Starting a relationship after divorce or widowhood is not easy. I have discovered that following either of these two life circumstances people suddenly assume that the divorcee or widow(er) has lost all ability to think rationally about relationships. Somehow we can pay bills, raise children, work a job, manage a household, and keep up with daily life issues all on our own.... but when it comes to going on a date, well you had better call the President, schedule a meeting with the Pope, and take a national survey because everyone will want to chime in with their "2 cents" ... reason being - somehow you have lost that ability.
Before you jump to conclusions and think I have lost my mind (fyi - you have to have one to lose it!) I have been a grief counselor for many years and understand that people in crisis should avoid making major life decisions. I have worked with hundreds of people who have made rash decisions when caught up in emotions only to regret it later... but there is an important distinction between someone in crisis and someone who has gone through crisis.
Divorce is a crisis. It sucks. It hurts. And depending on what happens throughout the marriage and divorce it can leave scars. I spent many years trying to fix a marriage that was out of my hands. I spent many nights fixing dinners, cleaning house, bathing the girls and putting them to bed by myself while my ex-spouse chose to leave the family. I know what the sting of rejection feels like. I know what it is like to have someone manipulate and lie in order to get what they want, to be so turned around by false statements and half-truths that you don't know what end is up. I know what it is like when your spouse chooses to be with someone else over you. I lived in crisis.... but I don't live there anymore. Sure I still have some insecurities. Are there parts of my past that still plague me? Absolutely! I bear the scars of a dysfunctional relationship, but scars are signs of healing.
Grief is a crisis. It sucks. It hurts. When you lose someone you love you lose the ability to breathe, to dream, to think that life is good and just. Vee experienced grief when she lost her husband, Jeremy, at age 31. They had a great relationship, wonderful family, and Vee was 6 months pregnant with their 3rd child when Jeremy suddenly died. She knows the sting of death. She knows what its like to feel grief knock the wind out of your lungs and the joy out of your soul. She understands what its like to question God's plans, to have more questions than answers, and to lay in bed with small children trying to explain to them why daddy isn't going to be coming home anymore. Vee lived in crisis.... but she doesn't live there anymore. Does she still grieve? Yes. Does the pain of losing Jeremy still grip her heart and bring tears to her eyes? It always will. She bears the scars of grief, but scars are signs of healing.
Vee and I have been in crisis.... but when we started dating we were at the point where we could both say we had gone through crisis. Not everything was perfect, we hadn't mastered all of our hurts... but we weren't in crisis anymore. That was something we both talked about early and made sure we worked though prior to anything else. "Dating for fun" was something neither of us were interested in, but we also wanted to make sure that the other person was "ready" for a relationship. We were honest, upfront, and openly communicated our intentions, fears, and excitement. We were ready.... others were not.
I cant say that we had a bunch of people who opposed our relationship - in fact - the people who know us both (and know us best) were in complete support of our relationship from the start. However there were some people who were not ready to see either of us begin in a relationship. Some of this came from people who wanted to give us a "timeline" so to speak... you know "You shouldn't date for at least _______ (you fill in the blank) after a death or divorce!" I am even convinced that there were some who really wanted both Vee and I to stay single for the rest of our lives. Others would have been satisfied if we would have waited 10 years, or 5 years, or just a few more years. But when it boiled down to it - we knew the time was right. We knew we were not in crisis anymore, but were were ready to move forward. Sure, we would move forward with a limp, with scars, with fears, but we were ready.
When people confronted me with their expectations and "timelines" of who and how I should date after divorce I (in typical Steve fashion) was able to shrug off those comments... I knew the truth about me, about my first marriage, and what I new was right for me and my girls as far as dating Veronica. Vee on the other hand has a harder time when it comes to disappointing people and was more bothered by the expectations others had of her dating life.
Both Vee and I knew from very early on that we had found something special in each other and were not willing to allow someone else to interfere with that, but I knew that for Vee grief and expectations would come into play. I knew that I would need to be patient as people adjusted to seeing Vee from "the widow" to someone who was dating and then engaged. I didn't want to push Vee nor did I want to push others away.
Many of these people who had expectations were good people, people who loved and cared about Vee and the kids. Some folks could not view Vee in any other light but a widow who was in need. In some way Vee's grief and pain gave them them a sense of purpose and a special role in life. They were able to give and support Vee and her children in very meaningful and tangible ways and seeing Vee move forward would change that sense of purpose and role for them - something some people were not ready to give up. For others our new relationship was a sign that her grief was moving forward... something that their grief was not ready for.
The last thing I wanted to do was to come barging in create an "us verses him" relationship. I knew I couldn't win everybody over but I also knew that a little bit of patience goes a long way. Allowing people to see my intentions with Vee, my love for her, my love for Faith, Caleb, and Carter, and our interactions as a couple went a long way in helping people adjust expectations. Many of those people who had seen Vee in crisis had had been so busy with concern for her and the kids that they had not noticed when she was not in crisis anymore. We had to be patient with these people and give them time to see her in a different light.
The truth is Vee and I still need that support in our lives. While we are not in crisis anymore we still benefit from the support of others. It looks different than before. Our need for support is not as dependent as it once was - it is mutual. We have healed to the point that we can show our scars, tell the story, and help others along the way. While the scars remind of us the pain we went through and occasionally still bring tears to our eyes they also give us a new and fresh outlook on life that we did not have without them. We appreciate life more, love harder, laugh better, and live more. We wear our scars visibly to show what God has brought us through and what he is doing in our lives.