You were cruising around, enjoying life when BAM!–your life changed forever. It’s rough. The first year is a nightmare. The second year I was ready to move forward because I couldn’t live in that limbo anymore, but hadn’t quite figured out how to do that yet. Year three was the year all the pieces came together.
I didn’t just sit around hoping things would get better or easier for me. It was a very conscious growth pattern for me. I had to heal and navigate the waters of dating again. It was a juggling act, one that I definitely struggled with at times. Back then I certainly didn’t have all the answers and I’m not sure I fully understood what the problems were. Now, I have a difference perspective.
First, I had to let go of some baggage. I had to find away to make room in my life for someone new. Baggage makes you sluggish and slow to respond. It weights down your thoughts and your ability to connect with someone else. I dumped a lot of negative thoughts and feelings and kept with me the good things. I didn’t block the negative from my memory– never want to forget because that is where I learned a lot of lessons (the hard way). I took away their power though–no longer would those pieces leave me feeling guilty, ashamed, or neglectful. I quit shoulding and iffing myself to a slow death. Know what? It felt good.
Next, I quit comparing my new life to my old. I could not keep looking back and saying, “well, if this would have happened then that would have worked out because …” or “there is no way Randy would have….” That was hard to do! The first thing I want to do when things went wrong was to find someone to blame it on. And when you have a past where you and your spouse or partner parted on good terms (or great) it is easy find refuge in those sweet memories where you felt safe and loved. A new relationship is the land of unknown. There is a little fear of being left again. It’s hard to let someone all the way in–that just isn’t fair, to anyone.
It was as if I expected Tim to just step into Randy’s spot and keep going in the roles Randy and I had created for ourselves in our relationship. What a ridiculous expectation! Tim wasn’t Randy. Tim was different from Randy. I didn’t start liking Tim because he was like Randy. I liked Tim for Tim. It was hard for me, and caused many arguments, to find a way to relate to Tim like Tim instead of like Randy. Every time I would go off and pout, in my mind, about how Randy wouldn’t have done this and how he never would have made me feel like that. It was lies I told myself to justify my own skewed view of this relationship. Tim couldn’t live in Randy’s place. I had to set Randy aside (not forgotten, but to the side) and let things fall into place with Tim.
I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. We don’t like change, so falling into old patterns feels much better than putting ourselves in the open, especially when the painful loss is still fresh in our hearts. The only way to get through this part is to work on it. Every time my mind would start to head for the comfort of the past, I had to reel myself back in. I had to be conscious of my expectations for Tim and holding back my feelings.
I wanted to make sure Tim didn’t feel second best, because he wasn’t second best–he was a different relationship, not a second class relationship. It was (and still is) important to be very aware of subtle ways that I might inadvertently make him feel second. I put away some pictures of Randy. I had to find a way to balance my conversations with Tim. He shouldn’t have to hear about Randy every other sentence, but I refused to never talk about Randy. I never wanted to forget that time and I never wanted the kids to forget either. Hearing about how amazing Randy was, from everyone, probably left Tim wondering each time if he was good enough– how could he compare. It shouldn’t be about that. Tim never should have had to feel that way or have those questions. And, had he not been dating a widow, he probably never would have felt that way. It just meant I had to keep working on thinking more and behaving better.
I kept these battles inside. In fact, I’m not sure that Tim knows to this day what was going on in my brain. If I am telling the truth, I am not so sure I completely understood this 12 years ago either. I actively and consciously tried to reign myself in, but I am not sure I understood then that I was trying to force Tim into someone else’s role in my life. Tim probably thought I was being impossible–and maybe I was. I was just trying to find my way. Good thing Tim is patient.
Tim is an amazing man and I didn’t want to lose him or push him away because I couldn’t navigate my own thoughts and feelings. It is hard in the beginning because you miss companionship, yet you haven’t worked through all the stuff floating around in your heart, nor have you put all the pieces of your heart back together. If you have found someone you adore, it’s best to be honest with yourself, be conscious of your new love’s feelings, and be willing to build a new relationship instead of filling in the gaps of an old one. You both deserve that.