Dear Sara: I just read your article about conquering the fear of rejection and continuing to put oneself out there. My question: How do I know whether my status is a stigma against putting myself ‘out there’? Why is a female widow viewed as unavailable?
I am a widow, and almost every [time] I get into a conversation with a man, I get asked the question, why haven’t I found someone yet? I try to carefully explain that it has taken me time to grieve and to accept going forward with my life after my husband of 29 years passed, but regardless of how politely and positively I explain my past, there is an awkwardness that creeps into the conversation that makes me feel like the man is pulling back, like there are red flags going off. Please advise your thoughts and opinions on how a widow restarts a journey towards a new relationship. — Thank you, P
Dear P: It’s puzzling that the men you’ve met so far want to know why you haven’t found someone yet. Obviously, you did find someone and you clearly were able to have a strong, lasting relationship with him. Far from working against you, it seems to me that should work for you.
My guess—and honestly, that’s all it is—is that these men are possibly threatened by your late husband’s memory. Most people who are in the dating realm are there because none of their past relationships led to lifelong love. That’s not true for you and your late husband: You two truly were “Till death do us part.”
That might be intimidating to some men. They might worry that they will always be compared unfavorably to your departed spouse.
So I think you were very wise to take time to grieve, and to explain that you have done so to the men you date. Of course, it’s important to let anyone new in your life know that you aren’t trying to replace your late husband, but you are ready to move forward.
But after that, any inadequacy a prospective suitor might feel is his problem.
Instead of seeing your situation as something that puts you at a disadvantage, or as a problem you somehow need to fix, I suggest you view it as a useful filtering device, one that can save you time and energy. If a man worries that your experience in a loving, nearly 30-year marriage has given you a standard or two, good. If he senses that the memory of your loving husband will prevent you from taking any of his nonsense, then let him take his nonsense elsewhere.
People assume rejection means there is something wrong with them. But very often, it means there is something right. Sometimes, the rejecter looks across the table and sees a person they can’t manipulate, intimidate or control. So they move on in search of someone more pliant.
The men put off by the time it took you to grieve are waving an even bigger red flag. You clearly deserve better than some guy who thinks the death of a beloved spouse is something to quickly get over.
So yes, I’m suggesting you continue to “get out there,” to meet the men who sound promising and give them the chance you’d like them to give you. If you meet a man who is freaked out by the prospect of dating a woman who already knows what it means to love someone deeply and well, then thank him for his time and move on.
I know this isn’t easy. Dating can be exhausting and disheartening sometimes. But it’s much easier if, instead of trying to fashion yourself into a person who will appeal to the masses, you stick with your authentic self and look for the guy who is man enough to appreciate that.
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.