There is nothing quite like losing a spouse or a partner. A spouse is someone who is there with you to make decisions about almost everything from finances to what’s for dinner. When you are in a marriage many of the simple decisions of daily life are impacted by the other person. Maybe you want to make a salad for dinner but you know your partner is going to want steak so you make steaks to go with your salad. When you lose that person everything changes. Now you are responsible for all the decision making. But more than that, you once thought of their needs and desires and often went without your preferences because you were willing to compromise to make them happy. After the death of that spouse there is so much to adjust to. Not only do you experience the grief of losing a loved one. There is also the grief of losing your old way of life. The life that included intimacy and friendship. Losing that connection to another human being and knowing that life will never be the same is incredibly difficult.
Working through the grief process can be different for everyone. At some point many get to the point where we feel lonely and start to desire companionship again. For many this really creates mixed feelings. On your wedding day you believed in the ‘happily ever after’ and did not fathom the “till death do us part”. Having connection and being in relationship with others is one of the basic needs of humans. Those connections help create pieces of one’s self esteem; they are the glue that help us stay together when things get hard.
When do you know it is the right time to start dating again? Maybe you connect with someone at a church get together or have a deep conversation with an old friend who is single too. It brings up those feelings of companionship that you had with your spouse and you desire to have that once again. During this time you may have mixed emotions about letting someone new into your life and to consider the possibility of opening up to them. It can definitely be a scary time and an exciting time.
There is no special time frame or set of rules to follow that say it is the right time, but there are things to consider. If you are a parent of children that are still in the house, it is important that you do not get them involved in any relationship until it becomes something that you know will stick around. Remember that timing is different for everyone and the feelings that come along with new relationships can vary as well. It may be a work in progress. When you have been with one person for a long time and now they are gone. You may find yourself feeling like you are betraying that person or just general guilt about having feelings and falling for someone new. In the best case scenario you were able to have a conversation with your spouse before they passed and were given their blessing to have a new relationship. If that is not the case remember that your spouse loved you and would want you to be happy. Creating new relationships and falling in love does not diminish or reduce the love you had with your deceased spouse, but is something that stays with you forever.
Whether you are ready to try loving someone again, or still just thinking about it, know that you can move at your own speed. There may be moments when new love feels normal, and the next moment, those mixed feelings emerge again. This is okay. Be sure to talk with your new special friend about how you are feeling so they can be sensitive to your needs. Learning to love again can be the start of something wonderful, and you can be happy about it!