Since becoming a widower, one of the most humbling discoveries that I have made is the fact that I know very little about women. While I grew to know my wife as well as I could know anyone, I simultaneously disconnected my radar associated with the pursuit of other relationships. While that was the proper thing to do as a married man, it has me at a significant disadvantage these days. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have continued to be very appreciative of the beauty of women. However, I have come to appreciate the vast difference between the observation and execution of the monumental task of how to pursue a new relationship.
Let me share with you just how perplexed I am, via my ‘Starbucks story.’
One night on my way home from an outing, I stopped at Starbucks for a beverage of some kind. After my name was called, an attractive, age-appropriate woman was standing between myself and the sweetener I desired (perhaps this was already a sign of my targeting systems being down).
Being the gentlemen that I am I said, “Excuse me, will you pass me a couple packets of the sweetener?”. Which she replied, “I would be happy to pass you anything”! Of course, I thanked her, then proceeded to fix my drink and (leave). Halfway home it suddenly struck me that, just maybe, I was being flirted with! At that moment I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry, so I split it down the middle and just laughed at myself. Just one of many examples of my internal GPS out of service for far too long.
Recently I have invested some time in reading about the topic of dating and relationships among men who have lost their spouses. One of the articles that I would highly recommend was written by Ashley Papa titled ‘Dating a Widower: 10 Things You Need to Know When Starting a Relationship’ In it, she outlined in common sense language what to be prepared for when dating a widowed man and how it differs from dating a divorced person.
After reading it myself, I was led to do some personal reflection as to whether I was ready to be a part of a meaningful relationship if it were to present itself. Among the topics presented, these were a few thoughts that impacted me the most.
1. Do I identify myself more strongly as, a widower or a single man? It has been proven that how we see ourselves, directly affects how we present ourselves. So, if I lead with my widowed status, I may be subverting my single status. This can portray me as closed, as opposed to being available in some cases.
2. Just because I was a good husband, doesn’t mean that I need to be a husband to feel whole again. I must admit, this was a misstep that I made very early in my widowed experience. After just six months, I tried to engage in a committed relationship with a friend, and it was unfulfilling for us both. While we remain civil until this day, this experience was a disappointment for all involved.
3. I must face the realization that I may never be anyone’s husband again and that must be alright. Even in writing these words, I must admit feeling a little sad. I found marriage to be a wonderful experience. While there were difficult days, overall it was worth it. The other factor that makes me feel a bit sad is that I was good at it. So, like anything you are good at that you can no longer do, you are a bit nostalgic for it. Marriage is far too important to pursue with the wrong person.
As my education continues in the area of the understanding relationships, I am resolved to start out by being patient, just being a friend and try not to make a fool out of myself. I often tell men when they first experience loss, to try not to put too many expectations on themselves. As I said previously, I find my lack of knowledge in this area to be humbling, yet as I delve into learning more about this area, it is a bit exciting as well. I can promise you, however, that the next time I go to Starbucks, I will be aware of more than just what is on the menu!
Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, LinkedIn @terrellwhitener or through the Widow Support Network.