It’s been five years since my late husband passed away. I made the mistake of scrolling through Facebook this week. People miss him. They miss the conversations they had–the long talks, his ability to make them laugh, the companionship.
I didn’t have those things with him. Even early in our marriage, we didn’t have many conversations that were filled with laughter or deep discussions. In the last half, I can’t think of a single time we just talked and laughed and had companionship without his controlling the situation.
But he had those things with other people, because they post about them.
One post included pictures from his memorial. Many of our family and friends were there. I looked at that post and those pictures and felt incredibly distant from that event as if it had happened to someone else. It was certainly a different version of me. It was surreal.
I followed a Twitter thread recently about how some widows feel after a few years. I found that I had the same range of emotions with grief and anger and loneliness but not for the same reasons as most of the widows who responded. They missed their partner and best friend. I never had that with him. He was a dictator and abuser. My emotions and trauma were from surviving him, from coming to terms with the abuse he inflicted on my kids and me, from the understanding that he and I never had the perfect marriage he wanted everyone to see from the outside.
What guilt and shame did he harbor about our marriage that caused him to behave that way?
For many, many years, he made me feel as if I was the sole person responsible for our happiness. He didn’t give me any credit for how hard I worked to make him happy (and to avoid his unhinged wrath) until he was on his deathbed from liver cancer.
But I’ve learned after reading a few books and having a ton of therapy that he must have been so unhappy about choices he made in his life and his own perception of what success looked like. That doesn’t hurt less, knowing he put more energy into his relationships with friends than he did with his wife and children.
For a few years now, I’ve been in a loving relationship that shows me unequivocally that it’s possible to be a companion, a lover, and a partner with humor and passion. There is such a thing as respect reciprocated by both people. I’m grateful I’ve found the strength to trust this man who must be the bravest person in the world to ask out a widowed friend with so much baggage to unpack. This fulfilling relationship has shown me what real communication and partnership should look like in a marriage, a partnership, or any other kind of relationship.
I get that other people miss my late husband. They are allowed their own grief for the person he was to them. So, I’ll hide those posts about him when I see them and avoid social media during significant times and let his friends keep their golden memories.
My grief has never been about losing him. It’s been about the decades lost to a horrible marriage, for the friendships he wedged away from me, for the confidence he stole from me, and for my children who deserved to be loved unconditionally by their father who instead put conditions on everything.
My marital status is “widowed.” Widow shmidow. I do not miss him.