Whether through death or divorce, losing a loved one can be such a devastating blow, it's hard to envision what life will look like without them. It may be even harder to picture yourself dating again.
But it seems that when it comes to moving on from the end of a relationship, men do it much faster than women. A survey of 1,500 adults conducted by LoveAgain.com, an online dating site for older daters, found that while a large number of women (40 percent) said it took them more than a year to get back into the dating game, many men (39 percent) said it took them between one to three months to start dating again.
"People grieve in their own way," said AARP sex and relationships expert Pepper Schwartz. "[But] you can grieve so long it becomes a way of life and it can undermine your health. At some point you have to fight it and embrace life."
We asked Schwartz to weigh in on this finding. Do you think men move on faster than women? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
Why is it that men seem to move on from the end of their relationships faster than women do?
I think men don't do with being alone like women do. Women have rich emotional networks and girlfriends, whereas [a man's] emotional network was their wife. [She] was the emotional support, [she] was [their] whole social network. The pressure of dealing with your emotions and figuring them out is difficult and [men feel they] need another woman to [help them with that.]
Women serve that function for men. They are their confidante, they create their social networks. When you lose a wife or a partner, you lose all of that. You're lonely and you're isolated; you have your buddies, but you don't have the same kind of conversations that you have with your partner with them. Women will have girlfriends [to talk to], they're more likely to go to a therapist than a man would; they don't have to rush into another relationship.
Which one is the better way to move on from the loss of a loved one?
Each strategy has its own [downsides]. I think it is important to be in an intimate relationship. I think it's life affirming to find someone you love. If you are too anxious to do that, you may pick the wrong person. If you're too picky or too cautious, you could miss something.
Women are more cautious in terms of finding someone. They often have parts of their marriage that they're not willing to replicate, and may not want to get married. Maybe the relationship was difficult and she really wants that freedom, so she has more conflicting emotions about remarrying.
Can women learn from this behavior, or should men be a little more cautious?
I think women should be more emotional risk takers sometimes. I think women talk themselves into the bad stuff [that comes with a relationship] and don't get optimistic enough for the good stuff. I think they can be braver and trust themselves more and tell good from bad. They can make new rules. Just because a relationship didn't work out, that doesn't mean relationships by definition are bad.
So many men are so visual: They see somebody and they're in love. That's just not a good philsophy. Sometimes it works out well, [but] we all have layers and we can't know all of those layers. If you rush into something relatively quickly, you don't learn this stuff.
Nothing wrong with being cautious and slow. Before you tell your adult children that you are dating again (or make a big deal about someone specific), make sure that the two of you are a couple. Ask yourself whether you feel serious about this person. You don't want to get your adult children involved, attached, or concerned when it's not necessary.
If you want to win over your adult children, just tell them that this new partner makes you happy. How can your children have a problem with that? Remember that your kids want to make sure it's someone who cares about you and is trustworthy, because children of all ages don't want their parents to get hurt. Also, many adult children are concerned that a new partner will "financially" and "emotionally" take advantage of their parent. Keep these two concerns in mind when you talk to your adult children. Flickr photo via: Kunni Kun.
The more information your new partner has before they meet your adult children, the better. Don't fear telling your partner too much. The more information they have about your adult children the easier it will be for them to ask questions, seem interested, and join the conversation. Flickr photo via: Petteri Sulonen.
It is important that your adult children observe the two of you sharing responsibilities and enjoying each other's company. A great idea: getting together for a meal - have the partner and adult children meet over dinner or lunch! At the dinner, if you cook the turkey, have your partner make the mashed potatoes. If he doesn't cook, have him set the table. Work together as a team. Flickr photo by: rhurtubia.
No matter their age, explain why you're dating again, that no one will ever replace their other parent, and now that they are older - you too need companionship. Don't dismiss their concerns - instead, if you validate their concerns, they won't get defensive. If you say instead: "I understand that you are worried about me and you're not sure this is right for me. I hear you. I promise you, I will come and let you know if anything doesn't feel right to me about this person. I won't hesitate to let you know. But, right now - he makes me happy. I enjoy his company and I am being cautious, slow and safe."