He’s Gone, Get Over It
Mette from Oslo, Norway asks:
I was widowed almost 11 years ago. My husband and I had been together for 18 years at the time of his death. It took me seven years after he passed to even look at another man. I did find a man, and we had an on/off relationship for several years. Mostly sexual, but also quite endearing, and we were always good friends. We ended up parting, but still remain friends and keep in touch by texting now and then. He is in a serious relationship now, and I’m happy he has found someone. I don’t believe that we will ever be together again. My problem is I keep comparing men I meet with him… and nobody comes close. I’m not sure if I was actually ever in love with him, but I seem to be looking for a guy just like him! I know that it’s a stupid idea, but I kind of figure if I can’t have what I want, I don’t want what I can have. I don’t want to settle for something I consider less (sounds very arrogant I know!). How do I change my frame of mind?
I’m not sexually active at the moment, and it feels like I never will be again. I miss being intimate and having a partner more than the actual sex part of a relationship. Can you offer any advice or insight that might jerk me out of my slump? Tell me if you can see anything in the relationship department for me in the future, and give me advice on what I must do to create this future for myself.
Greetings, Mette. You’ve graced me with the beauty and tragedy of your life, and I will try to give what advice and comfort I can. First and foremost, you need to stop chastising yourself for maintaining a level of selectivity in your choice of partners. Why do we insist that a woman of a certain age, having been widowed or divorced, must (simply MUST) go forth in a desperate search for male companionship? I’d rather you lived and died alone than to ever succumb to such rubbish. Women, especially in our culture, tend to equate value with having a specific type of relationship with a man, and then they further illustrate their value to themselves by degrading those who don’t fit or refuse to follow such nonsensical standards. This isn’t Victorian England. The sorry, ragged spinster is no more. There is nothing wrong with having standards. Neither do I believe you are an arrogant person. I believe you’re a woman trying to understand herself, her body and her life. And in this, you have my deepest respect.
I encourage you to keep the bar high in regard to potential mates. But along with this, I need you to be realistic about what has happened to you. When you lost your husband you became, in essence, a sexual exile. For seven years, you had an actual aversion to taking another mate. But you are a sensualist at heart; ripe with promise—and when that fellow came along after seven long years, you were like a seed pod ready to explode on a steaming July night. After all that time, it was very much like you were a virgin again. Some thinkers believe our first sexual partner sets the imprint standard for all future lovers, and if they’re correct then there’s absolutely nothing “abnormal,” or “strange” about any of what you’re experiencing.
You were very wise to know that even though you had imprinted so heavily with this man, the relationship didn’t have the staying-power for the long term. Your liberation from it is slow. Chemical imprints of that magnitude are tough to break. And you are lonely. Please don’t let loneliness become a license for desperation. A woman of character, such as yourself, needs time and space and solitude. Cultivate this, and understand its meaning. For once in your life, it’s all about you and nobody else. We are not defined by relationships. Or, at least, we don’t have to be. Imprinting can be altered, and it can be overcome. Cutting this man entirely out of your life is a start. Close all the doors on him, and make it forever. Accept the suffering, and don’t fight the feelings you still have for him. Enter a time of grieving, like a second widowhood, where you suffer your loss. Ritualize it. You might even hold a mock funeral for your friend. Accept that he’ll always have a bond with you, but understand that the man you made love to is dead. He existed in that moment, and now is a different person. Accept the transitional in life. Find your place in the moment of experience. Cling to darkness, poetry and dance. The process is poetic, and art is your shaman. I can give you a signpost, but you must fill in the gaps. In time, your journey will link to the path of another. But that is another tale entirely…
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