Ask Helen: Be cautious, not guarded in return to dating scene

After rough year, get your mojo back by engaging the world

Dear Helen:

I’m finally ready to start dating after five years “off the market.” I had two failed marriages. After each I wanted five years of my life back, so I waited and did a lot of counseling so I wouldn’t repeat the same issues yet again. I’m self-supporting, decent looking and generally considered intelligent, cheerful, funny and a good person. But I’m not merely rusty with dating … I’m hopelessly out of my element with everything from communications to touching. I’m also a 20th-century gal in a 21st-century dating scene.
Ready, Or Not?

Dear Ready:

Your question reflects ambivalence that may protect you from another bad choice. But it also may keep you so guarded that you’ll miss out on a good one.

There are two routes: speed dating and slow dating. The advantage of speed dating (in person or online) is that you’ll learn to talk about yourself and also see there are many, many people looking to connect. Unless you’re painfully shy it’s a good place get your feet wet and to identify both icebreakers and deal breakers. Don’t have unrealistic expectations. After seeing an array of prospective suitors you’ll realize that virtually everyone feels as awkward as you. Look for events based around whatever demographic you care most about, whether that’s Jewish, professional or random within an age range. Follow the usual cautions about not giving out private contact information too soon. Some people use dedicated cell/email for their early dating life.

When you do meet someone you want to date, as described above or through more traditional means (like a fix-up through friends), strive for accessibility and openness but don’t feel responsible for full disclosure on everything you are or feel (from political opinions to food allergies) within the first three hours. Think of it like a job interview. Share stories about various aspects of life. Think about favorite books, movies, hobbies, etc. Be careful about criticizing people you may know in common, or assuming a level of familiarity that’s inappropriate too soon. But if you hear ‘I love Donald Trump!” run away fast.

As for touching, there’s nothing more romantic than anticipation, good-night kisses and exploring intimacy. It’ll add spice and buy time while you learn about whomever you’re exploring. Enjoy the ride.

Dear Helen:

My husband of 30 years is about to retire. He is ALWAYS GOING TO BE HOME!! His idea of doing something on his own is to go for a bike ride. But a 65-year-old guy with a bad back can only be gone for so long, as in not long enough! How can I get him interested in anything that gets him out from underfoot? It’ll matter in summer, but even more so during my teaching year. I’m afraid I’ll kill him if I don’t have any alone time.

Too Much Hubby

Dear Too Much:

Finding privacy in a marriage or live-in relationship is hard. Many of us leave home to relax with friends, but that’s not the same as sitting quietly with a good book, unplugging the phones and knowing the only thing that might interrupt the calm is a pet nosing for a treat. Your fear is legit: He’s probably a little afraid of all the newfound open space/time he’ll have, and he may cling to you as a security blanket.

The bad back suggests that yoga or classes at a gym are great places to start. Also, volunteering. Sit down with a list of nonprofits whose missions you support and talk about which ones interest him. Perhaps he has always had a secret yen to learn something new, from woodworking to watercolor. Find him a class. Suggest that he tackle the list of honey-do projects every household has. He’ll still be home, but your together time can be more playful without the chores looming. You’re going to have to be more patient than you feel, especially this summer. But by autumn you should have established a routine that gets you quiet evenings and weekends.

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