Susan Deitz

DEAR SUSAN:I finally ended a long marriage that was filled with lies, cheating and mental and verbal abuse. (It took years for the divorce to become final.) My therapist, children, other family members and friends are encouraging me to start dating again and begin a new life with a man who respects me. I shudder at the thought. Whenever the topic is even mentioned, I start to shake and even cry. I've been so scarred by my past that the issue of trust is more than a hurdle; it's like breaking through a brick wall. I'm very happy surrounded by family and friends -- and finally being on my own. I know I've got many good years ahead (I'm approaching 50), but why must they be with a partner? Must I start dating again to "heal" and make my life "complete"?

From the "Single File" blog

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DEAR BLOGGER:At 50, you certainly have earned the right to determine your own life -- now and for all time. You've experienced such trauma that instinctively, you shy away from the merest mention of another marriage. Listen carefully to those inner cues; their wisdom is undeniable. Right now, they advise a delay in partnership. That may or may not be for all time; certainly, a fulfilling life doesn't need a marriage license. Or it may be simply for this recuperative phase, however long it will be. The nurturing family and friends around you are a treasure, but they don't feel what you feel, even now as you remember the past. Your physical reaction to that past speaks volumes about your readiness for dating. To me, it is the final word, the only one that matters right now. What's the hurry to begin dating? You need time and calm to mend and to learn about yourself apart from the grisly past -- a whole person on her own. Imagine your confidence at the helm of your own life!

Trust those same inner signals to prod you into dating -- if and when that happens. Right now, memories are stronger than hope. That may change, and if it does, the yearning for a friend who happens to be male will send you off into the dating world. But don't rush it. You need to get to know yourself and the world around you in this very important next phase. It will bring you what you want, when you want it. Trust yourself. Tune in to your inner signals; have faith in them.