Friday, 21 October 2011


Life after the loss of a partner, whether through death or divorce, can be devastating; leaving the recipient struggling with guilt and anger. For the bereaved it is familiar to feel guilt about the loss of a loved one, there are the common cries of regret.
“Could I have done or said more?” “Could I have changed things?”
For the divorced, it depends upon the circumstances; did one partner cheat on the other? Were there irrevocable relationship issues? What caused the break up? Was the parting ugly? What went wrong?

All aspects take time to heal, and in my experience as a therapist working with both relationship issues and death of a loved one, I have to rehash the well worn cliché,
“Time is a healer”.
In most situations there is a process, almost a rite of passage, moving through a phase of disbelief and numbness. This goes hand in hand with coming to terms with the reality of the loss; for some it could be likened to a form of illusory experience, where one waits for the dead person to return, believing they are still alive somewhere out in the world. For another there might be relief it is over, but in all the depth of this depends upon the circumstances and the length of time spent within that partnership. With all loss the individual needs to express the pain and distress of the separation, whatever the circumstances. With a divorce it might be about the wasted years or the anger towards the ex partner, in death it’s about yearning and searching for the lost love. Over time, in a healthy grief process one will eventually begin to adjust to life without the other, going on with ‘normal’ everyday things; which hopefully, eventually leads to the tentative steps of reinvesting in a new beginning and/or a new relationship.

In modern society it is much harder to find a new mate, for the young there are clubs and wine bars but my research has shown this method is proving to be rather hit and miss. More thirty-some-things are using speed dating and agencies to look for Mr or Mrs Right.
For the over sixties who have perhaps lost the art of ‘meeting and courting’, dating agencies are proving to be highly successful for finding someone new. They are many and varied with enrolment fees to suit any pocket, I would always recommend some fee because this, in my view effects quality of service.

Surprisingly it is considered a safe way to meet people, or at least to vet them before you do. There are pro’s and con’s to the system and they offer partners of any age and sexual orientation and ethnic origin an opportunity to meet new people either for friendships, short sexual encounters or long term relationships.

A recently bereaved or separated person may step back in dismay at the thought of finding someone new, however for many there does come a time to acknowledge the depth of loneliness and sense of isolation, for example when out with other couples, going on holiday, going to the theatre, long summer evenings, worse still becoming reliant on adult children for comfort. It seems to me that the happier the last relationship was the more interest there is in finding someone new.

Three years after my husband died I began to recognise how sad I felt each time I came away from my daughter’s having watched the couple together, close in their new family unit and expecting their first child. I had heard friends talking about the dating scene on the internet and couldn’t imagine myself doing any of it. Then one day just out of curiosity I logged onto a dating agency and searched for my own age range. I was just sixty at the time and slowly it dawned that there were many isolated and lonely people of my generation out there seeking companionship. For most it is the first faltering step towards finding company, sharing outings, weekends away, eating out and drives into the country. For others there is some hope of a long term relationship and with any luck one that brings love, closeness, fun and intimacy.

Of course being alone had its compensations, no one to justify oneself too. Being able to handle your own affairs, your home is yours and becomes a sanctuary and a haven. Disadvantages are loneliness, isolation and anxiety when ill, no partner with whom to cope with everyday problems. I am sure you will have your own list of advantages and disadvantages springing to mind.

If you want to take the first steps towards meeting new people, finding someone special, make friends or just play the field then it means moving on from the loss.
What do I do to meet new people?
Where do I go?
How do I go about it?
Do I want a long term relationship?
How will I feel being with someone new?
Do I want a sexual relationship?
Is it alright not to want a sexual relationship?

I may be stating the obvious when I say join night classes for any subject you find vaguely interesting. Think of all the things you have wanted to do if only you had the time, you are never too old, a friend of mine, sixty two has recently been learning how to ice skate, another tap dancing, another to singing lessons eventually becoming a member of a choir.  I remember thinking a couple of years ago I would like to ball room dance but believed one had to have a partner to go with, not true! There are many places who offer classes to singles of all ages and being over sixty should not be off putting.

I strongly recommend dating agencies, I know you may be horrified as many of my friends were but alternatively another set of friends both young and old met their present partner through the Guardian News papers singles page another the Manchester Evening News and through dating agencies.  

If you are interested in joining an internet dating agency here are a few recommendations.
From the beginning you must be specific about what you are looking for in friend, or a potential partner and stick to it, for example Age range, smoking or nonsmoking, car owner, hobbies, own hair or none as the case maybe, own teeth, good health and smart in appearance, remember ambiguity can lead to misunderstanding. You may want someone who goes to church or who is of a particular denomination, you might want someone super fit believe me there are a lot of men over sixty who are fit and healthy out there but that doesn’t necessarily mean fit for you. One friend found out that super fit over sixty meant fear of aging.

In terms of describing your self fully and I don’t mean wealthy widow seeks toy boy, I mean be careful how you present yourself so that you do not attract the wrong type of person. Finding the right language means steer clear of jargon like ‘cool dude of sixty five seeks active female’ Might be best described as healthy and active, modern thinking man of sixty five, seeks woman of a similar ilk’.

Using the internet has its risks like any meeting place for strangers but chatting on email is a way of finding out as much as you can before venturing into a get-together. Most dating agencies on line allow you to chat without revealing your email address. Maintain your privacy until you feel sure you are ready to meet. Do not disclose too much personal information about yourself for example your financial status or where you live. On the internet you can talk to people freely through email using the dating system which will protect you from predators as long as you stick to the guidelines. I personally believe that you are safer meeting someone through the internet than in a public bar or club. Describe yourself truthfully don’t enhance yourself by stretching the truth to take you back to how you looked ten years ago. Put a recent picture in the blurb, in fact more than one it makes such a difference, state your hobbies and what you are interested are. If someone writes to you and you do not like the sound or look of them do not be afraid to reply by stating clearly they are not for you for whatever reason. By that I do not mean be bad mannered or cruel it is always a good idea to let people down easily. ‘Sorry your nose is too big or in your picture you look older than you say.’ Might be better written as “Thank you for your email I will keep you in mind.”

When you have decided to go ahead and take that step beyond email make careful arrangements, meet in a public place, tell someone where you are going and when you will be home. Don’t have this stranger coming to your house or taking you home, keep yourself safe, horrible as it may sound there are quite a lot of unscrupulous people out there but that applies to every thing in life with or without the internet.

For those of us over the age of sixty there are plenty of opportunities for improving the quality of life, if you are feeling guilty about leaving behind the loved one you lost then don’t! Just ask yourself the question would he or she want me to be lonely, unhappy and outside of life? If the answer is no then go for it, do everything possible to make the best of life, however if the answer is yes, ask yourself why.

I used internet dating about eight years ago and found a wonderful man of sixty one, neither of us had any intention of falling in love we merely wanted to find a companion for social events. We did fall in love which I didn’t think possible at sixty and we married in 2004. Of course there are always horror stories but if you keep your boundaries clear you will be safe, like anything in life we have to keep moving forward to live life to the full.

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