Ask Margot-I Haven’t Had A Date In A Year

Post-divorce, a man finds himself scared to get out there and date again. What can help him?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I've been divorced for several years now (almost five, to be exact), and I've had only a few girlfriends and none with any long-term promise. For over a year now, I haven't even been able to bring myself to go on a single date. I find myself terrified at the thought of ever letting anyone get
I haven't even been able to bring myself to go on a single date.
close to me again. What terrifies me even more is the thought that this could be the rest of my life. I've been dwelling more and more on the thought that I might find myself being that old man, living alone in an apartment eating dinner over the sink. I've talked to my preacher, but I'm considering seeking some sort of professional therapy. Do you have any advice that might help me identify my problem and overcome it?
- Scared to Date in Danville, CA

Dear Scared to Date,
As someone who’s been divorced herself, I’m wondering if you aren’t experiencing a prolonged post-divorce slump. Lord knows we’ve all had them, and there’s no prescribed amount of time it takes to get over the end of your marriage. Your confidence, judgment and self-esteem have all taken hits and your social life is a casualty of how you feel about yourself in general.

You’re making things out to be worse than they are, though, at least based on what you’ve put in your letter. You didn’t have any big successes with romance, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve had any huge disasters, either.

So my first piece of advice is for you to settle down, Chicken Little, because the sky isn’t falling.

Sure, we’d all like to be in a good relationship. And if you read this column regularly, you know that I firmly believe (based on my own experience, I might add) that developing a vision of your life in the right relationship is the first step to actually being in one.

It’ll also help you deal effectively with your fear of becoming Old Lonely Guy. I know, because I used to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about getting older without anyone in my life and having to live in Fridigaire Estates with a dog to keep me company. Seriously. So keep in mind I’m not making light of your situation.

How’d I get over it? I started looking objectively at my life and my past relationships. I not only fantasized about an ideal relationship, but I also thought realistically about living out my days on my own. In both instances, I steered clear of the worst-case scenarios — which I’d played out a million times in my head — and focused on the best-case scenarios. And you know what? Living single didn’t look quite so scary or horrible from that perspective.

Another cool benefit of my change in thinking: I met the man of my dreams. True story. Your results may
Speaking of finding your match, I think you should consider online dating.
vary, but at the very least you’ll feel better about yourself and your life. And that’s worth a lot these days.

Speaking of finding your match, I think you should consider online dating. That’s where I found my guy. But more importantly, it will give you an opportunity to go on several casual dates just to get back in the swing of flirting and getting to know people. Most of these dates won’t lead to relationships, but one or two might.

More importantly, dating many people will help you develop a stronger sense of who you are, who you want to be with and what a relationship should look like. Just ask my Uncle Zeb. He liked nothing better than to go down to Pope’s, this great store that was packed with all kinds of stuff, and just browse. He’d go down there even if he didn’t need anything. When I asked him why, he said, “You may not know what you’re looking for, but if you look around long enough, you’ll eventually find it.”

Before you begin dating again, pull together a support group of friends and family, maybe even your pastor. You’ll need the help of some good friends to live through what will likely be several more failures.

Finally, try this:
  1. Acknowledge your role in the events that led up to your divorce. Step up and own that responsibility without beating yourself up for it.
  2. Think about how you can be different and more effective in future romantic entanglements.
  3. Change your attitude. Focus on the positive. If you go into any interaction thinking you’re going to get burned, you probably will.
  4. Don’t punish the new people in your life for the sins of people who used to be in your life.
Take my advice: Start dealing with your fears in a constructive way, build a support network and start asking some ladies out. I think you’ll find your entire life shapes up nicely. Which, by the way, is very attractive!

Perhaps because of an upbringing that involved Catholic and Quaker schools, Methodist, Baptist and Catholic grandparents and regular attendance at a non-denominational church, writer Margot Carmichael Lester has been to many religious services and participated in a variety of religious rites about which she knew little or nothing. Talk about a coat of many colors. To get her take on your faith-based dating conundrum, drop her a line at Ask Margot; your answer might be posted in an upcoming column.
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