Women and love

A Later Life Valentine

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February 12  |  finding a relationshp, finding love, Love & Relationships, Mature dating, Self-Help, self-reinvention, self-transformation, Women and love  |   Cynthia


Here’s a Valentine’s blog, written by Tricia Cusden, founder of Look Fabulous Forever cosmetics for mature women, to which I contributed advice:

It’s that time of year again when the shops are full to the brim with red or pink hearts, dark carmine coloured roses, champagne and chocolates. All the symbols that we use to signify deep and lasting love given and (hopefully) received from our significant other. But not for me! Because it’s a very long time since I had anything resembling a ‘significant other’.

I have been divorced since I was 42 years old, so that’s very nearly 30 years of (theoretically anyway) being open to the possibility of another relationship. I did have a couple of longer term liaisons up to the age of around 50, but neither of these became everlasting. However I was busy, happy and my life was interesting and satisfying on so many levels that I honestly didn’t mind being on my own. In very many ways I preferred it, but I was always open to the possibility of finding love again. That was until, at the age of 57, I met someone I will call Harry.

I met Harry through a friend. She knew him in a business context and suggested that she set us up on a sort of blind date. First impressions were ok, if not amazing, and we spent a pleasant evening having an early supper and then going on to the theatre. I can’t remember the second date but I began to think that a relationship might be possible. Harry proved to be an interesting and agreeable companion and was what I can only describe as ‘urbane.’ He’d lived in London all his life and knew it in a way that I didn’t. So we started to enjoy going to some really fascinating places, small and amazing restaurants and to exhibitions, plays and other gigs that expanded my horizons. He was amusing, good company and was always immaculately dressed. After a few short months we started talking about moving in to live together. Then I went to Cape Town for a two week holiday with my daughter and half way through my break, the texts we had been exchanging several times a day suddenly stopped. I tried calling him but he was evasive and I got a horrible feeling that he was lying to me.

To cut a long and painful story short, when I returned to the UK our relationship quickly unravelled. I discovered that I had been dealing with a Walter Mitty character, a recovering alcoholic who had spun me a whole load of truths, half truths and very many untruths. In short, I felt conned. He was not the person I thought he was, and all the time he had been two-timing me with (what he had claimed) was an ex-partner.

I was devastated and very angry with myself for being so trusting, gullible and blind. I immediately extricated myself from the relationship and despite several attempts on his part, I refused to see him again. Since this bruising episode which really knocked my confidence, I have closed myself off from the possibility of finding a man.

However I am fascinated to watch friends who have been able to find delightful, genuine and trustworthy men who have brought joy and companionship into their (later) lives. So this week I thought it might be interesting to explore successful ways to find love in later life with Cynthia Spillman who runs the International Dating Academy which she calls a ‘one-stop dating shop’ for people who wish to improve their dating skills. Cynthia has published a book called ‘From Dinner Date to Soulmate – A Guide to Mature Dating‘, targeted at women who have been single for years, or who are divorcees or widows.

Here are Cynthia’s Top Tips For Finding Your Valentine:

  1. It’s never too late to find love. It’s disheartening when you suffer from a bad experience like Tricia’s. There are many variants of the con man out there and it’s difficult not to become “relationship-jaded” and decide that it’s safer to remain on your own. Emotional distress can be accentuated at this time of year. Finding love has no sell-by date – even if you’ve been out of the dating “jungle” for a long time. I’ve witnessed countless family, friends and date coaching clients, find joy in later life. I married my third husband Peter when I was 48 and, 11 years later, we’re still in love. My mother-in-law remarried at 81. It’s possible – but you have to approach your mature love search with wisdom and tenacity. Do make sure that you’re in the right place in your life to find love – but also remember that finding love has no sell-by date on it.
  2. First love yourself. You have to learn to love yourself before you can love another. Self-care doesn’t equate to selfishness. When you feel truly good about yourself, you’re far likelier to attract the right person. Remember the oxygen mask principle on a plane – you’re advised to put on your mask first, before helping others.
  3. Be proactive. Proactive doesn’t mean desperate! It involves embracing all methods of meeting a potential partner. I advise my clients that finding love is a numbers’ game and that online dating is like eating your vegetables – nobody wants to do it, but it’s good for you. Yes – it can be irritating, but if you view it as a tool in a larger bag of re-emerging dating skills, it does truly have advantages. You can keep your dates short and sweet – which is a good starting point from which to reignite your dating mojo. You must always follow strict safety rules and if you smell a dating rat – get out immediately. You must also embrace every opportunity to meet somebody new. This means using your networks in a sensible way, telling friends you’re on the lookout for a great man and join man-friendly organisations. I used to own ‘Dinner Dates’ – we ran multiple events on a weekly basis, which afforded our clients the opportunity to meet in a safe environment, at hosted events. Mature dating needn’t be doom and gloom. You have so much more to offer a partner in terms of richness of life experience.
  4. Expand on The Sisterhood. Seek out women who raise your spirits, and never dump your close girlfriends when you’ve found a partner. In this circle, include some ladies who have what you’d like – a fulfilling relationship. You can learn from them and their example will propel you on when, inevitably, you get knocks along the way on your mature dating journey. Hanging out with the girls will also enable you to not to feel overwhelmed.
  5. Bury your baggage before entering a committed relationship.Don’t drag all your relationship yesterdays into today. Many women blow their chances during embryonic dating, by suffering from emotional and verbal incontinence and telling all to their date, way too soon. This gives totally the wrong impression about you, may scare the pants off your date and is also an indication that you probably aren’t yet ready for a new relationship. No man wants to hear how hideous your ex was – at least not in the early stages! Inevitably, we all drag our relationship “previous” into our next relationship, but too much too soon can spell sabotage. In my book, I suggest various methods for dealing with troublesome emotional baggage.
  6. Good communication is crucial. Practising mindful communication is the life blood of your relationship. Mindful dating and communication open up a whole new world of relating to others and yourself. They also enable you to manage your expectations of yourself and of your potential partner, so that you don’t end up reeling from disappointment. You learn to “mind the gap”, take it one step at a time, and not buy into either catastrophizing or reading too much into your relationship situation, way too soon. Your love life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Seize your courage – and go for it!


To date – or not to date – a widower?

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January 28  |  Grief & Bereavement, Love & Relationships, overcoming adversity, Self-Help, Women ageing, Women and love  |   Cynthia






I was recently asked to contribute to an article in a US publication, about the whys and wherefores of dating a widower.  This is a really tricky one to answer as there’s no right or wrong answer. Every situation is individual and different.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few quick guidelines to bear in mind:

  •  Ascertain discreetly how long it is since she died – he may not be ready for another relationship, even though he thinks he is.
  • Don’t rush it – go at his pace.
  • Know that anniversaries and special days will possibly be painful – even many years down the line
  • Don’t ask him about his late wife unless he raises it and if he does, let him talk about it. Don’t try to offer advice – all he wants is a witness to listen his pain.
  • He may want to avoid certain places where they went as a couple.
  • Set your own boundaries – beware of being compared to her, or incessant talk about her.
  • Watch out for warning signs – if he appears to be stuck in grief and it gets pathological then get out. He may not be emotionally available right now – but keep the door open if you want to.
  • Has he got baggage by way of children? If so, can you cope with it? Don’t try and be their mother. The best you can hope to be to them is a good friend. Be prepared for potential animosity from his former in-laws as well as his children and even friends.
  • Manage your expectations of him and the relationship. He may still be fragile. Give time time.

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Mindfulness and relationships

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October 24  |  Love & Relationships, Mindful communication, Mindfulness, Mindfulness and relationships, Mindfulness meditation, relationship communication, relationships, Self-Help, self-reinvention, Women and love  |   Cynthia













We all love a relationship happy ending.  As time goes by, this involves mindful effort and persistence. I set out below, the most important aspects, in my opinion of mindful loving.

 Good, open, mindful communication

Mindfulness is an especially invaluable tool in the area of couple communication, where it’s so easy to hear what we think is being said, through our personal filters, and then to overreact to it – strongly. More often than not, this is down to not only poor communication – but also our deeply personal, historical “stuff”.

Achieving and maintaining good communication is ongoing work. This is where practising communication mindfulness can be so helpful. When you put it into operation, you become increasingly able to pause, “mind the gap”, and clarify what’s actually being said. Poor communication will rapidly become a mental weed, clogging up and perhaps even strangling your precious relationship.

Interdependency versus co-dependency

Kahlil Gibran advises, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness”. This doesn’t mean either of you should abandon the other, but that it’s healthy for you to spend time apart as well as together, which is vastly different from cloying togetherness. Your long term relationship is actually enhanced by separate activity and even enhances it. Co-dependency sucks the very life out of your relationship. Interdependency enhances it.

Ongoing mindful renegotiation about miscellaneous boundaries

Relationships don’t remain static, because they’re a living entity with a life force of their very own. This is why you need to keep revising and renegotiating your boundaries, as time goes on.

 Mindfully respecting differences and appreciating and expanding on the similarities

Accept the things you can’t change about your partner and keep the spotlight on yourself. And when you do change, then the whole dynamic of your relationship shifts. Keep the focus and your energy on fixing yourself.

Being first and foremost friends

Your partner should be your best friend – not your only one – but the person who’s clearly one hundred percent in your corner, come what may. Best friends do argue, of course, but ultimately the bond that binds them together overcomes all the difficulties that may threaten to separate them. Treat your partner like you’d treat any best friend: with love, patience and compassion. Before you have something tricky to say, ask yourself if it really has to be said, does it have to be said now, and what’s the kindest way of saying it – and breathe, before you say it.

Being able to say sorry

Unlike what you may have seen in the film “Love Story” –love IS having to say you’re sorry – even when strictly, you’re not. The pain of discipline versus the pain that stems from the regret of not apologising is infinitely better. I’m not saying you should be a scapegoat and take the blame for everything. It’s about achieving a happy medium, and focusing on what’s good in the relationship.

Showing continuing appreciation of and gratitude for the other.

There’s magic in the ordinary, in gestures of tenderness especially under stress. Demonstrating thoughtfulness doesn’t have to involve spending money or displays of ostentation. Write a gratitude list of each other’s positive traits.  Go through pictures and mementos of your early days and also your special ones. Never forget anniversaries, birthdays and significant days. Show each other consideration. Express you appreciation to each other for what you CAN do.

 Learning to grow through adversity

Nobody is exempt from suffering. Continue to share your wishes, hopes and dreams with one another, as this will enable you to visualise better times, which will surely come, because nothing lasts forever.

 Leaving the past behind

You’re here NOW, so don’t measure yourself against your partner’s past.  They are with you now and their past belongs exactly there, not in the present.

An intimate relationship is your greatest teacher – so learn your lessons well and don’t quit! It’s always way too early in a committed relationship to throw in the towel, unless something totally unacceptable happens, such as violence or an addiction for which your partner refuses to seek help. A great relationship can heal and nurture you in a much healthier way than your birth parent did – it’s like a mirror – reflecting the good, the bad, and the ugly in both of you.


Mindful dating v internal elephants

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February 23  |  Dating, Dating Coach, finding a relationshp, finding love, Love & Relationships, Mindful communication, Mindfulness, relationships, Self-Help, Women and love  |   Cynthia

Nail biting

Anxiety is a perfectly normal emotion to experience, when you’re in the early stages of dating a new, prospective partner.  But it needn’t be a nail biting experience, if you take a few moments to pause, reflect and go about dating in a mindful way. Below are some quick tips on how to prevent the butterflies in your tummy, from morphing into a sabotaging date-wrecking herd of elephants, rampaging around in your innards.

Be prepared

Like the scouts, being prepared for all eventualities is key. This may not sound very sexy and spontaneous, but if you were applying for a new job, if you’ve got any sense, you’d be doing research on the company you hoped to be employed by. Why should it be any different with a prospective lover?  I don’t mean for you to start stalking his bestie, drive past his pad at midnight, staring longingly at his closed bedroom curtains, or make an absolute tit of yourself, in any other way.  But undertaking a little bit of pre-assignation investigation will help quell your nerves on The Date, and won’t necessarily turn you into a latter day female Inspector Clouseau of “Pink Panther” fame.

Brainstorm potential topics of conversation.  Find out what he’s interested in and read up on it. Be aware of current affairs but stay well clear of contentious topics such as sex, politics or religion –  the first few dates aren’t the time to regale him with your salacious intimacy “previous”.  These topics are potential date-busters!


Pamper yourself so you feel at your very best.  Don’t wear anything that will make you feel self-conscious – ie a décolleté which is so extreme, that if you’re not careful, you’ll end up tripping over your own boobs. Nor should you wear a dress which is so frigging short, your prospect can see your tonsils.  There’s a time and place for everything and this isn’t it! If you’re unsure, ask a trusted friend for input.  Safe is one hell of a lot better than sorry.


Give yourself plenty of time to get there. Plan the best route beforehand, leaving room for error, such as getting lost, tube strikes, people under a bus etc.  Sit quietly before you leave, and practise some very simple, mindfulness breathing.  I realise you may be so worked-up that your head resembles a washing machine in the spin cycle – but that’s only  reason to meditate more.

Practising mindfulness during the date

Listen to your prospect more than YOU speak!  Remember to practise deep, slow breathing during the date – not so fast that you hyperventilate and you need to engage in emergency breathing into a brown paper bag. This could be somewhat embarrassing! Simple and calmly is best. By so doing, you’ll avoid speaking at the speed of a machine gun engaged in active combat.  And speaking of guns – for God’s sake keep your powder dry. I repeat – don’t tell him your deepest, darkest and dirtiest secret. That’s first date suicide. And don’t drink too much either unless you’re not bothered about potentially presenting yourself as a neurotic, desperate lush!

Trust your instincts

If you do as I suggest, you’ll be far more in tune with the other person’s vibes. Trust yourself and your inborn instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t! If you’re super anxious, keep the first few dates short. Meet for coffee, a drink, lunch – then if all seems to be going swimmingly – you can take it to the next stage and meet for dinner. Remember – you’re not dating Prince Charming, just a regular guy who’s probably as nervous as you are.  Believe it or not – men suffer from dating nerves too.

Enjoy yourself!  That’s the whole point of the date – and remember, there are no true faux pas dating gaffes – just learning experiences. If it doesn’t go to plan, then keep breathing, don’t be hard on yourself, put it behind – and try again.

Have fun!




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Stepping up to the plate – the challenges of step parenting

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November 12  |  Blended families, Living with baggage, relationships, Self-Help, Step parenting, Stepchildren, Women and love  |   Cynthia


“And they ALL lived happily ever after”, as the fairy tale goes. Note the italics, because when you’re a step parent, even in the very best of cases – which are few and far between – it’s an impossible job.  If you think being a natural parent is tough, then try step parenting out for size.

Ok, so we all have baggage.  But when you take on a partner, it’s a case of “love me, love my dog”,  and some dogs are just plain nasty, and bite viciously, no matter how many bones you offer them. We live in a time when “blended families” are the norm, and the traditional mores have all but broken down.  Some of that baggage is weightier than others.  You and your partner bring into the current relationship, along with your own personal wounding, that of your progeny.

No matter how bad the birth parent was or is, as a stepparent you have no voice, nor any rights – legal and otherwise.  There’s no exterior body of  support, as there is for single parents.  And with the best will in the world – your partner may invite your opinions, but will probably discard them, feeling caught between a rock and a hard place. The word, “injustice” takes on a whole new meaning when you become a step.

As someone who has had almost 15 years experience of being a stepparent, in extremely difficult circumstances, I can tell you that there’s no easy answer.  The best thing you can do to preserve your relationship – and your sanity, is to distance yourself and keep your mouth shut.  You can try until you’re blue in the face, but in the vast majority of cases, your input won’t be appreciated and may well be thrown back in your face.

There comes a point where you have to decide what’s important – the health of your relationship with your nearest and dearest or the time-limited surge of power which comes from being “right” about The Baggage. Isn’t better to be happy (sort of) than right? If not, you risk stirring up a tsunami of raw emotion and end up driving yourself and your partner into that crazy-making, hideously familiar emotional cul de sac.  Then you beat your head against the wall – and repeat this all over again, illustrating Einstein’s theory perfectly – that madness is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Given the lack of external support, I firmly believe in the therapeutic powers of The Sisterhood. Regular rendezvous where you can safely vent your spleen, dissipating The Daily Frustration of “guess what they did THIS time?” The bottom line is – if you’re brutally honest – your steps don’t want you, now or ever,  and frankly you don’t need the hassle and upset of having to cope with them. They were in search of their own happy ever after – two birth parents under the same roof. Harsh – but alas, true.

I dedicate an entire chapter in my book, “From Dinner Date To Soulmate – Finding Love At Any Age”, on how to live with baggage.  It’s an ongoing struggle and process for most of us. But don’t give in!  That’s probably want they wanted in the first place – and you just need to learn to be smarter and more resilient than them. A great relationship is worth working at and fighting for. Don’t give up on a good thing.

May The Force be with you!