“Dear men, yes, I am a single woman in her 40s. Yes, I am a single, widow in her 40s. I know that can be tough to deal with. I’ve met some of you. I have sat across a table from some of you. I have talked to some of you. And, frankly, I am tired of hearing, ‘I don’t think I can ever live up to him.’
Let’s get this straight. You’re right. You will never live up to him. You will never be him. You will never share life with me the way he did. You will never know what that unique love was like. You will never know what it’s like for me to make small talk with you while the only thing that is burned into my memory is the day he died, and that this wasn’t the way life was supposed to be.
And, on the same token, I will never live up to your ex, the one you once loved with everything in your soul. I will never be her. I will never share life with you the way she did. I will never know what that unique love was like. I will never know what it feels like to make small talk with me when the only thing that is burned into your memory is the day she left you, and that this wasn’t the way life was supposed to be.
Your loss and my loss are not all that different. Sure, he didn’t leave me because he wanted to. He didn’t reject me. He didn’t decide one day that we shouldn’t be together, but in the end, we aren’t together, and neither are you. Maybe your loss is harder to some degree. I can stand by the idea that I fulfilled my vows until death do we part and feel good about it. I know that I was his last love. I don’t have to watch him live life with somebody else. I don’t have to wake up every morning and wonder if there’s a chance. I don’t have to worry about the decisions he’s making with our children. I don’t have to think about it the same way because my relationship it over. It is done. It is gone forever. So, no, you’re never going to live up to that.
And guess what? Not only do you not have to, but I don’t want you to.
I don’t want you to be him as much as you don’t want me to be your her. Just because I don’t have anything bad to say about him does not mean he was a saint. Just because you have deep seated feelings of resentment towards your situation does not mean you didn’t see the value in her at one point. Just because our loss is different in some ways, it does not mean it’s not the same. Yet, there’s something about ‘dating a widow’ that is so hard, and so intimidating for men.
I have heard this before, not just from my own experiences but from other widows as well. Men really struggle with this. They struggle with the idea that a woman can develop feelings for somebody while still loving a man who has passed away. I suppose women can feel this way too, about widowers. But I think it’s important for you to know that just because your ex hasn’t passed away, and just because you may not love them anymore the way you once did, does not mean that every woman who comes after won’t feel threatened in some way. She’s still here. She can still get to you in ways that we can’t. She can still influence you. She can still try everything she can to get you back. At least you don’t have that problem with a widow because trust me, they’re not coming back. Not unless they’re ghosts and decide to haunt you or something.
I’m tired of meeting people and feeling like I have to keep in how I feel about my husband. I am tired of meeting people and having it be acceptable for them to tell me every bad thing about their ex-wife, yet the moment I say a thing or two about my husband, it becomes a threat because you feel like you can’t live up to him. That’s your insecurity talking. Because how do you know that the man that you are isn’t enough?
Maybe the man you are is amazing. Maybe the man you are is better in some ways. Maybe you’re more outgoing. Maybe you are just as funny. Maybe you see things differently but in such a way that it makes sense in my crazy world. Maybe you look nothing like him, but maybe I am attracted to you nonetheless. Maybe you impress me with your words. Maybe you touch me with your heart. Maybe you pique my curiosity with the way you do things. Maybe you are magnificent to me. Maybe you don’t know that because you’re too scared to find out. You’re too scared to live in the shadow of the man I love, and I feel sorry for you for that.
Because while you are worrying if you’re good enough, and while you are wondering if you can ever be enough, you are missing out. You’re missing out on the wonderful me. You’re missing out on my humor, my quick wit, my stories, my bad cooking, my entertaining chaos, my crazy kids, my dumb dogs and you’re missing out on my huge heart. A heart that the man you’re intimidated by helped form. Because of him, I am kinder. Because of him, I try to do the right things. Because of him, I can laugh at situations even when they seem unlaughable. Because of him, I am honest. Because of him, I am loyal. Because of him, I am passionate about what I believe in. Because of him, I know how to be present. Because of him, I know how to give of myself. Because of him, I am generous. Because of him, I know how to love, and I know how to be loved. Because of him, I will not settle for a man who does not see his own value and who does not know how to be loyal to me. Because of him, I will only choose a man who wants to see me treated in the same way he did. Because of him, I will choose a man who knows how to love me and who will take care of me when I need him to. Because of him and the love he gave to me – I want to love again. I yearn to have that kind of love again. I don’t think you should be intimidated by him. I think you should thank him.
I don’t need flowers or jewelry, or gifts or money. What I need is a heart that is as open to finding true love as I am. What I need is a man who can look past the hand life has dealt me and realize I am worth loving anyway. So, if that’s what you mean when you say you don’t think you can ‘live up to him,’ then maybe you’re right. Maybe you can’t.
My heart is tender. My anxieties are high. My brain hurts sometimes. I worry. Yes, I am grieving, and I will be forever. But, if I listed out in detail how I feel about my husband’s death, I am certain it would not be all that different about how you feel losing somebody to a different life. So, please. Don’t judge me for loving him. Don’t judge me for having an idea of what I want out of life and how I am going to get it. Don’t judge me for learning how to be independent and knowing what I want. Don’t judge me for wanting to be loved again, even while I am loving him. I am excited to find you. I am excited to get to know you. And, I am excited to see where this wild life takes me next. I hope you can see that, and I hope you are, too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page.
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