Friday, September 10, 2010

What is the Appropriate Amount of Time?

Last week I met a man whose wife had passed two months ago after a long illness. He is a fairly young guy – about my age - with grown children who live outside the area. He raised the question of when is it appropriate to begin dating after your spouse has died.

What a great question. I tried to do some online research to see if there were any professional takes on the subject. I couldn’t find anything, but did come across one writing that stated that men tend to remarry more often, and more quickly than women. I do know of several instances where a man who recently lost his wife remarried within one year of her passing. I know a few women who have lost their spouse. They had good, strong, happy marriages and mourned their deaths for years and are still single.

This is not to say that women are more devoted to their spouses or their spouses memory, it is just what I have experienced. The article I mentioned above did say that women are starting to remarry after the death of a spouse at a higher rate.

Doug passed after a relatively brief illness. It was the most stressful three months of my life. All I could think about after his passing was selling our house and starting a new life; one that did not necessarily involve a man. My business was picking up; I had new friends and a great new house. I also was very apprehensive about dating again, mainly because I felt old and out of shape.  After 19 years of marriage, the thought of taking my clothes off in front of a man scared the heck out of me.

My relationship with Thierry started some 20 years ago as workmates. Doug and I sailed with him over the years and he new my family. We started to see each other as friends about 4-5 months after Doug’s passing, and our relationship stayed that way for about 6 more months. While I was seeing Thierry (as a friend), I was conscious of the timing. I was concerned, somewhat, about what people would think.

Often people say “you should wait a year.” Where that came from I don’t know. I think every situation is different. When someone is suffering from a long illness, the spousal relationship goes through many changes, feelings and emotions, including a mourning period while the person is still alive. There are also those situations where the marriage may not have been the happiest. A death frees the survivor, who for whatever reason stuck with the relationship.

Then again, a person who has been married for say 30, 40 years, and had a relationship that was heavily dependent on their spouse is most likely the person to remarry quickly in order to recreate the environment they had and relieve their fear of being alone.  This, they say, is why men tend to remarry so quickly.

There may also be children to consider. However, I don’t believe that the decision to date or remarry should be heavily dependent on what the kids have to say. Yes, they are going through a lot of emotions and may be suffering a devastating sense of loss, but they have their own lives and their interference in their parent’s relationship is as warranted as a parent’s interference in their own. Often children are concerned about their inheritance, and rightly so. It is up to the surviving parent to be thoughtful of dispensing of heirlooms and if possible, taking care of financial arrangements.

Each situation is very different – and personal. We can’t judge someone else’s choices. I have two answers to the question, when is it appropriate to begin dating after the loss of a spouse. This first is, go with your gut – meaning what your conscience is telling you is the right thing to do. The second is, when in doubt, do nothing. Eventually the answer will come to you.

Thierry is finally on his way home. His two crew members arrived in Newport, RI this morning, and they shipped out mid-afternoon to take advantage of northerly winds. He sent me a lovely picture of a fish that they caught being filleted. It is time for him to be home!

I had my treatment yesterday and had lots of company. We played scrabble and the time flew by. I can’t tell you how special it makes me feel when my friends and family share their time with me on chemo days.

I feel pretty darn good today – tomorrow I have my scans. I feel positive, and will deal with whatever news I get. I am off chemo this week, and next weekend we have my parents’ 90 birthday party. It has been a great week, and I anticipate another good one coming up!

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