Dating: Part 2
Updated: Jan 4
This is part 2 of my experiences with dating as a widow. As Part 1 focused on the hurdles to overcome when starting to date, this piece looks at the relationship between the story of Karina's transition and the part it plays in the dating experience with others. I thought I could wrap up this topic in two parts, but I still have more to say, so Part 3 is on the way.
“Stephen, I just saw your Instagram page. I am so sorry for your loss. I have so much respect for what you have been through. I’m sorry, but I am not in a place to join you on that journey. Best wishes.”
It wasn’t the first time I received that text from someone I was interested in dating. And probably won’t be the last. It’s a good filter, actually, and why I send people to my Instagram before meeting. The fact of the matter is, as a widow, people may put you in a box based on their own views of loss and how much time they think needs to pass before you are “okay” again. For some, they see it as baggage, as a reason why I am not worth meeting.
At times, this is discouraging to receive. I poured every ounce of love and energy I had into saving Karina, standing by her side through thick and thin until the very last breath, and being diligent with my grieving and healing every day since. Yet, this experience in my story is used as a deal breaker for some. Like it was a cause for deficiency.
I had to learn not to take this personally because some people see the experience of loss through a different lens. Perhaps it is their own fears that they don’t want to face, or their own trauma that they think may clash with mine, or something I’m unaware of. Regardless, in truth, I’m not for everyone, and I’ve come to accept that.
Yet, as many people have seen my experience as a deal breaker, many more see the value in it. For those who have lost a partner, with work, we can see the world in a beautiful light. We understand impermanence and therefore have a deep capacity to soak up the pleasures of each day, not taking for granted our blessing of life. We’ve been forced out of the matrix of everyday stress, fear, and expectations to see what truly matters and what really really doesn’t, which is most things.
My experience has made me a better person, a stronger spirit, a more connected soul, and a much more capable human. This is what grieving has given me, a superpower. If I could hold up Karina in the worst of the worst of times, survive her passing, and find a way back to happiness and peace in my life, I can handle anything. Does that mean that I never cry, feel sadness, or at times question why everything happened the way it did? Of course not. I am still human and have human emotions. But I now better understand the depth of emotion and have a skillset to process them in an expansive way.
Some people will appreciate this; some people won’t. And that is okay! Opening up and becoming vulnerable comes with all of the judgments, the good and the bad. A younger me would have been debilitated by this. My fear of rejection used to be fierce. But now, with this new insight, I recognize everyone’s judgments as merely a projection of their own life experiences. If someone doesn’t want to date me, I won’t lose a moment of sleep over it.
This release of fear has me feeling so strong in my masculine energy, knowing that I can handle shit when I need to, that I can stand by my woman in a time of need, that I don’t need validation from another to feel worthy, that I can survive and thrive through it all. I feel this shift in me has been noticed and has attracted to me some wonderful people as I’ve opened up to let them in.
Inevitably, the conversation of Karina’s passing and where I am at in my grieving process comes up with everyone I date. My love and loss of Karina is an important part of my story, a major point of transformation for me, and a catalyst for the person I’ve become. For a time, I felt this really mattered, and I needed to communicate this to show some sort of proof that I am not broken, emotionally unavailable, or unable to connect with another.
And then, one girl said something that really made me think.
In sharing my story with her, I asked how she felt about the situation. She responded by saying that it doesn’t really matter to her. Ultimately, she cared how I was in the moment, how I treated her, how I showed up for her, and what I was doing with my life currently and going forward. How I got to being here was irrelevant. I loved this response and think about it often.
I've realized that my trauma doesn't define me. I get to choose how I act each day, how I treat others, and what I do with my life. Where our attention goes, grows, so focusing on the past keeps us connected to the unpleasant energy of the past, which is not helpful when trying to live in the moment.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why I am the way that I am; it matters that I AM the way that I am.
Since this realization, I’ve calibrated my spiritual practice to focus more on being my best self each day, appreciating each moment, finding joy in little pleasures, and less on the traumatic experiences of my past. This is part of the letting go process.
I had given so much of my current power to my story with Karina, this realization was a major shift for me. I understand now that she didn’t make me this way, she revealed to me that I am this way. She didn’t transform me, it is me who decided to be transformed. I wasn’t along for a ride, it wasn’t a passive process, it was me showing up every day and deciding to do the spiritual and emotional work to survive, heal, and thrive.
I didn’t see this in myself until another sparked this insight. And that is the beauty of dating and relationships in general. We get to learn from others to see ourselves better.
Our story does not define us. What defines us is how we show up each day, what we think, how we speak, and how our actions contribute to the upliftment of humanity. If someone doesn’t want to date me because of their perception of my story, it is just the universe saving me some time on someone who isn’t a good match. It’s a nice filter, holding the door open for a better fit.
If you received any value from this article, please consider donating to help Stephen continue this blog and other writing projects. Thank you!