By Alex Newman
When I was in my 20s, I loved writing caustic letters to friends about hilarious antics, real or imagined, while doing the dating scene. I’ve loved listening to or reading horror stories about other people’s disaster dates, both online and face-to-face.
But at my age, it’s a more delicate topic, since it exposes things I’d rather not talk about. Like having to make public that I failed at marriage, as well as its corollary – I’m alone and officially on the hunt for someone new. It’s like advertising the fact you’re the scrabble player nobody wants to play with.
But that’s not actually the real issue of dating, or remarriage, at this age. While I struggled plenty with writing this piece – and how much to lay out for all the world to see — I missed a major chunk of the equation: your community of friends, family and even more important church.
This notion of community struck me more while sticking my toe in the dating waters than it did after my marriage ended.
Initially, being on a dating site is kinda fun, even a little adventurous, and it’s certainly not very real. You can escape if, as and when you want, plus it can be kept completely separate from your social circle. Given how long it takes to meet anyone real or credible you can play at this game endlessly and never have to combine the different aspects of your life.
It’s only after dating some people, and possibly finding someone you click with, that you realize just how tentacled your network of relationships is. It’s just as the marriage ceremony puts it — two become one. That’s divine and theological for sure, but even more it’s a natural physiological course of events as a couple’s existing relationships overlap to create new ones.
Because all those classmates, friends, in-laws, children’s friends and their parents, teachers, Sunday school teachers, camp leaders, even the garage mechanic, are not yours individually but mutually.
While that community is great comfort in time of need, it’s not something you can easily hide from. And dating is something you feel kind of like hiding (for the aforementioned reasons).
Even now, I’m not sure why but it was hard to tell even my closest friends that I was dating and I still haven’t told my minister, my small group, or most of the women in my mother-daughter book club.
I think it’s fear but of what – the fear of jinxing something, or the fear it will end abruptly and painfully because nothing lasts forever and then you have to endure the humiliation of divulging yet another failure? Or because I didn’t want to defend myself with friends vocally nixing re-marriage, regardless of who broke the covenant.
The more likely reason for clamming up though probably has to do with the fact that I am now firmly rooted in a faith community, i.e. if you tell one person you have to tell them all, and there is hard work in renegotiating your existing relationships to incorporate someone new.
The bottom line is that when you date in mid-life and post-divorce you aren’t just starting over from scratch. You’re renovating — building on top of something that already has a foundation, is very rooted, and runs very deep. And as any contractor will tell you – renovating is always more time-consuming, costly and challenging than building new.
Alex Newman is a senior writer with Faith Today. She shares her experience with the online dating scene as a Christian middle-aged woman in the latest Faith Today. Check out our latest subscription offer, a free book by John G. Stackhouse Jr.