Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My wife and our two teenage children were killed in car accident almost two years ago. At the time of the accident we had been married 19 years. Ours was what I'd call a traditional marriage. Both of us worked, she an elementary school teacher me a manager in a medium-size firm.
I cautiously started an attempt to date three months ago. This 42-year-old widower was shocked at some of the changes in the dating scene. Being happily married I had no interest or exposure to dating services. Since all my friends are married, I am on my own. What hit me on several first dates was the ladies' perspectives of a couple's relationship. Retain their own last name in the event of marriage. Maintain separate bank accounts and establish who pays what bills, and each to provide for their own retirement, savings, etc.
I could accept these conditions, but then I think, what is the point of getting married? In my past marriage, we shared. There was one joint account, where we deposited our salaries, paid bills, and jointly decided what to save and spend on vacations etc. Am I old-fashioned and outdated in looking for that unity I so cherished?
-- Shying Away
I'm sure Wayne joins me in expressing my sympathies for your unimaginable loss. Now that you're ready to date again, I applaud you for doing so "cautiously" -- it's the right watchword as you move forward. Take care of yourself and if at any point you decide it's too soon or you're not ready, then it's OK to take a brief timeout or a long-term pause.
With time and patience you can find someone whose idea of marriage aligns with yours. In the meantime, consider a few points. The deal-breakers you're focusing on are very financial: shared bank accounts, mutual support of each other's retirement funds, vacation budgets. It's true these are important areas of focus in a long-term union. But, not so much on your first dates -- not even in your first few weeks and months of dating.
In the beginning, relax as much as possible. Use the first few dates to delve into less complex household management issues and instead focus on whether you share mutual interests, can laugh together and, most importantly, whether there's the all-elusive chemistry.
Yes, times have certainly changed since you last dove into the dating pool. Today, you don't have to technically meet someone to meet someone. Instead, you can tap some keys, click a mouse, log in and check out dozens of potential dates without so much as saying a word. It can be a little crazy, overwhelming and intimidating.
Wanda recommends relaxing and I'll echo that. Don't place so much pressure on yourself and your dates to find a perfect match with every outing. Some woman you meet might just be a great fit for you, but it's unlikely you'll learn that in the first, second or third date. That's when you talk about your favorite musicians, movies and ice cream flavors, not about changing last names and sharing bank accounts.
Dating takes work -- that's why it's so exciting, frustrating and exhausting. But if you are truly committed to finding a partner, it's an effort worth undertaking. Hang in there and take it easy.
And also take solace in knowing that one dating mantra will never change: Just be yourself. You might be old-fashioned and possibly out-of-date, but at least you're genuine. Stay that way -- the ladies love it.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.