Monday, September 28, 2009

Compare and Contrast

Yes, your eyes are working well. I have actually posted a photo of Phil and I (top left) above a photo of me and my boyfriend, Michael (bottom right). Why? While I was interviewing widows several years ago, I spoke to many women who were in new relationships. I asked each of these ladies..."Do you compare your new partner to your former husband?" Without exception they said, "No."

But I couldn't figure out how that could be true. If you were married to someone for 20 years how would it be possible to have no expectations of your new relationship that were based on your previous one? Would kissing another man feel weird or disloyal? Wouldn't going out to dinner at your favorite restaurant be strange if the person across from you was not your husband? What if the new person in your life did something just like your husband would do it? Or scarier, what if he did it the way your husband would never do it? Before I began a new relationship of my own, none of this made sense to me.

So here I am to tell you that I do compare and contrast these two loves in my life. Yep, I notice differences large and small all the time. But my sister widows were right, there is no way to compare your new man to your former husband because they are two unique individuals. And I am a different person in each of these two photographs. Grieving the loss of Phil has fundamentally changed me. The things that bothered woman A, aren't even slightly annoying to woman B. The qualities that woman A looked for in a man are very different from what woman B decided she must find in a partner with whom she would be willing to share her life. You'll notice that we look a lot alike, woman A and woman B, but closer inspection of the eyes will reveal that woman A never met the demon of despair. She didn't struggle to grasp at life when death called. That innocent looking girl on vacation could never anticipate the turn in the road that was just around the corner.

I consider both of these men to be gifts. They are very different people. Phil loved running; Michael wonders why anyone in their right mind would run 26.2 miles. Michael reads a book before bed each evening; Phil would nod off in front of the TV, then wander into our room and fall immediately asleep. Phil told me I was beautiful on special occasions; Michael tells me almost every day. Michael loves cars; Phil loved bicycles. Phil's job included daily physical labor; Michael wears a suit to work. Phil's skin would turn a deep golden brown in the Summer; Michael turns a very deep shade of red. Phil's eyes were a milky brown; Michael's are a vibrant blue. Stand them side by side and you would wonder what they could possbily have in common.

For all their differences they have one striking similarity, they love me. And at the end of the day this one similarity is the only thing that matters.


  1. Funny...weren't we just talking about this over lunch last week??? Now I'm gonna have to take two pictures out, oddly, quite similiar to yours, and take a gander. Hummm...the latin from Argentina and the white boy from Chicago - that can only bring a smile to my face. :) Thanks, Michele!

  2. That's a thought-provoking post, for sure. You're absolutely right that you just can't compare people because none are the same -- even those that you might choose to live with.

    But the biggest difference, as you say, is the difference in you. Perspective comes at a price, but once won, you can certainly use it.

  3. Michele,
    thanks for sharing this, I am so happy that you are experiencing the joy of a new love while honoring the love that has been lost.

    I'm thrilled to see your happiness.

  4. I just found your site. I loved this post. Congratulations on a new relationship while still honoring your first husband. I too understand the grief that overwhelms.