Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Single Again, Finding A Life Partner Worthy Of You

August 25, 2008

One of the shocks of being divorced is re-entering the dating scene. Enough time has passed from the trauma of divorce and you are now ready to take some risks on a new relationship. It was hard enough the first time around. What are the rules? How does it work?

Be proactive. Check your notions of romantic love at the door. There is a myth that there is a "one and only" out there in the world for you. Suppose your one and only lives in Tibet. You'll never meet. How sad!

If you believe love will happen when you are least looking for it, you are too passive. You need to look and put yourself in love's (or harm's) way.

You have the capacity to love many people. Chemistry is important but it can happen with more than one person. Many people are loveable and the trick is to meet them and get to know them.

Chemistry can be instantaneous or it can slowly grow. In our age of instant gratification, many people don't patiently wait for the chemistry. They fail to cultivate many promising opportunities.

You need to be easy to love. This is what you have control over. Be positive. Be yourself. Be goal directed. Be happy. Enjoy life. This is the paradox - keep the goal of serious courtship in mind, but don't become too serious or uptight about it. Being desperate can cloud your judgment.

Expand your pool of alternatives. A famous bank robber was asked why he robbed banks. His reply was, "That's where the money is." If you want to meet one of the many "one and only's" that could fit nicely in your life, you have to meet him or her somewhere, sometime.

Develop a large pool of acquaintances. Go places. Do things. Meet people - the more the better. Be with friends and in their circle of acquaintances.

Fear about rejection is normal. Not everyone clicks. If you are having a good time and enjoy meeting people, your fear of rejection will dwindle to a manageable feeling.

It takes a thick skin to fend off some relationships while encouraging others. It is the price you pay for all the contacts you have. This isn't quite as casual as the first time. Don't waste time on relationships that are going nowhere. Remember that your goal is to find a marriage partner.

Have a good time while doing things together. This could be at group activities or casual dating. Companionship is a building block to a deeper relationship.

The friendship stage. From your pool of companions you form friendships. A good marriage is based on friendship. Share your life stories, but use discretion on how quickly you reveal yourself. Stay in the friendship mode. Discover one another.

How do the two of you handle differences? Let your personality come through and test your mutual negotiating skills. See how the other person handles it. Learn to trust one another. Get a track record of reliable behavior.

See how you match up on basic values and goals. Share ideas on parenting, marriage, family, money, religion, work, and routine in the home. Learn about their family background. Find out their hurts and sorrows and how they have grown from setbacks.

Getting into intimacy. The next level is more intense - in depth of conversation, in exclusivity of the relationship and in the way affection is expressed. This is the step prior to engagement and marriage. Ambivalence is normal.

There is confusion as to commitment. Expressing commitment too soon before your partner is ready may trigger fears and doubt. This is sexual politics at the heart-wrenching level. This is why you are reluctant to date again.

Men and women may attach different meaning to sexual relations. Sex is not a promise of marriage. Many courtships fail because couples skip quickly through the companionship and friendship stages and introduce sex into their relationship. This can blow the relationship right out of the water.

If a relationship is going to work, it should be because of genuine liking and friendship. Mismatches occur when a couple gets involved on the basis of emotion and passion to a partner they really don't know.

For a good discussion on how to handle sex in courtship, read, "A Return to Modesty: Discovering Lost Virtue," by Wendy Shalit. With sex, there is no room for ambivalence. You have to decide on the limits of affection and what it means long before you are in a compromising situation. Share your values ahead of time so there is no guesswork.

Have a big acquaintance pool. Be outgoing. Risk rejection. Be yourself. Have a good time. Cultivate friendships. Go slow. Be smart about sex. Don't skip important steps on the pathway to commitment.

Now grit your teeth and go do it.