Tell Me About It: My marriage is over and I’m struggling with the dating game

I’ve had no luck meeting anyone so far and I am nervous about internet dating

Illustration: Thinkstock

Illustration: Thinkstock

 

Q I am now six years out of my marriage and am wondering how to get back into the dating game. My husband was the first major boyfriend I ever had, and we were together for 12 years.

The first six were very happy but it was a very tough relationship by the end. He was working away a lot and it took me a long time to realise that he was having a double life.

I had thought we would have a family. Instead I find I am alone, childless and getting older. I have managed to pull myself together and have continued with my job and lost some weight; this has to be the only good outcome of my separation. I have good friends but they are all married and have kids. It makes me feel lonely to watch them being so happy. I know they will always be there for me but they are not interested in going to nightclubs or pubs, and I feel the years are slipping by.

I want to try dating, but so far I have had no luck meeting anyone. I did all the usual things like joining a drama group and going hiking at the weekends, but there is no one eligible there, and anyway, I’m not sure I’d know how to start anything.

I am not sure I want to have kids but I would like to have a relationship where I might have the option. I am nervous about trying the internet.

A It would seem that circumstances have forced you into the position of starting the process of dating again, only this time the rules are very different from when you were younger.

Then it was just possible to fall into a relationship with someone and figure out if it was working as it went along.

Now you get a chance to put all that hard learning from your marriage into good use. Hopefully you can find someone who is capable of loyalty and honesty with you. It is frightening to put yourself in the market for a partner, as it can mean rejection, but remember that you not only survived the break-up of your marriage but you still have enough belief in relationships to take another risk.

The internet and dating sites are the obvious next step for you, as you have already tried local clubs to no avail. What the internet can offer is access to a huge number of potential romantic partners. While it is not a substitute for face-to-face encounters, it is a great place to start, and you will benefit from the scale and diversity it can offer. You can imagine dating sites as a sort of virtual ballroom where you might have to assess a couple of hundred people before deciding which one you would like to dance with.

There has been a lot of stigma associated with online dating in the past, but it is fast becoming the major way people now seek and find enduring love. Anxieties associated with it can include the fear of your profile being seen by friends and colleagues, the fear of meeting sexual predators or of meeting up with secretly married partners. While all these things are possible, there is no way to have access to potential partners without risk or effort.

The first step is to create a profile. This can take a couple of hours. Try to be honest with your picture and profile, and only put down what is true. Men tend to add inches to height and women tend to take a few pounds off their weight, and this can lead to disappointment on the first date.

Then you need to spend time reading through other people’s profiles and seeing who you think you might like to meet up with.

Research from the US suggests the best outcomes are from those who communicate virtually for about a week or two and then turn it into an actual meeting. If you find you are still texting or writing a month later, it is probably wise to move on to another possibility.

If you are worried about the marital status of the other person, suggest a coffee or a walk in their local area. If they refuse, you should again move on.

Often it takes time to uncover the good qualities in people, so if your interest is roused, perhaps it is worth a second outing. The hardest step is the first one; with experience, you will get better at judging who to meet. Remember that fortune favours the brave, so get online and have some fun. 

Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist. For advice, email tellmeaboutit @irishtimes.com. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into

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