Reinventing Romance: Dating to Date vs. Dating to Marry – 3/01/2007
According to a recent New York Times poll, 51 percent of women in 2005 reported they live without a spouse. Census data from that same year finds that older widows and divorced women often don’t opt for remarriage. Karen Gail Lewis, marriage and family therapist and author of the self-help book, With or Without a Man: Single Women Taking Control of Their Lives, has said, "One reason many older women don’t get married again is they have been through marriage and don’t want to start over with a new man and relationship that may not be good."
Beth, a 48-year-old Philadelphia banker, phrases it this way: "I’ve been married and I’ve been single and single is better." She elaborates, "I’ve already had my kids, money isn’t an issue, and my friends are an incredible support system. For me, men are the whipped cream."
Still, not all mature single girls are just out to have fun. Lisa, a Boston-based marketing executive admits wistfully, "I have enjoyed a fairly successful career but at 40 I would give this all up in a minute to turn the clock back and focus on my MRS."
Clearly, then, it’s not a one-dating-style-fits-all scenario. "Looking for love is a lifestyle choice just as staying single is," says Ronnie Ann Ryan, author of MANifesting Mr. Right: It’s Never Too Late to Find the Love You Want (www.nevertoolate.biz). The Connecticut dating coach adds, "Neither is better than the other — they both have pros and cons."
Understand Your Motivation
The trick is to be in control. Understand your motivations, or else risk being driven by a vast miasma of subconscious needs. Dr. Judy Kuriansky, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating, 3rd Edition suggests, "Ask friends that you trust and who know your history for feedback about how you’re conducting your dating life. This can help you sort things out."
For example, eight years after an acrimonious divorce, Shana still found herself "running from men who seemed like relationship material." The 43-year-old Los Angeles casting director said, "On the outside my life was enviable — lots of partying with actors and musicians who cringed as I did at mention of the ‘C’ word. But I found myself crying myself to sleep night after night." Shana’s closest friend asked her, "Do you know you still talk about the night you found out Bill was cheating? It was devastating but maybe it’s time to let it go."
Shana finally entered therapy to deal with her long-buried feelings of betrayal and loss. "The only person I’m dating these days is myself. I need a man break to figure out who I am and what I want."
Debbi, a 50-year-old divorced New York social worker has come back strong after a six-month self-imposed man break. "I was never a dater; for me it was a serious relationship or nothing. I viewed every man as a potential marriage partner. I’m intense to begin with so you can imagine the amount of pressure I put out. Guys would run for the hills."
She has come to realize that her life works as is. "I adopted a child on my own. I’m happy. Actually I think it would be hard to fit a man into my daily routine." Nowadays she dates to date. "I’m juggling three men. I’m not sleeping with any of them but it all feels exciting and fun." She laughs, "I think the ideal is being a ‘mistress’ to an unmarried man — you just see each other a few days a week so it never gets stale."
While keeping herself in an attachment-free emotional state is healthier and less off-putting than her former ‘must marry, must marry’ mantra, in her heart of hearts does Debbi still long for intimacy? Can there be a happy medium?
Dr. Kuriansky says, "Even if your agenda is ultimately to find the one, having a casual, nonjudgmental attitude toward men allows you to lower your expectations, thus suffering fewer disappointments. And you’re more appealing than when you clutch."
Plus, you can better enjoy a date in the moment if you’re not obsessing about the future. Pam has found a balance. The 41-year-old divorced Chicago computer consultant says, "I’d rather be home with a good book than on a bad date. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to meet a wonderful companion. I’m willing to see if a relationship has potential but I’m not crushed if it doesn’t. I won’t twist myself into a pretzel trying to turn Mr. Inappropriate into Mr. Right."
For many women, trying to maintain a casual mind-set becomes difficult once sex enters the room. Debbi, the divorced social worker, reveals how she was able to shift from pouring herself whole-heartedly into every new relationship. "I bought a vibrator. It’s easy to enjoy uncommitted dating now that I can take care of business at home!"
For help answering your toughest dating-related questions, e-mail Sherry at DatingExpert@More.com and your question might be featured in an upcoming column.