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Your Guide to Finding the Very Best Second Husband

After all, why settle for second best?

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My late-Aunt Sophie celebrated her 80th birthday by serving her husband with divorce papers. When he asked why she wanted to give him the boot — he was, after all, a very handsome, very doting man who was 12 years her junior — she replied simply: "Well, dear, you just can’t keep up.”

My aunt, you see, was a pistol of a woman. She overflowed with energy and had an insatiable curiosity barely touched by the mountain of books stacked on her nightstand or the extra pages her passport needed for all the places she went to explore.

In hindsight — knowing my aunt’s zest for life and her even greater enthusiasm for physical romance — I have often thought what she actually said was that her about-to-be-former husband couldn't keep it up. Yes, she was sassy like that. But the message either way is the same: At some point, you just have to recognize what it is you really need and figure out how to get it.

This dovetails with another piece of Aunt Sophie’s wisdom that she was fond of sharing, especially when I sought advice about my own affairs of the heart: Like the Cheshire Cat told Alice, if you don’t know where you want to be, it doesn’t matter which direction you go.”

I found myself in those precise crosshairs in 2017 when I was 66 and my longtime husband had just died. For the two years prior to losing him, I was his caregiver — an experience that brought me no joy and great feelings of despair. And as harsh as this may sound, his death actually brought relief.

If I knew one thing, it was this: I wanted and deserved to be happy again.

So, contrary to popular wisdom that calls for widows to make no big changes for at least a year, within mere months of becoming a widow, I began scouring online dating sites looking to find my second and final husband. I approached the process methodically and with a great deal of thought because, as Aunt Sophie preached, if you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll never get there. Here’s how I did it:

I didn’t waste time with anyone who wanted something different from what I wanted, which was a committed relationship. Hookups were never my thing, and I would never be anybody’s side-squeeze. I say this not in judgment of those who might seek an unencumbered roll in the sheets or would rather skip intimacy in favor of a platonic relationship. The methodology is the same: Know what you want and then figure out how to get it.

I also only sought men close to my age. Again, contrary to popular belief, not all men over 60 on dating sites want to meet someone their daughter’s age. I found that older, smart women were actually a hot commodity.

I kept my photos recent, didn’t post anything sexually suggestive and stated clearly what defines me: my kids, my work as a writer, my family of friends. I was also clear about what I wanted: a man who was smart, funny, left-leaning and with values in alignment with mine.

I responded only to those who identified as widowed. I preferred widowers to divorced men because they came with an established track record of staying together. Marriage can be hard, and I wanted a husband who knew both how to love and how to quarrel. After all, not every disagreement needs to be disagreeable.

I not only wanted a widower, I wanted a widower whose grief wasn’t still omnipresent. Mine wasn’t and my eyes were facing forward, not glued to the past. Besides, nothing shouts, “I’m not emotionally available” louder than spending an evening listening to someone talk about how great his late wife was. The only thing worse might be having to listen to someone divorced trash talk their ex.

The truth is, I met my prince without having to kiss any frogs. Charlie, the man I am now married to, stood head and shoulders above the rest of the online pack. For one thing, he spelled all his words right. Laugh if you will, but I’m a writer and he is a retired English teacher, and yes, grammar matters to both of us.

We exchanged messages for a while on the dating site before we graduated to texting. Then, after a few weeks, we made it to a phone call — one that lasted for more than two hours and afterward neither of us could remember what we talked about, just that it all felt so comfortable.

That first call led to nightly calls, which led to an in-person dinner where we closed the restaurant. He never showed up without flowers while we were courting, and now that we’ve been married for a couple of years, my vase still remains full.

I have always believed that I can be a hard person to love. I’m opinionated, can be difficult when angered and have had to learn that not every compromise results in my being compromised. On the other hand, there is much to love about Charlie — his kindness to everyone including the undeserving, his moral compass that sets the bar high for always doing what is right and his passion for life — especially a life with me. He also holds doors open for everyone, both literally and figuratively.

Yes, I got lucky.

I followed not only Aunt Sophie’s advice, but also that of one of her favorite philosophers, Plato, who said this in The Symposium: “Love is simply the name for the desire and pursuit of the whole. Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two …”

Of course, Plato also called love a “serious mental disease” and is known to have remained a bachelor during his life. Then again, he never met my Aunt Sophie.

Have any of you found a fabulous second husband? Let us know in the comments below.

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