The past few weeks are the first that I have become aware that I am “single”. I have been intensely aware that I am alone. But the title “single” is just now settling in, uncomfortably I might add.

Other than my husband, I have only ever had one high school boyfriend. I was friends with both before we ever went on a date. That’s the entirety of my dating resume.

The idea of starting from scratch with someone new is terrifying. I’m the sort of person who has various layers I am willing to share with people. It takes a very long time to earn my trust enough for me to show the deeper layers of my true self. Not that I think people are bad or untrustworthy, but if I’m going to let you see my soul, I want to know you’re worthy first. That’s why there are very, very few people who I have trusted with my tears this year. The idea of starting from the very outer layer with someone new is an intimidating task for me.

And how do I choose which person to start that process with?

How can I tell from a first date if this is the guy worth the time and effort to build a relationship with?

As I’ve said the only two people I have been in a relationship with I knew for a time before our first date and had a decent idea of what sort of person they were. (My first boyfriend was a gentleman to the end. We literally hugged it out during our “break up” and although we haven’t spoken in a while, I still consider him a friend.)

When I was single before, I had a general policy of not giving out my phone number. I made one exception a couple months before meeting Jon. We were both volunteering for a fundraiser for the homeless being hosted at a church. He was a cousin of someone I knew and was a leader at a youth group I used to attend. Handsome, clean cut and well-spoken. Can you possibly think of a better circumstance to meet a potential boyfriend?

He invited me to come to a “youth event” that was going to be hosted at his house. Turned out that it was just him and one other couple who sat in the corner making out. It wasn’t long until I was incredibly uncomfortable, but not confident enough to just up and leave. The other couple disappeared and the guy ended up essentially pinning me down. He had all of his weight on me and was trying to convince me to kiss him. He wasn’t aggressive… yet. But I knew without a doubt that if I pulled away at all it would trigger him. Clearly, I was not interested in kissing him in the slightest and felt that if I did, I wouldn’t be able to keep him from going further. I silently prayed for a way out.

Then my phone rang. I pushed him off, stood up, and grabbed my phone. It was my mother. God had woken her from a dead sleep and told her to call me. I immediately made my excuses and bolted.

So that’s it. My one and only experience meeting up with a guy I did not already know. All outward signs seemed as if I found a winner and yet I honestly thought he was going to rape me. You can imagine how thrilled I must be to have to once again face the Hunger Games that is dating.

I don’t like the dating process. I’ve always said that dating was like buying a used car and immediately taking it on a road trip. It might look great on the outside but you don’t know what the problems are until you are broken down on an empty highway somewhere. When you’re married you learn what the problems are and how to deal with them. You might have to jiggle the handle to open the door and the gas gauge might be a little off, but you’ve adjusted to those little things and at least you know the engine is solid.

Even if I find a guy who doesn’t try to force himself on me on our first hangout, dating is still a masquerade. Everyone shows their best self or a self they think the other wants to see. But it’s the deep, hidden flaws that end up causing pain down the road. Things like anger, toxic friendships, or porn.

To be honest that last one is one of the things that worries me the most. It’s not exactly a first date discussion, but in my mind, it is no different than cheating with someone over Skype. I was so lucky with Jon. I never had to compete with that. It was never an issue. He never looked at it the whole of our marriage. I know because not only was he a terrible liar, but I was the tech person and our internet history was shared across all of our devices. Jon could have fallen through a trap door into a room full of beautiful naked women and I am 100% confident that he would have run for the exit with his eyes closed. (Apologizing to the ones he bumped into on the way.) Porn is the one issue I really don’t want to face in my future relationship, but unfortunately, the odds are not in my favor there. And how can I possibly know if someone has an issue with that until we are far into a relationship? That scares me.

And then there’s the matter of faith. I need the man who becomes a father to my children to be able to help me to raise them up in faith. If something happens to me I need to know that he will be able to continue to point them to God after I am gone. But where are the Christian men? There aren’t many left and I have seen for myself more than one marriage destroyed by someone who claimed to be a Christian but whose character and integrity were found wanting. Belief doesn’t automatically mean someone has good character and there are many good men who don’t believe. How am I possibly going to find a man who is both?

When I was married I never fantasized about being single. I never wished I was with someone else. There were times that I wished I was alone, but even at the worst point in our marriage, I was confident that Jon was a good man who loved me. I never desired to seek out another.

“Single and ready to mingle” sounds like a punishment rather than a party. In my mind, dating is the added insult to the injury of becoming a widow. The idea of having or fighting for the attention of multiple guys is not appealing to me.

All I want is one. Just one good man who I can trust. The electricity and butterflies of first dates and first kisses are all well and good. I won’t lie, I am looking forward to experiencing new romance again. But it doesn’t compare to the steady warmth of having someone who you can depend on to be there for you in your darkest moments and celebrate you in your greatest accomplishments. It’s finding someone that I can have that kind of intimacy with that is the ultimate challenge ahead of me.

Song of Songs 5:8

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you—
if you find my beloved,
what will you tell him?
Tell him I am faint with love.