I wipe my slick palms against the thigh of my jeans, gnawing nervously on my thumb’s shredded hang nail. I slide my laptop over and pace. Force myself to stop. Then pace some more. I check the time on the wall clock. I check the time on my watch. I check the time on my phone. I sit back down, slide my laptop over, hit refresh.
I am waiting for the proverbial poop to hit the fan.
I’ve just done something I never thought I’d do. Again.
I changed my relationship status on Facebook to “Engaged”.
In a world of social media and worldwide gossip, neighbours no longer need to walk three miles to gossip about the love life of the local widow. They can simply spy through the blinds across the street or stalk her house at all hours of the night pretending they were “just stopping by to say hi”. Or better yet, they sit in the comfort of their own home, surf the web, and hunt you through your status updates and Facebook photos you get tagged in.
In an effort to save everyone the trouble (not to mention the awkward moments when I bust you peering through my kitchen window at the back of my house), I’ve decided to put it all out there for everyone to see.
Yes, I am dating again.
Yes, he sleeps over.
Yes, that was us in the Dominican, frolicking on the beach.
Yes, he asked me to marry him.
While I’d like to believe the best in everyone, that they are merely looking out for me, I am not so naive. I do know, however, that the gossips will gossip and that while I am a grown woman who answers only to me, it is sometimes less work to be blunt.
So for all of you aching to know and just too socially conscious, respectful, kind, scared to ask, I will now attempt to answer all those taboo questions with as much honesty as I can muster.
What’s it like to date again after you are widowed?
Awkward. Super awkward. Like many widows out there, I was out of the dating game for a long, long time. And, to be frank, I had zero interest in ever being in it again. I met my late husband, Craig, when I was just 15. We’d been together our entire lives. I bypassed the entire “dating” phase of life and essentially went straight from high school to married so learning to cope with members of the opposite sex in a dating situation was beyond my comprehension at first. I fumbled, made some mistakes, and, yes, had some fun too. In the end, it took some time and some sexy new bras to get me enjoying it instead of dreading it.
Don’t you think it’s kind of soon to start dating?
This is probably the question every widow will hear some variation of at some point or another. Either that or “don’t you think it’s about time you started to date?” The point here is that everyone out there, especially those who don’t know what they are talking about, has an opinion on this. Ultimately, every widow is different and the only person whose opinion matters is her own. Some widows are comfortable dating as early as a month or two out, others wait years, and some never date again at all. This is a personal choice that each widow must make for herself. I did sweat a little over starting to date after only a couple months. Not because I didn’t feel ready, but because I was sick with worry over what others might think. In the end it was the right choice for me. A very wise widow once told me, “I fulfilled every marriage vow right until death do us part – can others say the same?” Whenever I got flack from outsiders, I would silently chant this to myself. Mostly to keep from yelling it at them.
Did your in-laws freak out about you dating?
Surprisingly, no, they did not. In fact, they were pretty cool about it. I was very up front with them and told them how I felt and what was going on. Of course I waited several months to make sure it was more of a serious relationship before I opened up to them. I also brought up the general topic of potentially dating and shared with them how I felt several times leading up to the big announcement. When I did tell them, I opted for a well thought out email rather than telling them in person so they could digest it without having to worry about me seeing how they reacted. They even made the time to meet the new boyfriend and have dinner with us. Every situation is different and I would emphasize that not all in-laws are the same. Having kids can add a whole other dimension to this one and since Craig and I didn’t have any, I can’t speak to that situation directly.
What did you do with all of your husband’s stuff?
At first, nothing. I left the pictures up all over the house, I kept his wedding ring in my jewellery box, I carried his love letters in my purse. To me, this was a part of my life and part of who I was (and still am). Why should I have to change that for someone else? For some reason, my boyfriend wasn’t too bothered and months later as things began to get more serious I began to phase some of my late husband’s things out of obvious display, more out of respect for my new boyfriend than anything else. My new boyfriend is now my new husband and I don’t keep pictures of Craig up in our new home except for one in my office, tucked beside my computer monitor where I do my writing. I still kept some of Craig’s clothes (now integrated into my own wardrobe) and several boxes of his awards, comic books, and other memorabilia. These live in my office closet where I can take them out and look at them whenever I feel the need.
Did you take your wedding rings off before you started dating?
No. Not quite. I took off my wedding rings many times over. Somehow they always ended up finding their way back onto my left hand. I loved them so much it was beyond painful to lock them away in a jewellery box where I’d never see them, never get to enjoy them for what they were – a beautiful gift from my loving husband. It took me months and months to remove them permanently and in the end I opted to have them remade into a custom ring I could wear on my right hand so I’d always have that little piece of who I was before to carry with me as who I am now.
Have you ever called him by your late husband’s name?
Only once, entirely by accident. And not for anything special – just asking him to bring the laundry upstairs. Hey, it happens. Fortunately he had a good sense of humour about it (and a short memory). This was always a big fear of mine, something I sweated about for weeks leading up to our wedding. I envisioned all sorts of horrible scenarios in front of a church full of people, melting into a gooey puddle of shame after blurting out the wrong name (instead I called myself by my new husband’s name… which was funny and only slightly less embarrassing). Sadly, the name switch up is just part of being widowed. You can’t love someone all your life, whispering their name out loud and in your thoughts a thousand times a day without inevitably letting it slip out. It happens. It did, however, make me more forgiving of my poor mother who was constantly trying to keep her five kids’ names straight.
Do you ever think about your husband when you are with him?
Not during very private moments, if that is what you are getting at. Before I started dating that was something I did worry about though. Sometimes my new husband says the odd thing that will remind me of Craig or I’ll hear a song on the radio while we are driving in the car that will make me tear up. Fact is, my new husband is my shoulder to cry on and the one I’ve vented to, talked to, and poured my heart out to through this whole ordeal so the subject of widowhood and my late husband is one we are both comfortable with. If he wasn’t ok with it, I doubt we’d have lasted long at all.
Do you now feel like everything happens for a reason?
No, and this is probably my least favorite question. It actually makes my skin crawl whenever somebody asks this one. It’s as though they are saying, maybe your husband died so that you could meet this new man and live happily ever after. Here’s the thing. And let me say this as carefully as possible. I was living happily ever after before. I loved Craig. We were going to spend the rest of our lives together, have babies, and eventually sit on our rockers on the front porch, muttering about the kids these days. Then he died. In a horrible, tragic, unlucky collision. Wrong place at just the wrong moment. I don’t believe it was for a reason or his time to go or any of those things. Then, in a terrible and miserable time of my life, I was lucky enough to find a wonderful man who made me laugh and listened patiently to all my crazy ranting. From this I have surmised that sometimes bad things just happen. For no reason. And there is nothing you can do about it. Just because something good eventually follows does not mean that one leads to the other. The line of thought that my first husband’s death was simply for the sake of my new relationship is a very dangerous line of thought – one that diminishes my first husband’s life and our relationship. Something I’d never be down with.
Did you pick someone who is like your husband?
Not really, although they both have a lot of facial hair. Is that a type? Perhaps that’s my type. They are both very different and that’s one of the things I like about each of them. They are each unique and special to me in different ways and I cherish both relationships and everything they have brought to my life.
How do you pick who gets which side of the bed?
Like all normal couples do – we fight like cats and dogs, battling it out by stealing blankets, racing to bed, and throwing pillows across the room until someone gets their way. Usually me. Okay, always me. It’s not so much that I prefer the left side or the right side. More like the side furthest from the door. In case of robbers and home invaders or aliens. Everyone knows the person on the furthest side is safe.
Oh and, yes, in case you were wondering, my darling husband reads everything I write, corrects my typos, laughs with me, lets me cry on his shoulder, and is the second chapter I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have. After a very scary and heartbreaking time in my life, one I thought would never end, I have finally managed to set myself back on my own two feet to walk hand-in-hand with a wonderful (and very attractive) new friend.
Our thanks to guest author Emily Clark for sharing her story here with us. You can read more of Emily’s journey through young widowhood on her blog.