Looking for love – second time around?

After many years in a couple, the thought of dating again can be daunting. If you’re looking for love after a divorce or being widowed, we offer some advice to make it a little easier…

“How do I go about finding love again in my 50s? My friends are all married, I never meet any single men at church, and I don’t want to go to clubs and bars. Where do people find love in later life?”

“I was shocked and devastated when my husband left me for another woman. I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, but I don’t know if I can trust another man.”

“My wife died eleven years ago, leaving me with two young children. For a couple of years, I couldn’t even contemplate another relationship. However, I was introduced to my now-wife at a party, and we’ve been happily married for five years.”

Most people, when they marry, don’t imagine finding themselves back on the dating scene. They spend years or decades building a life together, and expect to grow old with their spouse. Sadly, life doesn’t always turn out how we hope, and many of us find ourselves single again at some point – either through widowhood or divorce.

Eventually, thoughts may turn to finding love again. However, the prospect of romance with someone new may be daunting. The changing world of dating may seem bewildering, and you may wonder whether it’s even appropriate to date again. Here are some of the issues you may want to consider, with advice from other ‘single again’ Christians who went looking for love second time around – many of whom found love and formed strong, resilient relationships.

‘Take time to heal’

Finding yourself alone after being part of a couple for many years can leave you feeling lonely and desperate for company and affection. However, rushing into dating is often a mistake, and may only serve to compound your distress. This is not only unhelpful for your healing, but is unfair on a new partner. If you’re emotionally vulnerable, it can also leave you at risk of attracting the wrong people (for instance, those who have escaped an abusive relationship may attract another abusive or manipulative partner, who recognises their vulnerability).

Relationship experts agree that it’s better to take time to process your emotions first. Depending on how your marriage ended, you may be left with feelings of betrayal or abandonment, guilt or grief. It’s better to work through these feelings, rather than carry them into another relationship. How long this takes depends on the individual and their circumstances, and could be anything from a few months to a few years – counselling can help. Time alone also gives you the space to discover who you are as an individual, and consider what you want from a future relationship.

“After my husband died, I spent time focussing on my children and myself. I’ll always love my husband, but I have room in my heart for someone new, and have recently starting dating a lovely man I met online. I’m optimistic about the future.”

“I was married to my ex-husband for 14 years before he left me without warning three years ago. It took me six months to get over the initial shock, and I’m only just considering that I may be able to have another relationship. It’s hard to imagine being with another man, but God brings good things out of bad.”

“I started dating someone two months after my wife died – I was lonely and wanted someone to be with. My girlfriend wasn’t an easy person and it was a stormy relationship – I ended up having a breakdown. After some counselling, I met a very sweet woman at a Christian singles event. We’ve been dating for two years, and I’m planning to propose on her birthday.”

 ‘Explore (new) ways to meet new people’

Many people go on to form happy and successful second marriages. If you’re hoping to find love second time around, how can you get started with dating again? It’s still possible to meet partners in the traditional ways – through friends, at parties, at church or work, or while volunteering. This is more common among those who are older.

Unfortunately social networks often break down after a relationship has ended. At Single Friendly Church, we’ve heard stories from both men and women about how, after their spouse died, all their coupled friends stop inviting them to social gatherings – at the very time when they needed support. Also, after separation and divorce, one or other party often feels excluded from church or previous friendships. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and tell them you’d still like to be included in social gatherings – they may just be embarrassed or concerned that you’ll feel uncomfortable as a single person among couples.

“I noticed the change when I was widowed and became excluded virtually overnight. It was a very strange reaction, as previously my husband and I had been in leadership.”

Do things you love – or try something new

Make a conscious effort to socialise and do the things you enjoy – maybe something you didn’t have the opportunity to pursue before. This is not only good for your state of mind (people tell us, and psychologists confirm it), but it also helps to create new social circles and may lead to meeting someone special. And don’t be afraid to ask friends if they know someone who might be a good match for you.

“I went away for a weekend doing something I love. I wasn’t looking for romance, but I met someone there and had a great relationship with her. We ended up splitting up but we’ve stayed friends. That relationship helped to heal the wounds of being cheated on by my wife.”

Consider online dating

If you don’t feel you’re meeting enough suitable people, dating websites are a great way to expand your social circle. Online dating is now one of the most common ways that couples meet, but may not have existed when you were last single, so you may wonder how to navigate this strange new world. Don’t worry – there’s plenty of information available about how to get the most from internet dating, and the pitfalls to avoid (you can read our guide here: www.singlefriendlychurch.com/for-individuals-single-living/online-dating-a-guide-for-individuals ). To meet other believers, choose a Christian dating website such as www.christianconnection.com. Don’t discount people from other Christian traditions – there are many happy marriages between people of different denominations.

“I read up on internet dating before I gave it a go. I had my share of disastrous dates, but I also had a lot of fun. I made some friends, and met my now-boyfriend. My advice is to be careful and a little bit cynical, but to have fun.”

‘Learn about the changing dating scene’

The dating scene may look different today, compared to when you got together with your spouse. The American custom of casually dating more than one person at a time until you agree to be ‘exclusive’ is becoming more accepted in the UK, especially among young people. Don’t judge others for this, but discuss with them what makes you feel comfortable. Knowing your own expectations and boundaries, and making them clear to potential dates, reduces the risk of misunderstanding.

‘Everyone has baggage – including you!’

Even if we take time to heal, we all carry some emotional baggage. If you’ve been bereaved, you may suffer guilt at finding happiness with someone else, or find yourself comparing them with your deceased spouse. If you’ve been cheated on, abandoned or abused in your marriage, you may struggle to trust a new partner. It’s important to be self-aware about your issues – counselling may help with this. It’s also good to be sympathetic to a potential partner’s emotional baggage – within reason: maintain boundaries and don’t tolerate bad treatment. 

Once we reach a certain stage of life, we’re also likely to have established lives and circumstances that can impact on a new relationship. The physical and emotional care of young children needs to be prioritised. Older children may not welcome their parent dating again. You or your dating partner may be limited by work, location or finances. That’s part of life as an older adult, and we just need to negotiate and make the best decisions we can – for instance, many people feel that children should not be introduced to a new partner until it’s an established, serious relationship of at least a year.

Don’t be put off – with patience, love and understanding, many couples go on to create very happy blended families, and older children will generally accept a new partner once they get over the discomfort of seeing their parent with someone else, and can see that the person makes you happy.

We all have ingrained habits that may conflict with a new partner’s. While you and you former spouse may have met when you were young and developed shared habits over your marriage, a new partner will almost certainly do things differently. Tolerance, flexilbility and communication are key.

“My husband and I were both widowed with teenage children when we met at a Christian festival. It wasn’t always easy to balance our children’s needs with our own. His children in particular found it difficult to accept that their dad was dating again. However, we worked through it, and nine years on, we’re all doing well.”

“My wife had mental health issues, and our marriage was very difficult. She also cheated on me. I’m wary of ending up with someone similar, but I’m now at the stage where, if I meet a kind, sane woman, I’d be willing to commit again.”

‘Be clear about sexual boundaries’

While many Christians choose to abstain from sex before marriage, you may find it more challenging second time around, when you’re used to being sexually active in a marriage. You may also meet Christians who hold different beliefs on sex outside of marriage – we can’t assume someone shares our expectations, even if they share our faith. It’s important to know your own sexual boundaries, and to communicate that clearly to someone you’re dating.

“Maintaining sexual boundaries has been challenging as it was something that was missing in my marriage, and I've had to overcome the rejection. Once you’re used to having sex, it’s very hard to stop.”

“It seemed a bit silly abstaining from sex in my thirties. I felt sex was a natural part of a healthy, committed relationship. My ex-husband (with whom I’m still good friends) turned out to be gay, so I also feel it’s wise to check sexual compatibility before marriage. I’m now happily married again with two sons.”

“I’ve been surprised when some Christian dates have assumed sex is going to happen. I won’t date someone who doesn’t share my commitment to saving sex for marriage.”

‘Expect everyone to have an opinion’

Everyone will have a view on you starting to date again, and on the person you’re seeing — children, relatives, friends and those in your church.

Dating after divorce can be a moral minefield in Christian circles. Most church leaders and denominations have softened their stance on divorce, but some still believe that unless your spouse has committed adultery, remarriage is not an option – even if it was an abusive relationship.

If you’ve been widowed, people who were emotionally attached to your late spouse –children and friends – may find it hard to accept a new partner, or see you dating again as a betrayal of your spouse’s memory, and may express disapproval of your choices (even if they were absent when you needed their support most).

It’s wise to consider the counsel of people who care about us, as they can sometimes see things we can’t. When feeling besieged by negativity, it’s easy to shut down all communication – instead, seek out those who can support you in love and care, and talk to them. However, ultimately, our choices are between ourselves and God, and we need to prayerfully follow what we believe are the right decisions for our lives. Get and hold to a story that is formed within prayer and reality about your journey, which you can share with others. The evidence is that most people will ultimately be supportive, and will be happy to see you happy again. 

“When my second husband and I started dating, his family objected because I had been married before. My ex-husband had been very physically abusive, but they did not believe I was free to marry again. My husband had to choose between his family and me. We have now been happily married for over 10 years.”

“My grown-up children didn’t find it easy to accept my new partner, who was a friend of my late wife. Although they’re not hugely fond of her, they now accept and respect her, as they can see she cares for me and makes me happy.”

With thanks to: Callie, Damian, Emily, Fran, Hilary, Jane, Justin, Mike, Patricia, Peter, Ian and Rula. Some names have been changed to protect privacy.


To learn more about successful online dating, read Online Dating: Top Tips For Success by David Pullinger and Miriam Kendrick (Deedot Press), available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Online-Dating-Top-Tips-Success/dp/095429243X   

Catherine Francis & David Pullinger, 22 April 2018