I just read a great article from a fellow Associated Content Producer. She addresses widows and dating in a very real fashion, with great advice.
In response to her first mention to “Deal with Feelings of Betrayal”, I immediately felt the need to expand upon this topic. Betrayal and guilt are possibly some of the most prominent emotions a widow(er) experiences when they began dating, or considering entering the dating scene.
For me, guilt was a huge emotion with which to tackle. When you lose a spouse, and you had a good marriage, the relationship just ends without you giving the A-OK. You had no say, you didn’t WANT it to end; so, to move forward and consider dating another person in place of the time, love, and energy you would have spent with your spouse, there is no helping the guilty emotions or feelings of betrayal that come with it.
“Talking” to Kevin in my mind, at his grave, through God, was one of the best processes to move forward from the guilt and betrayal I felt when I entered the dating scene. I continually spoke with Kevin when I was in the car driving somewhere, as if he and God were up there somewhere pow-wowing. I would tell them about my day, my possible new relationships, how it felt like to be alone again. It was a devastating, one-sided, conversation, but it gave me a great deal of release.
Allowing yourself to date, without feeling guilty, is something for which there is no clear-cut solution. As with most issues spawning from widowhood, this situation is difficult for each and every person. I was fortunate enough to read an old Facebook message Kevin had sent to a friend who had become a widower. He stated that if anything ever happened to him, he would hope that I could find happiness again (in reference to his widower friend finding a companion). It gave me great comfort, but I still dealt with those emotions when I completely entered the dating scene. Would he approve of the man I was dating? What were the “rules” of dating, and for other people to date a widow? What had changed since I last entered this scene?
I continually imagined Kevin up in heaven giving a thumbs up or down for approval-I just never felt quite “right” in dating anyone. Eventually, I just learned and acknowledged that my decision and right to date someone was my own. I had become a different person than when I had married Kevin, for more reasons than just how grief had changed me. I knew that if I knew myself as well as I thought I did, with all of my self-analysis, that I could choose a partner with my own authority, and without worrying if Kevin would approve. While I think he would approve of the person I am now dating, I also know that it is my current self’s approval that matters most. I must give myself permission and approval for move forward. It’s an entirely new process of self assurance in allowing oneself to begin a new life separate of your late spouse.
Guilty emotions will follow and creep up, but the permissions you give yourself are so very important, and crucial to beginning a second life, a life of happiness, and fulfillment.
Giving myself permission to date required redefining myself from being an essential half of a partnership to being a desirable single woman in a sea of other single women. I remember my first adjustment was realizing that my hardearned relationship skills carried little weight with prospective suitors. Simpler, more direct qualities engaged their attention. Just like dating the first time around 30 years ago! After one year of dating I haven’t met someone I’d like to be in partnership with, and my need to be with a man has completely lost its urgency. Now I’m giving myself permission to enjoy happiness and fulfillment as a footloose and fancyfree woman.