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Now what? Men discuss moving on after divorce, death of spouse

Published: Tuesday, April 2 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

Hal Spielman, author of "Suddenly Solo."

Provided by Hal Spielman

Joe Keller and Harold "Hal" Spielman are at different stages of life many miles from each other, but they have shared a common dilemma. Each found himself alone after years of being part of a couple.

Each also sought but found little guidance when he wanted help to figure out what comes next.

Spielman is a hale octogenarian from Sands Pt., N.Y., who was widowed five years ago after decades of marriage. His children were grown and he'd retired from the market research business he'd co-founded, McCollum Spielman Worldwide. He wasn't ready, he said, to be "suddenly solo."

It's a phrase that resonates with him; he eventually co-wrote a book by that title that was recently published and also started a website to help men who find themselves alone navigate their new lives.

Keller, from Auburn Hills, Mich., is a divorced father of two who wasn't sure what to do next after his 13-year marriage ended three years ago. Though he's just half Spielman's age, he, too, was surprised by how much different even dating was.

New world

The world has changed for couples in just a generation, according to demographers. The trends are well documented: Fewer couples are marrying; cohabitation is up. While divorces themselves are down, in part because fewer couples marry, the Census Bureau says the number of currently divorced adults quadrupled from 1970. More men are alone for at least some period of their adult lives than in the past.

Writing for ABC's "20/20," Bill Ritter recently noted ways in which reality bucks stereotypes about divorce. For instance, modern divorce is initiated by women two-thirds of the time, he said. "And while men usually fare better financially than women in a divorce, experts say it's the men who are much more likely to come unglued emotionally — seriously unglued."

Men are statistically less likely to be widowed than women, but face many of the same issues divorce brings, from loneliness to logistics, dating to personal finance.

They may find fewer resources directed to help them, according to Spielman and Keller.

The discoveries the two men made in their separate realms are remarkably similar. Both men talk about the importance of having male buddies and activities, but note that married pals sometimes got what Keller calls "push-back from their wife who was apprehensive about letting their husband go out and hang with a single guy. That was a real issue."

Issues like who pays for what if you're dating were also a surprise.

Hiding out

Keller realized that he had "never been alone." He dated in high school and planned to marry the girl. When they broke up, he immediately started dating the girl he did eventually marry. When they broke up, he hadn't been a single person for half his life — and virtually all of his adult life.

His first impulse was to run out and find someone to date so he still wouldn't be alone, but he said he resisted that. He didn't want a rebound romance. "It was difficult at first. I forced myself to stay home and deal with loneliness for a while. Over time, I got over the feeling of being alone."

Both men said you have to be comfortable with yourself, no matter what your future aspirations are.

"If you're alone when you didn't expect to be, take heart in that," said Keller, who kept a journal at the time of his divorce and in its aftermath. Although that wasn't his goal at the time, those journals are the basis for a just-released book, "Single Effort: How to Live Smarter, Date Better and Be Awesomely Happy."

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