I’m nearly 9 months into the first major widowhood relationship. It’s hard for me to believe that these months have sailed by so quickly. By this time in Kevin & I’s relationship we were just about engaged, and we had only “met” roughly 7 times!
Dating is so different. I cannot say it all revolves around widowhood, but also with maturity. I was 21 when I began my relationship with Kevin, and although I was living on my own, with a full time job, and a past history of screwed up relationships to enlighten me, I was still quite naive of the future. It was all roses, infatuation, lust, longing, dreams. While Kevin completed most of my expectations of us, once we finally wed and were together constantly, there was much learning to be done, both as a wife, and as a woman.
I have often called myself ‘fiercely’ independent, because since living on my own, and especially since facing widowhood, I have had to create a life that is succinctly my own. I have created it so that there is not necessarily room for anyone else, to a fault.
Just over 3 months after losing Kevin, I was on my own again, with a roomie, and a year after, I was completely on my own. I developed a routine and schedule that only made time for my enjoyment. I did the things I wanted to, and when I wanted to share those times with others, I’d make the first call. I did not allow myself much leeway to push off one activity for the support of another person. I was selfish. I am selfish.
I have had to learn a lot about compromise, and adult discussions versus fighting, in this new relationship. While Kevin and I rarely fought (I don’t say that to be ignorant, we just didn’t), when we did, I was very immature. I was the the type to low ball someone. I said the things people shouldn’t say. I would bring up things that annoyed me, about him, and hurl them at him in the heat of the moment, later regretting them.
With this relationship, I tried this tactic a time or two, and it flew right back in my face. Not only wouldn’t he accept this tactic, but he made it known that if this was how I handled myself, this wouldn’t last. It caused me to think a lot about my selfishness. I could no longer be the baby sister arguer, or the immature girl. I was the woman. I was a woman who had a lot under her belt, with enough self respect and sense to be mature in argument. And so, I learned, and still am. Now, when we “argue”, it’s about sitting down and really talking about the things that bother us.
One thing that has been particularly difficult is expressing my desires. It’s odd, because as selfish as I became in widowhood, I also became selfless in other ways. During the last 6 months of Kevin & I’s marriage, nothing was about me. Every move I made was about comforting him and making life a bit sweeter and easier in case it was the end of his life. I would and did everything I possibly could to make his life as pleasant as possible with his illness.
Now, in this relationship, I see where he struggles, and what I can do to make life easier on him. But sometimes, in doing that, it makes life more difficult for myself. I try to tiptoe around issues that come up, so that 1) I can avoid an issue, and 2) it’s just EASIER. As I have learned, it doesn’t remain easy. When I do not discuss the things that bother me, or the wishes I have, they eventually come to a tub of unhappiness that leaves us both bubbling messes.
During the first few months of our relationship, I remained skeptical that this relationship would go anywhere, and I kept my distance. I would not classify myself as a girlfriend, him as a boyfriend, family was not to be met until we were “serious”, and so on. I had so many rules on how this would work, if it even did. I put up a huge wall, and over time, he broke it down. He apparently saw a worth. Now that my wall is down, his wall is coming down too, and I see his weaknesses as well. So now I must tear down his walls.
Relationships are very cyclical, but sometimes they both come to an unraveling point at the same time. It is at those moments when I realize how difficult it is to maintain a solid relationship as a widow, who is grieving. The more I read books on grief, and study other widows, the more I see that this grief will never leave me. While it has enhanced my life in so many ways, and given me many tools that brighten our relationship, it has also caused us pain and difficulty when I am simply aching for the life I lost.
I am realizing that I have happiness in this life, and that it does not diminish the joy I had with Kevin. My naive love with Kevin, the intensity of that relationship, taught me of love, sacrifice, and faith. Kevin and I’s relationship carries into this one by allowing me to see happiness again. This relationship is teaching me patience, understanding, acceptance. It’s different, it’s unique, it’s a love that only came because of our two previously broken lives.
Neither of us can say that we wish we had met a few years ago, or during a different period of our lives, for it would never have worked for us at those points. We acknowledge, that only now, could we be together. I know that we both question one another. He questions my grief, and I question his acceptance of that. There are many other unknowns of which we cannot plan for now, or know of in the future. Just as I had no idea what life lie ahead for Kevin and I, I cannot see that with him either.
I do not want that to diminish my ability to plan and dream for a future. I want and long to be able to create a future with him that can mesh all of our messy pieces into a beautiful creation. I see those pieces slowly fitting together as we get to know each other more deeply, as we share our families with one another, as we reflect on our pasts and how they can help and hinder our future.
While society causes me to question if I rushed into this relationship or not, I know in my heart, that at this moment, it all works. We work with each other when there are difficult times, and while I know I could do this without him, I know that I would rather do this with him. That is strength to me, that I not only choose to have him in my life, but that I see that it enlarges my possibilities for a happier future.