Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When the GOW/WOW Compares Herself to the Sainted LW

I believe it's absolutely normal for a GOW/WOW to fine some kind of satisfaction, even comfort, in discovering LW's faults and flaws.

When it's W himself who offers these tidbits of truth, he is, in effect, completing a grief stage: acceptance. Where once he held LW on a pedestal of perfection, time has healed his heart to the point where he can now put LW's memory in perspective. In most cases, admitting openly that LW had flaws doesn't mean he regrets his marriage, or that LW went from angel to total b*tch overnight. It simply means that he has come to a point along his grief journey where he has processed her loss rationally instead of irrationally.

Should Ws be aware that GOWs/WOWs are bothered by hearing that W/LW marriages were happy? Not unless the GOW/WOW tells him so! And until that time, I believe Ws will tell the unvarnished truth because they consider their happy marriages to be a sign of good character. Thus, does sharing information about the happy state of his marriage to LW make him an insensitve clod? I don't believe so. Instead, it makes him an honest person with a great resume of marriage experience.

Ws who only have nice things to say about their LWs aren't always stuck in grief. They may just be the kind, gentlemen-ly type who never say a bad word about ANYone, and they prefer not to speak ill of the dead. Hubs has never said a bad thing about LW to me, except that she wasn't perfect. Fine by me, because I KNOW she wasn't perfect, and that's not based on anything negative anyone has told me. It's just that I know human beings are imperfect and there is no such thing as a Super Woman.

The danger in a GOW taking LW's admitted flaws/faults and judging LW as "bad" - just to make herself feel better - is that doing so can come back to bite her. When W has heard enough LW-knocking (even if he agress with what is being said about her faults - and even if HE was the one who confessed them), he will resent having shared such intimate secrets about her flaws in the first place - or start to feel guilty about doing so - when he knows deep inside she wasn't ALL bad, and that their marriages indeed had moments to cherish. Divorcees are often dealt this kind of judgement when others ask them, "How could you have stayed with such a monster for so long?" First of all, it makes the divorcee feel stupid, and everyone can relate to resenting a person who judges us as foolish. Secondly, every divorcee will tell you that there WERE some marital highlights, happy times, and positive affirmations within the marriage's duration (and enough good things within their exes) they will always treasure...and grieve the loss of.Thus, while it's true that some Ws had unhealthy marriages to their LWs, be forewarned that even those marriages (and the less-than-stellar LWs) will still be grieved as a loss. This kind of grief is jammed-packed full of guilt and resentment, leaving these kinds of Ws very trepidacious about committment, much less remarrying. More often than not, it is these kinds of Ws who take longer to come full circle in their recovery....and can be "the toughest nut to crack" for a GOW.

I think it's easier to make those LW comparisons when the Ws in question are being dunderheaded about letting go and moving on. It leaves a GOW wondering, "What's wrong with ME? Why am I not good enough? What makes HER rate a higher seat on his priority list than ME?" and blame her for him dragging his feet, when the important question should be, "What's wrong with HIM?!" It's easy to have ill feelings for someone who you feel is stealing your thunder. But it's not her fault that he loved her.

Ws need to be able to come to a point at the end of their bereavement recovery when they can finally let go. It is the last, and hardest, step to healing. At this final stage, the W learns to manage his grief, put the past where it belongs, and embrace the present and future. This is not to say that he stops loving LW. He won't. Most never will. There will always be a place in his heart for her. But in putting the past where it belongs, a W releases its hold on him for good.

Normal as it is to do "the superiority dance" (a la "Church Lady" from old Saturday Night Live when LW's faults/flaws are laid bare, as I have stated many times, normal does not always equal productive. LW's faults/flaws are only part and parcel of the human being W loved (or once loved). She wasn't perfect, but she wasn't a total write-off, either. There was SOMEthing good about her or SOME payoff of their marriage that kept W hanging in there. It is always disasterous when human beings take an "either/or" stance on their acceptance of other human beings. No one is absolutely, 100% bad or good. We ALL have good, and we ALL have flaws.

Needing a yardstick (the LW) against which you measure your own self worth in W's heart is a true sign of a dangerously low self-esteem. Working on THAT is how you can overcome feeling like "second best".

Trying to find ways to feel superior to the LW, while initially normal for GOWs/WOWs, is unproductive to say the least. No matter how you add it up, these small victories never end up being the real reasons why W loves you for who YOU are. We need to embrace the fact that who and what we are, however similar or different from the LWs, is what truly matters.

The sad reality is, many women with insecurity issues will battle them even harder when they start dating a W.

You have to start believing that what you offer to W is what he wants and needs, to hell with what anyone else thinks, and remember that itis BECAUSE he lost a LW that he is the man for you. He has evolved, grown, and matured. The experience of losing a spouse changes a person, and he is much so that he has become the perfect fit for YOU!

Obsessing over LW, either positively or negatively, takes up waaay too much time and energy that would be better spent embracing the present and choosing to be happy despite the past. She was his perfect match back then. *I* am his perfect match now, because he is no longer the man from the past - he has changed, evolved, grown, matured, and learned that life is fragile so you gotta embrace it with GUSTO and CHOOSE to be happy in the "here and now."

The simple truth is this: He loved her. Loved = past tense. He can love the MEMORY of her, but she's not here anymore for him to love with a passion reserved for the living. He loves you. Loves = present tense. YOU are the real, living, breathing embodiment of his present feelings. He will contine to love you. Will love = future tense. One cannot build a future on memories.

So, too, must a GOW come to a final stage of acceptance. in order for the relationship to thrive, she must embrace her own autonomous significance in the W's life, and stop allowing the past to interfere with the present.....and that means: stop allowing LW, her memory, and her perceived yet illusional perfection interfere with your choice to be happy!!

Whether W and LW were blissfully happy or miserably connected, it matters little in the here and now. It is the present and future we as GOWs/WOWs need to be focussed on and concerned with, not the past. Start today to uplift your self esteem. Embrace who you are and what you mean to your W. It's real, it's permanent, and it's packed with hope for everywaking moment. Don't waste any more precious time you COULD be spending in a peaceful, fulfilling relationship by allowing the past to suffocate your self worth. If you weren't worthy, he wouldn't have chosen you. But you ARE worthy! He could have spent the remainder of his years alone with his memories, but God bless him, he had the strength, the fortitude, and the will to push himself beyond his grief to appreciate the gift of love you bring. He's awesome..YOU'RE awesome...LIFE is awesome! Enjoy it! Embrace it! Happiness is a BE happy!!

First of all, stop feeling guilty about feeling happy that LW was not perfect. It's human, and very common and normal for GOWs and WOWs to feel relieved when they hear bad things about LW. It makes HER appear more human - not the perfect angel we have been lead to believe by W, her family, their friends, or all three.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: what you are feeling in regard to LW comparisons is NORMAL for a GOW! Thus, I validate your normalness. However, when all is said and done, it matters NOT what other people think - it matters what W thinks, and if he perceives LW as perfect, then the bad stuff other people say isn't going to make much difference.

We cannot be satisfied to remain validated when we know deep inside that it is unproductive and gets us nowhere. DEALING with negative, non-productive, kneejerk reactions - however normal they may be - is what matures us and helps us grow as individuals, which can only help our relationships thrive. Acknowledging WHERE the insecurity that leads to the comparisons comes from is an important first step....but it's not the last.

I have battled the demons of low self-esteem my whole life. But I had a choice: I could either be satisfied with the validation of my stinky past and thus, be condemned to wallow in it unproductively.....OR....I could rise above it, learn to like myself and project that likeability onto others, and deal with my trust issues so that I wouldn't miss out on the joys of life. And missing out on those joys is exactly what I fear may happen to you if you don't start today to move beyond validation and start taking the leaps of faith - in yourself and others - so you can lead a full and happy life, free from comparisons.

1 comment:

  1. It's been almost 9 years since my W lost his wife. We have been dating for 2 1/2 years. Is it normal that he goes to the cemetery at least 3 times per year with his sister and his in-laws? And that he posts pictures on his Facebook on her birthday and the anniversary?