Single Again - by Dr David Delvin

Recently, life has changed in some extraordinary ways, hasn't it?

And one of the most remarkable changes has been the fact that suddenly there are large numbers of over-50s who are 'single again' - in other words, without a partner.  Some of them are very distressed about this.  Others are actively searching for a new partner - but usually they don't know how to go about it!

Why has this extraordinary change taken place?  It's for two reasons:

  • There's so much more divorce these days - so there are lots of 'newly-single' people around.
  • Society has come to accept that it's OK for people of 60 (or even much older) to look around for a new romance.

An additional factor is this.  People are much healthier these days, and live much longer.  So someone who is in his / her 60s or 70s is likely to be still good-looking and sexually attractive!  Furthermore, they are probably still sexually active - even though they may need a spot of help from Viagra or some similar pill!   So if you are 'single again', please read on:

WHO IS SINGLE AGAIN?

So who are the men and women who are 'single again'?  They fall into these groups:

  • People whose husbands / wives have passed away.  (please see our article re bereavement)
  • People who have been left by (or divorced by) their partners
  • People who have recently divorced (or left) their spouses - but haven't got a new partner

Whichever of these groups you fall into, it's quite likely that you feel ill at ease, disorientated and unhappy.  You're no longer 'one of a pair' - because, for the first time in many years - you're out in the world on your own.  This isn't easy to cope with.

MEDICAL ASPECTS

It's a fact that a lot of people who are 'single again' become depressed.  You should suspect depression if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Waking up in the early hours of the morning and being unable to drop off again:
  • Being unable to sleep until you've been in bed for hours:
  • Feeling low and miserable;
  • Thinking that you're worthless;
  • Ruminating that the world would 'be a better place without you' .....    

If you have any suspicion of depression - caused by being 'single again' - please go straight to your GP.  Treatment is available - and it's effective.

GETTING OVER A BROKEN HEART

If you've been dumped by (or divorced by) your partner, you may well feel heartbroken.  This is not a pleasant experience - whether your 70 or 17!

But you need to learn to cope with it.  How?  Well, you have to do four things:

  • ACCEPT the situation.  There's no point in spending the last 30 or 40 years of your life in bitterness and recriminations.  It's over - and that's it.
  • RE-THINK your life.  You're not part of a duo now, so there's no point in behaving as if you are. Get out there and enjoy the positive aspects of the single life.
  • AVOID jumping into a  new relationship, just because you're so desperate to be part of a twosome again.  It could well go wrong!  So take your time ....
  • RECOVER GRADUALLY - taking plenty of time to 'get back on the market.'  Indeed, you may end up enjoying single life so much that you decide not to bother about seeking a new partner!

FINDING SOMEONE NEW

But the fact is that many people of retirement age do decide to seek a new partner when they find themselves 'single again.'  And lots of them are very successful at it.

I do repeat that I think you should take your time.  Experts seem to agree that whatever the reason for finding yourself on your own, you should take at least 6 months before you start looking around for someone new.  There's no hurry.

But once you've decided to look for a new partner, then go for it!  Life is short, and there's no point in spending 25 years gazing at the horizon and hoping that somebody nice will turn up.  They probably won't.

So take active steps to find that special someone.  Simple but good tips are:

  • Let your friends know that you're on the lookout for a new relationship.  They'll certainly spread the word!
  • Join every club and society in your area that you're remotely interested in:  tennis, amateur dramatics, ballroom dancing, whatever.
  • Join one or two adult education classes - you'll immediately meet people who have similar interests to your own
  • Do seriously consider joining a 'Dating Club', or a 'Singles Dining Club.'  It's easy to scoff at these organisations, but they do achieve successes.
  • Do also consider the 'Classified Ad' route and / or Internet dating.  These days, any number of people - of all ages - have found happiness with someone they met through an advertisement / or online.  Obviously, you're likely to encounter a few 'duds' before you meet somebody nice!  So be prepared for this - just take care when arranging to meet a stranger - meet in a public place, don't give your home details, don't accept lifts in cars, and tell a friend where you are going!

THE QUESTION OF SEX

Once you've met someone new, the question of sex is almost bound to arise.  It's best to try and take this gradually for a while.  No matter what the reason for your 'singleness,' you've probably been traumatized quite a bit.  A bad experience in bed could be devastating for you.

So - it's not a bad idea to make yourself a rule:  No Sex For The First Month Of A Relationship.  That may seem odd in these days when people hop into bed with each other at the drop of a hat.  But it could protect you from a lot pain.

And when you actually do slip between the sheets with that new partner, take care not to expect too much of yourself - or indeed of him / her!  It's likely to be a nervous time for both of you.  So don't expect brilliant performances to begin with.

In particular:

*  If you're a man, don't worry too much about whether you get a good erection, or how long you last.  Your partner will probably be more interested in whether you are romantic and considerate, and whether you kiss and cuddle her, and say nice things to her - and please use protection!

*  If you're a woman, don't concern yourself over-much about whether you actually manage to reach a climax or not.  It's more important to be warm and close with your new partner, and to enjoy the intimacy and tenderness of being snuggled up together - and please use protection!

Incidentally, if you do have any sexual problems in your new relationship, a full article on this subject will be on this website

STAYING SINGLE

But a lot of retired people do actually decide that they're just going to stay single, thank you very much.  And a jolly good idea too, in many cases ....

Remember a single life is a perfectly valid life.  There's no law that says you have to be part of a couple.  Many people are actually happier on their own, especially if they have all sorts of interests that they can pursue - without the inconvenience of perpetually having to think about somebody else's needs!

In particular, if you happen to be (to use an old phrase) 'a bit set in your ways,' then it could well be that the bachelor / spinster existence really is the best one for you.  And you won't have to cope with battling for the bathroom in the morning!

Q. I have felt very depressed since my husband left me 2 years ago.  But I feel I shouldn't trouble my doctor, as he has much more important things to deal with.

A. You've got this wrong!  It's your doctor's job (or part of it, at any rate) to see people who are suffering from depression.  I should know - since I see at least half a dozen new cases of depressive illness each week.  Please do go to the surgery and talk your problems over with your GP.  I'm sure it will help!

Q. Last week my wife left me - after 40 years.  I was out playing golf all day and when I got home, there was just a letter on the mantelpiece (and no dinner incidentally).  Do you think she has actually gone 'crackers'?  I can only assume that some sort of mental illness has made her do this.

A. It's very common for people who have been 'dumped' to think that their partner 'must be ill or something.'  In fact, they very rarely are.

It's understandable that you think your wife has suddenly developed a 'screw loose.'  But I'm afraid that I'd say - from long experience - that your wife decided she'd had enough, and made a decision to seek happiness elsewhere.  You may well find that she has a new partner.  Sorry.

Q. I divorced my husband for unreasonable and cruel behaviour.  Now I have met a nice new man, and I am seriously thinking about having a relationship with him, and maybe marrying him.  

What worries me is that I have not had sex for  many years, and I am really out of practice.  I fear it might be painful, as I am not as 'moist' as I used to be.  Any advice?

A. Yes, ma'am!  Go and see a sympathetic woman doctor, who will examine you and check that everything is alright.  She can also give you practical advice about what to do when you go to bed with this gentleman for the first time.  Almost certainly, she will recommend  a good lubricant, such as Johnson & Johnson's K-Y Jelly, or Eros.  She may even suggest a short course of hormone treatment.

© Dr D Delvin / Retirement Matters Ltd 2007