I started working on this piece back in February. I wanted to publish it sooner, but the universe stepped in and showed me it wasn’t time yet. What I thought would be an informative blog on the first intimate dating experience as a widow, has turned into months of self-discovery. I chose to publish a more condensed version today as a dedication to John on what is unofficially our “one year” friendiversary. For lack of a better term, I’ll use friendiversary, because I’m not sure how to properly categorize our relationship now. We’re not as casual as the standard “friends with benefits’ and we’re not actually dating. I consider him a unique friend who I trust, respect and love to sleep with. (Yes, I still sleep with him) I like to think of myself as a non-conformist. I would also like to say I don’t think this would work for everyone. You must find your own way and your own John. We have the weirdest ( and I mean that in the best way) relationship and I possess zero shame in admitting I value it and still to this day;
I simply, adore him.
I will be taking us back and forth between our relationship, lessons, pitfalls, and what I think is most important to remember for us as widows on our first journey into the dating world. John has been kind enough to answer questions from my widow friends and a couple I thought were important for myself when I first came up with this brilliant idea. I’ll share them at the closing of the blog along with my final thoughts.
My self-imposed melodrama started June of 2017. Approximately 9 months after Derek died. I concluded I was okay with being alone. Growing my hair out gray, moving to a cabin and collecting cats. When the thought of that didn’t reduce me to tears I thought, okay, now I’m ready to date.
The last time I was single was 1994.
Twenty-four years ago. What the hell did I know about dating. How was I going to meet them? What would we talk about? What would my friends think? My kids? Derek’s family? Do I tell them I’m a widow? How do you talk about it? Do I buy condoms? Oh my God, I have to buy condoms? How do I even think about sex again? I’ve been sleeping with the same man forever. I read some things on our widow pages. Dating and widows. This was going to be an interesting. I wasn’t sure how ready I was. I handled dating like I did grief. I ran at it head-long and at full speed. So I hit Google and researched the best dating sites.
That’s where I started. I got a message in the first 30 minutes of creating my profile. My first date was set. He was a teacher. Older, good sense of humor and harmless. We met for coffee on a Tuesday evening. He was easy to talk to. We chatted about work, kids, hobbies and dating. He was very kind when we talked about me being a widow. After an hour in the coffee shop we walked outside and sat in his truck. We talked a few more minutes and I said I needed to get home and let the dogs out. There was zero attraction and I knew 5 minutes into the date I was safe. He asked if he could kiss me, I said no. ” I’m not ready for that.” I don’t know if I wasn’t ready or I just used that as an excuse, because believe me when you’re a widow, it doesn’t mean feeling chemistry is dead too. I would quickly learn it was not. No, it was because I wasn’t attracted to him. He was safe, and I knew it. I just needed to know I could do it again. Go out into the world. Sit across from a man and make conversation. I didn’t burst into flames or tears.
It was just me, a man and a cup of coffee.
So after surviving a test run, my pursuit for “him” continued. Swiping…the endless swiping seemed to go on forever. Then, I stopped. I laughed. The user name at the top of my screen was a coffee reference. I looked at the picture. I thought “Oh…, He’s cute!” I read the profile. Proper English and Grammar! Good sign. I still remember reading something about us all having a story to tell, a line about sitting down and him sharing the audio files of his life. It caught and kept my attention, and if you know me, I don’t have a very long attention span. It was enough for me to step out of my comfort zone. I took a deep breath and I made the first move. I messaged him. I made some stupid comment about his name and being a self-proclaimed coffee lover. I sighed and thought “God, I am so lame.” Swipe left, swipe right. I keep going for a little while. About the time I’m getting ready to log off, I get a message. It was “the coffee” guy. We make simple conversation. He’s funny. I like funny. We talk on and off for over an hour. No, he’s really funny! The next night we talk again. It was the middle of a work week and I was up talking on a dating app until 2am. This was the beginning of dating.
I think to myself, “Sure, I can do this.”
By day two I’ve learned through a series of hilarious exchanges he’s an Air Traffic Controller. I remember asking what he did when he told me he was at work and he when he told me I said “OH MY GOD stop talking to me before a plane crashes!” We exchanged phone numbers and my first adventure in dating began. This was the first time I was faced with the simultaneous feelings of excitement and sadness. I’d log off for the night giggling because he was so funny and then lay in the dark alone thinking how much I missed Derek. How to be excited about one man while loving another. How to look forward to talking to another man and then curl up with my huge body pillow at night and breath in the cologne of the man I would never see again. This was the beginning of what would become a new normal in my life after death.
John the Air Traffic Controller.
He was my first. My journey back into the world of men. Being “my first” puts him the unique position of remaining a significant person in my life. The happiest. The saddest (short of losing Derek of course). The most passionate. In all forms passion can come, it did with him. A mirror. I’ve never felt more forced to look at myself in a relationship, as I have with John. All my fears, insecurities, motives, lies, truths, dreams and ambitions. Mirrored. I’ve never faced such an accelerated growth from a relationship. I have both loved and loathed it. I have regressed, grown, hidden and expanded. I love him in a very unconventional way most people will never understand. He is after all, beautifully broken in his own unique way and has become an unintentional and often reluctant teacher for me. I am positive he spends most of his time rolling his eyes at the phone wondering how I have survived so long this flaky. I am also positive he cares about me in an equally unconventional way. There’s where the broken works for us. Quid Pro Quo. Equal give and take to help fill in some broken spots without giving in completely to something we are both terrified of. Messy, disruptive, upheaval that a serious committed relationship brings. Somewhere in the last year we have managed to meet in the middle and design our own way of doing things.
It works for us.
I haven’t given up hope yet. Facing deep truths about myself by letting those in I needed to at the time. Even if it isn’t how or what I expected. Taking every moment as a learning experience. Embracing myself in the brokenness I am, while simultaneously rebuilding and recreating.
The First Date
John and I had an instant connection through banter. It really is a lost art. I thrive on the mental stimulation and so does he. I like to think that’s one of his favorite things about me. My ability to keep up with his banter. So, after a few days of texting and phone calls we had a whirlwind last minute planned date. He randomly suggested it as he was dropping off his daughter at the airport a few miles away. I felt like I was going to throw up. We decided on a Mexican restaurant up the street. June 7th. It was a Wednesday evening. I am driving a few blocks away to meet him face to face for the first time. I remember texting him I was so nervous. I have always felt like I could just blurt out things to John. I often wonder if he regrets telling me my candidness was refreshing. Be careful what you wish for. Oversharing and candor are my specialty. We met. I somehow managed to not throw up. He’s a handsome guy. Tall with an athletic build. He’s more reserved in person and there’s a hint of wisdom and knowing about him that intimidates me. I like it. I’m drawn to it because I’m not easily intimated. He’s intelligent with a dry sense of humor laced with quick- witted sarcasm. His facial expression goes between having a look of mischief and complete exasperation at the stupidity he finds himself suffering through with most people not on his level. Yes, he’s one of those smart guys. We chatted. I asked a million questions, he answered. I wasn’t sure if we hit it off or not. He’s a puzzle. Puzzles are my favorite thing. He answered the question I was obsessing about as we got to my car. He grabbed me by my waist and kissed me.
A real kiss.
Shock. I remember a split second of shock. I hadn’t kissed another man in 24 years. I relaxed into it. He is a good kisser, a really good kisser. We said goodnight. I drove home with the biggest smile on my face. Of course, I text him and told him. Telling him the truth, is the superpower, John has over me. I text “I can’t get this stupid smile off my face over that kiss.” I didn’t stop smiling for days. Not until I had to face how to difficult navigating dating was going to turn out to be.
soon enough the transition was going to be like me standing in front of a charging bull, dressed as a rodeo clown and there’s no barrel to hide behind. Dip, dodge, run for the barrel, distract, then full on run at the bull and then fake left and finally jump for the safety of the fence. To this day, I’m still perched on that fence. One leg dangling over tempting the bull and the other on the safe side. I haven’t quite decided which way I’m going yet. Rest assured when I decide, it will be at a full tilt run.
So how do you go from 23 years of being with someone, losing them in a split second and dating? It’s extremely difficult, even for the smart, tough, no-nonsense girl. Widowhood has made me different in the dating world. Unique, in that I am not, some bitter man -hating divorcee carrying baggage I want to beat some unsuspecting man with. It also made me dangerously vulnerable in the beginning. The quote about grief being love with nowhere to go is true. You must be cognizant of who you are placing it with. Aware of where it doesn’t belong, placing it way too soon and with someone who isn’t ready or more importantly unworthy of it. It’s all a learning curve.
It was full of every imaginable lesson .
I had no idea how to do it. I was used to talking to someone every day. Used to sharing everything freely and expecting it in return. Naivety. Utter naivety. I attempted to approach my budding relationship with John just like my marriage. Not intentionally. Subconsciously and out of pure habit. I struggled with the lack of communication. I struggled with how to follow the dating rules I am clueless about and even a non-widowed Hope, would not agree with. Never mind adding in the rawness of being a widow. I was a complete and utter mess. I had unrealistic expectations and demands on myself and John.
I had set myself up for failure and didn’t even know.
Shortly after our first date John has invited me over to his house. He’s good, this one. His playful nature has lured me in with the promise of drinks, a movie and making out. I am still smiling over the first kiss. I cannot imagine what a full blown make out session is going to be like. I am terrified. I feel moments of disloyalty mixed with full out thrill. It’s the bipolar extravaganza of emotions. I am also wearing a matching bra and panties. So, let’s face it. I knew exactly what I was doing.
Ripping off the band aid.
He’s masterful. He goes in for the kill. There was little resistance on my part.
Time stopped. My world was rocked. It was amazing. I didn’t feel guilty. I felt beautiful. I felt wanted. I was happy. I realized then. There is life after death.
There is a whole new world out there. Be brave enough to step out into it.
Take chances. Love, lose, gain, grow. I did. I have.
What have I learned about myself over the last year?
I have more to give.
I can love again.
I can have another broken heart and not only survive it, I thrive, because of it.
I know what I want, who I am.
I have a lot more to learn and I’m willing to learn it.
I want to live, life, fully.
I know I ultimately don’t want to do it alone.
I know I am even better with a partner.
I am still in love with, love.
I won’t go into detail about everyone in-between. I will suffice it by saying I taste tested an entire buffet of different personalities, ages, races and maturity levels. I had a couple “almost serious relationships” I ended abruptly. I played both runner and chaser over the last year. I have come to a comfortable place. I am happily single, for now. I have discovered what I needed to do more than be loved by someone else. I needed to love myself, fully. I had more work to do. Now I do it as gracefully as I can. Knowing when the universe sees fit to send me my person.
I will be ready.
As I mentioned early on I had a whole different place this was going than when I started it. I think it is most important to bring it where it should always be, regardless of how you got here, which is whether it be through death, mutual break-up or shitty divorce, you need to work on yourself first. Face the hurt, put back the broken pieces, put down the baggage and when you are at peace with who you are, wholly embracing yourself, then and only then should you really seek a long-term partner. That’s not to say you can’t go have fun. I recommend that and often. You can’t know what you want if you don’t explore. Just be aware of what you are doing and be honest with yourself and the people you are bringing into it.
Bringing us to the final part. The questions some of the widows had. I have included John’s view on his initial thoughts about dating a widow. I will close with this; the failure of the initial relationship we had, never had anything to do with me being a widow. It was a classic case of timing. Two people in two different places. We are lucky. We have managed to keep a unique relationship. I appreciate him for everything he taught me and continues to. Both the easy and tough lessons.
These are his candid responses to the questions:
How did you feel when I first told you I was a widow?
Kinda sad, because you were in this situation not by choice. (Single)
What concerned you the most about it? Nothing
Did it concern you if it became serious you’d feel like you were competing with a ghost? Feel like you were stepping into someone else’s life? A place holder?
No, I didn’t read that much into it. Baby step’s. Plus, competition can be healthy.
Is it different that dating someone who is divorced or single? How?
Yes. I saw it in you whenever you mentioned him, something of his. An ever so slight pause, eye movement / blink, or breath.
Did it make you uncomfortable when I talked about him? Do you feel I talked about him too much? No. Takes a bit to make me uncomfortable, you know that. And no.
Would you be ok with pictures/mementos of their late partner being around the house or on display? Don’t push it kid! , jk, it’s your house.
What are your feelings towards tattoos, rituals, etc honoring their late partner? )
You get a Tat after the fact that he’s /they are gone, tells me you didn’t appreciate what you had when they were here, as a partner. So you sure as shit won’t appreciate me. And it also states you’re still living/loving that relationship.
How do you feel if the woman you were going to marry wanted to keep her husband’s name instead of taking yours?
Engagement off. Back to freelancing.
Was the intensity of emotions noticeable? Were they intimidating, overwhelming, and/or terrifying?
Subtle in your case. No.
What did you want to ask that you didn’t?
Nothing actually. that you didn’t offer, or I picked up.
Did you worry about saying something insensitive?
worry… no. Mindful… yes.
Fast forward: June 7, 2018
Me about: Love
By: Mosaic Widow