Fear and Loathing in Date-land

Perhaps I need to reconsider the rock climbing idea... Nude Rock Climber - Photographed by Peter Torsal (http://www.torsal.de/)

I got an email from a recent widow yesterday expressing fear of ever having a meaningful relationship again. I was at a bit of a loss about what to tell her. I’m not exactly the picture of successful relationships post-loss. I didn’t fear not having a relationship, quite the contrary, I always assumed I would. But in making that assumption perhaps I set myself up with some unrealistic expectations. Maybe a healthy dose of fear would have been a good thing when it came to dating. It might have given me a sense of urgency and determination rather than one of resigned expectancy.

I met with Lisa Fox again over the weekend. We chatted about a bunch of stuff which I will have to write another post about, but of course the state of my dating life inevitably came up. We got into our usual banter where I say something glib, like “when is Arron going to hook me up?” This time, Lisa replied with, “He’s suggesting that maybe you’re still not ready.” I wanted to scream. Not ready? After almost 10 years? I am really starting to resent the idea that there is something wrong with me, especially when it comes from my favorite ghost. (Haha. Not ready you say?)

I’m off the dating circuit for the time being. Got tired of the online thing. Again. Round and round we go…  And yet this hiatus feels different – I am OK with not dating. I’m still lonely, especially on those weird Saturday nights where I don’t get around to planning something social. But I’m also feeling increasingly content with my single life. I make my own decisions, I don’t lack in sleep because I don’t have to stay awake late into the night on the phone making kissy talk, I don’t have to deal with the politics of children and dating. OK, maybe I’ve just gotten lazy about it all.

I told my reader to put on a smile, and have fun with the dating thing. Embrace the idea that you might not meet “the one” but you may well meet a nice person to hang out with and who you can text about your day and invite over for dinner on a Monday night when you’ve made too much spaghetti. And you don’t necessarily have to do the online dating thing. You could also take a class, or do something that interests you, that will hopefully interest a guy as well. I tend to be less than stellar at this and wind up taking classes in memoir, usually filled with older women. I took Salsa dancing, and was once again reminded how tall I was. It was also hard to have any sort of conversation when someone is flinging you into a spin and your hair is whipping into their eyes. I suppose I really should take up more of the sort of pursuits that men gravitate towards, like cycling or rock climbing, except that I truly value my life.

And so I think I will just try and carry on and stop fearing and anticipating and working so damned hard at this whole dating thing. I’m ready for Mr. Right to find me for a change.

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  1. Shafeen Charania May 31, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    First – why can’t you have a brief but meaningful relationship? Why does meaningful require longevity?

    Second – I know we’ve talked about this a lot, and I maintain that being anchored to any ending will restrict your ability to begin anew.

    I know having your partner die is different from breaking up or divorcing, but in the context of the next relationship you seek, I don’t believe it is *as* different…

    1. annie May 31, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      I agree with the “anchoring” getting in the way of moving on, but I’ve had someone die on me and I have broken up, and the difference that makes them different is that you can’t recast the late spouse in a negative or “he was just not the one” light that you can with someone you’ve broken up with. But I do believe that when someone comes along who rings all the right bells, you will move on without much or any looking back. And in that sense, it is the same. The “cure” for a broken attachment is a new attachment, regardless of cause.

    2. Abigail - Site Author May 31, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      Hmmm. Did I imply that a relationship had to be long-term to be meaningful? I don’t think I did. Are you perhaps viewing my post through your own lens?

      And I’m with Annie on the anchoring thing. I know there are many who see me as still anchored to Arron, but I just don’t feel that way. I have had a few relationships that have taken me down the road of de-coupling myself from him, but I think it’s even possible that I have managed to de-couple from him all by myself, on my own terms. Through the myriad of emotions at the beginning to the divorce dreams and now, In a way, with the sessions I am having “with Arron” through the psychic that have provided for me a strange new distance from him that’s hard to pinpoint. It’s like we have become old friends that chat from time to time, but each have our own lives to get on with.

  2. Cary May 31, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I’d like to request nude FEMALE rock climbers please:)

    1. Abigail - Site Author May 31, 2011 at 10:56 pm

      Sorry, I couldn’t find any…

  3. JDinBrooklyn May 31, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Abby, I strongly recommend you read the book “Calling in the One.” It has changed my life. I thought of you often when I read the first few chapters. It’s not so much finding a guy as it is about finding yourself and figuring out the barriers you might have put in place to keep out that right guy.

    1. Abigail - Site Author May 31, 2011 at 10:59 pm

      Cool, thanks I will check that out, though I have to laugh at the title. It reminds me of “Call of the Wild.” Maybe I’ll reign in a wolf (in sheep’s clothing??).

      Joking aside, there is a part of me wondering if perhaps there is something unconscious holding me back.

      Thanks for the comment and the recommendation.

  4. annie May 31, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Maybe what Arron meant is that you are comfortable with perks of single (being in charge, calling the shots – the whole “independence” nine yards and not ready to switch back to team mode yet? In any event, I remember being asked once what my LH would think of my doing something and replying that it’s didn’t matter as he was dead and didn’t get a vote. I also remember talking to the ceiling one night and telling him that I was tired of being alone and whatever he thought of the idea, it was time he let me go. I think nearly every woman at one point or other worries that she will be alone for the rest of her life. It’s a perfectly normal fear but it shouldn’t be a guiding one. I don’t think dating for its own sake, however, gets many folks what they want. If you want a long term relationship, you date with that info upfront and as a goal. It weeds out the people who subscribe to “test-driving” theories. That’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me, but admittedly, I always found dating to be the most tedious and frustrating of activities when I played by the conventional rules. If you know what you want and are clear about it, eventually you will come across someone who sees it the same way you do. jmo

    1. Abigail - Site Author May 31, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      Yes, I honestly think that is what is going on in my case – I just know what I want and am quite clear in my mind about it. Hence this post. I’m tired of being made to think there’s something wrong with me and that I’m still in love with my husband’s ghost.

  5. diane May 31, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I enjoyed reading your piece Abby. I wanted to share this with you…perhaps some food for thought. When my father passed away, my mother saw quite a few psychics and mediums. One thing they all told her was that another man would come into her life and she wouldn’t be alone for the rest of her life. She’d have a relationship with this person and be happy. Well, as it turns out, my mother never remarried or had a long term relationship with anyone after my father died. When we look back on this…over 35 years later…it’s very apparent what happened. Yes, she did meet the man. They hung out together for several years…had a great time. He wanted something more serious…she was still busy waiting for that “someone” to come into her life, so she basically pushed him aside and kept looking. At that time she was also still very much into widow mode, and all the (attention), unfortunately that she got from it…so she was just never really ready to move on and make room for this new man.
    “They say” that we are all presented with opportunities and choices in our life. It’s how we “act” upon them that will determine the outcome (free will within boundries). Yes, all the psychic’s predictions were basically true about my mom. There was someone, but she was always just too busy looking for someone else to recognize who the Universe had given her. It’s sad, because I think she finally did realize all this after the man passed away recently.

    1. Abigail - Site Author May 31, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      Definitely food for thought, the idea that someone I already know is the right person, but I also feel pretty confident that I would know if that were the case. As I said in my comment to Annie, I’m pretty clear about what I’m looking for and am willing to wait for it. If I don’t find it, then so be it. Nothing sad, just what is.

      Your mom sounds pretty intuitive. Perhaps she just knew that guy just wasn’t quite the right guy for whatever reason though she probably cared a great deal about him.

  6. Rebecca Young May 31, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    After my husband died I was scared of being alone but also liked having the taste of independence and calling the shots in my own life too. So when I found myself in a relationship I assumed it was going to be like the one I had with my husband. Even now, 4 years on, I am still deep down afraid of committing to this man in case my husband comes back. Also the fear of losing someone so close to me again is another factor that prevents me from a truly deep and meaningful relationship with this new man. So sometimes it feels like I’m existing not living, if that makes sense…?

    1. Abigail - Site Author June 1, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      Rebecca, thanks for sharing such a profound fear, but one that I suspect might be very common for someone who is bereaved. I know for me the death of Arron was so unreal at the beginning, it felt like he was just away on a prolonged business trip and might walk in at any moment. That morphed into wondering what he would think if he suddenly reappeared in our lives to now, where its just a sense of him being pleased from afar at how things are turning out.

      Its so hard to be able to trust again, always worrying that something bad might happen to the person we give our hearts to.

      I’m not sure how you let go of that fear your husband will come back, though I had a series of dreams about Arron divorcing me that went a long way towards getting over that feeling. Our minds sometimes helps us along despite us. As for letting go of the fear of losing another, I think of myself as a veteran of getting through loss at this point, that I know that new loss, though difficult, is not insurmountable and offers a lot of wonderful things along with the crappy ones. Maybe you can train your brain to recalibrate… haha. No easy task, that.

  7. Kristine May 31, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    love this! I can only heartily agree– no rush, and there’s a lot to be said for really valuing your own company, and for being able to spend time with your girlfriends. Life has many surprises.

  8. annie June 1, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I love that idea about “just being old friends with different lives” b/c I really see my LH as having journeyed on and on the odd occasions when I think about him, I get the feeling he is caught up in his new “life” just as I am in mine. I marvel that some people believe that after they’ve died their relationships with late spouses will just pick up where they left off as though the time, separation and leading different lives doesn’t matter at all. I don’t think that is the case.

  9. JDinBrooklyn June 3, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    By the way, I did not mean to imply that you were doing something to hinder your meeting a right guy. One of the things I hate most about being single is the assumption that I’m single because I’m doing something wrong or I have a wall up or I’m too picky or I hate men (yes, I have heard this one!). What this book is helping me realize is that I have chosen to be single. Like you, I have yet to meet anyone worth giving up my amazing, independent life full of travel and friends for. Committed relationships take a lot of compromise and what I have right now is pretty frickin’ awesome (although at times, also pretty frickin’ lonely). I see many, many women settle for men they like a lot but don’t truly love because their clocks are ticking or because they want a man to support them. We are not in positions where we have to compromise that much, so it makes our search that much harder.

    1. Abigail - Site Author June 3, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      J, don’t worry. I didn’t take your comment that way at all. I do agree, it’s annoying when people assume there is something wrong with us because we prefer singledom to being with someone we are not completely jazzed about. But yeah. loneliness (I actually typed looneliness) is a bitch. I think I am finally coming to grips with my singleness.

  10. Anne Marie June 8, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Hi Abby,
    I wrote to you once before but it was quite a bit after your post. I had a reading with Lisa Fox that was AMAZING! I loved your story about how she “found you” and I am so happy to have found her and you. I am very much looking forward to meeting you at Camp Widow in August.
    My beloved husband died 19 months ago and I am not ready for dating…I still consider myself married. This too will pass when I am ready…in time.

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