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  • Writer's pictureStephen Hart

Dating: Part 1

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

Well, after my last Q&A on Instagram, there seemed to be a fair amount of interest in my dating life. As something that has been a surprisingly positive and healing experience, I thought it is time to share how I approached dating again after losing my life partner. It turns out there was a lot to it, so this will be coming out in parts, and here is the first.

 

If things worked out a bit differently, I could be weeks away from being a father. We planned to marry in February and start trying for kids right away. If successful, mid/late November would have been the expected due date. We already had names picked out and everything.


Instead, I’m sitting here updating my Hinge profile.


Losing a partner is different than any other type of loss. At first, the grief process that unfolded was similar to the experience of losing my mother years before. Disbelief, anger, sadness, confusion, and with time and lots of work, acceptance. But as time drifted by and my acceptance settled, the healing path shifted from what I understood it to be.


You see, you don’t replace your mother when she passes. Or your brother. Or your child. Or your friend. They always exist in your heart, in a special little container that no one can touch. However, the same is not exactly true when you lose your partner. If I want to have what I want in life, I will need to fill the role that Karina held. I will need to give the space she occupied in my heart to another. While I will never not love or miss her physical presence in this world, in order to move forward in my life, eventually, someone will need to take on that role.


As hard of a truth this was to come to, at some point in this life, I will need to love another woman more than her. Karina and I had 7 wonderful years together, and our love was profound, but if I’m to have a family, someone will someday play an even bigger role in my life. That is hard to swallow, but it is the truth.


In order to do so, to get back on track for what I want in life, I have to date.


Karina always loved relationships, and she loved helping her friends navigate the trials and tribulations of their dating lives. She loved love and wanted to help everyone find it as we had. So, she would come home from seeing friends and unload to me all of the drama that is modern dating. (If Karina’s friends are reading this, I’m sorry to inform you that I knew more about your dating lives than you probably wanted me to).


She loved talking about feminine and masculine energy. She loved talking about respect and communication, chemistry and sex, love and compatibility. She loved telling me what women want and how men are screwing it up. I remember thinking, “dang, I could have used this info back when I was dating!” Yet, most of these conversations ended with me saying, “thank God I don’t have to deal with this anymore.”


Well, here we are.


At some point this year, I had to open myself up to another person. The question is often asked, how do you know when you’re ready?


My answer is this:


There is no perfect time to get back out there. It is different for everyone, and no one can tell you when the right time is for you. I believe dating is a very important part of the grieving process for people who lose a partner, as long as it is approached mindfully and with intention.


The question I had to ask myself was, am I doing this to avoid my pain and fill a hole with someone else? Or, am I stepping into this as an opportunity to learn more about myself, discover my emotional limits, expand my comfort zone, and continue to dig out pockets of grief that are hiding, all in preparation to eventually connect with the next significant person in my life?


With guidance from my therapist, I aligned my intentions but realized I needed to let go of a few things in order to step into the dating world with more ease and less friction. These are the main emotions that I faced:


Fear

Fear was the first hurdle. Fear of not being able to love again, fear of being too broken to love, fear of being alone for the rest of my life, fear of falling in love and losing my person again. Through daily meditation, journaling, therapy, and grieving, I was able to see these fears for what they are, untruths. The mind is a trickster, and any moment that gets wrapped in fear is an opportunity to take a step back, unwind it, and let it go. Finding a person to love in such a profound way again is a process and will take time, but I’m in no rush, and it is nothing to fear. As Karina taught me, it can actually be fun if I allow it to be.


Frustration

Starting over, having to step into the world of dating when I was so happy never to have to do it again, was very frustrating. I had exactly what I wanted and then lost it. I put in so many years building a solid connection with Karina; starting from scratch was daunting, especially after hearing “how it is out there.” In letting that go, I decided to be positive and excited about the process. I asked the universe to send me the right people at the right time for my journey forwards. Thus far, this has been exactly the case.


Guilt

This is the big one that I’ve found many others struggle with, but was actually pretty easy for me to let go of. I knew Karina so well, and she was such a wise soul. I know she wants me to have what I want in life, to be happy and in love again. She told me so when she was still here.


When someone dies, the ego is no more. They don’t have the capacity for resentment, jealousy, or anger. They immediately become unconditional love and only want you to be happy. They don’t want you to suffer. They want you to be healthy and find the love that you deserve. I heard this from Karina right away. There was never any guilt or shame in me for dating someone else, and I could only feel her encouragement and remember her advice. I see her as my ultimate wing-woman, guiding me along and reminding me to get my hair cut, wear shoes sometimes, and put sunscreen on, like she always used to.


Judgment

Unfortunately, those who are still in their physical bodies have thoughts, biases, beliefs, and judgments. Everyone seems to have their own idea about how long to wait before someone should start dating again. Karina was such an integral part of my life, work, and community; most people I know knew her and loved her. The same community supported her through her sickness, and me through my grieving, with so much love that words can’t even describe my appreciation for them. I cared about what they thought, and there was a major fear in me of being judged when I started dating and who I dated.


My therapist helped me to understand this: anyone who truly knows me, knows how much I loved Karina, knows what I did for her in her life and in her sickness, will want me to be happy like she does. Anyone who judges me for moving forwards, fuck ‘em (her words, not mine).


This is my life to live, and only I know what my intention is. If I eventually want a wife and family, this is the path. With some work, I was able to let go of this fear of judgment and allow myself to open up again.


So, the decision was made to get back out there. Inspired by one of Karina’s teachings, which was one of the few she uploaded on youtube, I decided to face this process with excitement instead of frustration, joy instead of guilt, and confidence instead of judgment.


The process has been pleasantly positive thus far. As a younger man, I had low self-worth, little confidence, and did not believe I deserved love. I would reach for a woman’s affection, putting on a mask to be the person I thought she wanted. Dating was stressful. Nowadays, things are very different.


When shit hit the fan, and I had to step up and take care of Karina, I put my years of personal development and spiritual work into practice. The intensity of the fire burned away my insecurities, and I realized my true strength and character for the first time. I saw what I was capable of in the face of adversity, and it was extraordinary. After it was all over and I reemerged in the world, I embodied a confidence that was new and profound.


Taking this into my dating life allowed me to go without fear. I was no longer scared of rejection. Being turned down by a woman used to be a huge blow to my self-esteem in my younger years, but now it feels like in pinprick compared to the experience of having my arm ripped off.


This perspective allows me to show up as my true self. I know my value and know what I have to offer, and that feels so comforting, so validating, so freeing. This was a gift that Karina gave me through her transition. She showed me my worthiness to be loved, my capacity to love, and the strength of my masculinity to take care of her when she needed it most.


So, back in the dating pool as a new man, I have had an amazing experience thus far and met some wonderful people. There have been some wobbles along the way, and that’s all part of becoming vulnerable again. I’ve learned a lot, and I will be writing Part 2 of this article in the near future about how some of my experiences in dating again have contributed to my expansion and healing process.

 

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