Piece of Cake
A guy loses his wife after a thirty-year marriage and two weeks later he’s dating a new woman. Six months later he’s remarried.
Does this sound like a scene out of a crime show where the dude killed off the wife to pursue a love interest? Brace yourself: it happened!
Wifey poo died of cancer and this guy has barely buried the body and he’s finding a new woman. By the way, his kids are angry at him.
This story isn’t the first of its type that I’ve heard. But it is the first that was so quick where the partner didn’t commit a crime to start dating the new, soon-to-be partner. I’ll admit that Jon and I watched a great many whodunnit shows. This guy took the cake!
For some reason, this time, hearing this made me think about grief and finding a new partner. My view on this has changed over time. I think I’m still sorting this one out.
This is my six-year mark as a widow. My first two years were all about survival and learning how to get through the mess. The next two years were about the beginnings of peacemaking with myself and the good and bad of our relationship. Year five made me realize that maybe, with the right soul, I could do a new relationship. I’m still sitting with this one. The pandemic didn’t help, and it doesn’t help that I’m kind of shy and don’t put myself out there easily. I’ll admit that having a partner would be nice. I’ll also admit that I like calling the shots.
This brings up the question: When does one know how to move forward? My husband showed up at my back door! That isn’t happening a second time around. So how does one figure it out?
The question of figuring it out is one of the top questions asked during the grief and recovery process, right after “Am I doing this right?” This latter question is easily answered. If you’re staring grief in the face, and it is harder than hell, and you keep turning over the rocks to answer the new questions that come up for you, you’re doing it right. If, on the other hand, you jump off the grief bus because you’re feeling empty without a partner—whoa. Get yourself back on the grief bus, find a therapist who speaks good grief language, and start digging into the question of why you need to find someone.
When a marriage is successful and you want to create a new one just like what you had before, scrap the idea. It will blow up in the face of both of you. Your chemistry won’t be the same, you won’t be the same, what you want won’t be the same.
This also goes for divorce situations. This is especially true when you divorce without doing all the grief and loss work around a failed marriage. When you do the work around the failed marriage—and do all the work you can—and then find someone new, your chances of not having a repeat divorce situation are statistically higher. This is data from a page that comes from the legal profession. I’d have to say that the stat for a second marriage holds for my widowed female-identifying friends: 60% fail rate. So why?
Relationship attitudes have changed. I’m not one to say that my grandparents’ generation did marriage really well. They didn’t. Many of them did understand the give-and-take of marriage and learned to make it work. Some of them stayed in an abusive marriage because, at the time, women didn’t have the options that are out there now. A minority were able to walk away and, with support, build strong lives as single parents, or did the work to find a second partner that did work out. It wasn’t such a disposable world then, and people worked hard at making it work.
The calm 1950s turned out to be an unseen pressure cooker for the explosion of the 1960s. Take your pick of the “I don’t need to stay in a bad situation anymore” scenarios! The Civil Rights Movement, women’s rights, and being a member of the “Tang” generation. Our classmates’ parents were breaking up, moving on, and generally not willing to settle for a sub-par situation when the perceived options and advantages for one’s mental health were available.
The bailout of the 1960s through the 1980s taught the kids that maybe relationships weren’t forever. In 1994 the term “starter relationship” was coined. I’ll admit to not having read the books cited in the article. So why am I sidetracking you? Because I believe we’ve lost touch with just how difficult the first five years of marriage can be. We’ve lost touch with the fact that there are options to scope things out before you move in together or pay an obscene amount of cash for an affair that may blow up before the debt is paid off. Because, if there are two things I’m certain of, they are that premarital counseling is a must, and that engagements are not about planning a marriage celebration—they are for breaking things off.
If there is anything we need to remember when we believe we want to find partner number two, it is that relationship number two could fail. Here are some good questions to ask yourself as you entertain the possibility of finding someone new:
- Why am I looking for a new partner?
- What do I think the new relationship will be like?
- Is this person going to have a specific job/role in the new relationship?
- What do I want in a new relationship?
- Have I done the hard sorting of the old relationship issues—both the good and the bad?
- If I can’t see any negative in the past relationship, why is this?
- Am I willing to invest in some therapy to make sure I’m looking at this correctly?
- What would it be like to not pursue a new relationship?
- What would my life look like in both situations?
- (If children are involved): Am I willing to put a relationship on hold until the kids are feeling secure with me and the new situation?
I often tell people to give it one month per every year you were in the relationship. But I’ve come to the conclusion that one month per year isn’t long enough. Sometimes the healing takes years, is painful, and doing single is the best way to have your relationship cake and eat it too.