The tentative first steps and searching for a definition for a new relationship.
When I first started dating my boyfriend – three years following becoming a widow – my main focus in life was to learn to laugh and play again, and be outdoors.
I was thrilled to find that my new boyfriend was more than happy to spend time with me at the beach or a cafe. It was a blessing to be with someone new and independent who accepted my story and my wounds and that I could just be myself with.
Although I loved spending time with him – between our dates – I often struggled with defining our relationship and how to fit it into my life. I was particularly mindful that my kids could be impacted. If they asked when I was going out – I explained that I was just spending time with a friend that they did not know. I was also hesitant in letting long time friends know that I was dating again because they had always known me as part of a twosome and then widow. And then there was my wonderful in-laws who had always been supportive and amazing. How would they react? Would they be ok?
I was angry and frustrated that it was not straightforward and that I was now in this situation. Athough I had found a wonderful life partner in my husband many years ago – he had died and so I had had to start again. I had committed to a marriage and a model of creating a two parent family which was the model that I knew best. When I was growing up, most families I knew (including my own parents) had had long lasting marriages. In my own friendship groups, the majority are still in strong established partnerships. I have only a few friends who have separated and with whom I can compare notes. I again felt more layers of loss, grief and bewilderment as I started building a new relationship and a model that worked for me.
On the flip side it is also liberating to be dating again. Grief prompted much reflection on my key values and what I cherish in life. It gave me clear parameters on who I want to spend time with. I feel so lucky to have found someone with a similar perspective on life and who enhances in my life in so many ways.
With my boyfriend’s gentle encouragement we have arranged lots of fun dates and taken slow and steady steps getting to know each other and parts of each other’s lives. I have learnt how to make more and more time for me and our dates have given me the nudge to build my network of babysitters. Every time we go out and do something fun, I return home more energised and revitalised to parent and nurture my kids.
My boyfriend has been very patient and understanding. It is only after about a year together that I have started to introduce him to my friends and children as a significant person in my life. Of course everyone has been pleased for me and they are happy that I have someone lovely to spend time with doing things that I love. They understand that my new relationship in no way diminishes the love that I have for my husband and the special time that we shared together. They are also relieved that there is someone else to care for me and support me in making positive steps in embracing and reconnecting further with life.
We recently took his kids and mine on a weekend together rafting. We saw many rainbows which I take as a sign of a connection to my husband. To me rainbows are a blessing from my husband that I am on the right path and to keep embracing life.
(You can read more about that weekend here Rafting & Rainbows).
(And to read about how I introduced my boyfriend to my late husband click here Introductions)
And you can read my most popular post about dating, grieving, vulnerability and trust in this post – How to love a widow