about her work is having the chance to help individuals and families find their strength and resiliency during such a difficult time in their lives.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
In 1981, Hospice of the Red River Valley was founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to high-quality end-of-life care. We fulfill our nonprofit mission by providing medical, emotional, personal and spiritual care, as well as grief support to our patients, their families and caregivers during a tender time in life. Our staff helps those we serve experience more meaningful moments through exceptional hospice care, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, wherever a patient calls home. The organization serves more than 40,000 square miles in North Dakota and Minnesota, including in and around Bismarck, Detroit Lakes, Devils Lake, Fargo, Fergus Falls, Grand Forks, Lisbon, Thief River Falls, Valley City and many more communities. Hospice of the Red River Valley offers round-the-clock availability via phone, prompt response times and same-day admissions, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Contact us anytime at 800-237-4629 or hrrv.org.