I knew when I found myself suddenly single at the age of 33 after a nine year marriage that I was probably going to face some uncomfortable experiences.
The first (and probably worst) one was telling everyone about the divorce. Then there was the finding somewhere new to live and going financially solo. And finally… plucking up the courage to re-enter the world of dating.
The dating world has changed A LOT since I was last single when 20 years old. Back then the nearest we got to ‘swiping right’ was poking someone on Facebook (which had only just arrived on the scene btw). Now I was faced with Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish and more… I didn’t really want to use dating apps, but I was realistic and realised that was where the dating game was now. I had to take the plunge.
I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what to expect and, looking back now, I’m not sure I knew what I wanted either. I am definitely not a one-night stand kind of gal, but at the same time I was not in the right head space for a serious relationship.
I knew I definitely didn’t want to be messed around, so I decided to opt for a dating app where you had to pay a subscription. My thought process was that the pay wall would weed out the people who were just looking for a fling. In the end I picked Match.com as my weapon of choice.
With Match you have quite a detailed profile to fill in describing both yourself and what you are looking for in a partner. Having said that, the home page of the app is set out like what I imagine other dating apps are. You’re presented with pictures of potential suitors and have to swipe left or right (although I totally didn’t get this and dismissed a whole load of people at the start as I didn’t understand how it worked!)
With the basic plan on Match anyone can like your profile and message you. The initial thrill you get from a notification quickly wears off when you realise that once again a 50 year old bloke who thinks he has a chance with a girl nearly half his age has slid into your DMs.
But then – a small miracle! Someone who I had pressed like for had liked me back – we had matched!
My First Date
After a couple of days texting back and forth we agreed to meet. I cannot overemphasise how nervous I was about that first date. I had never really done the dating thing before – I had just kind of fallen into relationships. This wasn’t just my first date post-divorce, this was my first date full stop.
I was staying over in Cardiff with work and we had agreed to meet up for dinner and drinks. I was so nervous I barely ate that day. As I was getting ready I prepared myself mentally – I was trying to manage my expectations, repeatedly reminding myself that I was extremely unlikely to meet anyone I was truly compatible with on the first date.
But I really shouldn’t have worried. As first dates went it was pretty bloody perfect. He was the ultimate gentleman, holding open doors and insisting on paying for everything. He made me laugh and was a great listener. We even talked about politics (well, it was the day of the general election) without arguing. Crucially, the fact I had previously been married didn’t seem to phase him.
Physically, he was just me type – but intellectually he had it all too. And there was aspects of his character that reminded me so much of myself – namely the drive to always improve and do better, and a strong sense of independence. I felt like I had known him for ages, and he said the same thing.
I’m not going to lie the next day my stomach was full of butterflies – in the best possible way! I didn’t even get a chance to have the obligatory panic about whether or not he was going to text me again, as my phone pinged while I was having breakfast. It has him, asking when I would be in Cardiff next.
One of my biggest fears post-divorce (and I think fellow divorcees would agree with me on this one) is that no-one would ever fancy me again and I would end up living alone in a flat full of cats. But someone actually liked me! It was the biggest confidence boost, and exactly what I needed at that time.
After The First Date
We ended up having our second date just three days later. It went just as well as the first, if not better. We played crazy golf and he wasn’t put off by my competitive streak – in fact he was just the same, and we sparked off each other.
I must admit while I was having a great time there was a bit of an internal conflict going on in my head. It was going so well and we seemed so well-suited – it all seemed too good to be true. That mental barrier I had put up took a while to come down. I remember I spent a few days over Christmas arguing with myself that if I didn’t accept the situation for what it is, I risked losing something potentially really special.
We messaged all over Christmas and on New Year’s Eve I invited him to spend a weekend at mine in January. Again, it was another perfect weekend and as he left on the Sunday I was convinced everything was moving in the right direction.
And then – a day or two later – I started freaking out. We had talked about the big things in life, but we had never actually talked about us and what either of us wanted from each other at that moment in time. We had gotten so close, so fast but there was no clarity – I didn’t even know if he was seeing other women. I didn’t want a serious relationship, but I did want to know where I stood.
It took a few days, but I eventually plucked up the courage to tell him how I felt. It turned out he had been freaking out too. Freaking out at the fact he liked me but – because of experiences with previous girlfriends – was scared of the risk of hurting me. It was too big a mental block for him to overcome, and he decided it would be better all round if we ended things.
We were scheduled to meet that weekend, and we decided to keep our date. It was a little weird, knowing that it was the last time we were going to be together in that sort of situation. The fact we still managed to have a good time made the whole thing bittersweet, but it was good to get a sense of closure.
I’m not going to lie – it hurt a lot at first. I had only known him for about six weeks, but he had put a smile on my face that entire time. He made me feel confident, sexy, intelligent, wanted – things I had not felt in a very long time. I honestly thought that we had the potential to make a great team. And that’s the problem when you part ways with someone prematurely – you start thinking about the what ifs and all the things that could have happened, all that potential that is left unfulfilled.
With time came the realisation that he was right and it was probably all for the best. He wasn’t in the right head space for a relationship and I slowly came to realise neither was I. I also realised I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to devote a bit more time to me, my goals and my dreams – and to building myself a new life.
Am I glad I gave the dating apps a try? Undoubtedly yes. As well as the whole experience letting me know I wasn’t as ready for dating as I thought I was, I made a new friend – at a time when I really needed one. I also came out the other side of it all with a renewed sense of confidence, knowing that when I am ready I can find someone again. I don’t think he realises I will forever be grateful to him for giving me back that sense of hope and optimism.