“You think you know what you’re looking for until what you’re looking for finds you.”
I wrote a post last week, Do You Prefer Divorced or Never Married?, and I will admit, I dropped the ball entirely and was gently reminded by many of you that there is a third option: widowed! There were great comments not only about the perceived pros or cons of dating someone who is divorced versus someone who has never been married, but also about that third category of people who are in the dating pool who are neither divorced, nor never married, but rather widowed. I love your comments, and I love the healthy dialogue that ensues, so please keep them coming!
The point of my previous post was to provoke a discussion about people who feel very strongly one way or the other about who they will date. For some people, including the colleague I mentioned, dating someone who was divorced was not an option. She didn’t want to deal with any “baggage” and was certain that any divorcee would be bringing baggage to the table. Another friend couldn’t imagine dating someone (presumably in his 40’s or 50’s given her age) who hadn’t experienced marriage before. She assumed he would be too set in his independent ways to be successful in learning the art of compromise.
I didn’t, however, mention that third option of being in the dating pool as a widow, or dating someone who has been widowed. My bad! I heard from several of you directly via email with some really great insight about dating from this perspective, and I wanted to take the time to share some of these with you.
Some of you said dating someone who was widowed would presumably answer that question about whether the person “knew” what it was like to be in a committed relationship like marriage since they had experienced it directly. You also said that dating a widow, as opposed to a divorcee, might remove any “baggage” associated with having an ex-spouse and the challenges that are often found in dealing with the emotions of having an ex, a divorce in your history, co-parenting issues, etc. On the flip side, you wondered what “other baggage” might be there in terms of wounds that hadn’t healed, and wondered about ever being able to “measure up” to the memory of the former spouse. If children were involved, you wondered about being able to fill the void of “mom” or “dad.” It’s a bit different than stepmom or stepdad when the biological mom or dad isn’t around.
Many of you who are widowed were confused as what to put for your relationship status. Divorced isn’t true. Single doesn’t tell the whole story. Widowed isn’t even always an option. You wondered when the right time was to share that you were widowed. You thought if you shared it up front, that people would be scared off, fearful of any emotional baggage. But, if you didn’t share it up front, then when was the right time to bring it up? You said you didn’t want people to “feel sorry” for you. You have healed, you have the memories, and since you are back in the dating pool, clearly you are ready to move on and find love again. You wanted to be in charge of that decision, not have someone else make “assumptions” for you.
Several of you provided great advice: “Own it. You being widowed is part of your story. It’s not good, bad or indifferent; it just is.” And, just like you wouldn’t want a divorced person to talk about his or her ex all night long, so too, you shouldn’t talk about your former spouse throughout your date either. Address it, then move on to other more interesting conversations with your date to measure how well you connect and whether that spark is there that will lead to more dates and more time spent together!
At the end of the day, I take the perspective of one reader who commented that we should all get rid of our preconceived notions, stereotypes, and parameters that serve to box us in, and instead be open to meeting someone with whom we connect on all levels regardless of whether he or she was divorced, never married or widowed. We all carry “baggage” based on our life experiences, regardless of our former marital status or lack thereof. And, we all know that stereotypes are not applicable to everyone! I think it’s fair to say that each of us would like to be judged or evaluated on our own merit, our own personalities, and our own quirks, as opposed to being dismissed solely because of some preconceived notion about what it means to be a widow, or a divorcee, or a life-long bachelor or bachelorette.
As I said before, I’m glad my husband didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about what kind of woman he wanted to date when we met. If he had said he wasn’t interested in dating an older woman with two kids, we might never have gotten beyond hello!
What do you think? I would love to hear from people who met someone who fell outside of their initial idea of who they would date! What led you to remove your preconceived ideas? In the end, did those preconceived notions hold true, or not?
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys.