When you have had someone you love die, it can seem overwhelming to even think about the possibility of trusting and loving someone else. As human beings, it is natural for us to want to be loved. Sometimes that desire or need to be loved can result in a person entering into an unhealthy relationship. A healthy relationship is built on being honest and on being able to take risks with each other. In order to allow yourself to be vulnerable, you have to have trust. Trust is not something that happens by magic, but needs to be built over time.
If you are beginning to want to try another relationship, think about these guidelines suggested by Karen Johnson, M.D. and Tom Ferguson, M.D., in the book Trusting Ourselves, The Sourcebook on Psychology For Women.
1. If there are any personal characteristics you think a partner should have, look for someone who has them already. Love is not going to make it happen if it isn’t there to start with.
2. Love is not enough. Love is necessary but it does not get the socks put away or the dishes washed. All of us are creatures of habit and the day to day details of running a household can become major obstacles if the two of you are not compatible. Remember to think about what is important to you in your life. If you want to spend all of your time with your grandchildren and he wants to travel, your priorities and values may be very different.
3. Similarities and differences are both important. This may seem like a contradiction, but it really isn’t. If the two of you are too similar, you may get bored with each other. But if you have very different goals, conflicts can arise that may be insurmountable. Try to find a balance between the two.
4. A new relationship brings together the past, the present, and the future. Before you enter into a new relationship you must come to terms with the death of your partner. This does not mean you no longer grieve the death. It does mean enough time has gone by so your new partner is indeed a new beginning. William Bridges, in his book Transitions, Making Sense of Life’s Changes says, “it’s important to distinguish between a real new beginning in someone’s life and a simple defensive reaction to an ending.” There is no test you can take indicating when you are ready. Bridges suggests you talk with people who know you well. Ask them whether they perceive you as being ready to begin a new relationship or whether they see it as a way to protect yourself. They may suggest you need more time. Instead of shifting gears, you may need to stay in neutral.
As you come to terms with this, in whatever way is most comfortable for you, remember you are welcome to talk with your bereavement social worker.