My soulmate died of Cancer over 4 years ago. It was sudden and unexpected with under 3 months from diagnosis to death. My whole life changed overnight and I was of course completely devastated. My grief has not been linear. It has been broadly in 2 separate periods, delayed by my Bipolar Disorder, primarily episodes of severe depression. I am 44 years old.
I have not had sex or been on any significant dates since my husbands death. I have not had any sexual encounters. This has been my choice and I am not ashamed of it.
I am not a freak, I do not feel desperate, cranky or frustrated yet sometimes I feel an unspoken and sometimes spoken pressure from others that it is something that I ought to have done. It might be good for me.
Earlier on in my grief, perhaps in the second year, I did feel wanting and since I suffer from Bipolar Disorder when my mood was slightly elevated I went thorough periods scouring the usual sites, Tinder, Bumble, unsure of what I was looking for, sometimes thinking I was looking for dates with a potential partner but mostly looking for a hook up. At those times I may have slept with a delivery man were the opportunity to arise!
I set up a number of dates and then cancelled them either when my mood dropped, I lost my nerve or when the potential date annoyed me in some way before we’d even met. I met with one guy. He was a “Serial Monogamist” (great choice, that!) who engaged in several relationships at once and promised to satisfy all my needs. It went very well but when we met and I told him I was free on the weekend, he informed how new women to his ‘hareem’ were allotted weekdays only and the regulars were given the weekend. You can imagine my response, I politely told him to “stuff it” and that never happened. I do have my pride.
After these periods of exploration my desire to engage faded. I decided I didn’t want to set up something cheap and meaningless, seedy even. I was worth more. The touch and intimacy that goes with sex in that context would have a different flavour than that you get with someone you love in any case, that which I had had for the previous 11 years. It wasn’t what I wanted. I need a connection of mind, body and soul, it might sound slightly sentimental. But when you have experienced something so whole and complete, anything else feels like settling. If I was 25, partying, drinking or smoking dope, connecting with someone with the right equipment might suffice but as I am now, I think I would feel a lack and I would rather a complete absence than a lack of a complete sense of fulfilment.
I am quite capable of meeting my own sexual needs anyway and have found that to be the case since I realised that the trawling the dating rooms for something light was not for me. I have had no compulsion to seek it even when my mood has been elevated. I miss another person but it is my person, the person for whom I still grieve. It won’t be a stranger or someone I get to know superficially. I want the connection I had or at least the sort of connection you get with someone you love. I want to feel a connection of hearts in the bedroom at the same time as the connection of skin.
Recently I questioned whether my bereavement had altered my sexuality having a “crush” on a girl who was more straight than anyone I’ve ever met. But I realised in my grief counselling that I was trying to choose someone, something that was completely different to what I had, even as far as their physical manifestation that somehow felt ‘safe’. I’ve never been attracted to women. They also had characteristics of my deceased husband. Our friendship was similar. Part of me is maybe still not ready for a relationship either. The loss was so much, I know I can’t replace it and I have some fear about what will come in its place, what another man will be like.
I get asked by people who haven’t seen me for a while if I am seeing anyone yet. They want the best for me. They want me to be happy and they assume that this would. There is a little discomfort in this question and I find it a little irritating as it doesn’t really go anywhere when I have to say no and I have little motivation to explain my reasons. I just can’t be bothered. My Mum is constantly choosing celebrities for me to marry and I have fallen into this practice sometimes become obsessed with a particular rock star for a couple of days thinking we will be together. Again this seems to be me choosing something that won’t actually happen. It is safe to wonder and be a little delusional.
It is extremely hard for me to meet a real person in any case. I am a lone widowed parent with little childcare support managing my own mental health challenges on top and looking after my wonderful school age child. I have a small friendship group so don’t get invited to many parties to meet people and that is how I would like to meet someone. I want “The Perfect Chance Meeting”. I’m not keen on dating apps and I don’t have the time to invest in that process. I know it can be successful but I also know a lot of time is needed to go through all the duff dates to find that rare gem and I don’t have time to go on all the duff dates.
There is the additional problem that my soul mate was a truly outstanding and individual man. I don’t know what I’m looking for. I don’t know what I want. I don’t have a type. Where do you start with that? This distinct person needs to just arise before me. The right man, the unique individual needs to crop up. He then needs to be prepared to share me with my daughter. She will accept him, she wants me to find someone though if he has a garden and a dog he will get more points! He needs to accept my Grief and Bipolar Disorder. But he will receive a lot of love, have alot of fun with us and be with quite a unique individual in return. I’m not looking for somebody the same as my husband. I know that won’t happen and would be a foolish endeavour, impossible in its mission from the start. Just someone kind, intelligent, emotionally insightful and fun to hang out with, off the top of my head.
I don’t know when or if it will happen. But in the meantime, I am ok, I am fine with it, I am not wanting and I am not ashamed. I don’t need a man in my life to be happy. I have enough to focus on as it is. In becoming my better self-managing my grief and my mental and physical health, being a good Mum, being a better daughter, a better friend. We have a lot of roles in life in addition to that as a wife or girlfriend. These require work and time and are fulfilling, and in completing them I will be a better wife or girlfriend when the time comes. Although I think losing your spouse probably makes you a better wife or girlfriend as you will value what you have more second time around.
I have written this article for any women out there in a similar situation with similar pressures so they know they are not alone. There are so many widows who choose to quickly enter new marriages, new relationships, need to connect with men during their grief. I respect their choices. But I am in a group of widows whose choices are not always respected or understood and are even sometimes pressured by other widows. I wish you the best on your ongoing journeys and whatever they will bring.