Dating in the Widowhood

After my big bad failed mess of a first relationship after Matt died, I took a break. That one should’ve done me in for life. It didn’t. I didn’t entertain the men of the world and for several months, I was ok. Pandemic had overtaken the world and dating wasn’t a priority. Driveway parties and day drinking and hanging out with my friends who loved me and staying alive was all I cared about. It was glorious. It was good. I was good.

Mid-fall, when life seemed somewhat normal again, I threw myself right back into the fire of opening up to people. I was hoping that maybe I would find what I had with Matt. I quickly became disenchanted with dating all over again. I went on a few really good first dates. Men expected from me what I wasn’t willing to give them, which was myself physically when what I wanted was deeper than that. I set hard boundaries. Stuck to my values and, for the most part, was able to walk away from several people completely unscathed. I dated a man for a month who lied about every single thing he ever told me. When I found that out, I was completely comfortable blocking him out of my life. I didn’t need closure because I closed the door myself. Then one more time, I opened up. And I found myself right back in the same familiar position I’ve been in before. I have learned a lot along the way, but the biggest lesson I have learned is that by this age, people are broken. And people cannot change the brokenness they feel on a daily basis. People can’t change who they are. They can’t lay down the pain of the person before you completely. You can’t unbreak something. The damage is always there.

I’m also broken. Life broke me with a cancer diagnosis (3 years ago today). An abusive relationship after broke my trust in people. I’m always waiting for the big reveal, the other shoe to drop, and the next time someone is going to be exposed for what and who they really are.

The problem with dating in a world driven by text messages, social media, and instant gratification is that people have so many sources of ego stroking attention that they become numb to the real of the world. Everyone always has a back up plan for their back up plan. There’s always an ex somewhere pining for attention from that person. There is always someone on the back burner, you just have to make sure it’s not you. No one values honesty. No one values integrity. No one values what I had in my marriage- complete honesty and love. Having a person who would walk through fire for you and with you and would never dream of hurting you.

What I had was rare. I kept trying to see me in other people, but the only person I’ve ever seen myself in left this earth. He was one in a billion.

I think that the driving force behind dating is hope. You hope that what people are telling you is true. You hope that one day, you’ll be happy again. What I’ve learned from dating is that you can have all the hope in the world. They can tell you everything you ever wanted to hear and you can still be disappointed by their actions.

Broken people break people.

I’ve gotten really good at identifying the people who will break me. The minute I feel anything other than safe, I pull back. It’s a trauma response. It’s self preservation in a world where people repeatedly leave others in piles of emotional distress and move along to the next person ready to tell them everything they think they want to hear. My tolerance for that is extremely low. I identify it in my own relationships and in relationships I see my friends in. I wish I didn’t know that people were so crappy. I would love to live blissfully unaware.

So dating, for me, is done for a while again. I know who I am. I know what I bring to the table. I know what I have to offer and how emotionally hard it is for me to even consider loving someone other than my husband. I’m surrounded by people who love me and value my place in their lives.

I live a very fulfilling life independent of a man. I have the best friends anyone could ever ask for, and my child is pure magic.

I know what a healthy, happy relationship looks like. I know what a wonderful marriage is because I had it. I’m just not willing to wade through piles of people who make me feel anything other than that. When you demand respect and honesty from people, you see how fast the ones who don’t have that in them exit stage right. It’s a gift, really. If you’re agonizing over someone, remember that.

It’s not you. It’s them.

I’ll never stop praying for God to prepare someone for us. But I will be very picky with who I allow to take up space in my life and in my head forever and always.

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