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Don't Let Your Ex Ruin It For Your Next

Dear Dating Doctor:

What suggestions do you have for us women who are in our mid-30's to mid-40's to regain the self-confidence and self-esteem that men have stripped from us through various relationships and marriages? I fear that every new man will be just like my ex-husband.

- In Need of a New Mentality

Dear In Need

For most women, dating in their late 30s and 40s is a completely different ballgame than it was when they were in their 20s. The first major difference is that you now know more about men than you did when you were younger. This is called experience. Infatuation has given way to instinct.

It is evident from the tone of your question that men have not left a favorable impression on you. The negative 'baggage' you carry from past failed relationships is being projected onto new ones. Each new acquaintance will possess qualities, both positive and negative, that you will associate with past relationships.

I recently interviewed several women in their late 30s and early 40s who have recently re-entered the dating scene following a divorce or separation. They shared insightful perspectives that I will pass along. Women are socialized to believe that in order to live a 'complete' life they need men to take care of them and give them value. To gain back your self-esteem you must realize that you can live a productive, enjoyable and fulfilling life without a mate.

There is a huge difference between having a man in your life and having a partner in life. You need to fight feeling inhibited by the lack of a partner or escort to functions or events that interest you. Learn to become comfortable doing things by yourself, or with a close female friend, in order not to miss them -- such as taking in a great movie, attending a concert or dining at a wonderful restaurant. Plus, you never know whom you'll meet while taking in these activities.

To meet men, engage in activities that you enjoy and that offer opportunities for interaction. These will lead you to others who have similar interests. Be prepared to make new friends. Following a divorce or separation, the number of 'true' friends you have will diminish. Many of your so-called 'close friends' will perceive that they have to choose between you and your ex. When they realize that they can't play the middle, many will choose not to play at all.

Realize too, that married women may be intimidated by having an available, attractive single woman (you!) interacting with their husband on a regular basis. You may also sense resentment from married friends who are jealous of your 'freedom' while they are "stuck in a rut."

Learn to love and nurture yourself first. You should never tolerate unacceptable behavior from a man regardless of how attractive, wealthy or interesting he is, how lonely you are, or how much you have in common. Be aware that you will have a tendency to seek out someone just like your ex, which I guarantee will ruin it for your next.

If you use the net with common sense and see it as a means to an end, not an end unto itself, it just might help you meet someone special.

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