It was late 2006. I had happily checked dating off my list in the 80s! I had never really thought about or planned on dating anyone at midlife… I didn’t want to be alone either. I was living on a bridge between two worlds, while being a part of neither. I was paralyzed, unable to move from defining myself as divorced to just me alone.
Then a friend invited me to a charity dinner, and offered me two tickets. Not one, to be a third wheel accompanying her and her husband, but two! She thought it was time for me to consider dating. The invitation was conditional and not too subtle — I had to invite someone to join me, to fill out her table.
My divorce had only been final for 4-5 months, but it took almost three years in process to get there. I hoped I would one day remarry, but I never really looked forward to dating. My limbo life was a weird “halftime” between relationships, with no guarantee of a second half. Turns out my adventures in dating would be part of the entertainment before the next half!
The prospect was scary, exciting, foreign, and hopeful — all at the same time. Dating had the potential of being beautiful — to consider the possibility of falling in love with the right man — but it was also dangerous in that there was the potential for the sting of hurt and rejection.
Romance and relationship were FAR from my mind; I was more panicked. I wanted to go to the event, to tackle this “first date” hurdle, but I had no idea how to find a date, just a companion for the night. Soon word got out, and through a friend of a friend type of deal, I was introduced to someone else with two tickets and no date to the same event. We trashed two tickets and agreed to go together. Problem one solved.
OH MY GOSH! I hadn’t been on a date in over 20 years! What would I wear? How would this work? Would he pick me up at my house? The logistics weren’t really the problem… this date wasn’t about my escort or the event. It was totally about how I saw myself. I had been living in a married world and seeing myself as a divorced woman, a misfit. An outsider in a familiar land. I had to shift, to leave behind my “scarlet D,” and rediscover who I was as a single woman.
The dress was more significant than for prom! It was a black tie event, but the importance lay more in the transitioning — how I chose to present myself. I found a dress with spaghetti straps that I liked. Not wanting extra wardrobe malfunction stress, I had them sew in the proper undergarments. I picked up the dress just in time. The children were out for the night, and I began to get ready. All was going well, until the dress… You would think that it wouldn’t be necessary to try it on after such a simple addition. Bad call. He was to pick me up in 15 minutes and the seamstress had missed her mark, twice. I looked like an alien with four breasts! Would I fall off the bridge?
I ran barefoot next door, where my neighbor was with friends, to see if it looked as bad as I thought. They confirmed that It did, and I’m sure had a great belly laugh! Thankfully, my date was late, because of a child’s band practice, and I was able to solve the problem before he arrived! The night went off without a “hitch” in any sense of the word! The first date was the most difficult, and it was behind me.
There’s no perfect way to date after divorce. I’m just sharing my experience in hopes that it might benefit someone else. At a minimum, it might give you a few laughs! I put myself out there, vulnerable, and it was worth it!
In dating, I learned to text (2006) and to shoot a gun (just skeet). 😉 I tried many new things like four wheeling, being the only ones on the dance floor, hunting, horseback riding, skyping and biking for miles. I wore high heels more often and learned to eat sushi. I had fun and laughed. I was set up by friends, family and even online. I got to know some nice men and learned a lot about myself.
I needed that season. God blessed and protected me with mostly good times with kind gentlemen. I’m sensitive to the fact that some women have bad experiences in dating. I was careful and clear about my own boundaries and motivation (getting to know myself and others). Other than that, I don’t know why I was so blessed, but I really feel God protected me and I am thankful. There was definitely some hurt involved, but there usually is with growth. I believe God did guard my heart from unnecessary pain and from falling in love too soon.
After a short while, this whirlwind of fun was beginning to feel empty. I appreciated all the new friendships, and I had needed to date, to have fun and to be desired. But it lost its allure fairly quickly. Then I actually met someone different from men I knew, and he possessed many qualities I wanted in a man. I was thinking more about a relationship now. We dated a short while. We both knew it wasn’t forever, and we needed to move on to whatever was ahead. I can’t really say why we parted ways, but I know God was involved.
All the pain and rejection of divorce flooded me again — compounded by every rejection, lost hope, and dream of the last couple of years, as well as twenty years of marriage. I went on a few more dates, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t just date anyone again. The bar was set high by my one, short “relationship,” and I wouldn’t spend time with men I knew I wouldn’t marry.
I was the one-date wonder! I would go out with great men, and feel nothing. I think it was usually mutual. Three men in a row, including the special one I dated for a while, met their future wife — immediately after we went out! They all joyfully told me about their new relationships. While I was excited for them, I couldn’t help but wonder, why not me? I’d see strangers holding hands, and I hurt. It felt like I would always be alone. I felt as if God was playing a cruel joke on me! In reality, I needed to fully heal, and this was all part of it.
It was a tough time. It was also necessary, and God was with me in the most wonderful ways. I learned He really was enough. I hoped to one day meet the man I dreamed of, but I knew that if I didn’t, I was ok. God, Immanuel, was with me. My faith, trust and my relationship with Him deepened. I was lonely in the world, but I was content in my deepest soul. And I came to accept that I really was loved by Him — personally.
My life was pretty good, and I was building it alone. In the strangest of circumstances, Rob and I were introduced. Before we ever met, I was drawn to his kind eyes and smile. We went out on a Friday, then again on Saturday. By that second date, I felt at home with Rob. There’s no other way to describe it. We mutually fell in love faster than we were willing to admit out loud. Rob was my real life personification of Ephesians 3:20. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Rob was far better for me than I could have asked for or imagined.
Ephesians 3:20 comes AFTER Ephesians 3:11-19, and that was true in my life too. “ I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
These verses were read aloud by my daughter at our wedding! Jesus is first in both our lives. I am frequently overwhelmed with thanks to God for leading me to Rob, who is better suited for me than anyone I could have hoped for or dreamed of!
In a nutshell, nothing was possible unless I had ruthless trust in a worthy and BIG God. A God who loved me perfectly. Some observations I’ve looking back at that time:
- I was willing to be vulnerable and to risk the fear of rejection and pain. Trust God.
- I was committed to dating the way that I believed the Bible revealed God desired. Trust God.
- I was eventually unwilling to date a good man, just to be with someone, to avert my loneliness. Trust God.
- I was willing to say and believe, “I’m not entitled to earthly love, and God is enough. He is my portion, even if I don’t find love in a man.” Trust God.
- I only wanted to marry a man who loved God first and foremost. Trust God.
- I was willing to abandon fears from the past, and risk loving openly and trusting fully in marrying Rob, when it was clear God had introduced me to the one. Trust God.
- I’m committed for life to trusting God.
This is just a little of my experience and what God accomplished in me during the awkward process of midlife dating. It’s not a formula for dating or successfully finding the spouse of your dreams. But trusting God is essential for living abundantly (John 10:10). Joy, Peace, and Love are His gifts to His children, regardless of our circumstances.
God used divorce and dating ( ROMANS 8:28) to teach me that I hadn’t fully accepted His perfect love as sufficient. He showed me that I still had major outside influences that I believed were necessary for my security, and He taught me what it meant to trust Him with and in all my life — regardless of outcomes. He’s still working on all that.
It’s an ongoing process… I give Him control, I give Him my burdens, only to find I have soon grabbed them back with clenched fists. Surrender is daily, and even more often sometimes. But I know Who He is, how much He loves me and that He alone can be trusted with my whole life — so I begin again. The Joy of surrender to Him is available to everyone.