I'm a recently divorced female in her early 40s, never dated before, and I'm scared. What should I do?

I got a divorce a few years ago. I was 42.

The man I was married to and I used to work together, so everyone I knew regarded us as a unit. It felt like every road led back to him.

It was clear to me that I needed to start over.

But, how?

Where could I start if I had not dated for over 20 years?

How could I meet people I had not met already?

Online dating seemed like a viable solution to my dilemma.

Here is what worked for me:

If I wanted a different life I needed to stop doing what I had always done, which might, if one follows logic, give me a shot at a different result.

In other words: I needed to let go of the illusion that I knew what I wanted.

I needed to reconsider "my type".

I needed to reconsider everything.

Filling out the online dating site questionnaire was such an important part of my process.

I could not distinguish what I liked versus what "we" liked.

I found myself editing that questionnaire several times a week.

Once I started going out and answering questions about myself to strangers I found it a vital part of the process of reconstituting who I was.

After a few days of a slow, obsolete "waiting to be discovered" approach, I arrived at a notion that took precedence over the hard to get frame of mind I had grown up with.

If I waited for people to notice my profile and contact me, the universe of those I could choose from would shrink considerably.

I much preferred picking from anyone I wanted, a universe of interesting men, even if it meant risking sometimes not getting a reply.

I decided finding love was not my end goal. First, because what I really wanted was a new life.

But also because sitting across the table from someone and attempting to figure out if there was chemistry seemed completely overwhelming.

What if instead I set out to search for a new perspective? What if as I considered people's profiles I dramatically shifted my criteria?

Instead of asking myself "Is this person boyfriend/husband material?" I would remind myself to ask "would going out with him be interesting? Fun? Would it teach me something new?

What if what I want is something I have never been exposed to and therefore cannot recognize?

I met someone new every day for about a month. Because I was so fed up with my emotional paralysis. Because I knew that there was a world too rich to warrant the delusion that I was finished.

But mostly because I quickly learned that everyone was interesting, and that everyone had something to teach me.

I spent a lot of time studying people's profiles. I wanted to make sure the dates I went on, regardless of chemistry, were a worthwhile experience.

I stayed away from people who said they were ready to get married or were looking for a stable, long term relationship, and reached out to men who, for example, loved movies or museums or were poets or artists.

I made sure I was safe. I always met people in public places. (It sounded like a lot of fun to go out with someone on their boat, but, no.) I did not get in the car with a stranger, even after a fun date. I always let friends know where I was and what time I returned.

This was not me being afraid (although I was) but rather me recognizing that I had no idea what I was doing and, as such, needed to err on the side of excessive caution.

My life is very different now. I met a lot of interesting people I still frequent. And I have been dating the man currently known as Boyfriend for four years.

I would not have found him had I not been open to what I normally would not be looking for.


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