Singled Out

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!

5 Responses to “Singled Out”

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  2. Louise says:

    I’m not a widow yet but my chronically ill husband of almost 46 years does not have much time left. As he slowly deteriorated from Parkinson’s over the past 8 years, I realized that I needed my own support network that was separate from the couples we socialized with over these many years. Unfortunately, most of those couples couldn’t cope with my husband’s illness and slowly abandoned both of us.

    I was determined to strengthen my friendships with the women I knew, both single and married, and build the network by accepting invitations to group luncheons, joining community groups, and finding long-lost friends on Facebook. I am still doing this.

    Reading about your cousin Karen’s mixed emotions about her interactions with the couples she and her husband knew together made me realize that the same thing will probably happen to me. I will miss my husband but I will have my memories. And I hope that my old and new friends whom I have grown to love outside the “marriage circle” will fill the gaps.

    Karen should not rely on her marriage circle friends to be her only source of socialization. Get out, meet new people, reconnect with old acquaintances and expand the horizons. Hang on to the old friendships but open the doors to the new ones.

    I feel her loss and life won’t be the same without her husband. As long as she understands that she can build a new life (with her husband’s blessings, I’m sure), she will move on to a better place.

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  3. Debra S says:

    Oh my… I have many many mixed thoughts that go thru my mind at this subject. Yep, I’m married. Very married. He is mostly retired. MAKING ME INSANE, for REAL. He not only does NOTHING but is becoming “eccentric” and more and more slobby as time goes by. I don’t even WANT to go “out” with him mostly. Because I do NOT want to go out with other couples to nice spots with mr. slobby man. Who doesn’t even like to comb his hair either.

    I already go out a LOT more with my sister and a galpal AND various grandkids. We do “girls day out”. They are a lot more fun than the hubby is, trust me. I find myself doing vacations with gals, too. Married ones, even- we get away from the men! They can be such a kill-joy, seriously.

    So- if I were “alone”… oh yes, I would miss him, he has been a good hubby. Miss him for other reasons other than socializing and conversation.

    I think there will be a whole new group of widows/widowers out there who can get together! My father, who is 84 (!!!!!), is regularly asked out by widows, to dinner, to the gambling ships, golf, concerts, etc. Yes, he misses Mom, he says he will never marry again, but he feels no lack of social opportunities.

    My kids, his grandkids, also are constantly inviting him out with them, even on trips like to Disney, museums, the zoo. He gets SO many invites, he says, he turns down a lot!

    Hang in there, don’t feel like the odd gal out.

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  4. Rosemarie Sussex says:

    Geri,
    I wrote an article for FOF in January 2012(A Widows story) expressing some of your cousin’s feelings. It is so hard not be part of a couple after all the years together. Once, when I went out for dinner with some of our very good friends- couples, they seated us at a table for 8. The empty chair was like the elephant in the room. I had to gulp down my tears so they wouldn’t see and feel bad. They always want to pay my bill too, the men in the group feel protective. I appreciate it and know that Paul would be doing the same thing. It makes them feel like they are doing something for him.
    Feeling whole that’s something I wonder if I’ll ever feel again. It will be 5 years in February and as things are better at times, that feeling of being whole is still there.
    I wish her peace.

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  5. Susan says:

    I’ve been alone for two years and it still isn’t easy. Life does take dramatic turns and I have many new single friends and have grown closer to the ones I had before. My married friends still try to pay my way when we eat out, but I am adamant about being independent. It’s good that your cousin has a positive outlook on life – forging ahead and having new experiences has been a great help to me.

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