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Dating et al…Some Things to Think About (in Advance)

Here are a number of ideas that might be instructive to talk about or think about as we investigate some further possibilities for our social interactions going forward. Even if you are not ready or even interested in these possibilities, it’s an interesting topic to investigate, just in case… This discussion contains some more active things to consider along the same track as in the last post. They are a continuation of the 4/15/24 post on Loneliness in case you do find yourself wanting to or wondering if and how you should enter a more social part of your journey. 

It’s not really about dating. It’s about thinking clearly and making thoughtful choices as we explore all aspects of our grief and how we want to approach the next part of our lives. It’s about how we find and define the relationships we want to build and the people we want to travel with.

waves of grief

In the end, its all ok. You can eventually choose whatever you want for the next part of your life. Again, my goal here is to promote the idea of deciding things with intent and making safe and thoughtful choices when you do. 

Because of the situation we now find ourselves in as bereaved spouses and partners, we have the opportunity to consciously decide how we want to go forward in our social lives (and in all parts of our lives) when and if we are ready to do so. We can choose to approach it anyway we want. The important part, if we go there, is to consciously choose what we do and who we travel with, with intent and awareness.

These ideas are something you can hold onto and questions you can ask yourself to help guide you at any time along the way. They can be there to help you if any of these things come into your life and even, perhaps to help you decide if and when you might want to bring them into your life in the first place. Again, I believe that the important thing is to consider these aspects of our journeys by thinking about how we might proceed in advance, if we ever do find ourselves wanting to enter into more deeply social interactions.

What are we looking to do:

I’ll start by saying in a general way, it seems to me that there are really two basic choices we can make in these types of interactions; the first is to choose some type of interaction or relationship that looks familiar, that looks like something we may have done in the past or miss from the past. The other is to try something new or different. 

Another, more specific way to look at it is, do we want or need to be part of a couple/exclusive relationship again to define ourselves and how we socialize? Or, do we want to be ourselves alone and perhaps have a group or groups of friends or more casual relationships to socialize with, without having an exclusive, possibly live-in relationship? Do we want to remain alone? How about a hybrid including parts of any of these? What would that look like?

Here are a few general, more conceptual questions to start with:

Do we want or need to live with someone again? If so, what would that relationship look like now? Would you want it to be the same or different from your previous relationship? What role does marriage need to play in a future relationship and is marriage the only, or best, or required way to be in an exclusive or live-in relationship? 

Can we have some type of non-exclusive relationship that meets our socialization needs and that we can accept into our lives? Can we have a close relationship with a friend of an opposite sex (of the same sex as our loved one) that is not exclusive, not live-in but is based on being a friendship? Can we have an exclusive but not live-in relationship based on friendship?

Should we be (is it ok to be) looking for an exclusive relationship and trying to find another special someone who can be our partner in the next part of our lives? Should we be (is it ok to be) looking for love and a relationship that centers on that as perhaps our previous one did?

Is it ok for us to be ok with living alone and being alone and not socialize much at all? 

Can we be ok living alone and satisfying our needs for socialization by having friends instead of an exclusive relationship? Can we live alone and have an exclusive relationship that isn’t live-in but is still exclusive? How might we do any of those things?

What about affection and intimacy? What if we miss these things deeply? How are we going to find a way to safely bring them back into our lives? Do we want to bring these things back into our lives in a casual or a serious way? Do we want to them in a casual or in a serious relationship? Do we want that relationship to be exclusive and/or live-in? 

Can we (should we) wait until we are no longer (strongly) grieving before we consider another relationship? Can we continue to honor our love and our loved ones if we are entering or forming a new relationship?

Does our age matter in what we want to have happen and in how we choose what our relationships will look like going forward? Will we make the same choices if we are in our 40’s and 50’s or younger as we might if we are in our 60’s and 70’s or older?

How do we want to go about figuring out and finding what we really want, need, or are looking for (if anything):  What criteria will we use to define and find the people we want to meet and include in the next part of our lives? 

Should we have a plan?

Since I don’t know the answers and because everyone has to find their own way through these situations, here are some of the things that occur to me that we might want to ask ourselves when (or maybe before) we are ready to start entering into the social world in the context of dating and/or looking for love and/or looking for a long term, possibly exclusive, relationship, and/or looking for or finding good (new) friendships. 

Lots of questions to address and talk about or to ask ourselves:

  • Why are we dating or wanting to date in the first place?
  • What do we get out of dating at this point in our lives? 
  • If we are still grieving, why are we dating or thinking of dating?
  • Should we (can we) convince ourselves we are no longer grieving so we are free to date?
  • Is dating the only model for meeting and being with others of the opposite sex (the same sex as our loved one) we know or want to pursue? 
  • What about dating people of the same sex now?
  • What other ways are there?
  • Can we date, go out with or get together with people of the opposite sex (the same sex as our loved one) without feeling guilty?
  • What are the implications that going out with someone of the opposite sex (the same sex as our loved one) include?
  • Can we go out as friends with people of the opposite sex (the same sex as our loved one) without the implications of dating and relationships and commitments?
  • How do we avoid those implications if we don’t want them to be there?
  • Does dating have to include or suggest a sexual aspect to the relationship? 
  • What part does a sexual component need to play in the choices we make?
  • Is a sexual component in dating more important to men or to women or is it the same?
  • Is it different depending on our ages?
  • How do we find common ground in our sexual wants and needs (if we have them) as we enter or continue in the dating world?
  • Do we need to talk about it in advance?
  • Is it ok to just let things happen as they do and talk about it later?
  • Do we even need to talk about it at all?
  • ***How does dating or entering a relationship effect other people in your life?
  • How will it effect your children/grandchildren?
  • How will it effect your loved-ones siblings, children and other family members?
  • How can you help them understand if you are wanting to date, dating, or have begun another relationship?
  • How might you mitigate their discomfort, anger or hostility if they feel any?
  • Can we (should we) wait to enter a relationship until we are not just trying to fill up our loneliness?
  • How do we know if what we are doing or seeking is just rebounding into another relationship?
  • Can we actually build a real, sharing and complete relationship before we have come to acceptance of our grief and not be jumping into something with another person mainly to relieve our loneliness?
  • Is it ok to enter a relationship mainly to relieve the loneliness?
  • Did you enter into your previous relationship and/or marriage because you were lonely or for other reasons. 
  • Do you want to enter another relationship for the same reasons as before or do you want to enter another relationship for different reasons?
  • Are you looking for love or are you looking to remove the emptiness and loneliness in your life and your grief or is it something else? 
  • Are you looking for a relationship because it lets you look for or find affection, affirmation and intimacy?
  • Are we looking for love because that is what we are supposed to do?
  • Is it ok to live alone without having a significant relationship in our lives?
  • Are we wanting to date, create another full-time relationship or marriage because those are the only models of living we know?
  • Can dating be a type of hiding from our grief?
  • Can finding a new person to live with or spend all our time with be a way of hiding from our grief?
  • Can we (should we) enter into a serious relationship before we are (mostly) healed within our grieving?
  • Can we be complete or fulfilled without someone special in our lives?
  • What (or who) do we need in our lives besides ourself? Why?
  • What (or who) do we need in our lives besides the memories of our loved ones?
  • What would it be like just to have a group of friends (of any sex or persuasion) to spend time with and not have a single, exclusive relationship?
  • Do we want to live alone or do we want or need to live with someone?
  • What does living with another person do or not do for us?
  • What does living alone do or not do for us?
  • If we have been living alone for a while, do we want to bring another person into living with us? 
  • What if we have come to like living alone?
  • Are we willing to change and compromise enough to make it work if we do start living with another person?
  • What do we really need or want in a relationship?
  • How far down the relationship/couple road do we each want to go if we do?
  • How much time and energy are we willing to invest in creating a new relationship?
  • Do we want to build another relationship like our previous one?
  • Can we build a relationship with someone new that is as close and connected as our previous one was in the time we have ahead of us?
  • Is it ok and enough for two people to build a relationship based on the idea of having someone to be with as they get older and perhaps need someone to help them? 
  • Can a relationship built on those needs become something more over time? 
  • Can entering a new relationship “fix” your grief?
  • Is it ok to enter into a marriage for the “tax break”?
  • What about a roommate (housemate)? 
  • Can we have a roommate (housemate) of the opposite sex (the same sex as our loved one)?
  • What does the idea of a roommate with benefits imply or provide?
  • Is that an ok idea?
  • What criteria do we need to set up to make something like that work?
  • How or where do we safely meet new people to possibly date?
  • How do we find safe places to meet people to date if we choose to?
  • How do we find safe groups to join if that is what we want to do?
  • How can we find people to date in a safe way?
  • Is online dating the same as in-person dating?
  • Is online dating the same as in-person dating as we might remember it from earlier in our lives? Are the rules of engagement the same?
  • How can we find people to date online in a safe way so that we know who they really are before we bring them deeply into our lives and resources?
  • How can you tell/trust if someone who tells you stuff in an online situation, is actually who and what they represent themselves to be? 
  • How long should you get to know someone you met online, through social media or dating sites, before you learn enough about them to let them into your life?
  • How can you actually physically meet someone you met online in a safe way?
  • How long should you get to know someone you met online before committing to a relationship especially if you are still grieving?
  • Should you share your finances with a person in a new relationship if you haven’t known them for very long? Should you ever do that? If so, how long is it good and/or safe to wait? 
  • Should you (why would you) ever give any of your resources to someone online?
  • How do you find out definitively who someone is before you commit to anything?
  • When is it safe and wise to deeply merge your lives and resources?
  • Just because it seems like a good idea, or because it feels good, should you follow through until you know someone well enough to be sure it really is a good idea?
  • Should you comply if someone you met is pressuring you to give them or have you share your resources with them?
  • If its not a good idea to make major changes in your life durning the first year of your bereavement when you are mostly in a grief fog, if its not a good idea to sell your home or car, quit your job, or make other large decisions during that first year, is it a good idea to invite someone new into your life and share your resources with them before you are clear enough to really know what or who you are committing to?
  • Others?????

In the end, its your’s to do. It’s your grief, your life and your decision what and how you want to go forward. And it’s always in your own time when and if you choose to do these things. The most important thing to remember in our grief I think, is that it is more critical, now that we are on our own, to always try to make our choices and to go forward in anything with intent and thoughtful consideration.

***The National Media is investigating and reporting on online dating scams! Here is a link to one of those seriously cautionary reports: