Monday, February 3, 2014

Dark and Hidden

I am honest on this blog in that I don't lie about anything I write. Ever. But I don't share about everything here.

 I don't talk about the problems in my marriage with Dave and I don't talk much about my dating life now. There are some things I just don't want to write about here.

But what would it be like if we all had a moment or a day or a week with the inability to hide all our truths? The dark and the light, all out in the open? What would that look like and feel like? Would it feel like freedom? Is it necessary? Would it be too painful for some to hear? Is it worth it?

Something tells me that while it might be painful for some to hear and might not be fully worth it, it might make a lot of people feel a whole hell of a lot better about their own dark places.

I'm not going to begin to share these things here, in this post, today. I'm not ready for that yet. I am, though, going to talk about why I don't. And maybe by talking about why I don't, we can start to think about what the barriers are and why they're there. If they're there for me, then I'm probably not the only one.

Why is it so hard for me to talk about my dating life in this forum now? I think it's because there is a part of me that expects to be judged. I don't really expect my close friends to judge me. And I don't harshly judge any of the other writers here for their dating choices.

And if people I barely know judge me, what do I care? But I do care, or else I suppose I'd just share it all here.

There are many widowed people hoping they find love again and actively dating who worry they'll never be coupled up again. There are also many who are adamantly against dating again. And then there are those of us who've coupled up again. And there are probably some variations on those themes I haven't even thought of. What I do with my life is not what you'll do with your life.

I know, for example, that when I hear of someone swearing off ever being in a relationship again, I feel a little shudder go down my spine. Not because I think they're making a wrong choice but because it feels wrong for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed being single in my life and I have thoroughly enjoyed being partnered up. But when I imagine the rest of my life without a partner, it feels a bit empty for me.

On the other hand, I can see the other point of view too. Not once does the thought occur to me that a person who's sworn off romantic entanglements is wrong. If anything, I get that point of view, too. So, why would I fear someone judging me for my choices? Who knows? And yet I do. It's simply that 'fitting in" urge built into me, I think.

Why do I feel like a terrible person for even hinting that my marriage had problems? I don't worry as much about discussing those problems with my close friends. So it's not as though I feel really guilty in general. So it's mainly here that I feel blocked from being totally honest. It's here where I feel much more comfortable sharing about the parts of my marriage that worked well. When he died it became uncomfortable to even suggest that our marriage wasn't perfect amongst other widowed folks, especially.

I don't lie. I don't claim that our marriage was perfect, I just don't delve into the ways we struggled. It's hard to admit dissatisfaction with a marriage that ended in death. I feel the immediate urge to follow up a statement like "My marriage wasn't perfect" with a statement like "But it was a good one and I loved him!" As though the first negates the second. But of course it doesn't. If anything, not admitting to the bad isn't doing my marriage justice. It's ignoring the entirety of the relationship. It was good and beautiful even with its problems. Why pretend it was something it wasn't?

Or maybe it's not so much that you all are widowed but that I'd need to know you more intimately first. Then maybe I'd hang out all my dirty laundry for you until you'd wish I wasn't quite so comfortable with you.

I don't yet have answers for these questions and thoughts. I've just been thinking about them lately and wondered what you, as the audience, are thinking about them too. Are there ways you hide aspects of your marriage from certain audiences? Are there things you feel safe discussing and things you don't? Do you wish you'd hear more people address the dark or hidden parts?


  1. In my early stages of widowhood I was transfixed by a widow who let it all hang out. 'It' was her misery. We readers all consoled and cheered her on. I hate to admit it, but I took comfort that somebody else was having a tougher time than me. Then her posts abruptly stopped, and I fear it wasn't because she'd had an epiphany. I think things got so bad... How can you really reach out to somebody behind this computer screen?

    Validation is the reason I started blogging. It's always authentic, like yours, and I edit my sharing because I feel vulnerable to rejection as I take my tentative steps. Each post I write is constructing a rung on the ladder toward my ultimate goal : enjoying widowhood. The subject I want to explore, and read about at this point many years out, is how wonderful it feels to at last taste the upside of widowhood. Dancing on my husband's grave? Now this feels daring to share!

    1. That's incredibly daring to share! I'm really inspired by that kind of honesty. It makes me feel freer and more normalized. It makes me think of one of the things I'd always tell my students. I'd say "Ask a question because if you have it, I guarantee there's someone else thinking the same thing". It brings things out into the open, making them less scary and taboo.

  2. I think it comes down to the fact that no one wants to be criticized. And we consider revealing something we don't dwell on potential praise or support, we think of all the criticism people may offer.

    It took me a while to tell my mother in law that I started dating again. Laura and I were married for 28 years before she died. While Laura's mother was supportive, she also made the comment that after her divorce she didn't date for 20 years. Laura has only been dead for two years. Kind of a mixed message.

    In the end you have to do what feels right for you. Yes, it is tough to ignore the comments and opinions you think people will have.

    As to what you should write about, I'd say write what you are comfortable or what you think you should write about that stretches your comfort zone. The one topic that I rarely see addressed, but always has many positive responses, is our sexual feelings. How they change through grief. Writing anything about sex seems to be an unwritten taboo.

    1. Yes, Paul, I too agree that our sexuality is not a topic often discussed. I've read 3 dozen books on grief, loss and widowhood and maybe have found 2 books that said anything about it in the framework of 3 pages! I've often felt that everyone expects those feelings to shut down and go away, and actually that seems very far from the truth, especially if the sexual relationship of the couple was healthy. I'm not sure what could actually be written that would prove helpful to a grieving spouse, but even the acknowledgement of "yes, your sexuality is yet another piece of this wicked loss", it seems validation of my feelings is helpful.

    2. You're right, Paul. I've felt that unwritten taboo myself, and yet the loss of that part of my life when Dave died was a major part to grieve. And I worried about never having it again and what it would be like if I had it again. It was really significant but writing about it feels pretty damn vulnerable.

  3. My father passed away a few years ago. I want my mother to be happy. If that means that she dates someone and then marries him, that is fine. I want her to be happy. But I think that she might be worried about what her kids will think. This is a great post that even I as a son can relate to it.

    1. I bet she is! How great of you to think about how it might be for her.

  4. For me it centers on two things. The first one may be that I hold back information/experiences post widowhood so as not to hurt other people grieving the loss of their loved one, my husband. In the example that Paul wrote about holding back telling his MIL that he was dating again. I would be hesitant because of the potential for the emotional pain to click up a notch. The second reason I hold back experiences that I had with my husband have to do with privacy. Just as aspects were private when he was alive, I still feel some of them continue to be private. We were married 34 years and experienced so much life and living, it's hard to believe it's over.

    1. You're absolutely right, Jan. The privacy issue is a big one as is my desire not to inflict more pain on those already suffering. I do sometimes wonder that there might be a larger pain that results from most of us keeping our dark hidden. I'm not saying that everyone should say everything, regardless of their deeply held beliefs of privacy and protecting others. In fact, I don't do that myself, thus this post. I just wonder sometimes. I think of my relief when someone else admits to something I was ashamed to talk about previously. It normalizes it for me.

    2. Marriage is two people sharing what's private between them, and don't share or discuss with others. It stay even in death, and I can say those things I had once in my life. Nobody else needs to know those things of that deep bond what once was. The private life to me is (was) a big part of marriage.

      God Bless

  5. I'm one of those "let it all hang out" type people. Having said that - I don't necessarily write as much as I used to because I don't want to hurt my new man who reads my blogs.

    But the reality is that only 19 months out - I grieve hard for my husband still. As much as I love my new man, the missing piece of my life still hurts. I grieve hard for the hurt that he doesn't get to see his grandson, that he doesn't get to watch his boys grow up, that he doesn't get to enjoy the rewards of growing older. I grieve hard for the years of forging a relationship that we both knew the dance to - I have to do that again with my new guy.

    So I don't write as much - because although the grief is still there - I don't want to cause more hurt.

  6. I'm with you on that, too, sunnyjane. I'm trying to minimize hurt in general.

  7. I've been thinking about replying to this post for a couple of days now. On the first topic - talking about aspects of our marriages that maybe weren't perfect - I think most readers assume that everyone has difficulties - no marriage is perfect. I don't assume that a blogger's marriage was perfect, just because they may not discuss that part. I just feel that it's okay to concentrate on the good - because after losing your spouse, the negative stuff isn't important. Regarding dating - I was surprised to read that you have been dating, Cassie, because I don't recall you mentioning it. I'm one of those people who don't have a desire to date or have another relationship ever again - part of that might be my age (56 when my husband died, 61 now...), but mostly it's just me I guess - because I've read many accounts of widows my age remarrying. So, I have to admit that when bloggers talk about remarrying/dating, I do disconnect a little - but it's not because I'm judging them, it's just that I don't relate to those feelings and experiences. I've been reading WV for about 4 years, and I even went back and read all the archived posts. I've found that I relate better to some stories than others - because you (we) are all so different. Which is okay, of course - I still find enough that is helpful, because I come back every day. Thanks for posting about a difficult topic.

  8. This post is great because I have experienced all of this...marriage with the love of my life...though we had issues too....missing making love to my husband so much since that was a wonderful part of my marriage.
    I don't want to live the rest of my life at now age 21 months out....without never being passionately kissed again...or held securely in a man's arms.....or to make mad passionate love......these are all things we don't talk about grieving...secondary losses I believe these are called.
    I hope I will find all of the things I mentioned again.
    I do not disconnect with those that talk about dating or remarrying as it proves that there is that part of life still possible....our spouses may be gone but we are not....
    In talks before my husband died unexpectantly we both told each other that if one of us died we wanted the other to mourn some yet if the Lord provided a chance at another life partner our blessing was a given.....
    After my John died I could not even imagine the desire to start dating...or being physically involved in another man as my husband was the best.
    Yet......because my husband was the best I miss it so much that I think the desire to date may eventually come.
    My husband thought I was the best...who says I can't be a "best" again...and that another man can be a "best" again too..
    Something to think about for if and when ever ready....

  9. Interesting...the topic about the hard times in your marriage...mine was far from perfect. I loved him with all my heart and he loved me with all of his heart but we really were not meant to be together. He was a genuinely good man, but I refuse to make him a saint now that he's gone; he had a lot of internal issues that were taken out on me and it took its toll on me emotionally and physically. There were so many red flags during our 6 years together that made me think that I had to leave, and I didn't...either because of fear of how he'd take it, or fear of winding up alone again. I'm not sure, I guess it was a mixed bag of emotions that kept me from leaving. Then when he became ill, there was no way I could leave. Looking back though, I know that I should have left. That old saying "love just ain't enough" really is the truth. Some things that happened should NEVER have been tolerated and should have been stopped with the relationship ending. And when I enter a new relationship, I am smarter now and will make sure I hightail as soon as I see those red flags. I won't judge and can accept flaws in another person, but once those flaws start to become detrimental to my well being, that's where I put a stop to it. I refuse to sit and take it again. I see now I did deserve better.

    So, I haven't been in a serious relationship since his passing 2 and a half years ago, but I've seen some people. I'm spending time with someone now. We met a few months after this guy passed away and we consider each other good friends even though we started to become intimate 5 months ago. I adore him. I can see myself with him in a long term relationship, but, I don't know if he can see himself in a relationship with me. He's had a few ups and downs in his life as well and he's torn about those things. We help each other cope. He knows so much about my past and he accepted it all without any judgement, none of it scared him off, and vice versa. If we just remain friends in time, and both move on to other people, I'm ok with it, because I value our friendship so much. And if we somehow are fated to be together, then wonderful. But I know I have someone by my side to help me with my healing process. True friendship.

    I WANT to be in a relationship again. I love being "single" but like you, I can't see myself living out my life without a partner. I know women who wound up alone with no children, and I can't see myself like that. I have a great job, I support myself, live on my own, and all that's left is having a family. And I can't wait for when the right man/time comes.

    Good luck and don't be afraid to be honest about your past and your future, don't you ever feel guilty for how you feel or for what happened.