My mother-in-law, Fanny used to say, “It’s a couple’s world. I feel like a fifth wheel.” The first year I was widowed each time I was seated with couples in a restaurant I was convinced that the waiters winced in pity when they took my order. The husbands always split the bill which I accepted without arguing knowing that Jimmy would never let a woman alone pay.
Gradually I became more comfortable being the only single and less comfortable not contributing my share. I was waking up from the delusion that being a widow was just a phase. If I was going to continue my life husbandless I needed to be counted as a whole and not a half.
This is when I began dating. I dated because I didn’t have to. I was okay on my own. We tell our kids that a relationship flourishes when two fully formed, emotionally healthy grown-ups meet. We may not phrase it quite that way. More likely we say: “All this you complete me stuff is crap and you’re my better half is more stupid than sweet.”
At first I dabble dated and babbled to Jimmy continually in my head as I tried not to twitch if my date announced that, “My wife was a dud in bed” or “That bitch was always up my ass about something.”
I had half a dozen dates and four of them called to see me again. I told them, “It’s not you. It’s me. I’m not ready.” Of course it was them. Who’s going to argue my readiness?
Most widows I’ve talked with either don’t date or are obsessed with finding a new husband. I found myself somewhere in between. I liked the excitement of not knowing how the evening would go. Would there be chemistry? A photo can’t measure that. A sexy, raspy phone voice can turn out to be a sore throat from yelling at the game.
I wanted to practice flirting. My goal was to learn to be seductive, a skill I never needed before.
I met M at almost the three year mark. We clicked. We laugh and enjoy each other every time we’re together. We became “exclusive”. Now he has a drawer in my house. He also has six inches (of closet space). I’ve heard that’s a big step. Friends snicker.
The driving force for many widows to date is their need for physical contact, not necessarily sex. Once the emotional connection feels right, though, most of us smoothly transition.