Over the past couple of months I have been very quietly thinking about that terrifying concept of dating again. The feeling that I might like to dip my toe back in the dating pool started creeping in around late January, at my 18-month mark, and completely took me by surprise.
After Dan’s death, the thought of finding another partner filled me with such dread – I didn't want anyone else, the idea of another man’s touch repulsed me and I couldn't understand how someone would ever make me as happy or complete as my husband had, or live up to the expectations that he had set. I had married him six weeks earlier knowing undoubtedly that he was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I couldn't contemplate an alternative.
For a long time I thought that I had to wait until I finished grieving before being ‘ready’ to love again. Because how could I possibly ask anyone to take me on while I still had ‘bad days’ on a semi-frequent basis? How could I give my battered heart to another while still crying for my lost love? What a disaster – it wouldn't be fair to myself or to any future suitors. Sex was the last thing on my mind (and is still not the driver for me wanting to date). I wondered if the 20 wonderful months I’d shared with Dan would be enough to sustain me for the rest of my life, however long that may be, if I were never able to love again.
It wasn't until I attended Camp Widow West in July last year and met so many wonderful widowed people, who had learnt to love again while honoring their dearly departed, that I began to understand that I would never actually finish grieving Dan. There wouldn't be a line in the sand where I could put that part of my life behind me and start a new chapter, stress and baggage-free. And more importantly, I didn’t want to leave that part of me behind.
It was a bit of a light bulb moment. Maybe, just maybe, I would be lucky enough to one day meet a man who was secure within himself and would accept that I could give myself to him without having to let go of the love I have for Dan. The idea still terrified me – but I don't want to be alone forever. I also knew Dan wouldn’t want me to be alone. And for that reason, I knew I would have to try. But not yet, I still wasn’t ready. I had more healing to do and needed to learn to love the ‘new me’. So I focused on that and put the idea of dating out of mind.
Until recently, when it began bubbling up to the surface more and more often. After finally accepting that – yes, I think it would be nice to have someone to share my life with. I think I would like to try dating and see how it felt. Maybe I would freak out and fall apart, but I wouldn’t really know for sure until I gave it a go.
So, a few weeks ago, I did just that. I created an on-line profile on a respectable, ‘paid’, dating website and started chatting to a man. A psychologist, to be exact, who I'd hoped would be sensitive about Dan’s suicide and emotionally-mature enough to help me navigate the world of dating again. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well… we didn’t click, he was very boring, kind of arrogant and also asked a lot of questions about Dan’s death, critiquing the treatment he'd been receiving for his depression and basically making me feel like my husband was a case study for his professional analysis rather than a real human being.
It was pretty bad. But I had survived it. In fact, it was so ridiculous that I actually found the whole situation funny and was able to laugh about it with my girlfriends over a glass of wine or two. I’d gotten my ‘first date’ out of the way and surely things would have to look up from here. So here I am. Officially dating again, well - looking for a worthy candidate anyway (which is not proving to be easy!). I'm taking it slowly, not rushing anything but remaining open to possibilities.
The timeline is different for everyone and I’m still figuring mine out. If I happen to meet someone I like, I don’t really know how I feel about even kissing another man, let alone having sex. The idea of giving my heart to another still terrifies me. But I’m ready to at least take a step in that direction and see where it leads me.