Divorce is not the same as Widowhood


The trouble with people reading your blog is that you lose it as an outlet for meaningful thought and feeling processing. It becomes a venue for others as they search for

A couple dating in a cafe.

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information, entertainment and  a place to share their own musings.

And I am not complaining. There was a time when few people even stumbled across this blog let alone came in search of it. Progress has its drawbacks as well as its perks.

Sometimes, however, I still feel the need to mindlessly run thither and yon across the keyboard, qwertying my way back to a more zen place.

Lately, the search terms have tipped decidedly in favor of widower dating queries. They read like lamentations. Desperate pleas for any scrap of insight, inspiration or tool to help the googler make sense of what is more likely fairly obvious but they just aren’t ready to accept.

Sometimes people who’ve been widowed are dating even though they aren’t ready, and sometimes widowed daters are just dating without any intent beyound spending a few hours here and there, sharing good times and possibly swapping bodily fluids.

The problem? Is the dead body in the room. The single and the divorced, who have only their perceptions of dating to work with, mistakenly place too much emphasis on the idea that widowed people are emotionally shell-shocked and that any hesitation, game playing or even hurtful behavior is somehow mitigated by this common grief myth.

The best thing a person dating a widow/er can do is ignore that fact. The widow thing. Just expect the same courteous, interested and emotionally genuine behavior that one expects of everyone they date. Be upfront about how you feel, what you are looking for and where your personal “crap” lines are draw. Remember too that dating is about getting to know someone not fixing them. Falling in love with someone’s potential is stupid regardless. A widowed man may seem like a great catch because he was a terrific husband to someone who is dead and can’t actually attest to the veracity of that anymore, but if he is a crappy boyfriend, odds are he wasn’t all that great of a husband either.

But here’s something I have noticed. Women tend to fill in the gaping holes in a relationship with narratives they will pull from the thin air if needs be but more often are variations on past relationships they have had with other men.

Don’t do that.

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And here’s why. Heartbreak might have common denominators but the most basic fact of being widowed is that someone died on you. Literally died. A person with whom you plighted your troth, shared with more intimately than anyone you’ve ever known so far. You had sex with this now dead person. Possibly made babies with them. They took all your secrets with them when they left. You will not see them again across a room or when you swap children on weekends or inadvertently run into them when they are out to dinner with their new love. They are dead. The dead molder or are scattered to the wind or sit like knick knacks on a mantle.

Relationships end. Painfully. The lingering can be bitter, filled with recriminations, animosity and torturing self-doubt. But relationships, though coupled with people, are not people. You do not go to the morgue to identify a dead relationship any more than you hold its hand while it sucks for its last breaths like a fish on dry dock. It’s heartbeat doesn’t gallop like a herd of frightened horses beneath your fingertips before fluttering to stillness like a butterfly smashed up against the windshield of a car at highway speeds.

The flotsam of a relationship is divided up with each partner taking his/her half. Dead people are not very helpful cleaning out closets, basements or alerting the post office to their change of address.

As much as you might be tempted to overlay your break up experiences onto your widowed boyfriend, it will be an ill fit, resulting in continued misunderstanding and frustration. And it’s the little frustrations that sink budding love and undermine existing love.

Here is what matters:

  • People who love you show you that love consistently through their actions
  • Falling in love with someone’s potential is like having an affair with your own reflection.
  • Being in love with “being in love” leads to disappointment and frustration for both parties.
  • Everyone comes with a past. Fixate on it and be miserable or live in the now and build a future.
  • While you can impress someone with your patience and understanding, they won’t necessarily grow to love you for it.
  • Make sure you are over your own issues before assuming your problems stem from your mate’s “issues”.

Love is actually pretty simple, but it’s the most simple concepts that are the hardest to grasp, or so I learned during the years I spent teaching 7th graders. Abel Keogh recently wrote a piece about trusting your gut. Love is love. It feels right and gets better over time because even the issues that come up as relationships progress become a part of the growth rather than detours or roadblocks that must be continually negotiated . Doubts that become nags are trying to tell you something you need to know. Don’t rationalize them away. Don’t assume that the issues that keep or kept you from moving on after your last relationship can help you understand his or that patience is actually an admirable virtue where romance is concerned.*

He loves you when he shows you day in and out without time-outs.

*I have to admit a certain curiosity about the whole “be patient with me/I need more time” excuse that my gender so willingly accepts and would love to meet the woman who turns it around and says “I could use a bit more patience as I learn to put up with your need to keep your late wife’s toothbrush and a bit more one on one time dating that isn’t a dolled up booty call.” But I am unlikely to ever find her.


Day 150: And that's that.

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The Divorced and the Widowed normally agree to share a thin isthmus of common ground where the idea that each state marks a loss of a marriage is concerned, but while the Divorced believe the losses are slight variations on the same theme, Widowed adamantly object to what they see as a presumption.

Divorced feel that mourning the end of a marriage with its letting go of hopes, dreams and an intimate enduring relationship mirrors very closely the process that widowed must also go through.

“Except for that dead body in the room,” widowed counter.

And they are correct.

Let the howling protest of dissent begin.

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