Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, I was reminded of President John F. Kennedy's 1955 book, "Profiles in Courage." He describes eight U.S. senators (all men), detailing their bravery and integrity in the face of criticism and challenge.
Patriotism notwithstanding, I witnessed stunning profiles in courage this weekend that scored equally high in, true grit, determination, and raw guts-- and it had nothing to do with serving one's country.
I'm talking about walking into a party alone for the first time,
after you've been recently singled.
My partnered friends, God bless them, forget what it's like to stand outside a closed door, poised to knock or ring the bell, and step inside.
You know the phrase, "fight or flight?" When you're about to walk into a party alone, forget the fight, let's just go with flight. You want to hide. You're terrified.
Your gut flips over the dread of what to say when people ask how you're doing. (Can you tell them you might throw up?) What if he (or she) is at the party, and, Lord help us, with a new date? The monkey chatter rattles your brain: Do I look OK? How long before I can leave without insulting the hosts? These are my friends, for heaven's sake, what am I afraid of? I want to go home!
On the other side of the door is a brave new world,
and you're about to jump head long into it. It's scary as hell.
Scenario One: The front door is opened by the friend who invited you, wearing a Julia Roberts sized smile. There's a big hug of appropriate touch and length (not always the case when you're newly single). A mimosa appears in your hand. Everyone is welcoming: "We're so glad you're here." "Here, let me introduce you around." The host never leaves your side.
Back to reality. More likely is Scenario Two: A complete stranger opens the door. Or, you simply hear, "C'mon in, we're all in the kitchen" from behind the door. You step in and the buzz of guests engaged in gossip is everywhere -- except where you are, which is all alone in the middle of the room.
Here's where the profiles in courage kicks in. The stamina, the bravery, the raw guts it takes to make that first move and engage is as daunting as the radio broadcast by King George VI (played by Colin Firth) in "The King's Speech."
For many years, there was a little sign outside a tunnel in Yellowstone National Park that read: "The Only Way Out is Through." Know that everything has a first time -- and this is yours. You're starting over and its just part of the deal. As in everything else in life, it will come and go. You'll even laugh about it some day.
10 Tips to Get Through It as a Single Person With Dignity Intact
When you're taking that first foray into the world as a newly minted singleton, the thought that you'll "laugh about it someday" is of little consolation. I know that. Nothing can make it easy, but here are 10 tips I give my clients to help mitigate the uncertainty around being newly single.
1. Know that you are not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a full 17.5 percent of married couples over 50 end up divorced or separated. That's almost 1 out of 6. Compare that to only 2.8 percent of couples 50 years ago. It's good to know that you're not alone. That, in itself, however, doesn't fix your pain.
2. Be social. Don't stay home unless you are legitimately ill. People need people, and you need your friends. You have to start out there sometime. Just go. You can come home early, but go.
3. Find an ally when a party or gathering looms. People love to help. Call a girlfriend, even if she's partnered, and share your angst about the event. Ask if she can be your fallback position, if you need a "safe person" at the party.
4. Remember my mantra: "Yes, I can. Of course I can." Your mind believes everything you tell it. Say it over and over as you get ready.
5. Keep your sense of humor. Listen to Laugh USA on satellite radio on the way to the party. I promise you will chortle about this party some day.
6. Take three big, slow breaths before you get to the door. It will help slow you down.
7. Be ready for the "divorced" syndrome comments. Both men and women are likely to treat you differently. Some of them will be threatened by the new you. Know that you are the same person and that it may take a few months for them to realize that, as well. Important: Don't take it personally. Let it go.
8. Take a lot of potty breaks if the party gets to you. Or simply leave. Be assertive if you need to go home. Whether people understand or not is irrelevant. Someday, they will. Who cares? You did your time. It's OK to leave.
9. Lay low on alcohol. It starts as a stimulant for about 30 minutes. After that, it's a depressant. Be cautious.
10. To all of you partnered people: Reach out to your newly singled friends. Not just once, but for the first year or two. We need each other. It's hard enough when you lose a partner, but devastating when you lose a friend as well.
To you who takes that unchartered first step into your first gathering alone: I applaud you! You are truly a modern, down-to-earth profile in courage. Keep going! It will get better, I promise.
If you need a daily inspiration to help you, please visit my website: www.katherineforsythe.com/inspiration. My mission is to help all of us at midlife and beyond as we start up, start over, and start again!
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."
Follow Kat Forsythe, MSW on Twitter: www.twitter.com/katforsythe