Widowhood, Dating and a Global Pandemic

Computer at table for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley

Okay, let’s start with the obvious: if you’re a widow and you’re trying to date right now, it is….well, it’s probably not as easy as it was for you the last time you tried to date.

I mean, first – and most obviously to anyone who is single, widow or not – there’s the pandemic. It’s pretty tough to just randomly meet someone in a bar or at a coffeeshop anymore. That’s something I used to love to do, once upon a time. I think it helped with the mental fatigue of dating, honestly. Even if I didn’t actually talk to someone I found attractive, seeing other potentially single people reminded me that the possibility existed that I might some day meet someone I liked. Plus, I liked meeting new people. It gave me some great stories and helped with the monotony of parenting three small humans.

But now it’s all online, at least in the beginning of getting to know someone, and as I’ve noted many times on this blog, online dating can be a real drag. Is it worse than it was before? I don’t know. I think it’s probably about the same, at least according to a lot of my widow friends. It’s better in some ways (you can weed people out through a quick Zoom call, something that would have been strange before), but actually meeting in person requires more logistical work. In any case, many of the same problems exist, some that I wrote about a year ago in a blog post entitled, Ask a Widow: What’s So Hard With Online Dating?:

First of all, there are the offensive profiles. (I’m just looking at male profiles, so I can only speak about them, but really, I’m sure female profiles can be terrible too.) There are the men who take selfies in the bathroom, cutting off their heads in the photos to just focus on their abdominal muscles. There are the men who pose driving cars or boats or ATVs, presumably to show that they have this skill or that they are very manly. And then there are the men who pose with their guns (sometimes even shooting a gun!) and don’t even get me started about how that is not my kind of guy.

But these profiles can actually be somewhat entertaining, if you don’t take it too seriously. I don’t feel the need to answer everyone who writes me, and many of the men I write don’t write back. That’s dating, and I’ve become much more resilient to these mini-rejections. Furthermore, I get a kick out of a lot of these conversations, even the ones that lead nowhere.

No….these crazy profiles and the slights from attractive men don’t really dissuade me. I can deal with all that. What is actually difficult for me is that it takes So. Much. Time.

Yes, these same problems exist during the pandemic. Even though I’m not doing it right now, I’m aware that online dating still has its share of weirdos (that will never change) and it still takes so much time. And now many widows have even less time to spend doing something like online dating. Furthermore, even if you’re able to connect with someone online, the logistics of meeting up are beyond complicated. Can you get a babysitter who you’re sure doesn’t have Covid? Are you supposed to socially distance on a date? What if you bring Covid home to your family?

“It’s exhausting,” says every widow I know who is dating right now. Of course it is! And we haven’t even gotten to the part about dating as a widow.

Okay, so after you’ve dealt with the pandemic dramas and the online dating dramas, then there’s the widowhood aspect to face. Yes, maybe you’ve let enough time pass that you’re not tearing up on a phone date or recalling the good characteristics of your late spouse to the person who you just met for a walk in the park. Maybe you’re ready to date, even if it’s imperfect. But even if you’re ready – even if you’re really ready – dating as a widow is strange. Yes, you may intellectually understand that you cannot jump straight to deep intimacy with a person with whom you’ve only exchanged a half-dozen texts. But you remember what it’s like to be in love. Not just the lovey-dovey I-want-you-all-the-time attraction, but also that feeling of closeness and real intimacy.

And you want it again. Or at least that’s how I felt.

I constantly wanted to just skip all the “what do you do for fun on the weekend” questions and go straight to the “how do you envision your future” questions. I didn’t actually do this, at least not usually, but that feeling was often still there when I was out on a first or second date. I didn’t want to do the “get to know you” questions. I just wanted to get to the part where I had a new person who I knew inside and out.

It would be so much easier just to skip to that stage, wouldn’t it?

But it’s just not how dating works. I hate that. I hated that when I was dating and I hate that for all my friends who are dating now. As I wrote, back in that post from a year ago, “Seriously, I’m so ready for someone to tell me that they know the guy for me, he’s going to be at this party next weekend and I need to find a great outfit because I’m invited too.”

“But,” I wrote, “that never happens.” (I was right, at least in my case – this wasn’t how I eventually started dating Chris.) Instead, I went through the painful process of online dating and bad meet-ups and annoying waste-of-time dates. And then I just got lucky. There was no other magic trick.

I was texting with a widow friend the other day, and we got to talking about dating. In her exasperation, she wrote this to me (and yes, she said I could reprint it): “How are you supposed to date during a pandemic? I haven’t really done the Zoom thing. But moreover, the problem is that I just want the end part. I want to be in a relationship, but I don’t want to go through the dating part. Is that awful?”

“It’s not awful at all,” I wrote back. “It seems to be the most rational thing I’ve ever heard.”

2 Replies to “Widowhood, Dating and a Global Pandemic”

  1. Kristin Garner says: Reply

    It is very rational!! I feel the exact same way; it’s so nice to not feel alone with this thinking. My husband died on March 29th of 2020. I’m not ready to date, but I really hope I am able to find deep love again. At this point, I can’t think about dating because I cry at “the drop off a hat” anytime I think or talk about my late husband. I’m trying to remain positive in my thinking though. I’m hoping I will have healed enough to try and date by the time we are able to resume some normalcy again, post pandemic. I’m 48 though and I feel like dating has changed so much since I last did it. I’m scared to death! Hence, I just want to skip the dating and find true love again. Why can’t it just work like that?!?!

    1. Oh, I GET THAT. It’s so tough. I think you can’t put too much pressure on yourself – I started dating and then stopped dating like a half-dozen times. It was a process. Dating has changed, but honestly it hasn’t changed THAT much – it’s still awkward, panic-inducing and sometimes – sometimes! – actually a lot of fun.

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