Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

What I am looking for in my next Relationship

Date: 
Monday, June 5, 2017
Posted By: 
Valerie

What I am looking for in my next Relationship

 

Losing someone mid relationship because they unexpectedly die is completely different from a break up. You didn’t decide that things weren’t working out, you didn’t make a pro’s and con’s list and then decide if you would keep them around. Losing someone mid-relationship, when both of you were very much still in the relationship, means that your break from them happened without a real reason. They were just here one day, and gone the next.

All relationships have their strengths and weaknesses. Things you and your partner do well together, things that don’t work so well, and some things that may even drive you insane. There may be lots of kinks, but you see endless room for improvement. You are actively choosing to stay with them and you assume that you will have the time to improve your relationship problems together.

With Will, all the pros and cons were very obvious to us and to our close friends. Will was a devoted and dedicated boyfriend. After Will died, people constantly told me how clear it was that Will was madly in love with me. Work colleagues of Will, people that I had only met a handful of times, recalled how Will’s face would light up when he talked about me and our trips or little projects we did around the house. Will watched me like a hawk and worried about me when I was out without him. He paid close attention to what I liked and he was always trying to find experiences and things that would excite me. In my last blog post I talked about his incredible gift giving, but it wasn’t just the big stuff. He’d come home with my favorite boutique candy bar or a mini bottle of my favorite champagne. He’d find obscure foreign TV shows and movies that related to my odd assortment of hobbies. Will created intricate personalities and voices for my cats and he’d narrate their lives in character as they strolled by or sat looking out the window. He even got one cat a handmade collar with a plaid tie on Etsy. Will always knew when I was sad and when I needed a hug, and he knew how long I needed him to hold on to me.

But Will also had a big personality, a strong personality really, and sometimes it could be overwhelming.  Will was incredibly stubborn, to the point that he was often completely unwilling to compromise. His favorite excuse for his behavior was that he just knew what he liked, which was an expression he often used when telling me why he would not do something. Sometimes his mom even jokes that I’ve officially dated the most stubborn man in the world so the next guy I date will be a breeze to get along with. And it’s incredibly bittersweet. I mean in some ways it’s nice, the idea that some of the hardships and struggles that Will and I faced are now just over. He could be so inflexible sometimes. But I also wish that we could have had the time to improve the relationship that we had.

Losing Will was probably the single biggest emotional growing experience of my life. Surviving the loss of a partner is incredible difficult and horrible, but having the support of your friends and depending on your own inner strength is incredibly empowering. When I think about who I am now and then I think back to some of the stuff I would put up with from Will I can’t help but cringe. I met Will at 24 and he was 6 years older than me. He was incredibly confident and self-assured while I often struggled with insecurity and was easily intimidated by authority figures. I was used to having the people in my life make decisions for me, so that fact that Will was comfortable taking charge felt normal and comfortable. But the person I am today, at 35, is so different from that meek young woman Will knew. The person I am now would not have put up with some of Will’s strong headedness. And I think he would have loved it if I had pushed back more. He always got frustrated when my family or my job pushed me around and he encouraged me to stick up for myself. He had so much more confidence in my abilities than I had when we were dating.

I often think about how much Will would love the person I have grown in to as a response to losing him. Even though Will could be stubborn and inflexible, he was always encouraging me to stick up for myself and fight for what I wanted. He had this incredible confidence in me and I think that sometimes he wanted me to push back more. He wasn’t a bully, but he always wanted to get his way and at times I think he knew he was difficult and he wanted or needed someone to reel him in. And it’s funny now, when I do push back against life and stick up for myself I often feel like I am channeling my inner Will. When he died it felt like he left some of that fight and stubbornness with me and I love this new born strength. I wish I could date Will now, how I am as a person today. I know the fight was always in me, but I needed to have an opportunity to rely on myself and trust myself before I felt ready to push back against the world around me.

In the past few years I have done some dating, but it has been really hard. I think it’s hard to date someone new when your last relationship ended at its peak. Will and I didn’t have a slow decline where I realized that the cons outweighed the pros, and that it was time to end it. And I think it is also very different dating as a strong and confident adult. I know that the next man I date must be kind and concerned for me, but he also must be able to compromise and work as a team with me. It’s hard trying to stop myself from comparing everyone to Will. I want all of Will’s positive qualities to be in the next guy I meet, but I do not want to have the same fights and same feeling of having too small a voice. And honestly, I have lately felt like I need more time to just go it alone. I worry that if I am not emotionally strong as I start dating I could end up in the same power equation as I experienced with Will. And I know that I am no longer willing to let my partner always take the lead. 

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