Newly Single After 20 Years of Marriage, I'm Ready to Date | Ask Athena | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Arts + Life » Ask Athena

Newly Single After 20 Years of Marriage, I'm Ready to Date


Published April 2, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Dear Athena,

I'm newly single after 20 years of marriage and kids, and I'm just relearning how to date. I met someone through an ad that I took out recently, and he is amazing. We have a really strong emotional connection, but I feel I should wait to have sex with him. He's not pressuring me, but he really wants to, and I'm sort of scared that if I make him wait any longer, he'll get impatient and lose interest. He says he can wait, but I don't know whether to believe him. I'm also afraid of being played. I really want this man to value me, but will having sex too soon send the wrong message?

How do I know if I'm picking a good guy, and a good fit for me, before jumping in? The last time I dated was the late '80s. There's no magic number, but does waiting a bit make sense — say, four or five dates? (I waited six months when my husband and I were dating.) Can you help me figure out the rules of engagement?


Newly Single and Scared

Dear Newly S&S,

Whoa, slow down, woman. Have you given yourself a chance to really sink into the idea that you are now single? You were married for 20 years — that's a long time of being a "we."

It's really important for you to enjoy some "me" time before rushing into a new relationship — or into bed. Give yourself a while to "come down" from your previous long-term commitment. After breaking up with my first live-in boyfriend, it took me ages to stop making meals for two. One day, while staring into pan full of scrambled eggs (just the way he liked them), I thought, I can't eat all this! I realized I hadn't started living just for me yet.

This is the first step. Date you again, pick the movie you want to see, make your eggs how you like them and take up all the room in the bed. It's all about you right now.

When you are ready to share your time and body with someone, you will know — it's not about how many dates you've been on. You've been part of a couple for so long, my guess is you need to relearn how to listen to your own voice, without the distraction of someone else's needs and wants.

You say you're afraid of being "played." Make a list of what qualities a trustworthy partner has. Does this new fellow possess them? Does he do what he says he's going to do? Do you feel safe and comfortable with him? Can you say and do what you want around him? If you answered "no" to any of these questions, maybe he isn't right for you.

If you were able to say "yes" to all, that's great. But regardless, take as much time as you need to redefine yourself in this new life. Make sure you feel self-confident and don't rely on the new guy or anyone else to determine that. The rules of engagement are yours to make, whether that means a three-date or three-month minimum before sex. Mr. Right will respect your boundaries, whatever they are.