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Starting Over After Losing a Partner

Here's how to ease back into the dating scene

Even when expected, the death of a partner is a shocking heartbreak. Weathering the waves of sadness — and building a new life without your mate — may pose the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced.

One day, however — trust me on this — the will to live fully again, and even experience companionship, will arise. You’ll be intimidated at first, of course. It’s hard to throw yourself back in the dating game after 30, 40 years or more. But the pointers I offer below can help ease your pre-game jitters.

See also: 8 ways to find love online.

tips for the newly single, couple hugging and smiling in limousine

Forging a new relationship can be exciting, but don't rush things. — Hill Street Studios/Corbis

1. Purge the guilt. Your partner would want you to be happy again, so banish the notion that you are somehow “betraying” him or her by seeing someone new. I tell those I counsel to look at it this way: Cherish your old relationship, but don’t let it sabotage your prospects of forging a new one. And if your feelings of guilt persist, see a counselor; you’ll want to resolve these thoughts before attempting to date again.

2. Tell your story (but carefully). More than merely a widow or widower, you are a person with opinions, hobbies, preferences, accomplishments, social values, political views and a unique way of looking at the world. As you think about how to present your authentic self, be selective about which of those attributes you share right away and which are best kept private until you get to know a new person better. In particular, avoid over-reminiscing about your old life; it may make your new acquaintance feel excluded.

3. Define your desires. Take some time to think about the type of new bond you’d like to establish. You may long to clone your lost love, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever meet an exact replica of the one you were with. And let’s face it—would you really want to? After all, the person you met at age 25 changed over a lifetime, and so did you. Now you’re in a different stage, with a redrawn horizon. Perhaps you’re ready to see the world and want to find someone who shares your wanderlust. Or maybe a partner’s allergies compelled you to live without pets and now you’re ready to romp with a fellow dog lover.

Next: Keeping up with your appearance. »

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