1. You’ve waited a sufficient amount of time after your loss to be sure you’re not rushing into something due to loneliness.
Men who are on their own tend to jump into the pool too quickly. When you’ve been used to companionship for many years, it’s tempting to try to fill that void right away. Sometimes men get re-married too soon and later find that it was a mistake, that they should have given it more thought. There is no “right” amount of time for everyone when it comes to dating and/or re-marriage, but you ought to take your time and do it thoughtfully.
Instead of focusing on filling the void created by the absence of your spouse, focus instead on filling the void in yourself by developing your own interests, especially things you like to do with others, such as play cards, dance, travel, volunteer activities, sports, or anything creative that you’ve always wanted to do. Now is the time to think about what activities you really enjoy, and then do them.
Says Richard, who lost his wife of 43 years to cancer, “It’s very sad when a spouse dies, but if the other spouse stops living, then two people die. You need a reason to get up every morning. Make it your business to get out of the house every day.”
2. You’ve addressed any guilt with regard to the loss of your spouse, and are no longer second-guessing how you handled things.
There is no way to prepare for the experience of loss of a spouse. It’s something that people have to eventually face, if they outlive their spouse. There may have been issues between the two of you that were never resolved, but it doesn’t matter anymore because, whatever they were, they are now out of your control to change. Since you can’t change the past, so you must accept how it ended.
It’s likely that you have a list a things you think you should have done, or would have done, had you known when your spouse was going to die, and under what circumstances. But you didn’t know ahead of time, so there’s no way you could possibly have affected the outcome. Should is a dangerous word, because it implies judgment of your actions or those of others. The truth is, people almost always do the best they can with the knowledge that they have at any given time. So if you didn’t do a perfect job, that’s ok, nobody does. You did the best you could have, given what you knew at the time. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself.
3. You feel you’ve processed your feelings about your loss, and you accept the fact that your life has changed.
You are no longer feeling overwhelmed about your life as a widower, you’re not laying awake at night thinking about what happened to your spouse incessantly. You don’t see yourself as a victim, but as someone whose life has changed direction. You are ready to accept life as it is now, and to move forward with positive intentions. You believe that life is good, and can be better. Being a widower no longer defines you. You are your own person, with your own likes and dislikes, your own wants and needs. You feel the energy to pursue your personal interests, and are willing to take a chance on life.
4. You’ve gone through your spouse’s possessions, or packed them up until a later time, when you’re ready to do so.
You’ve kept out some special, sentimental things, in honor of your late spouse and the life you had together, but your walls aren’t entirely covered with pictures that represent your past, and might cause someone you date to back off, thinking you could never move on.
Most people have a very difficult time trying to decide what to do about their spouses’ things. There is no instruction book for how to do it. Sometimes a widower asks an adult child or a friend to help him with the task, as it is daunting. So if you know you need some help, ask for it. Decide what’s most special to display, and keep those things in prominent places. If you know you’re going to have difficulty deciding what to keep and what to give away, it’s fine to box it all up and put it aside until you feel ready to look through it. Put out some of your own special things that represent who you are, to make your home more your own space.
5. You’ve sought out professional help if you have been unable to recover from depression.
You don’t feel that you have to be a hero, that because you’re a man you have to always be strong or in control of your emotions. Sometimes holding onto strong emotion in is harder than letting it out, and it certainly is more stressful on mind and body. If you need to talk about it, look up a professional such as a grief counselor, a pastoral counselor, or a therapist. Sometimes just getting another perspective is all you need to know that your feelings are normal, and having someone to bounce things off of helps you to make good decisions. Talking to someone about it will also decrease your sense of isolation.
6. You’ve become comfortable with the idea of meeting another woman and starting a new relationship, and don’t expect her to be like your spouse.
Seeing yourself now as an individual who wants partnership again, and not as someone who is afraid to be alone, and desperate to fill the void. You’ve started to see the whole idea of meeting someone new to be exciting and fun.
You are open-minded about whom you might meet, and don’t expect them to be identical to your spouse. They won’t be, and that’s ok, as it will be a new kind of relationship that can enhance your life in ways yet to be discovered. You’ve been taking care of your mind and body. You are feeling pretty good about yourself, and are ready to put yourself out there and let it be known that you’re looking.
7. You’re no longer afraid of the idea of dating at your age, and are ok with the fact that it’s not the same as when you were younger.
You are not worried about being older than you were when you dated before, and aren’t intimidated by the idea of trying again, even though it will be different. There are plenty of people out there who have also lost a spouse, and would love to have companionship again. It’s a question of finding out where they are. You also know that finding a partner at this time of your life will require you to look in different places, such as online or through friends, not by hanging out at parties like when you were younger. More mature love requires a more mature attitude. Your age doesn’t bother you anymore, you like who you are at this time of life.
8. You’ve decided how you want to go about meeting women: for example, in social situations, or online.
Having thought it through and not acted impulsively, talked with friends about where to start, you have come to a decision about the best way for you personally to approach dating again. Would you prefer to be introduced or “fixed up” with someone, search on your own in places you frequent, such as social clubs or activities, or are you willing to try online dating? It may be time to step outside of your comfort zone and try ways that are new to you. Talk to friends about your age who are dating about how they did it, what worked and what didn’t. Once you’ve made your decision, go for it.
9. You’ve decided what you’re looking for in a new relationship, and made plans for how to find it.
Realizing that every relationship is unique in its own ways, you have given some thought to what you’re looking for in a partner. What you’re looking for now may be very different from what you were looking for the first time around. You have learned a lot of lessons from life, and you may want qualities in someone that you haven’t experienced before. It’s ok to decide to have a different kind of relationship this time. Whatever you do, don’t settle for less than you really want. You’ve lost enough already. Why risk disappointment when you can consciously look for what you want?
Be realistic, but positive. Make a list of the qualities you really want in a partner, write it down, and look at it every time you meet a new person. Then stick to your list, and don’t be afraid to move on if something isn’t right.
10. You’ve decided for sure what you DON’T want in a new relationship, and made plans for how to avoid it.
You’re no longer willing to settle for less than what you really want out of a relationship, especially after having experienced loss. You’ve given some thought to what you would like to change, and have made up your mind what you don’t want. Write down a list of the things you truly can’t, or don’t want to live with, such as infidelity, smoking or drinking, selfishness, dishonesty, immaturity, etc. This list will be your “deal-breakers”. If someone you meet has the wrong qualities, don’t be afraid to move on. One never finds happiness by settling for less.
11. You’ve been able to learn to do the things around the house that your spouse used to do, and don’t need a woman to take care of you.
You have adapted to being on your own, and don’t need anyone to cook, clean, organize or manage your life in other ways. You want a life partner, not a maid. You can do things yourself, and feel competent around the house. Needing someone to do things for you is a bad reason to form a relationship. Love should not be based on what someone else can do for you, but on the two of you making each other happy in many different ways. You’re not tied to traditional gender roles, but are open to a different lifestyle. Some men like to cook, some women like yard work. Does it really matter who does what, so long as you’re both happy with the arrangement? Besides, it’s not all about you in a relationship.
12. You’ve told your children that you intend to date, not because you need their permission (because you don’t), but so that they won’t be surprised...
If you have teenaged or adult children, it’s wise to let them know you’re putting yourself out there, and if they have conflicted feelings about it, discuss it with them. Explain to them that you’re not trying to replace your late spouse, but you are ready to move forward with your life, and that you respect their right to continue to grieve if they need to. If you have younger children, have the same conversation, but at their level of understanding. Reassure them that your relationship with them will always be the same.
Having done these things thoughtfully, put yourself out there with a positive attitude. Believe that it can happen, and that love is possible again, because it is. Best of luck to you, may you find the one you’re looking for.