When is the Right Time to Start Dating?

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Understanding the process of grief is important in helping you determine if you are emotionally ready to date, or if you are simply trying to fill a hole prematurely.  I recommend reading The Stages of Grief and determining where you are in those stages before you begin dating.  In the Withdrawal Stage intense feelings of loneliness and physical deprivations can lead people into dating prematurely.  In these early stages, not only are we extremely emotionally vulnerable, but we are also volatile with can make lasting relationships very difficult to maintain.  Reasoning and decision making skills are compromised as well in the beginning stages.  Prior to the Identity stage, we have also not yet reinvented our identity as a single entity separate from our spouse.  Bringing that into a relationship also thwarts it from the beginning.  Furthermore, we also run the risk of trying to “plug” a different person into the mold of our spouse.  This can cause resentment and disappointment when that person fails to measure up.  Clinical psychotherapist, Susan Anderson, specializing in abandonment and loss said,

“Some people preempt the latter phases by meeting someone early on in the grieving. Plugging a new person into the empty spaces dilutes the pain and partially distracts us from the loss. Some of the preempted grief gets transmuted into abandonment feelings (i.e. intense insecurity, fear of loss) in the new relationship.”

Dating will mask some of the pain, but it will not resolve it.  If grief is not dealt with prior to marriage or a serious relationship, it will resurface to cause wounds and damage at a later date.  Dating in the Lifting stage, or when you can fairly consistently remaining there will allow you to develop a much more stable and less volatile beginning.

The truth is that second marriages are fraught with challenges, especially when blending families.  If children are involved, then considering their stage of healing is also important to the success of the family relationship.  Too often grieving spouses seek solace in a relationship at the cost of their relationships with their children and at the psychological expense of their children having to grieve first the loss of a parent to death and second the perceive abandonment of the second parent.  These emotional scars, tend to cause damaging fallout later down the road and may take years to repair.

In the beginning we feel an inability to be alone, but later in the Reorganizing Phase we learn and discover many life changing things that refine and better us.  This phase can be processed while in a relationship, but there are time benefits to being single during this phase as well.

Anderson discover that for people who were suffered feelings of abandonment due to infidelity or abuse in their past marriage,”finding a new partner (sooner rather than later) who could lavish them with love and attention proved healing by helping to assuage their feelings of being unworthy and perpetually abandoned.” (19)

Weigh all of these things carefully as you begin to date and move forward cautiously, testing the waters for all family members involved as you go.  If you find trouble in the uncharted waters of dating, it is okay to drop anchor and reassess the situation.  Perhaps time and additional healing is a more prudent course.  I caution you not to let strong emotions rush you into premature decisions that you will later regret. Dating is something we cannot force no matter how lonely we may feel. Part of the process is prayfully waiting for the right timing and the right person.

Sources:

“Grieving a Death.” Anderson, Susan. Date last modified <2006>. Available at: http://www.abandonment.net/articles. Accessed <03/25/2015>.

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