Monday, February 20, 2012

How Do You Know When You're Ready To Date?

WARNING: All this week we'll be talking about dating and remarriage. I want to be very sensitive since everyone is at different points. I know some readers are ready and interested, others will groan with pain, some will throw their PC monitor through the window with anger and frustration!
If this topic isn't for you, I understand. Please get to know the other good parts of this blog: visit the Memorial Wall and other tabs at the top of the blog, check out the Archives and Labels, or visit the great blogs on the blogroll. (And please click on the pink circle on the right to vote for Widows Christian Place every day, this is really important!) 
      For sure, most widows have to come to terms with dating sooner or later. For me, the night before the funeral my son asked if I was going to get married again!
      "No!" I exclaimed. But I was wrong. Much to my surprise.
      To start off topic, let me share with you an email I recently received. I'll reply, and I hope you'll add your comments, too.

Hi Ferree!
     I was curious to know if you have any advice for widows and widowers to help determine if they might be ready to consider dating?
     This issue, of opening oneself to the possibility of letting another person into their lives again, is an area that invites lots of concern and anxiety. Since you have remarried, I thought you might have some words of wisdom for us.
     I am struggling with this a bit, not even sure if this is what I want. I suppose that in itself should tell me a lot! I loved my husband so much and he loved me so well and unconditionally, I find it hard to believe I could be so blessed again.
     And then, there is the reality of the beautiful freedom I now enjoy, although I never would have chosen this path for myself, of course.
     I miss my husband terribly, but thankfully, I am not lonely. I have to say that I enjoy my solitude. It has contributed greatly in my growing intimacy with the Lord.
     Your website has been so helpful, I am just curious how you personally knew you were ready. Thanks so much for listening to my thinking out loud, so to speak. 
Hugs,
Call Me "Just Wondering"

Dear Just Wondering,
     What a good question, "How did I know when I was ready to date?"
     I've been asked how Tom and I met, and how I knew Tom was "the one," but your question is a first, and its very thought provoking. And maybe my points will help you gauge your own readiness, right?
     First of all, let me give a disclaimer and say this was just my experience; it's not doctrine or anything I'd stake my life on. But maybe it's good for something, or good food for thought.
      I feel fortunate that I heard positive attitudes about dating both before and after I was widowed. My first husband, Bruce, and I joked about it ocassionally before he died. He always made it very clear that I was his "one and only," but if the Lord took me home first, I had made him love being married and he would want to get married again. My response was that I'd rather die than live without him, but I never followed through with that. (smile) The point is, Bruce left me with the tremendous gift of knowing he'd want me to date and remarry. After he died, random people came across my path who would say things like, "Getting married again is a tribute to the happy marriage you had." Their words always stuck to me like a permission slip. Not every widow feels like she has that positive spin on dating nor that feeling of freedom to date, but that's where I was coming from.
     Although society around me and the words of Bruce gave me freedom to date, I sure wasn't ready to date. Two things were against me. Dating was like putting me in the pilots seat of flying airplane. And by the way, I don't know how to fly!
     I was too vulnerable. And too blind or stupid to admit I was vulnerable! I also thought I was very independent and could/would/should make it on my own. It took a couple of schoolgirl-like crushes on some penpals to admit how vulnerable I was. And it was a huge blow to my pride to realize that men were fascinating! I needed them! I found their views and opinions so different from my own; it was like putting on a different kind of eyeglasses and finding out I could see through them, too. The world through a man's eyes was really interesting! I loved my girlfriends, and they were so great and supportive, but to hear a man's viewpoint and voice really fed my mind and spirit in a different way.
     These things started to snowball after my first year of widowhood and a huge discontentment set in upon me. Also, my grief was coming to a head with all sorts of questions I couldn't verbalize--I just knew they were there. The discontent leeched the life out of me, it was always there with its hollow yearning. I prayed and prayed about it, but it seemed like God was stone silent, and it was an awful time. The loneliness was almost a physical pain. I kept on with my plans for a future and enrolled in grad school; it looked like I was "moving along." But it was really hard. One thing I did do though was to keep on praying/whining/lamenting/crying to God even though I wasn't sure He was there or that He cared. I won't say I was as noble as Jacob in the Bible when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord and said, "I will not let go until you bless me," but I do look back at that time as just hanging on and mechanically following God's ways without feeling any of God's love or comfort. I was miserable! Then something really good happened that gave me a glimmer of hope--but that's another story.
     And after THAT, my friends figured out I needed to start dating just for fun. My girlfriend Laura took my picture and helped me sign up on a singles site. Michelle set me up with a blind date. I met another wonderful penpal on the singles site, and I dated three men I met on it. (One looked like Kevin Costner in his picture, but he smelled like mothballs when I met him in person--for the first and last time. I broke up with the other one after about two months, and the third one was Tom).
     All that to say, dear Wondering, that I did NOT know when I was ready to date until after I started dating. GOD SPARED ME and kept my plane from crashing. I wasn't ready to date and could have really made my life miserable with some huge dating mistakes. But shortly after meeting mothball man was when it happened--when I finally knew I was ready to date. I had learned something very important on that date. Mothball man liked me, they all liked me. And I hope this doesn't sound horribly arrogant or ignorant, but this is what I learned:
I realized that I had been a great wife. And I realized that I would be a great wife for just about any man, but here's the part that made me ready to date---this is really good---drumroll please---NOT just any man would be a great husband for me!
      What relief! I determined to not "settle" for just anyone. The contentment came. I became. Me. Just me. And in the process I met Tom, and he wasn't just any man. He was good, he was righteous, he was generous, he wanted the very best for me . . .
      I hope that wasn't a big let down and everyone thinks I was really stupid. I hate how much my answer sounds like pop psychology! But it answers the question-- if I ever knew I was ready to date again, it was when I realized what a valuable person I was, and that if a man were to come into my life he would have to be someone who was the best for me. So I have to honest with you no matter what you think of me. And I believe honesty is foundational to dating readiness.
      From the first I should have admitted I had a lot to learn, but I didn't know widowhood could be so complicated! I wasn't intentionally lying to myself, but I was avoiding having to think things through.
And you know what? When I was widowed, there wasn't a blog like this to help me out and open my eyes to this junk. I was pretty isolated and didn't reach out to anyone for help. I wanted to be invisible, I was very raw and wounded and didn't know where to turn. It was so hard, but in the big picture, God was there. He was faithful. And I'm eternally grateful I survived.
     That's why I do this blog. I know many widows are fighting for their lives and gasping for hope. There's no one to talk to, no one who "gets it," especially if they're young. But here's a safe place where under the cloak of anonymity they can start to get a foothold and some sanity, learning from my stupidity and my successes, and from others' as well. So please chime in with your experiences and comments. You're comments will mean a lot to everyone, too!
      Well, I'm sorry how long this grew today! Tomorrow, we'll look at some checkpoints to consider before starting to date, Wednesday will be about avoiding sexual immorality, Thursday some internet dating sites, and so on. We'll be talking about dating all this week! I'll be spouting off my opinions, experience, and take on Scripture, so feel free to join in with your own.
     I look forward to lots of comments this week, and thanks again to "Just Wondering."
ferree

13 comments:

  1. Hi fbh, You sure did give us a lot to think about and am grateful for your honesty. I am a new widow, my husband to GloryCity on June 12, 2011 from the sufferings of cancer after 23 years of marriage. We have 3 children and are blessed to all be children of God! That alone has brought me much comfort to know we will all be reunited one Grand Day! But, wow. . . .remarriage? Definately not there yet. But, I too, have been given "permission" to remarry by a wonderful letter my husband wrote to me to be read after he passed away. He encouraged it and gave me some great advice! Can you tell by this just how much of great man I had? He was and always will be that to me and our children. Where am I going with this? Oh yeah. . .I'll never forget what my Mother said after she was widowed and people started asking her the "will you ever remarry?" question. She said she was not going to go around "looking" for a man, rather she would say "God knows my address and in His good time." I like that. So thankful my Mother told me about this website and thank you for it. Blessings, Debbie

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  2. THANK YOU, Ferree. I look forward to this blog all week.

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  3. Debbie and Carol, Keep checking in the rest of this week and help me steer this dialogue, I appreciate your comments :) And Deb, I was at 22 years of marriage with Bruce and 3 kids, so I feel for you. Your husband's letter---what a treasure! And your mom sounds like a very wise woman---you're going to love Friday's post. Looking forward to the rest of the week with you. *

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  4. Thank you so much for addressing this subject this week, Ferree! I really love Debbie's quote from her mom: "God knows my address and in His good time." Such wisdom in that attitude!

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  5. I like Debbie's mom's quote, too! And I like all your blogs this week so far. So much good info and things to think about. Thanks for sharing your experience with getting back into dating again, too. I don't know if I'm ready, either, but since you didn't either that gives me hope for "someday". I'm really trying to work on being content with my singleness first, though, as you talked about, before I will feel I'm ready to think about dating.

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  6. I am fairly new to this site and this is my first post. I like all of you lost one of God's greatest gifts to me 4 and 1/2 yr ago. Since I am a professional in a small town I feel as if I will always be married while living here. That was very comforting for a season but now I have this strong yearning to share myself with someone special. I started on line dating a yr ago and have only met one man. The relationship didn't last long but it did give me a little experience. I desire to be remarried but feel God is silent. I pray for Him to take way this desire/move me as He did Ruth and Naomi/or bring me his special man. However, the silence is so hard and I am not getting younger :) This is becoming a miserable time in my life when I thought it would be getting easier. I am normally a content person but prayer after prayer-nothing. What am I missing?

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  7. Dear Anonymous, It sounds like you're in the miserable place I was in when a huge discontentment came upon me and it seemed like prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. I called this my time for real faith---hanging on and walking step by step without any warm faith fuzzies or happy thoughts that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. The truth is that He DOES LOVE us profoundly and intimately, but this is a time of testing and of silence. You'll find many psalms cry out the same thing---"where are you, O God?" I'm sure that doesn't make you feel any better right now.... I'm so sorry and I wish it were easier. But, here's some good news. You mentioned Ruth and Naomi, so following their example, here are some things to make sure of. 1) Your relationship with God, believing and following Him like Naomi and Ruth did (email me if we should talk about this). 2)Pray for kindness and rest like Naomi did.(Ruth 1:8,9). 3) In Ruth 2, driven by needs, Ruth sought for a place where she would 'find favor (Ruth 2:2) and "as it happened" she found a field of opportunity. Make sure you're in a place where God wants you. 4) Watch for things to be thankful for. Naomi cried out with blessing in Ruth 2:20 and her attitude of gratitude is like a turning point in the whole book. But before all that good stuff happens is possibly the phase you are in right now---Ruth 2:23 5) Ugh, the waiting through both the barley and the wheat harvests. The frustrations of that wait began to hatch the God-given plan of Ruth 3, so I hope you'll use this as a time to continue to seek the Lord, find a Naomi, find a field of favor, cultivate that attitude of gratitude, and be ready for the next chapter to unfold. One thing for sure is that you will come to know The Redeemer (and possibly a husband) in a deep and wonderful way. I hope to hear some interesting news back from you sometime.

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    1. Understand totally how you feel. After living in this little town for almost seven years, my daughter and I are starting on a new journey at the end of this year. I feel God wants us to move and a door of opportunity for a very good job might just swing open through an old employer who has come forward and wants to help me obtain employment. So, that is the door that has opened and we really need a new start. We have waited, which has been very, very hard. We are going through and sorting and having sales and preparing to move. Wait on God to open the door. He only truly wants to bless us. Hugs! Vicci

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  8. I am frustrated and waiting too-you are not alone in this boat! Know we are all praying for you and each other! We are a strong sisterhood! I have 4 sisters myself, but none have lost a husband, so they can't really relate at all. But they love me and that helps enormously-and we love you too.!

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  9. Dear ladies let me tell you that being alone is not as bad as starting to date too soon. I started dating at six months and didn't realize it. I was having dinner with a male friend and mentioned dating and he looked at me and asked what I thought we were doing. Hmmm...I had thought we were just two friends hanging out. That rather threw me for a loop. Not wanting to become attached to someone I thought was not a strong Christian I started dating a few other men. Just the occasional dinner or lunch. After a few months I joined a website and met a man who lived in an nearby town. He was a Christian who wanted to serve the Lord and had many of the same likes as my late husband. It just felt very comfortable. We were both drawn to each other and we even had the are we exclusive conversation. Later I found out that his definition of exclusive was different from mine and I was crushed. God allowed me to learn an important lesson...The right person may be totally different than what we are expecting. I had to work through some preconceived ideas about who would be "right" for me. Jim, my new husband, is a blue collar truck driver who dropped out of high school. He is loud and talkative. He will stop in the middle of Walmart and pray with someone not caring who is watching in amazement. He is physical and enjoys hunting. He didn't own a pair of dockers or a shirt with a collar until he met me. Didn't even have a pair of dress shoes.
    The bottom line is to not be in a hurry. I am 60 and Jim is 59. If God wants you with someone He will provide that person. (And, yes, sex at 60 can be good.) I spent nine month trying to make a relationship work when I should have walked away after only a couple months. We are women who hung in there with our husbands but dating is not being married and we have no obligation to stay. Be willing to walk away if it doesn't seem right. Date casually!! Limit yourself at first to maybe once a week. Make sure you know the true character of a person before you become any more involved. Are they Christian, do they work, do you like their family? These are all very important. Are you willing to live with the ghosts of the past? Blending two lives at this point in our lives is complicated but with God's help it can be done. Take your time and pray, pray, pray. Love you all, Joyce

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    1. Just wanted to say thank you for such a real and loving sharing of your experience to us. Im just coming upon my year marker. I was widowed at 37 with 4 kids still at home ages ranging from 18-8. We are all a year older now and praise to Jesus are healing well. I am so blessed by widows as yourself and Ferree who share so candidly with me. Thank you !!

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  10. Thanks Tonia, it was something to read this over again and to re-read the comments too. What a lot of memories for me! But it all still rings true and I'm so thankful for the others who added their helpful comments.

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