I don’t think there is any kind of definitive answer to that question. Some folks say the thought of dating again is almost sickening to them. Others begin dating quite soon after the death of a spouse. From my experience of walking with many folks in both camps, I have concluded that the timing has very little to do with whether or not the marriage was happy and the spouse loved. I think the timing or even whether or not someone ever dates depends upon the needs of each individual. Some folks find being alone to be impossible to bear while others seem to be able to adjust and over time even enjoy that life. One friend whose husband died a few years ago tells me she would love to have someone to go places with but had no desire to be serious about anyone. She says, “Living alone can be addictive.” Other friends of mine would find that statement to be strange indeed.
From my observations I think men are more likely to date or even marry earlier than women after the death of a spouse. I think the major reason for this is many men do not prepare for the possibility of living alone. My neighbor recently said, “I am totally lost. I went to the grocery store the other day, I don’t know where anything is. When I went with my wife, I just pushed the cart and paid no attention. I don’t know how to do the laundry or run the dishwasher. I don’t even know where to take the cleaning. I had no idea I would ever have to do these things and don’t know who I can ask to teach me.”
There are women who are not prepared as well. But most of the time their lack of knowledge is in the area of finance, insurance and house and automobile maintenance. One of my pet peeves is men who keep their wives in the dark about their business. I have had to walk with far too many women who had no knowledge concerning finance and some who were taken advantage of by unscrupulous advisers.
None of us wants to think about our death or the death of our spouse, so most of us make no preparation for that possibility and find ourselves unprepared to care for ourselves as a single person.
All of this has an impact on the need and the timing for dating. The thought of me dating almost makes me ill, but there is no way that I would make any bold predictions about whether or not I would do so. None of us knows how we will react if and when we are faced with living alone. None of us should pass judgment on those who date before we think they should. We may well do the same in like circumstances.
When should someone date? Society seems to have some kind of unwritten rule that no one should do so for at least a year. I do not know who set that date or why. I have no idea why one year is sacred and anything earlier is somehow not showing proper respect to the departed. Sometimes early dating simply means the marriage was so meaningful they can’t live without being married.
I think a person should date when they feel ready to do so. I do have some fear of marrying before walking the grief journey and marrying just because we are lonely. I will deal with those ideas in future blogs, but sometimes dating can be therapeutic and helpful. It certainly should be done with great care and hopefully with the realization that it is far too easy to fall in love during the grief process, but some folks need the companionship and relaxation of a relationship.
Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at www.insightbooks.com. Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community www.thecarecommunity.com.
Updated: January 3, 2015