Q: I just turned 60, have been divorced for seven years and have not dated anyone. I am really lonely. I work full time and have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which sometimes requires me to use oxygen. I am scared and embarrassed about possibly having to use oxygen on a date. Since being diagnosed, I have lost all my self-confidence. How might I start the dating process? If think if I put my COPD out there, I won’t be successful meeting anyone.
Dr. Pepper Schwartz: Other people also have medical issues, and people are more accepting of these issues now than they may have been when we were younger. Granted, there will be some who are looking for a perfect partner, but chances are that when you say you have this problem, the potential date will not only understand, but will share something he has had to deal with. It could be anything from bad knees to cancer, but a lot of people over 50 have something physical that isn’t “perfect.”
But first you have to improve self-esteem. Divorce can rob you of feeling good about yourself, and loneliness compounds the problem. To get over some of the loneliness and to get some practice with social interaction, join some groups at your church or local community center or take a class that is likely to have men in it, such as a golf clinic or a lecture series. Start up some conversations and get used to being with people again. You might even go to your local hospital and suggest putting together a COPD support group, and find out other people’s suggestions about how they are handling their medical issues. It could be a great emotional bonus, and who knows, there could be a great single guy in the group. In fact, some group like this might already exist. Take a look on the Internet and check it out.
When you feel that you know how to interact with people and don’t feel quite so lonely, then you might tackle meeting people for dates through the Internet or singles groups. Don’t let your illness determine your emotional happiness; it really doesn’t have to.
Photo by Brian Yap.
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