Reading: Dating After Divorce: The Best Advice I Got

Relationships & Divorce

Dating After Divorce: The Best Advice I Got

Getting back out there is different for everyone. Here's what it was like to jump back into the dating scene in my fifties

By Laurie James

“Don’t sleep with anyone you wouldn’t want your daughters to sleep with.” 

I struggled to absorb the advice that started my one-hour phone call with a psychic. Especially since instead of the word “sleep,” she used an expletive that started with an “F.”

As a 56-year-old divorcée, I’m back in the dating pool. I thought I’d never need to date again after I got married 30 years ago, but after my divorce, it was inevitable. I prefer not to spend the rest of my life alone — I’m a happier person when I’m in a relationship. My divorce was a necessary detour, and one I don’t regret. 

I have every intention of being wiser this time around, which is why I called the psychic my girlfriend recommended to me. She had predicted within a two-month window when my girlfriend would meet a great guy, and it happened exactly as she’d said it would. I was ecstatic to hear what the psychic would say about my fate. Would she be as accurate with me?

After I scribbled down her advice, I sat back in my chair and contemplated what she’d just told me. Had I slept with someone my daughters wouldn’t approve of? Was I considering jumping in bed with someone? I’d recently received a message from a younger guy, which was flattering, but I didn’t plan to sleep with him. The answer to both those questions I’d asked myself was a stern “no.” 

The reason I’d called the psychic was because my love life had hit an all-time low since I’d begun dating again, two years earlier. I had broken up with a guy just as the pandemic hit, and between months of stay-at-home orders, fear of catching this potentially deadly virus, closed restaurants, parks, and beaches, along with masks covering our smiles, I was looking for a glimmer of…well, anything I might be able to hold on to. 

The psychic said I would meet someone in October or November, two months away, and by now our county had lifted some of its restrictions. When the first of October rolled around, I was like a hawk keeping a keen eye on my surroundings. I woke up every morning wondering if this was the day I would meet my person. I scanned the streets as I walked my dog. I put on a little extra eye shadow when I went to the grocery store and practiced smiling with my eyes. I updated my Tinder profile and checked it numerous times a day, waiting for Mr. Right to come into my life. 

After the first couple of weeks, I felt like the little bird in the children’s book, Are You My Mother? In the book, the baby bird asks everyone around him if they are his mother — she was away from the nest gathering food in anticipation of him hatching. I would inspect every decent-looking man, check his wedding ring finger, and ask myself, “Are you my man?” 

October came and went, and so did my hopes. The clock was ticking. By mid-November I’d become discouraged. If my guy didn’t show up in the next two weeks would I be alone forever? I didn’t think to ask the psychic that question. 

The week before Thanksgiving, I received a message on Tinder from a tall, good-looking green-eyed guy who had similar interests. Could he be the one? Elation ran through me. We exchanged several messages in the app and I agreed to meet for dinner two nights later. 

The night of my date, I curled my hair and thoughtfully put a cute outfit together. I dusted off my suede jacket that had been sitting at the back of my closet for the last year and preened in the mirror. I wanted to make a good first impression. 

Our first date went well and so did our second. He was smart, successful, and witty. Check. We both had grown children. Check. He was active, a skier, and outdoorsy. Check, check, check. We had great conversations. Check. But something elusive was missing. I went through my list of things I looked for when dating — compatibility, connection, and chemistry. We had a lot in common and we were able to talk about many things, but I was unsure about my physical attraction toward him. I agreed to another date anyway. I’d heard that the chemistry for some couples developed later. Maybe I just needed a little more time for the spark to ignite. With no other prospects on the horizon, I wasn’t ready to give up on love yet. 

On our third date, he showed up with a dozen yellow roses and a bottle of wine as an early birthday present, which was very thoughtful. We went for a bike ride, watched the sunset, picked up take-out and ate it at my outdoor fire pit. We hugged goodbye and he gave me a kiss good night. I went to bed that night replaying our evening searching for any sign of a spark. Nothing. 

Our fourth date came and went and the chemistry between us still hadn’t developed. The next day, fretting about what to do, I called the girlfriend who’d referred me to the psychic. She listened to my woes and helped me make sense of what I was feeling. 

In the end, I didn’t need to do anything. He slowly stopped texting and I stopped trying to force a relationship. I’ve sworn off psychics for the time being, but before I burned the notes from my call with the psychic, I read them one more time. And there it was, the advice I should have remembered from the beginning. I held my notebook and reread the words she’d said: “Important — Don’t work too hard for this relationship.” 

I knew I’d been trying to create something that wasn’t there, and I’ve stopped wondering if each guy that walks past is my guy. I know that he will show up at some point, most likely when I least expect it. 

Laurie James has successfully launched four daughters, has been the primary caretaker for her elderly parents, and is the founder of a unique program in Manhattan Beach, California, that helps women through pivotal transitions in life. Her memoir, Sandwiched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go, is out now.

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