Weddings are a wonderful event to attend. Watching a bride and groom exchange vows and become husband and wife is definitely a reason to celebrate. While more than 40 per cent of those unions won’t last, everyone at a wedding, along with the newlyweds, of course, are hopeful for their future. Every marriage has a different story — as do the ending of those nuptials. Some end in divorce and some end with the death of a spouse.
There is, however, another circumstance I have dealt with several times and, I have to admit, I did not realize how common it is. Some of you reading this will no doubt have an opinion on it, but until you have lived through it yourself, it is pretty tough to judge. I am talking about dating while your spouse is still alive, but I am not referring to clandestine cheating.
When two people get married, it is pretty much a given one person is going to get sick. When that illness is Alzheimer’s, it’s a horrible situation for the healthy spouse to watch their husband or wife deteriorate before their eyes. People with dementia can live for many years and there are various levels of progression of the disease. Typically, when the ailment gets so bad that the spouse doesn’t even know you any more and require 24/7 assistance, the painful decision comes when they need to be put into a care home.
Herein lies the quandary. If the healthy spouse is active, fit, has a lot of life left to live and would like to have companionship, good conversation, a dance partner, a crib partner, someone to golf with, a travel companion or even romance, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
Some people may never want for another partner, but some will — and both situations are absolutely fine. The spouse in a care home could live another 10 years or they could be gone in two months. What really matters is that the healthy spouse is truly ready to meet someone new.
I have met men and women who have been divorced for 10 years and they still carry anger and resentment. They are not in a good place to meet someone new. Yet I have met men and women who have been widowed and looked after their ailing spouse for years. This is an opportunity for them to get out and live life now.
I don’t think there is any magic number for widows/widowers that is appropriate before looking to meet a companion. For all we know, a couple may have these discussions with each other before sickness falls on either of them, and I think it’s the most loving gesture when a spouse gives their blessing for their partner to move on when the time comes. Maybe the spouse will never want to, but the option is there.
I read Jan’s story- The Long Goodbye, a book about Barry Peterson, a CBS correspondent whose wife, Jan, became sick with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 55. If this topic is of interest to you, I suggest reading that book.
There are no guarantees in life and, as we have seen during this pandemic, life is fragile. What matters is that we live happy, healthy lives and, as we go through our days, try to do the next right thing. Only you, and nobody else, can determine what that right thing might be.
If you are in a good place in your life and you wish to meet someone new, I would love to hear from you. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .