A physical competition between someone who is living and someone who is deceased? Obviously, no contest.

But what about a psychological comparison between someone with real-world problems, genuine and imagined imperfections on one hand and someone who is a wonderful and fond memory on the other? Is that a competition that the living just can’t or won’t win in her (or his) own mind?

American Masters: Marilyn Monroe

Before I go any further into this discussion, please understand that I have never taken a psychology class in my life, and I don’t plan to start now. What I have been taking even though I never intended to or wanted to, is a real-world class in mid-life, Internet dating after losing my wife of more than two decades to stomach cancer.

One would think that a widow(er) would have an advantage over the other three categories of singles in their 40s, 50s, and 60s: Divorced (the largest group), never-married and currently separated. Guess one needs to think again.

If you were madly in love with your spouse right up until the day she died (in my case she would have been 56 this coming Monday), and you still love her now…is that a good thing or a bad thing in the eyes of a potential new spouse, partner, lover and, friend? You would think that would be a positive, but at this point I am not so certain.

Let me ask some questions here: In response to a query, you state that you were blessed with a happy, blissful marriage that stood the test of time. Is that a statement of fact or bragging? Your intent may be former, but the perception may be the latter. And as everyone in public relations knows perception can trump reality.

If someone has been part of your life for two decades or more, then it can be expected that you would talk about this person from time-to-time, but how much is too much? Should you shelve or severely curtail all discussion about your spouse of nearly 22 years? That doesn’t seem to be realistic, but it may be a good strategy. Remember that sexual relations are the ultimate in public relations.

What about your house, your condo, your apartment, your cave or your nest? Do you display pictures of your dearly departed spouse? How about a photo of your spouse and your offspring, sitting right beside your personal wash basin? If someone is seeing that photo, they obviously have started to peel away at least the first layers of your personal onion. Do you put that photo away to avoid a psychological competition between the living and deceased? Is this issue particularly magnified if your spouse died young, and was universally regarded to be beautiful on both the inside as well as the outside?

grace

And what if your spouse and her entire family were prolific artists, including water colors, sculptures, oil paintings, mosaics and even a torso body cast? Do you display all of these proudly throughout your home or should they be relegated to some storage closet? And if you do choose to make her art public, what pieces are appropriate and for what rooms?

A widow(er)’s dilemma is magnified by a successful marriage. Someone who was divorced (many more than once) is coming off regardless of who was at fault, a failed marriage(s). Some may have broken up five or more years ago, and you would be hard pressed to conclude that they didn’t break up five weeks ago…the anger and the bitterness in many cases are still fresh and still there. There is an incredible divide between your natural view that marriage is a positive and her very different view of matrimony.

This point is even more magnified with someone who is currently separated, which means the battle over the house, the children, the assets, alimony, football season tickets and child support still needs to be or is being fought to the finish.

What about someone who has never been married? You enjoyed a happy marriage, and she never had the opportunity to live the all-too-common dream of walking down the aisle with all eyes fixed upon her on what should have been the happiest day of her life. Again you have a natural conflict point even if that is not your intent.

How about talking to this would be partner, lover, friend telling her that she is different? And that you are not trying to replace someone who is gone and is never coming back again? What about your desire to rediscover the magic with someone new? After all don’t women complain that men are not as open and free with their comments as they should be?

Alas, some subjects just do not lend themselves to easy conversations, much less easy solutions. If someone feels compelled to engage in a psychological comparison, you really can’t stop them. Can you?

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