I will always be my late husband’s wife.
His legal documents all say as much, including the final ones.
As of 3:11pm on February 11, 2018, however, I was no longer Bret’s wife. Suddenly, I was Bret’s widow.
On an intellectual level, I understood the difference. But I had no idea how different these two identities were. Until I got into another relationship, that is.
Not even remotely healed, I found myself gravitating toward a new relationship.
While tending to the details of his death and the life Bret left behind, I continued to act in a wifely capacity.
But more than that, I was acting like that same wife toward my new boyfriend. Yet he was not my same husband. He was his own person, with his own needs, quirks and flaws.
And I had no idea how to handle that.
In retrospect, this relationship was clearly a bad choice. I even knew this on some level back then. But the heart wants what it wants. That includes shattered hearts as well.
The whole relationship was like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. I was still operating as Bret’s wife, while in a relationship with someone who wasn’t Bret.
Due largely to the fact that Bret had been mentally and physically ill for much of our relationship, I’d had many responsibilities.
Because of that, I am now used to having much heaped on my shoulders.
Bret’s death added even more to my shoulders. In order to handle so much, I had to be strong and ambitious.
The new boyfriend may have resented this ambitious streak, feeling that I should have relied more on him. He also didn’t know how much effort I needed him to put in, after realizing that I was used to handling everything.
Toward the end, it dawned on me that I had no idea how to just be a girlfriend. Most of my adult life was spent as someone’s wife. I had simply forgotten how to relate to a romantic partner in any other way.
That realization was a dastardly pill to swallow.
I was not a wife anymore.
Sure, I had been Bret’s wife, but I was no longer a wife.
The choice to remain single for a while was made. Fully grieving the loss of not only Bret, but also my wife-hood, was necessary. I also set out to learn who I was without a romantic partner in my life.
This is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Eventually, I decided to give the thought of finding love another go. After learning to navigate the often treacherous waters of modern dating, I find myself in an incredibly healthy relationship.
We are both very comfortable in our respective roles of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”
I may never be a “Wifey” again, and I had to make my peace with that. I also had to make peace, as strange as it sounds, with the thought of being someone else’s wife, should those stars align.
I am proud of the fact that I was my late husband’s last love and wife.
But I am not a wife anymore.
And I’m finally okay with that.