Hindsight exposes mistakes made because I was in a hurry.
In November 2009, my 41-year marriage began to wobble, and then disintegrated completely. My husband had reconnected with a high-school girlfriend ans decided to leave.
Over a span of 4 short months, I went from happily sharing a house with my life partner (with whom I’d fallen in love at 18) to living solo while crying and raging a lot. Really a lot. And on top of that, I'd recently retired from a busy career. I filled my suddenly solitary days with writing in a journal, exercising, reading self-help books, and taking care of grandchildren. And still raging, trying to figure out how to live alone for the first time in my life.
Six months into this new lifestyle I began to notice attractive men my age but had no idea how to make contact. Well-meaning married friends told me stories of online dating leading to genuine love, so, although the last time I’d played the dating game was in my teens, I eventually gave in and decided to try it out.
In building my first profile, I had to list the 3 Most Important Qualities I wanted in a partner: “Active
lifestyle,” I wrote, “Sense of humour, Genuine concern for others.” It was a fun and enlightening exercise – like listing the features you want in a new car.
After messages from interested men began arriving, I sought advice from single friends who’d tried this
humiliating process. I felt uncertain and muddled about my values and goals and now had to learn how to make small talk over coffee with a complete stranger in a public place.
Looking in the bathroom mirror, I’d ask aloud, “Who am I anyway?” For over 41 years, part of my identity was anchored by my husband, and now I was floating like a balloon in a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. And I no longer had a successful consulting career to enhance my self-image.
I stayed online for months, trying 3 different dating sites and suffering 4 different dating disasters. After each relationship began with hope and ended in disappointment, I would identify what I’d learned, to avoid repeating that mistake. Face it, I was now in my 60s, and naivety was a lousy excuse for selecting the wrong guy.
From the first 6-week friendship, with a tall nuclear scientist called Mark*, I learned how to tell a man what I need in terms of communication, and how to be intimate again. That was a big step. From a scary cross-country skiing date with Alan, I learned to not be overly impressed by a PhD. On our first date he tried to take me to a nudist colony's hot tub - without warning. I refused to leave his car.
From another 6-week dating friendship with Steven, I learned to be skeptical and not to believe too-early words of affection. From a 3-month romance with Jordan, I learned to take responsibility for my own happiness. Waiting around for him to call or invite me out led nowhere.
After all these dead-end experiences, which spread over 8 months, I recognized that I didn’t want a
new partner after all. I felt strong and happy on my own and enjoyed being autonomous, so I cultivated the friendships I already had.
One person said I was “blooming like a fresh tulip in spring” Another stated, “Pat, your wings had been clipped, the feathers have grown back, and now you can fly!”
Deciding that single men were complete jerks and not worth the trouble, I deleted my dating profile and ignored all men for almost a year. As a retiree living solo, I could now travel extravagantly and buy a new Audi without consulting a partner. I also learned to live alone without drinking a whole bottle of wine at one sitting. That takes practice.
Triggering Another Try
My cousin Chris came from Vancouver for 5 days to move his daughter home from Queen’s University and used my guest room. We ate breakfasts together, shared the driving to Kingston, and took evening strolls around my neighbourhood.
As we were saying goodbye, tears suddenly stung my eyes. What’s going on? For heaven’s sake, I’m not in love with my cousin!
Unexpected melancholy had engulfed my heart because I really missed male companionship. Forget sex and romance—it was the company of a compatible man that I missed. Women friends had seen me through my recent trauma with their unwavering support, but I wanted a romantic partner permanently in my life.
The innate difference between the sexes is refreshing to me. For those 5 days, my cousin and I had complemented each other perfectly. I wanted to find that again. There has to be someone out there for me, I thought. Toronto is a very big city.
I warily investigated Match.com. When composing my profile, I stated that my purpose was “to find a long-term relationship,” and wrote a brief history of my post-divorce life. I wanted to sound independent, active, and most definitely not needy. All of which was now true.
I was feeling different than the first time I went online. Then, my heart had a gaping, painful hole. Longing to be distracted by a companion, I moved too quickly, met men too soon, and overlooked serious discrepancies in our values. My friends who first encouraged me to go online had no idea how it feels to be suddenly separated from one’s until-death-do-us-part spouse.
A New Strategy
This time I felt whole and self-assured, so I invented a new strategy. I would meet 3 men within 1
week and call them Candidates #1, #2, #3 and tell them my plan. I wouldn’t agree to anything more than a coffee until I saw who was out there. My married friends thought I was being too candid about my process; I knew I was being mature and not playing games.
Candidate #1 was a widower named Eric. I liked him, but still had 2 other men to meet. He called me a couple of weeks after our coffee and I told him I was dating #2.
“But may I call you if it doesn’t work out?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said.
After deciding #3 was a dud the instant we met, and dating #2 for a boring 7 weeks, I got rid of him and contacted Eric again. We met for dinner right away and within 6 weeks we’d fallen in love.
Not only did he have all the qualities I sought in a partner - he's active, funny, and kind - but also, becuase he'd owned a renovation company, he can fix anything. And he's an expert at towing water-skiers behind a motorboat. I hadn't known that was a prerequisite! I've seen him do that in Muskoka and Montana.
Each of our marriages had lasted over 41 years, and both had ended in 2009. This was 2012. He was the 10th man I’d dated; I was the 26th woman he’d met since his wife’s death. If my soulmate and I hadn’t both been persistent and gone online yet again, we would never have met.
By coincidence, 3 years to the day after my ex-husband and I signed our Separation Agreement, my dear Eric got down on one knee and proposed.
We married 9 years ago in the Turks & Caicos surrounded only by our kids, their spouses, and grandchildren.
Everyone was barefoot on the beach.
* Names of men dated have been changed.
NOTE: Pat read this version at "SO TRUE: Life stories, well-written, well told," in Toronto on October 21st, 2023.