Reentering the dating world in midlife can be both exciting and stressful.
Statistics are showing a growing trend in middle aged single (divorced, widowed) people. Add to that the the average life expectancy in the US is between 78 and 81 years old and we find a large number of single people with many vibrant years ahead of them!
Getting back into the dating scene if you have been away for awhile can be a challenge. Now add to that you are sober and looking for a companion who is also sober. This can be both a challenge and a gift.
One of the many benefits of life experience is you better know yourself and what you want and what you don’t want. Whether you are newly sober or have been sober for decades, choosing a companion is a serious decision that should also be fun.
We learn from our experiences and that most certainly includes previous relationships. That can be a great asset in returning to the dating scene.
As we age, we have a greater sense of who we are and more confidence in our strengths. We have a better sense of our interests and the direction we want our life to go in. If you have overcome an addiction, then you have that much more evidence of your strength and worth. Getting clean and sober is a journey of self-discovery and includes building a new healthy relationship with yourself. Now that you have built that relationship with yourself, you can apply the principles to connecting with someone else.
Some Important Things to Consider When Reentering the Dating World:
- Be clear about what you are looking for. For some people, a serious relationship is the end goal of dating. For others, meeting new people and having new experiences is more important than a long term commitment. Know what you want (though remain open to the fact that your goal may change over time) and you will more likely find a partner or partners that have the same goal as you.
- Learn from past relationships. You may be single for a number of reasons but by mid-life, most of us have had a number of interpersonal relationships. Some of those relationships may have been unhealthy or hurtful. Others may have been quite fulfilling but ended for various reasons (The US Census Bureau estimates that 800000 people are widowed each year.)
- Be open! Try not to have expectations that you will recreate a previous relationship. You are in a different place in your life and may find that you are attracted to people and activities you never were before. Be willing to try new things and activities (we are never too old to learn something new or begin a new hobby.)
- There are many ways to meet new people but be sure you are doing so in a safe and thoughtful manner.
Many sober people who participate in support groups like AA or NA meet potential partners in the meetings. This can be both good and bad. If you are meeting someone in recovery than you can have a sense that they value sobriety as you do. You may “speak the same language” and even have friends in common. Problems can arise though as relationships can complicate your program of recovery. If you meet someone in your home group or in a meeting you regularly attend, you may feel less able to speak openly in the meetings. Additionally, if problems should arise in the relationship, it can make attending those meetings that you once found helpful, uncomfortable. It is almost like dating someone at your job. If it works out, great! If not, you have to see the person at work everyday and all your co-workers know.
Another way to meet potential partners is by getting involved in groups that center around your interests – such as the theater, skiing, gourmet dining, chess, ballroom dancing, art museums, or opera to name a few. The difficulty may be that those people you meet may drink either socially or problematically. You may also feel uncomfortable initially explaining your desire to remain abstinent. For most, sobriety is hard won and not something you want to risk losing when reentering the dating world.
More and more, singles are turning to dating websites with increasing success. Such sites allow you to share who you are, what you are interested in, and who you would like to meet. This allows you to “screen” potential dating partners before you even meet them in person. Additionally, sites that specify sobriety as a primary factor removes the barrier of having to discern if potential partners drink, have a problem with drinking, or have a problem with your sobriety!
Meeting new people and remaining socially active is good for both our physical and mental health. Getting sober gives us a new life and a world filled with new people and opportunities.
Regina Walker, LCSW, BCD, CASAC is a licensed psychotherapist, writer, and photographer in NYC.
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