The Dating Game: Round Two

The Dating Game: Round Two

Love ain't easy the second time around

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“I Google them and then I run a case search.”

The woman speaking is not talking about hiring a nanny, a contractor or a new employee. At 49 and recently divorced, she’s talking about how she prepares for a first date.

“Divorced people want to know about each other’s divorces,” she continues, leaning over her salad on a recent Thursday at Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda. A head-turner with frothy blond hair, she looks like a less whacked-out Rielle Hunter. “Half the time you both get together and talk about what went wrong in your marriage. I call it ‘BlackBerry conversation.’ Meaning he shows you a text from his ex and says, ‘Can you believe what she wrote?’ ”

Somewhere, Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger is having a heart attack. All the rules from dating in your 20s and 30s—never discuss past relationships; don’t treat the evening like a job interview; and, heavens to Betsy, no sex on the first date—seem to fly out the window as soon as you hit your 40s.

It’s a brave new world for many Bethesda-area residents who find themselves divorced in midlife. There are kids to deal with, possibly just grown enough to cringe at the image of Mommy and Daddy on the prowl. Not to mention the fact that the Bethesda area is a small enough pool, especially for those born and bred here, to put that prowling inside a fishbowl.

And yet, that’s the world as we now know it. A recent study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio found that the divorce rate for people 50 and older has more than doubled since 1990. Fewer than one in 10 people were divorced that year; in 2009, that figure rose to one in four. Furthermore, a 2010 study by The Council on Contemporary Families found that 25 percent of recent divorces involved couples married for more than 25 years.

A single person now presides over nearly half of the households in Washington, D.C., according to a much-touted new book by Eric Klinenberg, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (Penguin Press). And a slew of magazine articles—including “All the Single Ladies” (The Atlantic); “The Single Life” (The Washington Post Magazine); “Alone Again, Naturally” (The New York Times’ Modern Love)—reinforce that idea.

“Rielle,” who wishes to remain anonymous—“My kids are adamant about me not being in a dating article because everyone they know will know, and it would be too weird for them”—was married for 17 years. She admits that anger toward her ex-husband (with whom she is still negotiating child support for two teenage children) has “fueled her fire” in getting back out there to meet men. In the past month alone she has dated an accountant, a software developer, a 30-year-old colleague and a man she met at a gallery opening in New York City.

She meets men everywhere, she says: on line at the post office, seated next to her on planes, stopped at traffic lights on Wisconsin Avenue. But she does have standards. “You pull up in a Honda with a McDonald’s bag in the back and I’m not even getting in,” she says.

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