Friday, October 16, 2009

Widowhood Road

I have had a tough time with this widowhood gig. It has not matched my personality or who I am. I live and function better as a part of a team. I have a difficult time making decisions on my own. I need someone to lean on, if only to tell me that the engine light may be on because I improperly screwed on the gas cap. I glow when being able to nurture and think about a partner. These past six years have snuffed out some of that light and in ways I have become bitter and despondent. It has certainly not been the way I have wanted to live and raise my sons.

In my situation, certainly a lot of this is related to the unfortunate circumstances that culminated so soon after my husband's death. I believe that my road would have been far more manageable if I had been able to concentrate and focus more directly on just me and the boys. Having to deal with my youngest son's medical diagnosis and then helping care for my parents (and they had extensive issues) blew away the time I needed to reorganize my house and my life.

Six years of winging it - functioning and coping as best I can under whatever current crisis has reared its ugly head. The divorce crisis in particular. I am just beginning to recognize that it has been the most damaging event in my life. Maybe that is because it is representative all of my abandonment issues tied up into one package. The divorce destroyed something inside me and I am still struggling to heal and lay that to rest. I do not believe we move on and shed our hurts. My first husband's death and the divorce from my second husband will remain with me forever.

Hardship has led to more pessimism and such extreme stress that I worry about the health of the boys but myself more than ever. This has not been a fun ride. I am overworked, overwhelmed, disorganized, distraught, anxious, upset and unhappy more often than not. I have absolutely despised living alone without a man in the house. Those first few weeks after my husband died I could not believe how much his presence had reassured and comforted me. I had to learn to live on my own and subdue the discomfort. And over time I learned to tolerate it but I still didn't like it.

I have missed having a warm, strong male body lying next to me in bed. Smelling male sweat and the scents only males have. I went three and a half years without sex and during that long, lonely spell told myself I would never ever ever take another sexual encounter for granted no matter how ordinary or mundane it was. Because it is all a miracle and wonderful! I have missed sex, bear hugs, coming home to someone, having someone coming home to me, getting flowers, holding hands, having someone hug me from behind while cooking, hearing compliments that I look nice, talking about world news events and parenting issues.

I have missed all of the little day-to-day stuff that comes with sharing a life with a partner. All the emotional, physical and social aspects too numerous to list. And if I did, the ones most prominent would be all the little things. Not a big diamond ring, or opulent wedding. Just the normal routines of making dinner after work, talking about one's day, being there to offer advice and support.

I've read that in living through trying circumstances we can come away with more knowledge about ourselves. And what I am realizing and accepting is my need and desire to live with a partner - to be remarried and part of a team. To chuck this widowhood label and lose the minority status and identity it has brought me. I'm not ashamed of this, nor do I feel I need to justify or explain who I am and how I tick.

But on the same page with this strong desire to be remarried is the devotion and loyalty I have for my sons. This was partly what damaged my second marriage. I agreed to let my oldest finish middle school before moving because the boys were having such issues about relocating to another state. But I also needed that year to work on and sell the house, etc. In the end, the plan blew up in smoke because my poor Mom was dying the summer I had agreed to move. And my new husband didn't tolerate the delay that brought to my moving. To be fair to him, it was not the total reason. He was financially and emotionally strained maintaining two households and lost his patience. I was too caught up caring for my sons and worrying about my Mom to devote much attention to him (he drove two hours one way every weekend to live with us). Our marriage didn't survive those challenges.

But I have to admit that I did put a lot of emphasis on my sons' needs. I suppose I did put their needs and wants ahead of my own and ahead of my second husband. In part, because they are fatherless boys and we have had little family support. I always felt someone had to look out for them - no one else in the world was.

So now flash forward a couple years. The divorce ravaged us - destroyed us emotionally and financially. Wounded our hearts. But a new guy who started out as a friend hung in there by our sides - was there every step of the way on the long and challenging divorce road for me. And helped soothe and balm the heart of my youngest, who was especially wounded by the actions of Husband #2. And now this guy is moving out of state to a new job and offers out his hand to us all. Accepts my destitution and still pessimistic attitude. Accepts (even likes) my sometimes unruly 15 and 16-year-old, who are more tolerant of a move-out-of state this time around but still don't like it.

I remarried three years after my husband died after only knowing my new husband six months. I have known Guyfriend almost two years now. These are the words that best describe him: kind, optimistic, courageous, loyal, tolerant, flexible, appreciative of the world (nature, movies, music), humorous, honest and intelligent. AND (and this is a big one because it is so important to me) he has never hung up on me or refused to speak with me as did Husband #2. We communicate openly, honestly and intelligently. We have fun together - he is supportive and extremely loyal. He has never gone back on his word. I have gotten a little nutty at times from either PMS or this widowhood gig and he has taken it all with stride and overlooked my fits or outbursts. He has stuck around and hung in there.

And now there is the opportunity to leave this life behind and embark on a new one. To ditch the widowhood gig (thank God) and have an easier life. We look at it as benefiting both of us. It is easier financially to pool two incomes together and to share companionship and a life. I wouldn't have to work (but I'd like to). I could live in a home again (with a garden and laundry facilities). Life would be better. Probably more from my perspective - I am gaining more than Guyfriend. He would be a good role model for the boys. I worry about getting them through college - not the financial end but just the emotional aspect of it for me.

Guyfriend thinks we are a good team. Except when I've gotten to pretty low points and have been freaking out about the divorce and/or poverty aspect of my life, we do not argue or are cross with one another. We are a good team. He is a good guy. A nice guy. I am lucky to have met him. Lucky to be with him. Yes, I love him but I also still love Husband #2. I have found that love isn't replaced by finding someone new. But this guy stood by our sides through thin (there hasn't been any thick). He needs to get a whole lot of credit for that. Husband #2 abandoned ship and left the boys and I in the water without a life boat.

This is not a decision based totally on infatuation and lust. We're long past that stage or age. Both of us feel that pooling our lives offer benefits (financial and otherwise). I like that aspect of our decision. I like that we are realistic and looking at all sides of the coin.

I am still struggling though with how this will effect the boys. Pulling them out of school as a Junior and Sophomore. Having them leave their friends and community. And for us, without family, this community has become our family. Identifying with it became a lifeline for us. How much would a move screw up my boys? How much do I consider them vs. my own needs and wants? Guyfriend is not keen on our staying here two more years until the boys finish high school. It doesn't make sense financially for one. Guyfriend's goal is to get us all together living under one roof. Maintaining two homes in different states defeats that purpose in his eyes. Or do I owe it to my sons to struggle it out for two more years. Is the stress and stain worth it? Will I end up losing this guy too? Will it end up with me losing my sanity?

The widowhood road is not an easy one. And then there are the bumps and potholes following that need to be confronted. Can you swerve around that one? Is a tire flat after hitting one? Do you pull off the side of the road or keep driving forward slowly, hands tightly gripping the wheel?
Do you drive ahead with the kids in the back to a new state, a new city, a new future or park the car where it has been because that is what is most comfortable to all of you because it is known and safe.

So much of all of this is complicated by widowhood. I don't have an ex-husband living here so the boys can remain to finish high school. I wish that were possible. So much of widowhood has been trying to make choices and decisions based on limited options. Here there is even a light at the end of this awful journey and yet it is still too dim to really make out. And I'm still struggling with whether to keep driving toward it or stay put.

Can I use all that I have learned and experienced the past six years to make better decisions and choices? Am I strong enough now or just too tired now (or both) to hang up the fight and perhaps take the easier option to move? How much will this move impact the boys who have already dealt with far more than they should have on their life paths? Guyfriend thinks I have done the best I could to keep the boys stable as long as possible. I know some kids move a lot and they live in two-parent families. It is not the end of the world. But I don't have the luxury of only thinking about myself. I am an only parent and these boys are my responsibility. They only have me to rely on. This responsibility at times has almost been too much for me to bear.

But a relocation/move is another loss and gosh darn it, we just keep having to face loss after loss. I don't want to let Guyfriend go. He starts the new job on November 1. I have tried him on for size and I like the way he fits. When I think of him not being around or nearby, I miss him deeply. Losing him would be a horrible loss. Either way, either decision, there is loss involved. There are also negatives and positives to each. Maybe it means looking ahead into the future. There are no guarantees (this I totally know). But of the two options, which road offers more immediate hope? Which road has fewer potholes?


  1. Your decision depends upon the effect it will have on the boys. How do they feel about the move? How do they feel about the guy? Would it be a better life for them if their mother was calmer and happier? It certainly would be a relief financially and emotionally and you have known your guy friend long enough to know what kind of man he is AND he must be some kind of great man to be willing to take on two teenagers in the home. I am happy you have him.

  2. Hi -- I realize I don't know you and I really don't have any right to comment on your personal life... but since you blogged about it: is this the same guy friend who responded so un-empathetically to your feelings a few blog posts ago? Hmmmmm... that gives me pause.

    You've been through a lot, and you're still dealing with a lot, obviously (and even though it's hard, you're probably handling it better than you think). Please, please proceed with caution in making any big life decisions right now.

    I'm just concerned about you, and wishing the very best for you and your boys...

  3. CCC - Thank you for your comments and concerns. I have to cut Guyfriend some slack for his insensitivity a few weeks back. He has NEVER intentionally said anything to hurt me. By the same token I have taken a couple of cheap shots at him in anger, for which I am very sorry. This guy has been extremely supportive and tolerant. Sometimes even those closest to us just don't say the right things and that time he wasn't getting it. I have to look at the entire picture here. In his mind what he was saying to me about my move from house to apartment made sense to him. It wasn't that empathic, I agree, but he didn't say it to be mean. He was just trying to be honest and direct which is how he thinks. He said the first thing he thought of and it didn't comfort me. On the other hand he calls me consistently during the day - even to just say good morning. He tells me he loves me, is thinking of me and really listens without interrupting. He also says he is sorry and tries to compromise.

    Life isn't easy, choices are hard. But sometimes there aren't any options left to take. Part of my decision will be based on whether not being able to afford rent and being potentially homeless is better than moving to marry and live with an honest man who can say he is sorry and is willing to work on our relationship WHILE providing a roof over our heads, along with health insurance and food on the table.

  4. i've read this three times and it seems to me you've answered yourself. you "need to be part of a team." you defend yourself in anticipation of reproach by stating, "i won't justify who i am or how i tick." you are worried you'll lose your sanity if you try to stick it out where you are.

    this is a decision only you know all the variables on. a myriad of details must be considered but there are the crucial ones.

    primary one is 1. is he good with your sons? they are number one since they are yours to protect. yes, being an only parent is hard. it is also hard to be the one who protects them from their own father. parenting is never easy but there is nothing like it when they look at you and say, "thank you for being my mom. you made me who i am today." hard as it is, the moment they were born your life became one of making sacrifices for them. if this man is good to them, accepts the responsibility for them should something happen to you, then one enormous burden has been lifted. safety and security for your sons.

    2. if he meets you halfway on the decisions for your life, listens and takes your thoughts into consideration, if your life with him will truly be a partnership, then another burden is lifted. safety and consideration for who you are.

    3. if this move and your marriage to this man is something both you and your sons joyfully want, that the thought for all of you that not having him in your lives on a daily bases would be purgatory, that you all love him and can give back to him as much as you are given, then that answers that big question.

    this decision is yours to make and no one can tell you what to do. no one has the right here in this format because none of us know you beyond what you write. you and your sons have been through a lot. you need to find it within yourself to be strong and persevere for them however hard the going gets. never give up, for some of us, takes on a meaning that can almost go beyond human endurance. but the definition of a hero is to hang on one moment longer. how you chose to hang on is up to you.

    best wishes whatever you decide.

  5. wNs - Thank you for taking the time to reread my post three times and respond to it. I cried reading your comments but had to go to work so could not immediately respond.

    #1 - Guyfriend is great with the boys and they really, really like/respect him. He has been willing to work on parenting conflicts and doesn't get freaked out or upset with the challenges of a blended family.

    #2 - He is trustworthy, honest, not controlling and wants a partnership.

    #3 - While my boys like and respect him, they still would prefer to stay here to finish high school. After all, they are just teenagers. As for me, I just wish for once life would be simple and I wouldn't have to get caught up in having to make such decisions (because I am not a good decision maker in the first place). I just want everyone to be happy and to have what they want. But at the same time, I'm recognizing that I've reached my personal limit on the amount of suffering and sacrificing I can continue to endure.

  6. I guess my question would be whether you want to spend the rest of your life with someone you aren't really passionate about. You like him, respect him and would miss him if he left, and all that is great, but I could say the same thing about any number of my friends, none of whom I want to marry. Stability and commitment are a big part of a long-term relationship, of course, but they're not all there is to it.

    I know you've really been struggling with being an only parent, but realistically, your boys are within 2-3 years of leaving home, or at least of being mostly independent (e.g., going to college and/or working while preparing to move out). I just wonder what will happen if you get married to solve the temporary logistical/financial problems of raising them for those last 2-3 years, and then they leave and you're still in a marriage of convenience for which half the reason has gone. Is there enough passion, mutual enjoyment, common interests between you and Guyfriend to sustain a marriage under those circumstances? Is he going to be okay with it in the long term, or will eventually he feel resentful that he took on all this responsibility (even willingly) in exchange for just being liked and respected? What if he becomes disillusioned and you end up going through another painful divorce?

    I don't mean to sound harsh, and I apologize if I do - I know you've had a very hard time these last few years, much harder than I have. It just seems as if, while there are lots of reasons to get married, at least one of those reasons should be that you want to be with the other person more than anything - that you can't bear *not* to be with them - and I don't feel that in your writing about Guyfriend. But I freely admit that I could be wrong; I know what we read here is only part of the story, and the Internet is notorious for not getting real emotions across.

    Whatever you choose to do, I wish you all the best. You deserve it.

  7. Judith - Thank you for your support. My boys very much like/respect Guyfriend but are not happy about the prospect of moving. That is the issue - it is nothing about the guy.

    Vanessa - I truly appreciate your playing devil's advocate. Yes, there is passion and love there. But part of me is so jaded right now I'm almost afraid to hope for happiness. So I'm being more cautious and subdued this time around - kind of keeping my emotions in check. When it comes down to it, the real struggle for me is trying to balance my needs and that of my boys. It would probably be better psychologically for the boys to stay here but I honestly do not have much fortitude left within me to keep struggling. Maybe honesty and maturity is the ability to admit and face my limitations. But I'll make that the subject of a future post. Thanks again.

  8. Sorry, I am behind on my reading.

    I truly believe that as long as YOU are happy your boys will be happy. It won't matter what state you live in, where you live or what job you have. In the end, if you are happy their lives will be better. Will moving be hard on them? Sure, at first, but they will adapt and when they see that you are happy and bringing that positive energy into their lives then it will make the transition that much easier.

    If you decided not to go nothing will change. The stress you currently feel will continue to permeate into your life and theirs. Sure they will be in the same state but the current issues will continue. They will continue that is until they go off to college and start their own life journeys. Then you will be there in an empty apartment that you don't particularly like.

    Follow your heart and it will not lead you astray. I know its scary but you can't win the game if you don't play. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to win at the game of life. So you had one bad hand with #2. One bad hand does not a tournament make. Like the old song says, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad". Sounds to me like you have a winning hand. :)

    I wish you all the happiness you so richly deserve!

  9. Kelly - Thank you for such uplifting and nice comments. The reference to "two out of three ain't bad" is a good one. I also like your pointing out that change is scary but we won't win the game if we don't play. Sometimes we resist jumping off that diving board and after we do it we wonder what all the fuss was about - it wasn't half as bad as what we'd expected when we hit the water!