Q: My husband died less than a year ago. Although I'm not interested in starting another relationship, I have been dating here and there. Some of my friends think I'm not "behaving" properly. But I just want to have fun, is that okay?
What an awesome goal! What I’m hearing is, “Hey, I’m going to take some time off. I’m not interested in anyone else long-term, I’m interested in exploring myself and who I am via new activities, experiences and adventures.” One can argue that’s one of the greatest ways to survive a spouse’s death. Figure out who you are as a single person, and what you want from life.
When you get married you abandon some things you enjoy based on what your significant other wants. You and your husband probably became more responsible and goal-oriented. I love that you want to use this time to take a step back and have some fun. You’ll discover activities you like, you’ll do those things, and you will meet potential new friends, love interests, maybe even flings.
If you mean “fun,” with a wink wink, nudge nudge, that’s awesome too. You know I’m going to tell you to be careful and protect yourself as you’re dating after the death of your husband. Of course I mean physically – make sure you and your partner are both healthy and safe. But protect yourself emotionally also. Make good decisions about how you want to have fun.
Usually when I get questions about dating after the death of a spouse, it’s because the questioner fears judgment and criticism from others. I would tell you that if people are judging you, just ask yourself where that comes from. Someone sees you are happy, and they think that’s a problem? That’s just shade.
The truth is there are a lot of people out there in the world who are swinging – widowed, divorced, even married. But if “having fun” in this way becomes where you get your self-pride and self-worth, then I encourage you to think carefully about why you are dating after the death of your husband. I have seen people form sexual addictions pretty quickly for that very reason.
Likewise, if the “fun” lifestyle is starting to distract you from other responsibilities in life like children, family or a job, those are telltale signs to take a step back and give some thought to what your goals are, and what you hope to explore.
I know for me, I can’t have that physical intimacy without emotional connection. For others, it’s just sex. But even then, you are connecting on a very intimate level, so don’t underestimate the fact that emotions may at some point become a part of this. You may not be emotionally available now, but you may become more emotionally available as more time passes after the death of your husband. Or you may build unrealistic expectations about a budding emotional attachment.
I’m assuming that, like most of us, you’ve spent your married life being responsible. And right now, taking care of yourself and enjoying yourself is an important new way to be responsible. Being “responsible” isn’t supposed to be punitive, it’s about building awareness and learning. Are you hurting anyone else by dating after the death of your husband? If not, then go for it, and more power to you!