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WAY member shares advice on online dating

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WAY member Shalini Bhalla-Lucas has written a book about online dating after being widowed. Here she shares some words of wisdom on the challenges of finding love again following bereavement...

"Online dating is a fraught business at the best of times and dating at 40 when you expect to already be in a steady and committed relationship is…well let’s just say it can be interesting!

I met my husband Jeremy when I was 21 and he was 40. He had gone through an acrimonious divorce the year before and was only just beginning to enjoy bachelor life. I was a young Kenyan Indian girl, fresh off the Boeing, studying at the University of Surrey.

I was lucky. Meeting Jeremy when I was so young meant that I did not have to go through all the angst of dating that often happens in one’s early 20s. We fell in love almost immediately after meeting and settled into a loving, caring relationship and comfortable domestic life for the next 19 years. The best 19 years of my life. I was happy…until the day in 2016 when my life was blown apart by Jeremy’s death from cancer.

In April 2018 I decided that I needed to start getting some of my life back following Jeremy’s death. At 42 years of age, after having completely withdrawn from the world and having locked myself away for nearly 18 months to grieve and write my first book, Always With You – A true story of love, loss…and hope, I began to emerge and was ready to face the world again.

I needed to live again, I needed to laugh again and yes, maybe one day, I would want to love again. So, after much soul-searching, numerous discussions with friends, my sister and my dance students, and with reassurances that I wasn’t betraying Jeremy or the life we had had together, I decided to embark on the interesting, complicated and sometimes murky world of online dating.

Over the course of seven months, I spoke to over 50 men, dated 21 of them and discovered that online dating is quite an education! I have learnt so much about men – and more importantly – so much about myself. It has been a time of fun, laughter and sometimes despair. But mostly it has been a time of self-discovery, renewed confidence and self-growth.

The men I have dated in these seven months are so very different from Jeremy. Perhaps, that was a conscious or sub-conscious choice on my part. Interestingly, going on these dates has resulted in me sometimes missing Jeremy even more.

But, I cannot live in the past. I live with the beautiful memories of the past, but I know I need to move forward with my life and live in the now.

There is a lovely Samburu proverb:

Keata nkishon larin

Life consists of seasons

Life is not one long season, one smooth journey. Rather, it is a series of chopping and changing times, both happy and sad, serene and tumultuous. Each of these seasons brings with it experiences – good and bad, and through these experiences we learn the lessons we need to in this lifetime. And so, as the seasons change, so do we. We learn, we grow, we fall, we rise, we cry, we laugh, we live.

And so, online dating was the beginning of a new season for me.

In my new book Online Dating @ 40 – The Nobheads, Nutjobs and Nice Guys I share some of the experiences I had over the seven months. I answer some questions that so many of us who have been widowed ask ourselves: When’s the right time to start dating? What do we do about our wedding rings? Are we looking for that someone special or just a casual liaison?

I also tell you about the Catfish, Ghosters and Adulterers that I came across – and how to spot them. But more than that, I give you a personal view on how online dating worked for me – how it has helped me to move forward with my life. No, I haven’t found anyone special through online dating – but I have definitely made some good friends, learnt a lot about myself, grown in confidence and had a lot of fun.

Yes, online dating can be a minefield and it can be soul destroying – but only if you let it be. Reframe how you approach online dating, be open to new experiences and meeting new people and perhaps most important of all – let go of any expectations – because that way you won’t be disappointed."

Both Shalini's books are available at Amazon or at www.justjhoom.co.uk/shop/

© Sian Tyrrell

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