After a year of dating the same man, I am finally comfortable talking about it to those outside my immediate circle of trust. It's not because of him, because he's a great guy, it's because of me. It's my hesitation at dealing with reactions from others. Generally, I don't care what most people think, however I do have to face judgement head-on when others know about my personal life. Keeping a tight lip on what's going on outside this blog helps me avoid that. But, there are inevitably times when this is not possible.
The other day he and I were at an event and someone I like, but would not consider a close friend, asked me who he was. I introduced him, but didn't use labels, just names. Once he had moved on to talk to others she leaned in and asked if we were seeing each other. I knew she meant no harm, so I confirmed what she suspected. Her first comment was about how nice it was to see me smile so much again, but it was overshadowed by her second. She asked me how long it had been since Warren died. It felt like judgement even though I know she didn't mean for it to. But, the message was that there is a certain amount of time after becoming a widow before dating again is acceptable.
I immediately felt defensive, and guilty. It passed right away as she congratulated me, but it marred the entire event. I think about it and those feelings sneak back. The memory is tinged with embarrassment and doubt, even though I know there is no set time when it becomes acceptable for a widow to date after her loss. It is an extremely personal choice, and every widow I know approaches it differently.
I wasn't confident that being in a relationship again was in the cards for me. As I've blogged about before, it felt selfish and unreasonable to think that I could find love again when the one I'd lost had been so good. That made me feel extremely sad because I enjoyed being married. I wanted that again, but didn't believe it would happen. I'm not on my way down an aisle any time soon, but it certainly feels more possible.
Unfortunately, I imagine that any direction my love life goes, it will come with some tie to the one I lost. There will always be someone who says something that makes me wonder if I'm entitled to the new love, experiences and feelings, as it relates to what I had. It's unfair, but I find solace knowing that in most cases it doesn't come from a place of mal intent. Unfortunately, that does not alleviate the sting of those moments, or make them any more justified. But it has been a life lesson. Because of these instances, I am careful about saying things that might come off as judgmental. I know how it feels to be on the other side and don't want to make others feel the way I have felt. I'm not always successful, but I am twenty times better than I was before becoming a widow.