Q: I haven’t been with anyone since my husband died. I recently started a relationship and got to that romantic moment, but I froze. I really like him, what’s wrong with me?
There’s a lot of pressure on a first kiss. Freezing up may be less about the fact that your husband died, and more that it’s just been a long time since you’ve experienced the awkward part of dating. You were in a long-term relationship. Starting over is hard.
The good news is, awkward represents something new. By dating again, you stepped outside of your comfort zone. That means you’ve breached a milestone. So, yay! Be really happy about your new personal growth.
We have a tendency to get caught up in thinking of awkward as ‘bad.’ However, what matters most is how you feel about it afterwards. For instance, my wife said I was totally awkward in conversation, first kiss, and all of that. But I wouldn’t change any of it. That awkwardness? It’s funny to think back on it now.
That said, I’ve also had awkward encounters with people where I knew I didn’t want to progress.
I’d encourage you to ask yourself what you really want. Be honest. Would you like to go back and try again? Or do you feel more like, “Ew, no, that’s not it.” Or maybe, “OMG, I’m not ready for this with anyone!” Each of these reactions is okay. They just tell you different things, and give you info that you can base a decision on.
Now, if the two of you kissed and you thought about your husband — that’s hard, but probably bound to happen. You didn’t make a choice to move on from that relationship. The choice was made for you. Grief is not an emotion, it’s the expression of emotions. So, when you’re grieving, it’s common to experience an unexpected flood of emotion. Even happy moments can be closely coupled with sadness. That can be really confusing. There’s no bouncer at the door letting in only ‘happy.’ Once we open the door to emotion, we open it to all emotions. What comes through that door is reflective of our life. And in your life, you’ve had a major loss.
Know a second relationship is never going to feel like the first one. Furthermore, your perception of that first relationship is probably twisted in the perfection of hindsight. Remember, you didn’t love your husband because he was perfect. He had flaws too. And his first kiss may not have set off fireworks, either. What really happened was the two of you went through some things together, and that solidified the relationship.
The point is, this is more about asking yourself, “Does the opportunity for this new person exist?”
Overall, I’d say don’t stop kissing! It’s not healthy to resign yourself to solitude with thoughts of “My husband died, I shouldn’t date.” You knew this first kiss was coming, and you probably felt some stress and pressure. Give yourself permission to try again, and think about recreating happiness for yourself.
In closing, I’ll note “I froze” is different from “I didn’t feel anything.” One is situational, and the other is your instinct.
If you truly didn’t feel anything, then don’t over-kiss one frog. Maybe he’s just not a good kisser. Or maybe what you’ve found is really a new friendship, not a love interest. In any case, if he’s a total toad, move on.