Sunday, June 24, 2012

Creating Intimacy

Two by Two

When I was married, I never felt alone. I had an adult partner to talk to, interact and sleep with. My husband was a companion and helpmate, a co-parent. Since his death I have realized that in order to have emotional interactions with others, I have to make the effort to create intimacy. It just isn't there like it was when I lived with a married partner. I have also since realized the great necessity we all have for emotional intimacy. I believe it is a deep human need and truly important for our emotional well being, health and survival.

It is hard to always have to create what we need. It becomes a job, an effort. I have been reflecting on these feelings since an encounter with a fellow widow, a mom my age of two daughters, both in college. We have been trying to get together for about a year now. She has been widowed five years to my eight. I was really looking forward to talking to her, especially about her empty-nest experiences and feelings.

This woman was at a recent graduation party I attended and I made a point to set up a "date." She invited me to her home for a pizza dinner. Now her sister overheard us making our plans and "invited" herself to join us. The woman looked about as distressed as I felt with this development - we had wanted an opportunity to talk and relate privately about our lives with someone on our same page. She assured me that she would take care of her sister so we could meet alone.

When I showed up at her home I was actually angry and bitter to see the sister there. I felt irritated and resentful. It took a few moments for me to compose myself and go with the flow so I had a decent evening. Then to top it off, the widow's mom showed up as well! But by that time I was resigned to the situation. Fellow widow and I didn't get the opportunity to share and support one another. The conversation flowing was more general than I hoped. Widow's youngest daughter was there too and we talked a lot about her Freshman year experience.

But what I had really hoped for was some time to let my hair down with another widow and compare notes so to speak. This didn't happen and it made me sad because it is difficult to arrange intimate encounters - they don't occur every day and it seemed that an opportunity had been lost to uplift two widows in need.

This other widow has a very close and supportive family and that was sure evident. I thought that her family was actually kind of intrusive and I had to control myself from speaking my mind. What would I have said? Probably something along the line of people needing to be more considerate of a widow's need to vent with someone who shares her circumstances. I also would have said something about how married people have a built-in intimacy factor, even if they aren't particularly close. Just living with another adult under the same roof    provides some level of intimacy. My divorced girlfriend has become so aware of this that it is difficult for her to be in social situations where the wives put down their hubbies. She actually has to leave if this happens.

This whole situation just soured me. We'd all just been together at the graduation party so this was supposed to be a time of private healing for fellow widow and I. Instead, it was just another group event without the one-on-one intimacy I crave and miss in my current life. There was definitely irritation at the sister who is married and invited herself to join us - a sort of mean reaction by me against this woman for not being able to get past what she needed (selfishness).

As I left for the evening, fellow widow whispered to me that we'd go out to dinner next time alone. Hopefully we can manage to get together sooner than the year it took last time.


  1. Don't wait a year. Don't even wait a week if you can help it. Just call her up and make a new date - doing something where the family can't horn in on things. When I meet someone I think I would like to know and talk to, I usually ask them if they would like to get together to go for a hike or something appropriate. I usually ask if we can exchange email addresses and then make a point of emailing them within a day or two to set up an outing. I've been doing this for years and have made many good friends. If you want something to happen, you pretty much have to make it happen. The worst that will happen is you might get turned down, or can't figure out a time that is good for both of you. However, if it works, you may make a great friend. One time, I asked a woman who came to a canoe workshop if she would like to come out canoeing after I found out she had no canoe. She was surprised at the offer, but we agreed to meet. We actually had to cancel out right at the creek as the wind was so strong that we could not canoe, but we stood and talked and I made another date right then. We have gone on to be very close friends. I have found that I have to do this even more now that I am alone in the world. I don't expect everyone to be everything for me -- I have friends who like to go hiking, others who like to get together for lunch and a talk. I try to avoid situations where it is a friend with a spouse as I still find that too difficult and the dynamics are just too weird for me. In recent years. The main thing is to not be too complacent and leave things up to "Hey, let's get together sometime" because "sometime" often never happens. I'm sure your friend is probably as anxious (if not more) to get together, so email her and make a date. By the way, email usually works better as you get around the whole telephone tennis problem. Anyhow... Carpe diem!

  2. sounds like the other widow was as annoyed as you x

  3. Bev - Thank you for your great suggestions which are so timely now that I need to reinvent my social life. I especially liked your comment about not relying on others to be everything for you. I think people are worried that if they become my friend, I will rely on them too much. But that is not the case. It is a good idea for widows to spread themselves out with perhaps a wider variety of friendships than we may have pursued, had we remained married.

    I guess what I'm most sad about is how we have to create our friendships when in marriage, alot of times they just fell into our laps - e.g., our husband's friends became ours and so on. Widowhood just ends up being so much darn work all the time!

    Thanks Boo for checking in - thinking about you and your house stuff...

  4. You hit the mail right on the head! It is a lot of hard work in widowhood in every respect. I too, recently have been going through the lack of intimate connections.... again. I just figure those friendships that have gone by the wayside through lack of attention, or too busy, or whatever... it's time for me to move forward in my widowhood and explore other friendships and options. I refuse to be the poor little widow lady anymore, begging for time and attention with friends who aren't interested. In the 13 years since my husband's death, I have tried to cultivate different friends with different interests too, so I have my theatre friend, my yoga buddy, my explorer friend... etc. That way I am not too disappointed when one doesn't have time, or puts me off... I just call another one. I have finally recognized, after all these years, just because there is someone else in the house, doesn't mean that intimacy exists too. That helps when I get envious about my friends who "have someone".... You wouldn't believe the friends that are envious of me and the flexibilities and opportunities I have to pursue different things! Seriously! Nonetheless....I can totally relate to this feeling of lack of intimacy though. I think it will continue to be an issue for me as well, and something I will have to work hard at for my own mental health.

  5. Becky - Thank you so much for your input and personal knowledge. I have checked into a book club and another club that does weekly volunteering as two very promising groups to join once my boys are at college. My close girlfriend (divorced) and I often talk about wanting to have a guy in our homes with us. We realize that intimacy isn't a given just because you have a partner, but at this point we'd be grateful to simply have the presence of another adult beside us. He wouldn't even have to say a word...

  6. I agree. That would've made me feel like it was such a waste of time; I often feel that I don't need any more "talking" times with people I have nothing in common with - I get ALOT of that! I appreciate when you say "It is hard to always create what we need". I SO agree with that. So much energy not only creating what we need, but figuring out what we need. When, when I was married, it just happened - we were married almost 32 years and it's as if we could read each others minds, we were so in tune with each other. I miss that terribly. I have been surprised on occasion as you speak of when a "lunch with a friend" turned into a lunch with a "few of her friends" - groups are usually much more challenging to me than one to one. Same thing with family gatherings - it's helpful for me to know who alls been invited, so I can prepare my mind and my heart. Hate being blindsided, because it happens a lot just in everyday life when some grief trigger comes unannounced. Thanks for this post. Intimacy is a tough one. And honestly, sometimes I get really tired of "girl friends".........that probably sounds terrible. But I didn't spend a ton of time with my girl friends when Marty was on earth - he was who I preferred to be with. So now, I can only handle so much. Thanks for listening to me.

  7. Mjay - So nice to hear from someone who is on the same page as I. Glad you understood what I meant when I said that it is so hard always having to create what we need. In marriage, I just didn't have to do so much work all the time. Thank you for commenting.

  8. ai seños por que no medas lla una alegria tansolouna por favos

  9. It has been 2 years since my husband passed and boy do I miss him even more. Would you believe that years ago I wanted to be alone and sadly I got my wish. I have learned from my world that most people aren't interested in me and even though I attend dances etc., it seems phony. People are so competitive. Before I met my husband (then I was in my 30's) meeting people wasn't a problem, not it is a job and who wants that.

    Anyone else feel this way?

    1. It's not just u who sometimes wished to be alone when the husband was alive. I loved the emotional intimacy my husband & I had but sometimes I just needed 5 minutes to myself. Now I have TOO much time to myself. I miss his voice, texting him, emailing him, etc. I'm tired of only seeing him in my mind or just in photographs.

  10. Midlife widowhood started less than two years ago for me. I find grief coming and going in waves, and at times, it still feels nearly unbearable. Any kind of set back -- not getting the new job I tried for or not hitting it off with a guy I had hopes for -- will put me back in grief.

  11. Pardon the late comment, but I just found this. Did you try inviting her to your place, where the family couldn't justify "tagging along"?

    I've been widowed about 10 months, and a lot of other stressful stuff started about the same time. I'm finally more okay with his loss, as he had been in a lot of pain and poor health for his last seven year. But I'm known him since I was a teen and he was "always there" for me. Then suddenly, he was not, even though the day I really lost him started out well.

    Now, I find myself depressed and unable to function. I can't get up in the mornings, and when I do, I can't get moving. I'm fine at work (which gives me something to focus my mental energies on) and most other public places, but it's getting harder to go out anywhere but work, even to the grocery store or to the corner to get the mail.

    I'm far from destitute, thanks to good life insurance and his pension. I've even more or less started dating (which has not gone according to plan. He is a nice guy, but it's like hanging out with my brother.) How do you get past the depression and motivate yourself actually to do something each day, like eat something more than breakfast foods or TV dinners, or clean house, or do the laundry? I feel like I need a nanny to run my life for me.