A while ago, Mike and I wrote this post together about some of the things that are harder about being two widowed people in a new relationship. In that post, we talked about how we aren’t ever able to really pull the widow card on one another, because essentially – it’s canceled out. We’ve both been through an equally hard pain.
We have also both been through an equally beautiful love. A love that was – and still is – with someone else. While it’s not fun to admit, we had a fight last night. As with most fights, it started with something small that became something not so small. As emotions calmed though and we talked through many layers of feelings – there was one subject that came up that is something we both feel and something that is always complex. And that something is because we are both widowed.
It is the feeling that we are each other’s “Second choice”. And it might surprise some people to know that even when you are both widowed, you still have this feeling, and it can still be hard. So we wanted to each share our side of this struggle:
For me, this feeling that I am “Second choice” is especially strong when we have a fight, or when I approach a situation or topic with him in a less than graceful way. It is also especially strong when I feel like I’m not succeeding as a mother figure to their daughter – and in particular in times when he calls me out for something that he feels was too harsh. Granted, I sometimes call him out on the same, but when he does, I instantly think (assume) of how much better Megan would have handled the situation. He is usually there to confirm for me that I am handling things amazingly well, but it doesn’t stop my brain always! Anytime I feel like I am not at my best, those thoughts creep in.
It’s an odd human emotion. While I really do not ever feel like Mike is comparing me to Megan in some derogatory way, I still find myself comparing myself to her as a partner and mom. I still wonder if she would have handled certain things better than me. And in fact, I’m sometimes convinced she would have. When you’ve never even known the person, I think it’s easy to convince yourself that they were the better one. That they laughed together more. Or worked as a team better, etc. After all, the person you are marrying married them, so you know their first choice was to spend their life with them.
In theory, if that person was back alive today, what would happen to our realtionship? It is, in my mind, always a given that I’d be gone, because she is the mother of his child and his first choice. It really doesn’t do me any good to have theoretical thoughts about all that, so I try not to go there, but there are certainly times when those thoughts do creep in without my wishing for them to.
I think it’s normal to have those feelings, but that doesn’t make them any easier to feel or less complex to deal with!
Not to disparage the dead, but Megan would certainly not have handled things “better”. Differently, perhaps, but certainly not any better (or worse, necessarily). There is no way to convey that, though, especially in the heat of the moment, and have it be either A) believable, or B) constructive. Sarah doesn’t know Megan any better than I know Drew, and neither she, or I know who each other was as a person when Megan and Drew were alive.
It’s never fair to compare our “first choice” with our “second choice”. Understandable, maybe, but not fair. “Second” anything…”choice”, “chapter”, or “person”, is a bullsh** term anyway. Sarah is who I love, and want to spend the rest of my life with…I don’t theorize what it may have been if both she and Megan showed up at the same time, because it can’t happen, didn’t happen, and won’t happen.
As much as I live my own life and have my own thoughts and beliefs about this, it still creeps in that I will always feel like a little bit of a “second fiddle” to Drew. Just like Sarah does with Megan. The major fact driving this feeling is that if Drew had never died, Sarah and I wouldn’t have even met. There is no “opinion” on this…it is pure, 100% fact.
Then again, we wouldn’t be getting married if Megan hadn’t died either. That’s the rub of it all…we both have to come to terms with the fact that we are taking vows to one another BECAUSE of their deaths, rather than in spite of them. When Sarah and I have a disagreement about a decision regarding Shelby, it’s not me comparing her parenting to Megan, or feeling that she is a bad mother in any way…it’s ME disagreeing with her. I disagreed with Megan…all…the…time.
But when Sarah says something she misses about Texas, I can’t help but feel that way, conversely. I didn’t move my life, or really change my routine that much since Megan’s death. She moved 1400+ miles across the country to be here. I often question, internally, if Sarah feels it was worth it. If she would ever just get frustrated or homesick enough to call the whole thing off. If it’s just a bit too cold and cloudy and middle-America enough that it’s not worth being in Ohio. If she had such a good thing with Drew that our own relationship pales in comparison, and she would rather just remain his widow than be my wife.
It’s crazy talk, now that we’ve both calmed our nerves and settled back into our normal selves, but in those frustrating moments of an argument, it is just about the only thing I can do is become defensive and desperate enough to know her TRUE feelings. She HAS to be hiding something from me! You wouldn’t treat me this way if I was on-par with Drew! You two NEVER fought or had even so much as a disagreement!
We both compare ourselves to each other’s late partner, DESPITE being widows ourselves. We don’t compare each other to our own late partners, BECAUSE we’re widows ourselves.
Good relationships still have friction. It’s the fact that we can weather those storms, when they come, and talk about them and think level-headedly afterwards that makes it “worth it”. Perhaps that’s the benefit of being widowed…we can see ourselves in each other through experience, rather than conjecture.