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Widowed? 5 Key Dating Rules


A woman who’s been there tells you how to get back on the dating scene again—and how you'll know it's the right time to do it.

By Amy Edelman

xactly three days after I found my husband of 17 years dead on our living room floor, a friend informed me that the traditional period of mourning for a Jewish widow was 30 days. Thirty days! Thirty days to mourn a man I had been with for 17 years? Thirty days to get used to being in our bed without his arms wrapped around me? Thirty days of sitting at a dining room table now set for three? Seriously?! Eight times out of the year, 30 days isn’t even a month!

That ancient tradition dates back to when it was a woman’s obligation to continue having children. No
For some, it just all of a sudden seems like the right thing to do.
such rule exists today — Jewish widow or otherwise — making the decision of when to start dating again, or even if, purely up to the individual.

My “it’s time to move on” moment came a year after my husband’s passing, when my 5-year-old daughter asked for “a new daddy” for the holidays. But the decision to move on isn’t always tied to a specific event. For some, it just all of a sudden seems like the right thing to do.

When your moment strikes, following these five tips should help you ease to back into the dating world again.

Tip #1: Listen to your gut
The good news is that you’re older than the first time around. Why is that good, you ask? You probably no longer need to worry about your biological clock or your best friend beating you to the altar. So take your time. It could be six months or it could be five years. Assure well-intentioned friends and pushy relatives that you’ll let them know when you’re ready to date again. (Lusting after the UPS man is usually a sure sign that you are.) Suss out your options. And trust that you’ll know when it’s right to take the first step. And the second.

Tip #2: Get the lay of the land
If it’s been more than a decade or so since you’ve been “out there,” you should know that the dating scene has changed. A lot. Just watching an old Sex and the City episode might be enough to scare you silly. But take a moment to look at the positive — there are many new ways to meet a man. In addition to the old-fashioned fix-ups and dating services, there’s online dating, speed dating and arranged dinner parties. Not all of them will be right for you, but you should be aware that they exist. Pick the option you’re most comfortable with. Talk to friends who have tried them. Take baby steps. If you’re still unsure how to proceed, ask a friend to arrange an old-fashioned double date. None of it will be easy… the first time never is. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. And besides, at some point, taking a chance will seem like more fun than sitting at home alone watching Sex and the City reruns.

Tip #3: Embrace the new
I always hated going out to clubs. I’d come home deafened from the music (and the pickup lines) and smelling like cigarettes. So for me, online dating was a match made in heaven. As a writer, I felt there was nothing better than having conversations with many different types of men without having to leave the comfort of my living room. So put on some comfortable clothes and reading glasses (if you need them) and log on. There’s no rush or pressure. If someone strikes your fancy, begin a conversation. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.

Tip #4: Get a makeover
There’s no denying that your life has changed in a painful way. I know. I’ve been there. But
If someone strikes your fancy, begin a conversation.
you’ve made the decision to move on. And you may as well do it looking your best. So before you go back out there again, remember… there is no better confidence booster than a haircut (and color if you need it!), a manicure and/or a new dress or pair of shoes. You don’t need to be extravagant. Just do something that makes you feel good about yourself. If you’re unsure about how to proceed, ask your best friend for advice. Or your daughter. Check out a magazine or the girl at your friendly neighborhood makeup counter. (Guys, you can get advice on a new haircut and clothes, you know!) But in the end keep in mind that you are doing this for yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t!

Tip #5: Don’t expect too much
When my mom heads down to Atlantic City to gamble she brings a couple hundred dollars she calls “mad” money. If she loses it all but has a good time she considers it cash well spent. Try thinking the same way about your date and don’t expect to win the jackpot every time. You were lucky enough to have found love once. If this time all you get is a nice guy who shares some of your interests — or even just makes engaging conversation over a great dinner — it’s still “money” (or in this case, time) well spent. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, or your date.

The bottom line is this: You’ve been through a tough time, suffered an impossible loss. But there will probably come a time in your life, as there did in mine, when the idea of looking ahead is not quite as scary as the idea of living the rest of my life in grief. Life, in fact, does go on. And you owe it to yourself and those you love to move along with it.


Amy Edelman is the author of Manless in Montclair: How a Happily Married Woman Became a Widow Looking for Love.
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