I want a companion, not a relationship — what do I do?

/ Source: TODAY contributor

Need a quick answer to a relationship dilemma? Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her relationship advice in TODAY.com’s “30-second therapist” series.

Q: I'm a twice-widowed 67-year-old (still young) man. My last wife died 9 months ago. Dating seems different than it used to be. Everything today is geared to a permanent relationship. Is it wrong to just want to be social, like go out to eat, see a movie, bowl, talk and enjoy yourself? I'm not saying at some point I won’t want to go to the next level, but I don't feel that way right now. How do I present myself without hurting someone or sounding like I’m only looking for a one-night stand? —Young at Heart

Dear Young,

Keynoting a speech on Relationship Wellness for the students at Columbia University Medical Center, one question I got was how to ask someone out. Simple question? Not these days.

A young man donning a white coat and stethoscope said that when he asks someone to “hang out,” she automatically thinks “relationship,” the same as your older ladies.

Avoid confusion by specifying your intention upfront. As I directed the student, say, “Let’s go to a movie, as friends.” If a woman thinks she’s not attractive enough to score a “date” with you, that’s her issue. If she pushes for more, stand your ground. There’s so much free sex available today, more men are electing to go slow, rather than rush sexual intimacy. –Dr. Gilda

Q: I'm in the military and my wife is back in the States. After two years of separation, my divorce is still not final. I am stationed halfway across the world, and I am at the mercy of her lawyers. I am lonely and need support. I thought I might find someone online who could get to know me, and then when my tour was over, we could get into “real” dating. By then my divorce should be final. On my profile, do I say I’m “currently separated,” because it’s the truth? I worry that women will see that, and assume I’m a cheater looking for something on the side. Or do I write “divorced” because I’ve filed the paperwork, even though I don’t know when the divorce will be final.

I just need to find someone to connect with and confide in. I am so lonely here. Please help, Dr. Gilda! —Lonely Military Man

Dear Lonely Military Man,

Bless you for all you do to keep us safe! To be disconnected from control over your marital status is emotionally depleting and horribly frustrating, because autonomy is a mandate for healthy human functioning.

Admitting you’re “currently separated” will keep some likely suitors at bay. But naming yourself as “divorced” when you’re not will raise the ire of those who feel duped when they learn the truth. Regrettably, the online sites limit their categories. So honestly explain the details beyond the boxes.

One caveat: Neediness fogs perceptions and leads to unsuitable partnerships. So when you do connect, follow this Gilda-Gram™: “Fall in like before you rise in love.” This way, you’ll let your distance become the means to developing deep bonds. —Dr. Gilda

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Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emerita, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.