Now Or Never

POV | Dating again after the death of a spouse

A conversation between two widows, Robin Summerfield and Judy Hope, about getting back into the dating game.
Robin Summerfield and Judy Hope are both on the lookout for love. They're pictured here with their late husbands, Mike O'Brien and Andrew Wark. (Courtesy of Robin Summerfield and Judy Hope)

By Robin Summerfield, as told to Now or Never

The other day, I created an online dating profile for myself. I've already gotten responses from men. But I can't bring myself to write any of them back. At least not yet.

That's because, so far, I'm comparing all of them to my late husband, Mike.

I'm 46 years old and this is my first foray into the dating scene since Mike died almost two years ago.

Mike was everything I wanted in a partner. We had a son and, even after Mike got cancer, we had a really happy marriage.

Robin feels ready to look for love again. (Courtesy Robin Summerfield)

After Mike died, I didn't think about dating or finding love — until last Christmas. I spent five weeks in New Zealand visiting my sister and, there, I met someone. There was no romance. But we laughed and talked and spent time together. I realized that I think I might be ready for a new relationship.

So here I am, in my Winnipeg home, staring at the dating profiles of men who are interested in meeting me.

But how do I take the next step? How do I respond to even one of them when I can't stop comparing them to my wonderful Mike?

That's where my friend Judy Hope comes in.

She's been through the same experience as me. Her husband Andrew died 13 years ago, when she was about the same age as I am now. So I called her up in Calgary to ask for advice.

Here's how the conversation went…

How do I keep from comparing every man online to Mike?

No man is ever going to be like Mike. But maybe he'll bring you into a new place and bring new riches and new joys and new experiences and new adventures.

Judy has a lot of advice to give about dating after the death of a spouse. (Courtesy Judy Hope)

I have three wedding photos in my living room. Should I hide them?

One of the things I needed to figure out was what to do with Andrew. His spirit, his ghost his presence. How do I put him in a safe place so he's not intruding too much on the guys who are having coffee with me?

For years I had a photo wall with pictures of Andrew. But I had to think of potential suitors coming into the home. I keep a lot of stuff in my heart now. It doesn't need to hang on a wall or be on the mantle.

Has online dating worked for you?

I've met so many great people thanks to online dating and I've dated several of them. I have had very successful relationships depending on what you call success.

You have to think about, 'What is my ideal outcome? What do I want from this?' And if it's just to go out and meet people and just begin to date then it's actually a great thing. Even if it doesn't end with a second date.

Did you make mistakes?

I remarried and it was too soon for me and it was too soon for my kids. I didn't know that until I said, 'I do.' I wasn't ready, period. The marriage lasted a year. I had to allow him to discover that we had both made a big mistake. He moved and now he's in a great place. He's been remarried for a number of years.

Should I write back to these guys online?

It doesn't hurt to write someone back. When you look at someone's profile and you think this is someone you'd like to meet, don't even think, 'I'd like to be in a long-term relationship.' I've learned a lot about other human beings while online dating. But I've also learned an awful lot about myself. About who I am now and what I really want. Don't be afraid to write back.

If you want to hear the heart-to-heart I had with my old friend Judy, scroll back up the page and click 'listen.'

And if you're also putting yourself out there — good luck.

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Robin Summerfield is a freelance journalist and the author of the award-winning Winnipeg Cooks.

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