How does a woman, who has been part of a couple for 46 years, feel when she loses her husband and is the only single person at a dinner party with 7 friends?
“I felt lost,” my FOF cousin, Karen, lamented at lunch today . “Al and l have been friends with these three couples for years. Although we don’t sit glued to our husbands’ sides when we get together, I felt different without him.” Karen didn’t mean good different, either. “I felt like I wasn’t whole,” she told me.
And while she knows that this feeling is in her mind–that, of course, she’s “whole,” even if she’s a single woman–Karen says it remains to be seen if she’ll eventually feel as comfortable with couples as she did when Al was alive or will prefer the company of single men or women. Al died just months ago.
Karen also frets over whether her married friends will insist on treating her when they go out to dinner together in the country. “I am determined to pay my share,” she says, “but I think they’re going to see it differently.”
Her married friends are already suggesting she not drive home alone after they go out and instead stay at their homes for the night. Karen recognizes that they want to be solicitous, but she wants to be treated as the independent woman she is. “I was the designated driver for the last few years, anyway, because Al was too ill to drive, so I’m not uncomfortable being alone on the 40-minute drive back. I know the roads well.”
Listening to my cousin’s concerns, I realized how different my life has been. Although I’ve been part of a “couple” since I was 20, it’s been part of different couples and, at FOF, I will never know what it’s like to feel the way Karen did at the dinner party. Except for being exceptionally needy when I was part of the Edgar-Geri couple for over a decade, and felt I couldn’t breathe without him, I have never viewed myself as half a pair, but as a full single.
Are women like Karen luckier than I because they remained married to one man for 40-plus years? Whenever I hear someone’s been married for so long, I’m more incredulous than envious. How did they do it? Are they soul mates or survivors? Lovers or long-distance runners? Good friends or good sports? Or maybe all of the above.
I hope Karen can come to terms soon with the place she feels most comfortable. It would be nice if she could stay close with her married friends and meet single women whom she enjoys. Transitions can be difficult to weather, but once we do, the sun usually shines bright on the other side.
No matter what, Karen said she loves life and intends to keep living it!