Ask Dr Gilda-I miss the married life

One man searching for love wants to skip the courting phase and get right into a relationship instead. How can he teach himself to enjoy dating again?

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

ear Dr. Gilda,
I’m at a loss on how to date since my divorce three years ago. I feel like I could fall in love again. The problem is, after being married for 18 years, I don’t know how to actually date. A few women reached out to me during and right after the divorce, and I
That’s the stuff I used to do when I was married.
did find some comfort in their arms. But the “date” part is what I can’t get used to. If I am attracted to a woman, I’ll go out with her a few times, then after a couple of dinners or movies or whatever, I find myself wanting to stay home and cuddle, cook meals together and watch TV. That’s the stuff I used to do when I was married.

Women want to be chased and romanced when all I want is what I had with my ex-wife before things fell apart. Please give me some ideas of what to do with this whole “dating” thing. I don’t want to ruin my chance of finding the right woman instead of just someone to fill the loneliness void.
– Stuck-in-a-Rut Ritchie

Dear Stuck-in-a-Rut,
Finally, a single person who unabashedly admits he doesn’t know how to date! Ritchie, you are not alone. After 18 years of married life, it would be natural for you to fall into patterns of the marital behaviors you previously enacted. But dating and marriage are very different. The former describes the uncertainty and excitement of pursuit, while the latter depicts dependability, friendship and peace. To many couples, the usual, expected routines over time produce boredom, which is the biggest complaint among married couples. Why did your marriage collapse? Usually, marital meltdowns occur when the spontaneity of dating disappears and routine habits replace them.

Many singles mistakenly believe that getting to know someone consists of mating, dating, and relating — in that order. But this proves to be a lopsided
It is true that women want to be “chased and romanced” to some extent.
progression. The peculiar need for making dinner plans that will lead to breakfast in bed together does not always work. I know, I know, hormones move us too soon toward slumber parties and the natural drive of attraction is often misconstrued as rapport. But the “comfort” you describe that came from the “arms” of the women you held offered nothing lasting once the covers were lifted. Now that’s dull!

The only sequence of events that will allow you to discover whether a relationship will last is to date, relate, and THEN to mate. The mating step should be an expression of the harmony you have already built up together outside the boudoir. And that harmony can only occur through shared similarities and experiences over time.

You say, “Women want to be chased and romanced, when all I want is what I had with my ex-wife before things fell apart.” Hellooo, Stuck-in-a-Rut, what you THINK you had with your ex-wife is a fantasy because it did not last! It is true that women want to be “chased and romanced” to some extent. Without apology, this custom dates back to Neanderthal times when men fulfilled the role of hunters and women were gatherers. So women’s genes are still hard-wired to expect courtship from a guy. I remember my ex-husband criticizing my wanting to be courted during our marriage. That’s one reason he’s my ex now! It’s been documented that women want the courtship to continue into their relationship, while men think that since they already got the girl, they no longer have to do any of the work. Research finds that to maintain relationship bliss, married couples SHOULD continue to “date,” replicating those passionate early times.

Misguidedly, you have romanticized your marriage as a model for your future. Hey, Ritchie, if you keep on keeping on, this pattern will end your next marriage, too! Right now you should be enjoying sharing common interests with dates that you’re getting to know better. That’s how to define “dating.” Step beyond conventional movies and dinners and pursue hobbies you never explored. Most of all, follow this Gilda-Gram: “Allow your passion to direct your future, instead of allowing your past to direct your passion.”

It’s time now for you to become UNStuck: Savor each moment, enjoy each adventure and meet women who participate in activities you can happily share. Let your dating involve mutual exploration that will excite you both as you build a history together, totally unique from the one you had in your marriage that collapsed.

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., gives Instant Advice throughout the world via Skype, email and phone. She is the 30-Second Therapist for Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website at (
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