The odds are against being so lucky in love again.
Doug and I had what most people would consider a great marriage. After 12 years of being together full time, we were still happily honeymooning. We were in love, had fun and took care of each other. He was my favorite person. He wasn't perfect, but of course neither am I, and that was okay.
I always worried that such happiness could not last. It didn't. When Doug died, our shared hopes and dreams died along with him. I went from contented wife to devasted widow in a matter of seconds. My heart broke that day. Life as I knew it fell apart.
When I lament about missing Doug and how lonely I am without him, people try to help me feel less sad. Some have said "Your life isn't necessarily over. You are fairly young. You have a lot to offer. You will find someone else in the future."
Here's the thing. I want DOUG. I want what we had. I know in my mind that is not an option. But I'm struggling with accepting that reality. I still feel like I'm married. I would feel guilty even having a dream that involved someone else.
I also doubt I can ever again find the kind of happiness I had with Doug. Lightning usually doesn't strike twice. I think this is a depressing, but suckily realistic expectation I need to adjust to. (And it is WAY more rational than some of my other fears and worries!)
You may think I have a negative attitude about this. That would be correct - I am feeling down about a lot of things right now, given the circumstances and the recency. My sister firmly believes that if you think happy and positive thoughts, good things will happen to you. Before Doug died, I thought happy and positive things all the time. So did Doug. It sure didn't turn out too well for us.
I'm not saying that it is impossible to be so lucky again. I just think it's extremely unlikely. There are a number of reasons why.
First and foremost, Doug was one of a kind. I've never met anyone like him. He was loyal and faithful. He was cheerful, patient, tolerant, flexible and good-natured. I was VERY aware that HE was the main reason our marriage worked so well.
We worked in the same field, and knew each other for 27 years. That history together deepened our friendship and relationship. Our values on money, religion, fidelity, life style, politics and most other things were extremely compatible. I love his parents.
I admired and respected him. He was smart. He could fix anything. He was a hard worker and provider. His entertainment value was extremely high. He was kind and romantic. He treated me like a princess. He was great company. He was a great roommate. And so much more. Bottom line - I don't think anyone could ever compare to him.
I do know he was not a saint. In fact, he could be incredibly annoying at times. I recall a very frustrating day when I was casually fantasizing about killing him. I suddenly realized I couldn't imagine life without him. That's when I knew I should marry him. (I told Doug this, but he said I probably shouldn't admit it to other people.)
I am told that great marriages like ours are not common. I know how lucky I was. And I'm certainly luckier than Doug. He didn't make it to his 53rd birthday, and never got to enjoy a single day of well-earned retirement.
Secondly, I fully recognize that I am no prize. Fortunately for me, Doug's standards were pretty low. (I have his first girlfriend to thank for that.) Sure, I have some good qualities. But I also have a strong personality, am demanding, impatient, argumentative, easily annoyed, intolerant, and lazy. I am hardly submissive. I'm not the greatest homemaker either. Me and vacuum cleaner are not what you would call close. My iron has never known warm. (Yes, I'm hard on myself, but no harder than I am on everyone else. I don't discriminate. See above regarding being intolerant and demanding.)
Third, it was hard enough for me to make a commitment to Doug, and he was pretty much everything I wanted (I had a list of course.) I had been badly burned before. I was very afraid of making another mistake and held back for a long time.
Doug and I started dating in 1990. He asked me to marry him a year later, to the day. I said yes because I loved him and knew he was right for me.
But then I panicked. I moved out west. We stayed in touch and visited and went on vacations together, but I didn't move back to CT until 1998 to try again. Thank goodness he was still waiting after EIGHT years. I can barely wait eight MINUTES for something I want.
Fourth, since I sure have not been very lucky so far, there's not a lot of basis for being confident that I will be in the future. Doug was the only man I ever loved who never hurt me intentionally. The only time he ever REALLY hurt me was the day he died. That certainly was not his fault.
Before Doug, I was in both short and long term relationships. I thought my first long term relationship (8 years) was great. It ended due to repeated infidelity, which was something I was unwilling to accept. Trust is too important to me. Plus I didn't want to end up infected with HIV. When I started dating again, he stalked me. It was not fun.
My second love (and best friend who I had known since college - I'll call him AH) dumped me when I gained weight. When I lost weight, we got back together. However, he was the strong, silent, unhappy type. A cold workaholic. I made a very difficult decision to leave the relationship which was somewhat toxic. Doug came along, but part of me was still in love with AH. He died at the age of 38. He was hit by a car while loading his landscaping equipment onto his truck. I'm not sure I could have ever moved on if he were still alive.
I think my third relationship with a wonderful colleague ended mainly because I still couldn't make a commitment. I moved away for a promotion. He couldn't forgive me for that and moved on himself, although we are still great friends.
The last - and best - ended when Doug died.
Fifth, I'm older. Doug was almost 53 when he died. I just turned 54. We were growing old together and that was just fine. I'm not exactly a head turner. Because Doug and I loved each other on the inside so much, we didn't much care how we looked on the outside. As Doug used to say, our modeling careers were over. We didn't notice the ensuing wrinkles and sags. We were used to each other.
I would guess most men my age would probably be more interested in someone 10 to 20 years younger. I could not be interested in someone 10 years older who is on the verge of Alzheimer's or death. (Many widows are very concerned about their next partner dying.) I have noticed lately that most men Doug's age look ancient compared to him. Doug had the physique of a 45 year old and the sparkle, energy and exuberance of a child.
Sixth, sheer numbers are against me. The odds that two compatible people will both be available, meet and be attracted to each other are low under any circumstances (except maybe in college.) Some REALLY great people I know have never found true love.
In terms of statistics (U.S. Census Bureau 2008), at my age, there are more single women than single men, and almost 3 times more widows than widowers in my age range.
Seventh, they say most of the good ones are already taken. I always thought Doug probably would have been snapped up before I got to him if he had been taller and had a thick head of hair. Fortunately I couldn't care less about those things. I found him handsome and hunky. And unlike most of us, he got better looking with age. I guess he probably wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but he sure was mine. I do know a lot of wives who wish their husbands were more like him.
Unless they are widowed, I'm guessing a lot of available heterosexual men my age are divorced or single because there is something wrong with them. Of course they could just have bad taste in women so things don't work out. But probably many have some serious limitations. Maybe they abuse drugs/alcohol/pornography/gambling. Are emotionally or mentally unstable. Jobless or fiscally irresponsible. They watch TV or sports or play golf incessantly. Maybe they are extremely unattractive or weigh a gazillion pounds. Maybe they have totally unrealistic expectations (like I do.)
Most have baggage - crazy ex-wives, difficult or dependent children, elderly dependent parents, nasty in-laws, alimony and debt. They may be damaged from failed relationships or have commitment issues. Serious health problems. Radical religious or political views. They may be totally unhygienic slobs or chain smokers. Maybe they even have a criminal record.
Doug was none of that. My expectations were raised to unrealistic levels by him and our marriage. My standards are very high regardless. I don't want to settle just so I won't have to be alone.
And last but not least, I just don't believe anymore. When someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly, you question everything you thought was true.
Hope can die too. I'd like to think it can rise like a Phoenix out of the ashes. At this point, I'm skeptical.
I am grateful for the time and the love I had with Doug. I know some people never get beyond wishing for something like that.
Now I figure I will probably need to adapt to being a lonely Zimmerman for the rest of my life. But I won't forget how lucky we were to have had what we had. Thank you thank you thank you Doug.
07/11/2011 UPDATE: I was wrong. See update here.
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