I guess we could talk about anyone dating, but widows experience some issues that others don’t and I think they’re worth mentioning. In no particular order, we have:
- Grief from the loss of a spouse we loved
- Children watching and dealing with grief of their own.
- Fear of loving and losing again
- A whole world with opinions on how soon is too soon (and every other element involved in moving forward as a single person.)
All those things are true of my life and are always shuffling around in terms of which one seems most weighty at any given moment. For the first year, the noise these concerns created was louder than any desire I might have had to re-enter the dating world, but over the past few months I’ve come to believe this: the worries will always be there, and it’s up to me how much I let them drive my decisions.
Having said that, here’s the thing: I’ve been dating a little again and it’s really weird and sometimes sort of terrifying and very – can I say weird again? Because it is. So, so weird. But it’s also been fun. I haven’t been on many dates, but I have been on a few and it has been very weird and very fun.
I’m not going to give specifics of when or who because – well, I don’t want to and maybe never will – but I do want to share a few things I think I’ve learned in this new adventure.
- I need good voices in my life. I have four women who know every single detail about this chapter in my story. I’ve told them everything from the first, anxious “maybe” feelings to deep angsty how-could-I-ever-risk-my-heart-again fear. I’ve been honest about my motives and struggles and shortcomings – painfully, brutally honest, because I don’t trust myself to navigate this stretch of the sea with just my own feeble wisdom steering the ship. I need people who can see objectively and speak honestly which means they are not family members. My family is so intricately connected to the idea of married Bo that it would be difficult for them to sift through those added, weighty emotions. There are a thousand things I would ask them to weigh in on, but this is not one of those things. My four friends have 100% access and authority to correct, challenge or flat-out disagree with me, which they do, and I appreciate it. They are safety to me. (One of the voices in my life, interestingly enough, was Steve. Throughout his battle with ALS, he regularly talked to me about this very issue and told me that he was praying for my future relationships. It was difficult to hear then, but I’m so thankful for his kind generosity now.)
- I need to worry less about what the watching world thinks. We are a society obsessed with love and we’re used to making quick judgements about who should be with who(m?) and how every love story should play out. People on the periphery of my life will have opinions from “yay!” to “yikes!” (maybe you’re thinking one of those two things while reading this) and that’s fine, but it’s also important that I not cave to the cries of the noisiest crowd because please believe me, the crowd doesn’t ever agree anyway. So I need to listen to Jesus and the people I’ve asked to speak into the situation and leave the rest of the opinions to care and keeping of their owners. (P.S: I’ve heard so many lonely, lonely widows say that they would love to date but are worried it will make people think they have forgotten about their spouse. That’s very sad. Let’s allow widows and widowers to hang onto their old, wonderful memories while also creating some new ones. I’ll probably write more about this soon.)
- Dating at 50 is different than dating at 19. And also the same. Sometimes I look back on the young me with envy, because it was so simple. We didn’t have kids or homes or careers or big backstories. But on the other hand: we didn’t have kids or homes or careers or backstories – and those are the very things that show the fruit of our lives and love. Those things are beautiful and important. Also I think people my age are very aware of how precious and difficult love is and how carefully it must be handled. There is plenty to love at every season, I suppose, but I’m thankful to be in this one.
- I am old fashioned. I’ve discovered that though culture has changed in the years since I last dated, I have not. I still want the man to be the man. To make the first move, to open doors and be protective (I have a good story about that I’ll share some day.) I love all the strides women have made in equality and I am thankful to be a woman who is taken seriously in a man’s world, but in dating, I still want it the way I knew it back in the day, including the commitment to abstinence which – wow – I might as well be a dinosaur, right? But I’m not sorry about this. (Also not sorry to publicly declare that I am too old fashioned for online dating. I don’t think it’s bad, but…nope. Never gonna happen for me.)
- My kids are awesome. Incredible. Amazing. They are supportive, encouraging and wonderfully kind. We’ve had to communicate clearly and carefully through the process because none of us has ever been here before, but I could not be more proud of and thankful for every single one of them.
So, that’s what’s new with me and I wanted you to know, because you have been with me every step of the way so far. I don’t like to feel like I’m hiding, but I also really love this strange little season in my life and want to keep it held sort of close to my heart. However, I promise to let you know what I’m learning along the way. Mostly, what I’m learning right now is that life is always changing. You think you know what’s next and then the winds shift, your course adjusts and everything changes. The good news is that Jesus remains. True. Steady. Faithful as the sunrise. One thing remains.