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I’m in my early 30s, and I lost my husband very suddenly over a year ago. It’s been the most difficult and heartbreaking time of my life. I have recently dipped my toes back into the dating pool and actually met a guy I really like, but after five weeks of regular contact, he went cold on me. I saw him recently and pressed him on the subject. He said that I wanted “too much” (to hang out once or twice a week and text every once in a while, which he seemed fine with until he wasn’t), then admitted he found my posting on social media about my late husband to be the real problem. He worried that if we kept dating he’d be in competition with my late husband.
I was pretty shocked. I have posted about my love for my husband, especially on the first anniversary of his death, but I never thought there was anything wrong with it or that it would be a problem when I started dating. But other people seem to agree that this would scare prospective dates away. I think it is ridiculous to feel threatened by someone who has died. I’m not praying over his pictures at night or sleeping with his clothes (which I did when he first died). I moved my wedding band to my right hand. I’m just remembering the man I thought I would be with until we both grew old. I still believe I can have a second chapter when it comes to love and that I’m capable of opening my heart. Am I wrong? Is everyone else wrong? Should I just refrain from “friending” men I am dating on social media and never talk about my husband?
—Widowed and Dating
There’s the obvious conclusion, which is that anyone who feels threatened by your love for your late husband will not be a good partner to you and are doing you a favor by self-selecting out of your dating pool. But I think an equally important clue is that this guy in particular didn’t have the confidence to be upfront with you. After five weeks and a few dates, ghosting is no longer a polite option. All he had to do was have a slightly uncomfortable conversation with you about not wanting to go out again. It wouldn’t have been fun, but you would have had clarity and wouldn’t be left to guess what went wrong. Moreover, claiming that you wanted “too much” was an unkind misdirect—there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go out with someone you’ve been going out with, and he hoped to make you blame yourself by suggesting there was something wrong with your (perfectly normal) continued romantic interest. This doesn’t mean he’s a monster, just that he’s avoidant and shifty when it comes to low-level conflict, and I hope you have better luck with future dates.
If you want to hold off on “friending” guys on social media until you’ve gotten to know them well, that’s fine—you don’t need to become Instagram buddies with everyone you’ve been on a promising first date with. But that doesn’t mean you should lock your account or hide the fact that you were suddenly and painfully widowed, or that you still love your husband even after his death. There’s nothing shameful about your bereavement, and there’s nothing threatening about your ability to care for multiple people, both living and dead. If anything it’s a testament to your loyalty and depth of feeling—two excellent qualities in a romantic partner. I hope you find lots of people who can appreciate and support those qualities in you, whether they be among your friends or potential new dates.
Help! I Think I’m Afraid of My Friend.
Danny M. Lavery is joined by Alyssa Furukawa on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.
I grew up in a conservative religious home and toxic church environment. I recently moved back to my parents’ hometown. Growing up, my mom and I never fought, and we communicated well. Now, I’m questioning my faith and how I spent my life in cultlike ministries. My mom is overjoyed that I moved closer, but we fight frequently now. When I tell her I’m struggling with faith, she gets upset and tells me I need to “let go and let God” or that I’m not praying the right way. I’m grieving over leaving how I was raised, but my mom only sees my anger. With everything going on, I want to check in on my parents, but she exhausts me. I’m in therapy and work at a nice church but can’t talk to her without circling back to faith. I’m also an interracial adoptee, and some of my problems stem from our church’s racism, which my mom doesn’t recognize. What do I talk to my mom about? Is it OK for me not to visit my parents at this time?
—All Fighting, All the Time
This sounds deeply painful and like it touches every aspect of your life, from family to race to employment to spirituality—I’m so sorry, and I hope therapy proves bracing and useful to you. Yes, it’s OK to cut back on visits to your mother, or even stop them altogether, if you decide that’s something you need to do. One possible option is to scale back on discussing anything serious with her until you feel ready to have that conversation. It sounds like you’re trying to figure out your own priorities and belief system at present, and if you’re looking for open-minded, nonjudgmental support in order to do so, you’ll be better off seeking that out from people who have demonstrated a willingness to listen. You may already be connected with other adults who have been transracially adopted, but if not, I’d recommend seeing if there are any support groups in your area (the Bay Area, for example, has a monthly drop-in group and a monthly conference call for remote attendance). You might also want to seek out books or articles written by adult adoptees about their own experiences, many of which deal with the problems you mention: the insistence on the part of the parents that the adult adoptee minimize their anger and instead perform gratitude, religious intimidation, the minimization or outright denial of racism.
A key detail in your letter is that you and your mother never fought when you were a child who went to church and complied with her rules. Now that you’re an adult who refuses to paper over your doubts with reassuring bromides, who wants to talk about the racism you’ve experienced, and who’s experiencing real pain over the loss of an imperfect but meaningful spiritual community, you’re fighting constantly. I hope that in time your mother can come to respect your autonomy and to find productive and respectful ways to disagree without telling you to stop feeling anger. If her kindness and support are dependent on your religious conformity and emotional compliance, a deeper relationship may not be possible. You don’t have to make any sort of permanent decision right now. All you have to do is figure out where you can get support as you ask important questions about your own relationship to faith and identity, keep your conversations with your mother as safe and as surface-level as you need, and take this one day at a time.
My partner and I are getting ready to have a baby soon. Though we’re both in good health, we’ve asked my partner’s sibling to become our child’s guardian in the event something should happen to both of us. This was partly because we thought they could provide a stable home life and partly because they’re the only practical option, as both our sets of parents are aging and in poor health. Then the pandemic became serious. My partner’s sibling thinks the situation is entirely overblown, is not practicing social distancing, and advocates for ending social distancing immediately in order to “protect the economy.” This is making me rethink giving them guardianship of our child, should something happen to us, but I also know that my anxiety is running high at the moment. Am I overreacting?
The point of offering someone guardianship of your child in the unlikely event of your death is not to make them feel good about themselves or to demonstrate how much you like them. It’s to make sure that your child will be raised by someone you trust, someone who will commit to caring for and stewarding your now-orphaned child’s well-being. It’s not necessarily realistic to look for someone who will act in perfect lockstep with your every wish, but neither is it unreasonable to seek out someone who shares your basic values and doesn’t dismiss serious health crises as “overreactions.” You and your husband should talk seriously about other possible candidates for guardianship before putting anything in writing. It may be that you can’t find anyone else who’s willing and able to do so, so you’ll have to make do with your husband’s sibling and hope that the guardianship will never become anything other than a contingency plan. And if you decide to change guardians, there’s no need to have that conversation with them while tensions are running high. You may find making a decision one way or the other, even if it’s a difficult choice, relieves your anxiety—but if you want to wait a few weeks (or even longer), feel free to give yourself time until you feel a bit more settled.
More Advice From How to Do It
I’m a late-20s woman. I recently went on few dates with a “nice,” cute guy, and we hit it off enough that I invited him up after the third date. When we started having sex, all was fine—uninspired maybe, but fine—until, when we were marching to the finish, he started saying pretty horrible things to me. First it was “whore,” then “you like that, you stupid slut?” and then one other thing I’m not even going to type. I was extremely turned off and wish I had said so immediately—if he had been paying attention to my face at all, he would have noticed. It was weird after, and he left. He is now texting me as if he’s confused why I was distant. I know I should have told him on the spot, but I was kind of stunned. Is there any hope with a guy who thinks it’s normal to do that? Does any man really think this is what a woman (or a man, for that matter) wants to hear, unless they’ve asked to be degraded? Others have told me this is more of a tic than anything for a lot of guys. Like, really?
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