Friday, March 23, 2012

Am I Dating Through Grief...or Grieving Through Dating?

Well, spring is here and true to form it seems like love is in the air.  Oh, I know it looks like pollen, but, really…it must be love.  Because I’m noticing a lot of people talking about it (love, not pollen).

I’ve seen online, I’ve been getting emails about it and then, ironically, it came up again this morning while I was talking to EllenGerst, the expert on finding love after loss.  So I thought I’d give it a go in a blog.

Let me preface this by saying I hope this blog makes sense.  Because while spring has not brought me a new love, it has brought me a whopping cold.  So if this is a good piece, I’m glad.  If it’s not…blame it on the Mucinex.

I think there is some sort of rumor going around - not just in the widow community but in the dating-the-second-time-around community in general – that dating should be smoother as we get older and wiser.  I fell into that trap, too, when I first started dating after my husband died.  I thought that I knew what I wanted, how I was going to go about getting it, and was hopeful that because I was older…I wouldn’t have to put up with as many “games” as I did when I dated years ago.

Unfortunately – and this took me a while to figure out – I had no idea what I wanted, how I thought I would go about it didn’t work at all, and the “games” were still there.  Just with better technology.

Everyone seems to think that there comes a point when you know – you just know – that you’re ready to date.  And yes, I think there are signs that we’re ready to date - like noticing bare ring fingers in the frozen food section at Wal-Mart and looking at other couples wondering if that could someday be you making other people nauseous – but as far as being completely ready to date…I have yet to meet the person who wakes up one morning, says, "YES!  This is the day!" and then meets her dream guy while pumping gas at the Conoco down the street.

(And incidentally…if you try and pick up on that guy in the frozen food section at Wal-Mart, pay attention to what he’s shopping for.  Vegetables:  Yes.  Liver and Onions Hungry Man Dinner:  No.)

Now, brace yourself for what I’m going to say.  Because it may shock some of you who thought that dating the second time around would be a no-brainer. 

Dating is a process.

First of all, no one knows what in the hell they’re doing and the people who say they do are lying.  No one knows when he’ll call, why he hasn’t called, why you’re hearing from one and not the other, and what most of those text acronyms mean.  You may be 30 years older, but dating is the same whether you’re 18 or 58.  Everyone is insecure and unsure and that means we’re all bumbling around with our cell phones in our hands, willing it to vibrate, and then feeling stupid about being “this age” and finding ourselves in this position again.

Yes.  It’s annoying.  But it’s part of the process.

We would all like to think that since we’ve lived a little, we know exactly what we want.  Take me for example.  When I started dating the second time around I thought, “Screw this love business.  Next time…I’m marrying for money.”

Well, not really.  But sort of.

I had a list of what I wanted, what I was sure would catapult my inner being into a bliss I never before knew was possible.  I took the qualities I loved about my husband, mixed them with a few things I thought he was missing and – viola!   I had the recipe for the perfect man. 

And you know what?  I got him.  And it didn’t work out.

I didn’t really know what I wanted because I didn’t yet know who I was.  And, to be honest, part of finding out who I was meant dating.  Because I couldn’t figure out what was going to work if I didn’t know what wouldn’t.  And in a way – and I know this sounds twisted – dating became a part of my grieving process.  Oh, I didn’t go out on a date, wait until my dinner partner took a sip of his first drink and suddenly say, “Have you ever cried so hard you thought you had physically ejected your tear ducts out of your body?  Well, let me tell you about the time I did that!”

But there were phases to my dating.  Times when I couldn’t wait to date.  And then times when I knew I needed a break.  Times when I thought a guy was just about perfect.  And then times when I realized I wasn’t ready for perfect yet.  There were times I would have been happy with a fling and then times I thought for sure I was ready to get married again.  I dipped in and out of the dating pool as my phases ebbed and flowed.

And even when I found myself in a relationship that worked…there was still more work to be done.  And that has taken time.  A LOT of time.

There is a certain amount of guilt associated with moving forward with a relationship and I have news for you:  It’s going to happen whether you wait a month to date or 10 years.  It’s part of the process.  It’s a phase that I can guarantee 95% of you will go through in some form or fashion.  It doesn’t mean that you’re not ready to date and it may not be about the new relationship at all.  It could just be about one little part of it.  I’ll never forget, after one very sweet guy did something very sweet, thinking, “Now, why didn’t my husband ever do that?” 

And then immediately thinking, “Oh shit.  I can’t believe I just thought that.  I’m still thinking about it!!!  STOP IT!!!”

But after a while, I realized…I shouldn’t stop thinking that way.  It’s part of the process.  It’s okay to wish my husband could be here to do certain things and then be grateful that I have someone else who might do things that my husband never thought to do.  It’s okay to be happy with someone else and at the same time wish my husband could be here (it’s confusing…but it’s okay).

It’s okay to date without constantly worrying what the end result will be. 

Because, sometimes, the journey is not all about the destination.  It’s about what we learn about ourselves along the way.  That way, when we happen to pass by someone who seems like they might be worth stopping for...

...we'll know it's time to pull over.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

1 comment:

  1. "Time", you are so right. Because you owe that to yourself, as much as you believe & may even be right, that this person is "the one", time is non-negotiable. Time reveals truth. Does that mean it will reveal something bad? No. Time can only reveal good for you because even if the truth reveals ugly, you still end up safe. You're thoughts on dating are wonderful.