I wrestled with the idea of dating and partnership for awhile and put a ton of thought into if when the “right time” was for me and how it would affect my family. I really just kind of got out of my head and decided to listen to my gut – because it always steered my in the right direction. There’s a lot to this question in terms of when’s and how’s, and the truth is that there’s really no “right way” to do it.
For me, it was about a year and a half after Dave died that I decided it was time to dip my toe in the dating pool. I hadn’t been touched by a man in a romantic way since Dave and, to be honest, I was pretty damn lonely. Also, I’m a person that likes being in partnership and being part of a team. I’m good at it; that’s how I roll. So I decided to pursue the idea.
The first thing I thought to do was to tell my kids, but I didn’t really know how to do it. So one night at dinner I blurted out something like “You know I loved your Dad and I miss him so much, but I’ve been feeling like I want to date someone. What are your thoughts? Do you want to talk about this? You know you can talk to me about anything…” (breathe Melissa). Some uncomfortable silence and then: “Yeah, that’s cool. Can we play Xbox after dinner?”
It was a little anti-climactic, but I’m glad I explained where I was coming from. I wanted to be honest and open with my kids; it’s important. So after I got Brad and Bryce’s enthusiastic endorsement to go out with someone, I needed to figure out what I wanted. For me, even though I hadn’t been touched by a man over 18 months (who’s counting, right?) I knew I didn’t want anything super casual. That’s just me. I felt like I needed to be more deliberate and intentional: dating in my 40’s as opposed to dating in my crazy 20’s. I had kids, a house, a job, I was a widow, and I felt like I was a completely different person from the young woman I was before I met and married Dave.
I also knew I had to get super clear on what I valued in a partnership, in my potential romantic partner, and how all of this would affect my kids. My very wise friend, Jane, suggested I take some time and write down the characteristics I wanted in a partner: his family, his values, to what he looked like. It was a great idea and it worked for her, so I thought, why not? It was actually pretty fun to do, even better with a glass of wine! It did feel a little strange to be ordering up what I wanted like in a catalog, but I was able to really get connected with my own values, what were deal breakers, and what I could live with.
A few of my deal breakers were:
- Respects my relationship with Dave and is open with talking about Dave and the relationship I had and have with him
- Is a friend and support to Brad and Bryce
- Is kind to restaurant servers (you can tell a lot about a person with how they treat wait staff)
- Listens to me and doesn’t try to solve my problems
Things that weren’t necessarily deal breakers, but were on my list:
- Good speller
- Taller than me
- Likes to golf & hike
- Is younger than me (in my mind, odds were if he was younger than me, we might die around the same time…? Weird, I know.)
So I wrote my list out and put it away in my desk drawer in an envelope and trusted in my gut and the Universe that this dude was on his way to me and that I would recognize him when he did cross my path.
Miraculously, 3 months later Sean did indeed cross my path, though it took a little bit for me to recognize him as the partner I had “ordered’ up.
Sean and I met at an event organized by a MeetUp group that we both belonged to at a restaurant with some the best views of downtown Portland and a rooftop garden the chef sourced his food from. After our private chef’s tour of the garden we sat down to dine. I was talking to the gal next to me and I overheard Sean across the table say he grew up in Tigard. What? I grew up in Tigard! So it ends up we graduated from high school the same year, we went to the same church growing up, he even went on a choir trip to Europe with my brothers when they were all younger. We vaguely remembered each other as classmates and even weirder, as we were sharing our stories, we also discovered that at one point in our adult lives we lived two streets from each other and our kids went to the same school.
I wanted to know this guy better, we had a connection and he was so easy to talk with. But, on the other hand, I was scared. I had been with Dave since I was 27 and here I was almost 20 years later anticipating being with another man. What if I got close to Sean and he died too? Do I want to deal with that pain again? But I was a different person now. I was stepping into my own power. I knew what I wanted and what I didn’t want, and I trusted myself more than I ever had in my entire life. I moved through the fear because the more I got to know Sean, the more I knew that this man was important to me.
And I’m so glad I did. Sean and I are happily married now. Of course, we had some work to do. We worked through our stuff (we still do – believe me), we’re committed to each other and our kids, and we love each other. For me, there has been a happily ever after.
When I wrote that list, I had no idea how powerful an exercise and life-changing it would be. It’s pretty amazing what can happen when you get clear on exactly what you value in life, what you can give on and what is an absolute deal breaker. While I wouldn’t necessarily advise everyone to try my little exercise, I wholeheartedly encourage you to trust yourself, my dear one. You really do have the answers within you.