As time moves on, I feel less like a widow, and I begin to wonder how long I’ll still be writing a widow’s blog. But it may be for a little while longer, because even as I continue to pursue my new life, the “single woman” life, being a widow affects how I think and the decisions I make. It influences which men I date, and how I react to them on those dates. Being married to Rick, a man who loved me so well and completely, affects the type of treatment I’ll accept and what doesn’t cut the mustard.
I suppose if I was a divorced woman, the prior relationship would have an impact, too, only that would probably be for more negative reasons, like vowing to never be treated poorly again, or looking for red flags that indicate trouble ahead based on bad experiences. But having had a man love me until the day he died is pretty strong encouragement not to settle for some weak half-effort from someone now. Rick was not a perfect man, but he was always wonderful to me – and it wasn’t just the flowers, the spontaneous gifts, or taking me to the movies and dinner every week when he would have been more than happy to spend his evenings at home. It was just knowing that he wanted to be with me more than anyone. That he wanted to pick my brain and hear my opinion. He wanted to know what I cared about, and he encouraged me to be my best. He wanted me to be safe and happy because he loved me. He left some big shoes to fill – literally and figuratively.
So now, here I am – not trying to replace him, because he’s irreplaceable – but looking for someone (or more than one man – lol) to share my time with. I really don’t aspire to marriage right now. This new freedom to do any and everything I choose whenever I choose is pretty liberating at my age. I have all the freedom I had at twenty, but with more resources and less responsibility – dinners out, traveling, concerts – I’m able to choose what I want to do and when. All decisions, big or small, are up to me to decide, no compromise, no keeping my husband happy, considering his feelings, his desires, his wants and needs. It’s all up to me.
Will I attend a writer’s conference next year? Will I retire soon? Will I buy that new chair for my living room? Will I call a friend to hang out, or go to the movie alone? Will I take a long weekend to go to the cabin? Which weekend? Whichever one I want. There’s only me now.
So yes, I’m single and can make all my choices on my own, but there is one area where Rick still has a great impact: my dating choices.
I’ll be honest, and admit to the world that I did something stupid. Can I blame widowhood? The fact that I haven’t had a man by my side in more than two years? I fell for someone too fast. Tonight, I finally decided to pull the plug on a so-called “relationship” where I’ve been taking less than I deserve. I’ve wasted one month with a man who was obviously using me. But he said all the right things, everything that I wanted to hear. You’re so beautiful. You look so young. You could have any man, and I feel privileged to be with you. I love staring into your eyes. I’ve never had a connection this strong with any other woman in my life. Yada yada yada.
I like him a lot. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s a successful businessman who is creative and thinks outside the box. He’s refreshingly blunt, and I enjoy debating politics with him. Added bonus – I think he’s sexy, and the feeling is obviously mutual.
I loved talking to him late into the night, and waking to his texts early in the morning. I loved when he came to spend time with me, albeit limited time and only when he felt like it. I took one month’s worth of scraps because he flattered me, made me feel good, and said all the right things – words that I haven’t heard since Rick died two years ago. But he sends me lots and lots of mixed signals, and most of them are finally registering.
Let’s just say I wasn’t thinking with my brain. I missed this. I missed having the attention of a red-blooded male. Even if I knew in the back of my mind that I wasn’t getting everything I deserved – or even close to what Rick gave me – it was what I’ve been missing for two years. In twenty years of marriage, I became used to having all that testosterone around the house, and this guy had plenty.
But I finally woke up. I saw so many things in him that I wanted to see but that weren’t really there. I’ve been so enamored of having that connection with a man again – a connection that’s been absent in my life since Rick’s death – that I was blind to the things that were lacking. My friends and loved ones have been telling me this for weeks now. This guy is using you. This guy doesn’t respect you. He’s a manipulator, a flatterer. It even sounds like he’s trying to control you….but I closed my eyes, stuck my fingers in my ears, and said, “lalalalalala,” until they stopped talking. (Well, they stopped for that day, but started up again the next time we talked. They are all extremely persistent.)
But all those people can’t be wrong, so today I shut off the emotions and looked at it logically. I wanted this to be more than it really is. And when I compared him to Rick and how Rick treated me – even in the beginning of our dating life – this guy comes out a loser.
Friday night I went out dancing without him, because he was busy and I decided not to wait around until he was free. And when I woke up yesterday morning, I said goodbye. But he started to bombard me with text messages and phone calls telling me I was wrong about him. Over a couple of hours, he convinced me once again of how important I am to him. He wanted to come see me tonight. And he said all those right words: how special I am, how he loves being with me – words I haven’t heard in two years, so I agreed to keep the relationship going. And he stood me up again tonight.
So, once again, I took a good hard look at what I’ve been accepting from this man. The words are great, but they’re empty. And the last man who said those loving words to me acted upon them. The last man proved how much I meant to him and loved me until the day he died. I haven’t been talking to Rick in my mind as much lately, but I still feel him here, loving me. If I did open up my mind to listen, I think I know too well what he’d be telling me… Honey, he’s not treating you like I did. Don’t keep falling into his trap.
So, tonight I started talking to the widower from Plenty of Fish who’s been messaging me, and whom I’ve been ignoring because I was too smitten with the user to bother responding. And I may also respond to the divorced grandfather I matched with a couple of weeks ago, or see if I can continue the conversation with the quirky, funny guy who kept asking me out.
But this time, I’ll move a little slower, because I realize now that I may be free and single, but I’m also vulnerable to falling for the con, as so many widows I’ve read about have done because they miss sharing their lives with someone who loves them. I’m always on the lookout for which guys in the dating apps are really part of a scam – the ones who say they live nearby but can’t meet because they’re in Greece right now, or their profiles don’t appear to match their photos. I thought I was getting pretty savvy to the signs. But this guy wasn’t a Nigerian scammer out to prey on a widow and her insurance money. This guy didn’t even really delude me. I deluded myself. He gave me a little and I filled in the blanks, pretending to myself that we had a “connection,” enjoying the closeness I missed so much, hoping I saw all those signals I got back when Rick was wooing me. I was wrong.
I’m sure I’ll keep getting texts from the guy, trying to convince me that I’m wrong to break it off, asking to get together one last time. But I’m not wrong. My friends aren’t wrong. We witnessed and were a part of a wonderful relationship a long, long time ago when a man who really cared about me showed me in all the right ways. And that gives me the strength to sacrifice the late night chats and the flowery phrases and wait for a sincere man who treats me better.
More than two years after Rick’s death, I may not always identify as a widow anymore, but I’m sure my status made me more vulnerable to a man who told me what I wanted to hear. The good thing is, my mind is still full of memories of my marriage to a man who truly loved me. His memory is etched on my soul. I can still use that love to guide me in my dating decisions, to help me define what treatment I’ll accept now. What would Rick have done? How would he have treated me? I’m really not looking for a man just like Rick, but I won’t settle for one who doesn’t treat me the way he showed me that I deserved to be treated. Maybe next time, I’ll be a wiser widow.