When to start dating again
When to start dating again
“Would you like to go out for dinner?” It seemed innocent enough. Just two people who know each other, sharing a meal instead of eating alone. (I didn’t realise at the time that I was heading for a disaster. 😕)
I’ll get back to that story, because this post is about the whole ‘dating thing’ after losing a partner. I’ve never been one to shy away from controversial topics (evidenced by Should You View Your Loved One in a Coffin, and Is All Grief the Same)….however I’ve been putting this topic on the back burner for a long time.
Why? Because ‘re-partnering’ is a massive topic. Because it can open a door to judgmental opinions. Because I would need to ‘bare my soul’ and share stuff that I’ve kept tucked away. And because it really doesn’t apply to me….or does it?
Let’s start back at the beginning though, because I think I need to put my thoughts (and these words) into context. Hang onto your hats because this is full disclosure time! 😉
D-day is the day Norbert died of course, and my very first reaction was as you might expect. I had lost my husband and life partner, and thoughts of flying to the moon were waaay more likely than the thought of me finding a new partner.
I couldn’t imagine sharing any part of my life with anyone, in any way, shape or form. I was going to be permanently alone. Period.
My attitude was unsurprising, and especially so because I had already made this decision once before in my life. I’ve been married before you see, and after the divorce I said “I will never, every marry again.” Hmmm….you just don’t want to tempt the universe like that! 😁
Eighteen months later I met Norbert. I had been feeling quite lonely in my new life, so I opened an account on one of the very first online match-making sites, looking for a friend. Just someone to talk to…have coffee with…..occasional dinners out maybe.
The first time we met (in a public place because he might have been an axe-murderer) I remember I made it very clear “I am definitely NOT looking for a partner!” “Good,” Norbert replied, “Because I’m not either.” With that agreement in place, we stayed in our own homes but settled into a comfortable and companionable arrangement which lasted for a whole decade. So what happened?
Long story short….he went to work overseas, we found we missed each other…I went there to be with him….he proposed….I accepted…we finally moved in together….and had almost ten more years as husband and wife. That should have been the end of this ‘Happily Ever After’ story!
“Yikes!”, I can imagine everyone is saying. What on earth…??!!!
The truth is that I created an account on one of the dating apps, and then looked at a few of the profiles of some of the ‘available men’. I then sat on the floor, cried my eyes out and deleted the account.
I haven’t told anyone this story, but I want to now because I’ll bet I’m not alone with this secret. Looking back from a different perspective, I can see that I wasn’t looking for a new husband at all. I had also lost a friend, lover, companion, travel partner….and a whole future. In my pain and the temporary insanity of early grief, I was looking for a way to ‘fix it’.
That was back at the beginning though, and I feel I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve learned to find and enjoy my new identity as an independent woman, to travel by myself and even love myself through self-caring.
I follow another blogger who has recently announced her commitment to a new man, even though her first husband died around the same time Norbert died. Truthfully, I wish her every happiness for a new future. She is also younger than me and has three children to bring up.
I’m not so sure it’s an age thing though. In my own family there has been a wedding where the bride and groom (widow and widower) were considerably older than I am now. When I talked to them about it, they said “It made sense. We were both lonely and at each other’s houses all the time.”
For them, getting married meant companionship, and living in one house and selling the other led to a better financial future. Perfectly sensible.
Maybe it’s just that some people have a higher need to form a permanent relationship. The research seems to indicate that men often crave this more, and a larger percentage seek a new relationship.
“…men are more likely to marry again quite quickly after the loss of their wives than women do. Family focused men who have lost their wives can feel totally devastated… Their marriage or relationship form an essential part of their identity.”Falling in Love While Grieving
As for me, I love that it’s the 21st century, and society doesn’t frown on me for shunning the whole idea of re-partnering and cohabiting again. Besides…..
I know that because I’ve done it….and I wasn’t that great at it.
Norbert was a widower as his first wife died of cancer about 7 years before we met. During our time together I admit to having little experience or understanding of what that really entailed, and in sad moments now I wish I could hug him and say “Now I get it.“
At the time I naively thought he had ‘moved on’, and that I was his new wife….sort of a replacement. It confused me when he was sometimes morose, only to listen to him explain that it was his first wife’s birthday, or their wedding anniversary. I got it….academically….but not really. I’ll admit now that sometimes I might even have felt a little ‘pushed aside’. Oh yeah….I’m embarrassed to admit it now but it’s the truth.
The universe has certainly taught me some hard lessons though! Now I fully ‘get’ that a previous partner is intrinsically part of any new relationship – that you carry the memories forward, into the new partnership.
It all gets wrapped up together. Looking back I think I was accepting, but I didn’t (and couldn’t) have the empathy he perhaps needed.
You can love two people at the same time though, and this is why new partnerships can work. In the same way that a new baby doesn’t replace the one lost to miscarriage or stillbirth, the heart has an enormous capacity to love again, but in a different way.
“The love for your lost partner will be ever present, but our human hearts are capable of unlimited love and have room for future relationships. No two relationships will ever be the same, neither will the love of your new partner be the same as for the person you lost.”Falling in Love while Grieving
Back in that long ago time I was sure I didn’t want to marry again. That said, I believe I was meant to meet and marry Norbert as my life expanded exponentially (and wonderfully) during the time we were together.
But not again, and I’m actually perfectly happy with the idea of spending my remaining years being fiercely feisty and independent. [grin] Like last time though, I still experience days when I feel a bit lonely.
Facebook constantly bombards me with photos of friends and family, out with their ‘other halves’ and enjoying ‘couples stuff’. Yeah…that’d be nice occasionally.
Which is why…when a male acquaintance (a widower) invited me out for dinner….I said “Yes”. Dining alone is possible but not always the most fun thing to do, so I agreed that sharing an occasional meal out might be pleasant.
Perhaps, but this wasn’t the right guy as that simple dinner out led to a barrage of escalating communications that freaked me out and made me want to crawl back into my comfy cave. I had to draw a firm line and step backwards….fast.
I did congratulate myself on two counts though. I believe my rejection was appropriately polite but firm. Also, “Well done me!” for actually having the courage to accept the initial invitation. [pats herself on the back] He just wasn’t the right man.
The initial question was about when to start dating again, and of course the right answer is…. Whenever you damn well want!!! Or never! Whatever works for you as the only ‘right way’ is your way.
For me, I know I will have lots of wonderful times ahead which may, or may not, include anyone else. That’s OK as my life will work out the way it’s meant to, and I’ll be happy.
I think the sky will fall before I marry again, but I’ll admit that occasionally I daydream how it might be nice to have somebody in my life to enjoy a congenial dinner out, or to meet for coffee and have a long chat about mutual interests.
They’ll have to put up with me bringing Norbert’s name into conversations though, because I’m still in love with him, and always will be. 😄
Do you have a story to share? Please hit the Reply link below and tell me your thoughts, experiences and opinions. It might even help someone else.
Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.