The following is the transcript of this podcast episode.:
Jodi: Welcome, Denise. It’s a pleasure to have you as my guest on the podcast this episode.
Denise: I am thrilled to be here. Thank you for the invitation.
Jodi: Thank you so much for coming on to share your dating experience, specifically your first date experience, that you had after you returned to the dating world following the passing of your husband. I know that we have listeners who, sadly, are in the same place that you were. I am sure that your story is going to be very meaningful to them. I’d like to start off, as we do each episode, with our guest, this time being you of course, sharing a bit about yourself.
Denise: Great. Thank you. So as you mentioned, I am a widow. I’m 46. My husband died a little over five years ago. Sadly, he died by suicide. He struggled with depression for many, many years. It was a shocking loss. It was a very traumatic loss. It took me quite a while to start to recover and quietly frankly I cried on my couch every day for a year. Then I suddenly started to come out of that fog.
Our son was 7 at that time. He’s 12 today. I’m thankful to say he’s doing really, really well. From a personal perspective, professionally I’m a writer. I own my own business. This is my 14th year in business and I love what I do. I’m a bit of a crazy cat lady. I have a few cats and love my home and my community. It’s just that, in many ways, we’ve had a difficult journey. I feel very grateful for the life that I have today.
Jodi: I am really moved by your story and that you ultimately found the bravery within yourself to come from out of such a dark place, and such a tragic circumstance, so that you could continue on with your son. I’m so glad to hear he’s doing well and that you are too.
Denise: It honestly took a good three years for the sun to shine again for me. I’ve done a lot of work, but I know that my husband would want me to be happy. I have a unique appreciation that life is short and it’s meant to be appreciated and enjoyed. So I thank him for teaching me that lesson.
Jodi: He gave you that gift.
Denise: Yes, he did.
Jodi: Out of such tragedy came that gift. Once you came out of that fog, you got yourself back into the dating world. How long after his passing did you ultimately decide to step out and get to the right headspace, the right mind space, to start meeting people?
Denise: You know, it’s a big decision and it’s different for every widow. I know some who never want to date again. I know others who dated within the first year. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong. It’s really what is right for you. For me it took about three and a half years to decide that I was finally ready. I had to do a lot of healing. I felt like I needed to be in a good place in order to be able to be with somebody new. So I really took the time I needed to, like you said, get in the right headspace for that.
Jodi: That’s understandable. And bravo for getting there! As you said, some people don’t heal, and others just decide they want to go forward solo, which is totally admirable, and if that’s right for them, then that’s what they should do. But in your case, you took a big step forward to say “I want to be in a relationship again.” How did you do it? What was the first step you took?
Denise: Well, I got online. I signed up with a couple of the different online dating programs like Match.com and eHarmony. I chose those primarily because I had to pay for them. My philosophy was that if other people were paying too, maybe they would be better candidates than people on some of the free sites. That’s how the whole thing started. I didn’t realize that there were free people on it, at least on Match.com.
Jodi: How did you and the guy we’re going to talk about find one another and on which dating platform? You mentioned a few platforms.
Denise: So Match.com. We are one of the success stories! That’s how we made the connection. I set out to date as a younger widow — I mean not young in my 40s, but a younger widow. I was warned by some fellow widows that that can actually scare some men off, the fact that you’re a widow. And so I thought, “You know what? I’m going to deal with this head on and build some humor around it.” So in my little written profile on Match, I had the perks of dating a widow.
Jodi: You did?
Denise: I did.
Jodi: Oh my goodness! (Laughter)
Denise: And I had things like “there’s no drama with the ex” and “I’ve got lots of free time.” It was just this silly list of five or six things. I think that that really helped make my case and also show some humor so that I didn’t look like everyone else that was on there.
Jodi: What a healthy approach! It must have lowered the concern that guys perhaps had when they started to read your profile. They saw humor there and learned a lot about you through that humor.
Denise: I wanted to be clear about what I was looking for and not looking for. I wanted to really convey that in the profile and filter people out as much as possible. So I was very honest in my profile, as much as I could be without it being five pages long, right? You don’t want to do that either. But I tried to keep it as real as possible. “I’m looking for fun. I’m not looking for somebody with a ton of baggage. If you’re in recovery, good for you, but that’s not a match for me.” I’ve had this long tendency to love wounded birds in my romantic life, in my friendships, and I thought “I don’t want a wounded bird, I want somebody who’s altogether”. So all of that had to get conveyed in that profile to kind of whittle down the dating pool, so to speak.
Jodi: Well, good thing you’re a professional writer! (Laughter)
Denise: That does help! It does help.
Jodi: Yes. It must have and you got responses, clearly.
Denise: I did. I had a lot of responses, in fact. For the first three months of being on both of those sites, I went out with seven different people. I felt that was a pretty good number considering how I really wasn’t on there for very long. And I feel like I’m pretty picky. I wasn’t saying yes to everyone. I’ll tell you that.
Jodi: That must have felt good that you were getting responses and you were getting out and meeting people who were contacting you first.
Denise: Yeah. I wasn’t aggressive about it. I’ll definitely say that. I waited until somebody else made a move, or maybe I would “like” their profile, and then wait and see if they contacted me. Then I had lots and lots of questions to screen before I ever agreed to meet anybody.
Jodi: How many years had it been since you had last been out there dating?
Denise: Oh my gosh! I was with my husband for 12 years and then he’d been gone for three and a half years. So it had been like 16, 17 years since I’ve been on a first date. You know, the other thing about that was that so many people had said, “Oh, internet dating, it’s awful. You’re going to hate it.”
I decided I was going to make my own decision about the experience. I actually really enjoyed the experience. I thought it was a lot of fun. It took me back to my 20s, because I hadn’t dated since my 20s. It’s different, as you’re in a more mature place in your life. I also felt like I brought more wisdom to the dating scene. So I found the whole process to be really more fun than stressful.
Jodi: That’s fantastic. It’s all what you make of things, right?
Jodi: If you go in with the attitude that it’s going to be awful, and you’re reluctant to do it, then it’s more likely going to be a nightmare.
Jodi: But if you go in thinking, “Hey, I’m just going to give it a shot. I’m going to be me and I’m going to go into this hopeful and with a smile on my face.” When you approach it that way you often get a very different experience and you clearly got a positive result. So who is it that we are going to talk about today that you met on Match?
Denise: Brad. He was date number 6 of 7.
Jodi: Did he contact you? What did you think when you read his profile?
Denise: His profile made me laugh and I love that. I literally laughed out loud. He had made fun of himself about camping in a camper and not being an animal, or something to that effect, and I just thought, “Oh my gosh! He has a sense of humor!” That’s great and plus he was pretty cute too. So I was immediately intrigued.
Jodi: And so you replied. What happened next?
Denise: I like to chat first, so we scheduled a phone call. I had said I would call him. It was a Saturday night and I was leaving a birthday party two hours away from my home. o I called him from the car, hands-free of course. He proceeded to talk the entire drive home! We were on the phone, I think, for a good two and a half hours, which is a good sign, right?
Jodi: It’s a very good sign! Wow! That is a lot of talking for a first conversation.
Denise: I will say, he did most of the talking.
Jodi: That often happens.
Denise: It does. Very common on these internet dates. Men get nervous, I think, and then they don’t know how to have the back and forth and ask you as many questions as you’re asking them. I had already noticed this trend on my other internet dates, so I kind of let it go. I just chose to focus on the fact that he was charming and he was very funny.
Jodi: Did he ask you out at the end of your very long conversation?
Denise: He did. He asked if I would like to meet for coffee the following the week. I agreed to do that. At the time he was working in the late afternoon, so we met for a late morning coffee on a Thursday.
Jodi: Casual coffee on a Thursday!
Denise: I love coffee dates because if they’re miserable you can leave. I had one date that lasted 45 minutes because I was so bored. I always tended to choose coffee. I’m not a big drinker either. We met at a great local coffee shop. It was a perfect choice.
Jodi: Did Brad get there first, or did you arrive first?
Denise: I was there first because I’m a very early person. I was pretty nervous, so I went in and decided to order my coffee and avoid the whole awkwardness of who’s going to pay. I sat at table in the corner that was a little bit hidden from the front door so that I could see him come in. But he couldn’t quite make me out because there were already quite a few people in there.
Jodi: What was your reasoning? Did you sit there because, if you didn’t like what you saw, you were going to exit out the side door?
Denise: No. I would never do that.
Jodi: I didn’t think so. Share with us what your rationale was for tucking yourself away in the corner.
Denise: I think I wanted to just take a breath before I stood up and greeted him. I was there early. I was nervous, even though I’ve been on a number of dates prior to that one. I was still nervous on every date. I just wanted that chance to kind of be ready to greet him.
Jodi: What happened next?
Denise: I saw him come in and I mustered up my courage when I saw him standing there looking around. I came out of my little cubbyhole and he got this big smile on his face when I came walking over. He said, “I’m really nervous.” He said, “Are you nervous?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m nervous too.”
Then he smiled and he gave me this big hug. All my nerves melted away because we both addressed that we were nervous. Also, the hug made me feel like, “Okay, this is all going to be fine.” Some people might feel awkward being hugged so soon. But for me, it was just a really friendly gesture and it calmed the whole situation down.
Jodi: I have heard about a lot of first dates, I’ve gone on a lot of first dates, I have never heard of a first date where a guy walks up and says, “I’m really nervous.” I think that’s amazing! I understand why all your nervousness went away. It’s just so human. It’s such an amazing way to connect at the first moment, that first hello. He obviously respected you from the start to say that to you.
Denise: Yeah. Part of what I really like about him is how authentic he is. That’s a huge value that I have with people in general. I like to connect with people at a real, authentic level. He immediately showed that to me and that really scored some serious points for him.
Jodi: I understand why. After that, what happened between you and Brad?
Denise: He offered to buy me a coffee and I said, “I’ve already got one at the table.” So, he ordered a coffee and we went and sat down. That little corner spot worked out great because it ended up feeling really private in a very busy café. We had our little corner and he proceeded to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, and talk a lot. A lot!
Jodi: Got it! What did you do as he was talking and talking?
Denise: I was kind of snickering because what I had figured out at this point in my online dating expertise of three whole months was that he was nervous and it meant he liked me, right? If they’re “over-talking” and they’re a little bit excited, it means they like you. If you view it from that perspective, it’s kind of sweet. So I just chalked it up to….he’s nervous, he’s interested, he’s saying a lot of interesting things. I enjoyed the conversation. He had me laughing quite a bit. I felt really comfortable with him and I also just had this suspicion that he would eventually not talk quite as much.
Jodi: Did he eventually just pause and let you take part in the conversation?
Denise: He did. Eventually, he became a good listener. But he definitely is an over-talker by nature. And that’s okay. I’ve come to accept it. It’s all good. But he’s also a very good listener.
Jodi: How did the date end?
Denise: Well, we were there for three and a half hours! I hadn’t had a single date last that long. It was incredible! It turned out we had a lot of similar musical tastes and like the same movies. We had a lot of fun things in common. He’s a very creative person. So, he had to leave for work. Had he not had to leave for work, we probably would have kept going. He walked me out to my car and said, “I’d really like to take you to dinner this weekend. Are you available?” And I said, “I am, I would love to do that.” We exchanged a big hug and he gave me this cute little smile as he walked away. It was adorable and I felt like a giddy teenager.
Jodi: That’s wonderful! You spent six hours talking to a guy who you did not know. But after six hours you knew him very well.
Denise: Yeah. And that’s a good thing. Look, I’d rather know too much than not enough, right?
Jodi: Right. Exactly. Share with me, and with the listeners the rest of the story please.
Denise: The funny part is that the day after I met with Brad, I had another date scheduled with somebody else. I didn’t tell Brad that. I went on this other date, but I almost canceled it. I thought, “I really like Brad, but I’d already scheduled it with this other guy.” And I thought, “Well, I’ll never know. I should at least go and give this other guy a chance.” So I did. I showed up.
He was the 45-minute date! He was boring. I could barely see straight. Nice man, just, he had no interests, no zest for life, no anything, I missed my over talker! So I let that go and Brad and I quickly became an item. In fact, I think it was on our third date that he whipped out his phone and said, “I’m shutting off my Match.com profile.” And I was like, “You’re kidding me. You’re doing this here in front of me?” He said, “Yeah. It’d be nice if you shut yours down too, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”
Jodi: Oh gosh! He puts you on a spot there, didn’t he?
Denise: He put me on the spot.
Jodi: How did you respond?
Denise: I pulled out my phone.
Denise: We had this wonderful connection from the get-go. It’s been a year and a half and we’re still together. He’s a wonderful man. We’re not living together. This question comes up a lot. I am not ready to share my space yet. But we’re very, very happy. He doesn’t have children of his own, but he is so great with my 12-year-old son. They have this wonderful humorous relationship. We laugh a lot. It was funny. Last week I introduced him to a friend he hadn’t met yet and my friend said, “You’re the sunshine-bringer-backer!”
Jodi: Oh, wow!
Denise: Because I have been much happier than I have been in years. After such a traumatic difficult time, to have this lighthearted happy person in my life on a daily basis has just been wonderful.
Jodi: I hear the joy in your voice. I hear the happiness. I hear the energy and certainly a lot of zest for life. I am elated for you, I’m elated for Brad, and I’m elated for your son.
Denise: Thank you.
Jodi: Before we close out, I would love it if you would share any dating learnings that you have from your three months of dating.
Denise: When I went into this online dating thing, I kind of flashed back to my 20s. I dated a lot in my 20s. I was very picky. I went on a lot of first dates. What I reminded myself when I returned to dating was that it’s not about if he likes me, it’s about if I like him. I think that changes the dynamic when you’re internet dating. I think a lot of people go on dates all worried about the other person when you really should be focused on how you’re feeling about the date.
The other piece of advice is to lead with your head, not your heart. I think this is a tricky one for some of us women because we tend to be heart-based. I got this advice from my therapist. She said, “When you go on these dates, you want look for red flags. You want to go in with your little check list of your “musts” and your “deal breakers.” You want to figure those things out before you let your heart get invested. I think that’s really powerful advice. We all have girlfriends who are also dating. I just had a conversation with another girlfriend who’s all heart. Unfortunately, in her dating life that leads to a lot of disastrous situations because she’s not seeing through a clear lenses before she dives in.
That is the greatest lesson in dating; to go out with clear intentions of what matters to you and what is the deal breaker. Look for those things before you allow yourself to really fall hard.
Jodi: This has been a treat. So thank you, Denise, for being with us on this episode. I wish you all the best.
Denise: Thank you so much, Jodi. This was really fun. Thank you.
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