BY SANDRA GUY
If you’re newly available and starting to date after 40, you don’t have to feel like Rip Van Winkle.
Nothing feels the same, especially for people coming out of a long marriage.
But a Chicago-area therapist says take a deep breath and prepare to learn about dating apps, online privacy and keeping your cool when a date reminds you of your ex.
It will be worth it.
A key part of learning to use dating apps is to figure out what works best for you and to avoid getting overwhelmed, says Alexandra H. Solomon, Ph.D., @AHSolomon dralexandrasolomon.com/ whose “Marriage 101” class at Northwestern University has been featured on NBC’s “Today Show” and who has just published her second book, “Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationship You Want (New Harbinger Publications, 2020),” urging women to find their unique sexual selves.
“What works for you may be different than what works for your best friend or sister,” said Solomon, a licensed clinical psychologist who practices at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and who teaches in the university’s School of Education and Social Policy.
Beware being overwhelmed with potential dates.
“You can stand in line at Trader Joe’s and swipe on 20 people – the issue is the volume of the possibilities of people,” Solomon said.
It’s a quantity versus quality issue.
And get clear on why you’re re-entering the dating scene.
“People may find it’s helpful to go slow to avoid burnout and cynicism,” said Solomon, 46, who’s been married for 21 years. “Keep in mind this is a learning and growing process.”
Questions you should ask yourself include: Am I ready to date? Am I choosing to date because I’m excited about the possibilities of love? Or because I’m afraid of being alone or seeing my ex find someone else first?
The healthy answer is telling yourself, “I have a lot to offer a partner. I’m excited to love again,’” said Solomon, whose first book is “Loving Bravely: Twenty Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want” (New Harbinger, 2017).
So after you’ve laid the groundwork, practical issues matter.
Use a free Google phone number to make dating connections.
Never get picked up or dropped off for a date at your home. Meet at a restaurant or other public place.
And finally, sit with your feelings when you get home from a first date – BEFORE you discuss it with anyone else, even your best friend, your mom or your sister.
“Whether you’re 25 or 55, you should take time to check in with yourself and see how you feel before a whole squad of people start to weigh in,” she said. “Internalizing other people’s strong opinions about your love life is a boundary violation, and it makes it harder for you to figure out how you feel. You need to figure out for yourself, ‘How do I feel about this connection?’”
The issue gets more complicated when children are involved. There are no hard and fast rules.
“It’s important for kids to be brought in once there’s a sense of clarity – that this is exclusive, that we’re building a relationship,” Solomon said. Some joint parenting agreements specify a timeframe in which the children can be introduced to a new partner.
If becoming a step-parent seems daunting, stay open-minded.
“Sometimes, our lives unfold in a way we can’t foresee,” Solomon said. “Sometimes becoming a step-parent becomes one of the most beautiful aspects of a person’s life.”
Finally, do your own healing work to deal with loving after loss.
“Understand and sit with the emotions – anger, sadness, shame, disappointment -- and process those feelings, ideally with a therapist,” she said. “That way, you can trust yourself to choose a new partner for who that new partner is, versus in reaction to your loss.”