In Getting Naked Again psychologist, Ph.D. and author Judith Sills offers some pretty good advice for women 40 and older starting over after divorce, death or being dumped. I believe it’s worth sharing–with a spin. (Metaphors . . . it’s what I do.) You see . . . while I may not be a Ph.D., I do have L.I.F.E. framed on my wall. (It’s hanging next to a B.A. in German and a Reviewers’ Award of Excellence for a romance novel I wrote in 1993. Ok, I’m kidding–about the L.I.F.E. Degree. But the other two not. Them’s I got.) Moreover, prior to my 2016 six month experiment with online dating – chronicled in my humor book I Still Want Fireworks (and available on Amazon hint, hint) – I pretty much managed—over a span of four freaking months—to qualify (in order) on all three of Dr. Sills’ ds. Ergo as a textbook example of, I figure I’m an expert for. Or not. But since it’s my blog, oh well . . .
So . . . here it is, with an assist from Dr. Sills . . . my metaphoric lessons lived and learned—and condensed into a handy-dandy 3 step starting over synopsis:
- Rejection. Don’t kid yourself. When you start dating again, it happens. And it hurts! Whether online or off—and even if you really don’t even want the snaggle-toothed, balding, potbellied, dead fish holding loser—being stood up or ghosted or dumped in any way by him still stings! Ladies, rejection is like a river – and it washes away your confidence and erodes your self-esteem. (It also resurrects even long dormant insecurities. But that particular visual doesn’t work with this metaphor. Nevertheless, think of a dam some busy little freakin’ beaver built . . . it slows your mojo flow to a trickle.) In my case, ala online dating, at the three month midpoint I’d had 486 profile views, only 52 email contacts and a scant score of replies that resulted in 1 lousy dinner date. Now I ask you . . . How could any woman in her right mind not feel rejected?
- Self-doubt. Being rejected during the dating/starting over process—especially if you were the one dumped or divorced—inevitably leads to the belief that something is wrong with you. And then whoa, Nellie! Suddenly your “toos” (too old, too fat, too needy, too controlling, too whatever) become a side channel that flows right back into Rejection River. Now Reject. Riv. is a churning torrent, raging down Rebuff Mountain to sweep you in self-pity and drown you in doubt. Before you realize it, you are convinced you are undesirable and unworthy of being loved—especially if you were left, dumped or divorced for a better model with obvious upgrades. BTW, even if you divorced him, society has a tendency to still consider you the one lacking. Whether he was an alcoholic, abuser, control freak narcissist or serial cheater . . . it doesn’t matter. YOU walked, so YOU failed to make it work. YOU failed to honor the whole “for better for worse ’til death do us part” promise, and so YOU broke up the family—happy or not. “No wonder no one wants you now!” screams your inner insecure self. FYI, Dr. Sills calls this spate of emotions a “flood.”
- Giving up. At some point, however, the feelings faucet turns off. Hot emotion turns to icy indifference. Rejection River has frozen over, and floating floes of ice make navigation a practical impossibility. Indeed, Dr. Sills refers to this as the “freeze.” I call it the “fuck it” phase. No one is ever going to want you—not now, not later, not ever—so what’s the fucking point of trying? You might as well dock your dating boat and hang up your oars. Your paddling days are over. Take up knitting and get a cat. (I love the TV promo I once saw for an upcoming episode of some comedy show. The mom asks her adult daughter, “So, now that I’m undesirable to men, do the cats just show up? Or do I need to go to the shelter and pick some out?” I may have misquoted it, but the essence, humor and truth are certainly there.)
According to Dr. Sills (who I am sure does have a Ph.D. framed on her wall), all of the emotions and reactions relayed above are normal. She calls the whole process “healing.” And healing, she says, “is slow and it does not occur in a straight line.” Healing entails answering a lot of questions, too. For example, what it is that you want now? And what is it that you’ll want later? (See my post or video “Sex vs Intimacy part 1” for more details.) Indeed, you might not know right away. And that is ok. Here is where Dr. Sills believes dating of any form helps, online or off. (Personally, I’m not too sure—but I’ll defer to the real expert, ’cause trust me. My insistence upon fireworks has gotten me nowhere–except burned.) Even if all you learn from the experience is what you don’t want, that’s progress, says Sills. It gets you closer to what you do. (I’ll buy that.) She also talks at length about the need to “relax your requirements,” “check your attitude” and “cut yourself and the guy across the table a break.” She also advocates re-examining one’s objectives, contending that are “different men for different purposes,” whether they be for travel, dinner, conversation or sex. She believes lowering expectations and shifting thinking will put “more fun and less fret” into the dating experience. Her final big piece of advice: “Slow down and resist your urge to hunt for The One” and look instead “for a little while, to date the many,” because “even a lousy date can pay off in several ways.” She lists them on pages 139-140 of her book, if you are interested.
Personally, I’ve spent more time than I ever wanted – or expected – paddling Rejection River. And BTW, Rejection River has another name. Starting out as a lovely, picturesque, seemingly perfect watercourse (no pun intended), it goes by the enticing (and oft deceptive) name of Mr. Right. Unfortunately though, this initially quite enjoyable ride can betray expectations. The current can turn hazardous. And before you know it, you can find yourself headed for a drop-off. Ergo, you need to pay attention to the warning signs beforehand. (Yes. Do as I say, not as I do.) In my case, I sure as hell missed a lot of them. But following the events of two weeks ago (see “Time to Say Goodbye”) . . . yeah, nothing but treacherous rapids ahead. So before I totally wreck my canoe, I gotta dry dock it (no pun intended). I also need to seek out a less challenging stream. Fellow boating enthusiasts do say there’s a less perilous option for my future endeavors. Also heartily recommended by many canoeing experts, including Dr. Sills, I hear tell it’s a rivulet called Mr Right For Right Now. I guess after I patch up my canoe and bandage my bruises, I’ll be looking for it . . . Or not.