Although it may be second nature to hope that you might find similar qualities in a new partner to those of your late husband or wife, it is important not to rule out the possibility that the next person in your life may well be completely different.
This does not mean that you won’t be sharing interests together, but more that you will be exploring new ideas and aspects of your personality, which will make this relationship special in its own unique way.
Making a concerted effort to learn about your new partner’s interests and hobbies and being open about your own, is one way of building upon the relationship. It might be worthwhile to observe your new partner’s choice of activities and consider whether they could appeal to you. Something you have previously disregarded as not being to your taste may, in actual fact, present an opportunity for you to discover new skills. This could also be a good way of gaining confidence and help to build self-esteem.
I have a good friend who had had a fear of swimming in the sea for most of her life. As a widow in her forties, she found herself dating a marine biologist. Spending time on or close to the ocean occupied a huge part of his life and rather than face the possibility of losing his friendship, she motivated herself to take a course in scuba diving. Her partner was greatly impressed by this and extremely encouraging. Gradually, over a period of time, she has built the confidence to swim under water and is increasingly enthralled with the experience.
Another way of making a mutual connection could be that you explore an activity that neither of you have tried before. This may well open the door to new hobbies and interests, which you can develop together. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity for you both to begin a new chapter of self-discovery!
If you have reached that point in your relationship where you occasionally stay over with each other, the next step could be to plan a weekend away.
Deciding where to stay and making plans about what you will do once you get there is bound to highlight any differences in taste. This provides an opportunity for some give and take. He might prefer a large hotel; you might prefer a log cabin. He might want to take his golf clubs and you might want to take your tennis racket. How you make decisions at this time will be a real pointer as to how you get on.
Also interesting, is how you feel when being seen as a couple in public. Are you aware that he looks at other women a lot – albeit fleetingly, but annoying, none the less? Does she seem to be constantly checking her phone to talk to her friends and family? These could be character traits that will make the relationship difficult in the long term.
In any case, the important thing is to always be who you are and open to the possibilities that lay ahead. In time, the activities you take part in will teach you things not only about your new partner, but potentially about yourself too, giving you greater appreciation for the future and what life may have in store.
It is hard finding yourself alone at any age, especially if the relationship with your loved one was a true partnership with shared interests and plans for the future. It makes it so much harder looking on at couples whose relationships have stood the test of time and who enter middle age with the prospect of retirement together. We look to the future and see ourselves in this place, but in a solitary state and wonder how we will cope on our own. This is difficult to envisage, as we all have our own way of negotiating life’s journey.
Some of us will use this time to travel and have a few adventures if we have the time and money to do so; others will be satisfied to throw themselves into the peak of their career or family life. However, there will be those who find themselves becoming more and more withdrawn and experiencing loneliness and feelings of frustration. Be reassured, it doesn’t have to be like this.
Sadly, it is the way of the world that one of you is more likely to die before the other; thus leaving a huge void for the surviving partner. How long it takes to come to terms with this situation will be different for everyone. When it happened to me I still had two relatively young children to bring up and whilst this seemed a daunting responsibility at the time it meant that I had focus and good reason to want to keep my head above water.
It is hoped that the passage of time, and the support of friends and family will gradually help you to come to terms with your circumstances. As time goes on you will see that you are coping well – and that doesn’t mean you are over your loss, but learning to live with it.
Developing new interests will help you to come to terms with your situation. I went on a creative writing course, which I really enjoyed, and I met some great people who shared my enthusiasm for poetry and literature. It gave me a huge sense of release to go out and mix with entirely new people and at the end of the course I had made some new friends.
There may come a time, regardless of your age, that you feel you would like to start dating. If you’re keen to meet someone who has also lost a life partner, this is a good starting point for the basis of a future friendship. What’s more, it also means that you don’t have to explain away any awkward background history, and you are less likely to experience the emotional baggage, which can become difficult to share with a new partner.
By asking yourself what you want from the next stage of your life will hopefully set you on a path to feeling complete again. If this involves meeting someone new with whom you can share your life, don’t feel guilty. Enjoy it as a sense of fulfilment. This doesn’t mean you have forgotten your partner, as he or she would want you to be happy; it is more a case that you are moving on but cherishing your memories as you go.