“Wow, that’s great!” she says to me, after I tell her that my boyfriend Chris has been staying with me and the kids for much of the past few months. She is just an acquaintance, really, but I can tell that there’s a “but” that’s coming soon. “It’s pretty quick though, isn’t it?”
And there it is. Judgement. I mean, I’m sure she didn’t mean for it to sound judgmental. But I can see it in her eyes, and feel it in that question.
Because it is quick. Our love affair didn’t develop over years and years – it was the lightning-fast type of falling in love that sometimes happens. I always thought when my kids first met a man I was dating that I would have been dating him for at least a year before they met him.
But we can’t always predict what’s going to happen to us, can we?
Chris was different, I rationalized. My kids had known him for years, because his sister is a dear friend of mine. He had interacted with them at school drop offs and afternoon playdates. Once we started dating, he talked to them via FaceTime almost every day. I felt good about the decisions I was making as a mom and a partner.
So many people were elated for me. But not everyone, that was clear. “Were the children ready for him to come?” was another question I got more than once. It made me want to scream.
OF COURSE they were ready for him to come. Do you think I would have let him come otherwise? In the middle of a pandemic? Really?
Okay, I know I’m going off the deep end now, but I can’t help it. Because guess what? The best person to decide important things for my kids is…..me. Yep! That’s right. As their mom, that’s actually my job. And yes, I asked them first, and yes, they were excited about Chris coming to stay with us. If they had said otherwise, he would not have come.
But honestly, that’s not really for anyone else to decide. In fact, if I can rant a little more, it’s actually no one’s business who a widow decides to date and how that romance evolves. Is she dating just three months after her husband’s death? Good for her! Has she decided to never date again, even though she’s only 45? Good for her! Is she living with her new boyfriend even though they’ve only been dating for six months? Good for her!
Listen, I’m not saying every situation a widow may be in will be a good one. Maybe she is dating too soon, and maybe the men she is choosing are not necessarily the best ones for her to someday settle down with.
But what do I – or anyone else – actually know about what a widow needs? I know what I’ve needed as a widow (and sometimes it’s not a long-term romance, but rather a night of fun) but that isn’t necessarily what any other widow needs. Hey, maybe that woman who keeps choosing the “wrong” men to date is doing exactly what she needs at the time. Maybe choosing someone “right” isn’t something she’s ready for yet.
Yes, she may be making “bad” choices or just choices that a non-widow could never imagine making. But unless those choices are truly dangerous, there isn’t a place for others to pass judgment on what a widow is or is not doing. If a real problem exists, the widow’s best friend or sibling or someone very close to her may need to step in. But that’s it. This isn’t a place for a casual friend to offer unsolicited “helpful advice.”
Your widow friend did not become a widow and instantly also become an idiot.
When it comes to dating, it can seem that everyone has an opinion about whether it’s too soon and what you should do if you have kids in the house and whether you’ve thought about how it will affect the kids or whatever. But here’s the deal: unless I’m specifically asking you your opinion, I really don’t need it.
I remember telling my sister that I was ready to date about 8 months after Shawn died, and she replied simply, “that’s great!” I told her I was nervous about what other people would think, and she didn’t miss a beat before saying, “well then, that’s their problem.”
I’ve never felt so supported in my life. I’m serious. I can remember where I was standing in my house when we were on the phone having this conversation and how it made me feel. I knew she loved me so much in that moment.
Because what she was saying was this: you know what’s best for you, Marjorie. You are a grownup who has had a terrible experience, but the only person who can figure out the way through this is you. I will support you through it, even if it’s rocky. I know you are making the best choices for you and your kids.
I know this, because I know you.