I was very insecure as a child. I was as thin as a rail and had very crooked teeth and I was fairly shy. I knew I was intelligent but that doesn’t really make you one of the popular kids in school. So I spent a lot of time by myself. I certainly didn’t get asked to school dances or any parties that the popular kids held.
I started “dating” when I was only 14 and many times I made my decision about who to date on whether it would boost my ratings among my peers. So in my search for “The One”, I dated guys older than myself or guys on the football team or guys in rock bands. It didn’t really have much to do with who they were on the inside.
As I got older, I got my teeth straightened and let my hair grow long and my body became more than just skin and bones. And as I gained self-confidence, I became fairly flirty and never had a problem finding guys who wanted to go out with me. But I still made a lot of wrong decisions that were based on things like job status or looks or popularity. And I never understood why the relationships didn’t really work.
Even my first husband was chosen because I thought he filled certain items from my mental checklist of what defined “The One”. I thought he was a “good man” because I met him at a church, so I didn’t think he would be unfaithful as other men had. I thought he was a good father to his daughter and would want more children with me. I thought that he made a good living and would help to provide for me. I married him for the things that I THOUGHT he was, rather than for who he really was inside and I soon found out that all of my assumptions were wrong. And again, the relationship didn’t work and probably did more harm to my self-esteem than staying single would have done.
But by that point in my life, I was pretty confident that I never had to worry about being single again. I had sort of proven to myself, and to the world I guess, that I was a desirable woman and that I could have my choice of men. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I might end up growing old alone.
I finally met the man who taught me what real love was when I was in my 40’s. We married and had a blissful 16 years together. I was sure he was “The One” that I would grow old with. I was not only happy to have finally found such a good man, but also happy that I never had to think about dating again. But then he died unexpectedly when I was only 57 years old.
Sure, a lot of people will tell you 57 is still young and that you have plenty of time to find love again. But I had 28 years of bad experiences with men compared to the mere 16 wonderful years I had with him. So even though I wanted to think I could find love again, I knew that the odds were against me.
My husband and I just FIT well together. We were both somewhat introverted and both enjoyed doing things at home like gardening and building things together. We loved nature and making each other laugh. But most of all, we loved each other for exactly who we were, both inside and out.
Still, the loneliness got to be too much for me and I signed up on dating sites. Not just one, but all of them. And time after time, I would interact with someone who just reminded me of all of the men I dated who were so WRONG for me, and none of them had any of the qualities that I loved so much about my husband. The dating sites just got more and more depressing. It wasn’t that I felt undesirable, like I did in my youth. It was the opposite. I had finally gained so much self-confidence and self-esteem from loving the RIGHT man, that it actually was demeaning to be treated like I was only valued for my looks or other meaningless characteristics that the dating sites seem to focus on.
So finally, I decided to pull the plug. It was never what I wanted for my retirement years, but I knew that the best thing for me was to learn how to be happily single.
One by one, I began deleting my profiles from the dating sites and facebook groups that were for dating. I went from calling myself “widowed” or “single” and just tried to think of myself as “individually complete” (which is an option that I think should be added to “relationship statuses” everywhere.)
I’ve always been an introvert so it isn’t really hard for me to spend time alone. But it still is very difficult to accept the fact that I may very well grow old and die alone.
So my time is now spent focusing on leaning to accept this new version of life. I’m trying hard to learn to develop more female friendships. I certainly enjoy friendships with men, too, but its rare to meet a man who understands that the REAL benefits of a friendship with someone of the opposite sex aren’t sexual, but a different perspective than their male buddies can provide.
I began talking to a counselor who is helping me adjust to this new mindset. And she is also helping me to feel okay with NOT accepting friendships with the people who aren’t right for me. The goal isn’t to fill my time with people, but to fill it with the right people: The ones who add humor, creativity and mental stimulation.
I’m trying to learn to focus on the things that bring my own life purpose and passion like writing and creativity and helping others when I can.
I think it’s easy when you become widowed to think that you miss being in a relationship when really what you miss is being in THAT particular relationship. I don’t miss “the company of a man”. I miss the company of THAT particular man that made me feel whole and complete exactly as I am.
I spent my whole life looking for “The One” to make my life complete because I grew up thinking that I wasn’t good enough on my own. And then I met a man who changed all of that. He made me feel complete and perfect, just the way that I am.
I’m certainly not closing the door on the idea that I might find a good person to spend the rest of my life with. I just know that I need to remind myself that I don’t need to find someone else to make me feel complete. I am complete.
It was the belief that I was incomplete without a man that was making me so sad and made me keep searching for “the one”. So I’m trying to learn to feel and understand my own completeness. Nobody else can really make me complete. I am the only one who can. I am The One.