Monthly Archives: August 2015

When Being Widowed is a Relief

In the seminars I used to give about financial intimacy in marriage, some women confessed to social taboos they had never even shared with their friends. For example, one woman said” the nicest thing my husband did for me was die and save me the trouble of divorcing him.” Or the caregiver wife who admitted ‘he’s taking too long to die”. I remember also the financially abused wives who paid for the seminar in cash because they were afraid to write a check or put the seminar cost on their credit cards.

The stories we tell ourselves about why we do the things we do keep us from having to face some uncomfortable truths about ourselves. I did it too.

Like so many women I’ve met, my marriage had a public face and a private face. It endured because of protective fictions on my part that ate away at me slowly but steadily. Those fictions enabled the relationship to function.

It wasn’t until after I was widowed that I could admit to myself how relieved I was to be free of the financial risks and pressures I felt during our marriage. These years of being on my own have allowed me to live without the distorting filter of my husband’s preferences and dreams.

I was lucky; I had prepared financially to be a widow. If I had not taken the steps I write about in my book, I would never have recovered financially or emotionally from the burden of his death. I would never have forgiven him for risking my future safety to achieve his dreams. Protective fictions would have kept me from admitting that widowhood has given me a chance to live my own life.


The Courage to Call Off the Wedding

Typically, I like my quiet time on a plane. But I couldn’t resist talking with the passenger next to me.  She volunteered that was getting away after calling off her wedding.

Her name was Ellen and she was in her late thirties. This would have been her second marriage. “It’s almost as complicated to call it off as it is to put it together,” she said. “Strange how everyone seems to take my decision personally. My parents,  my daughter, friends and co-workers, all trying to reassure me that it’s natural to feel nervous before your wedding. They’re saying that my fiancée is a good man, that I’m not getting any younger, that I always wanted to have another child. Why is everyone so involved in my decision?”

Ellen sounded like a woman who has the self-esteem and intelligence to listen to her heart and her intuition. I asked her what influenced her decision. She said there were red flags.

One was that her fiancée didn’t take her side when his mother criticized her. Ellen knew it would be a problem because ,when she pointed it out to him, he became defensive and told her she was being too sensitive.  He loved them both. Why should he have to choose between his mother and his wife?

Then there were his put downs and teasing, both public and private. Yes, he usually followed up with an ardent apology, but if he was behaving this way before marriage, what could she expect later?

“It’s the small things that bother me,” she said. “I kept thinking I was being petty, but how many times will I have to justify to myself that it doesn’t bother me when he holds his fork like he’s pitching hay, or talks with food in his mouth, or slurps his soup, or is rude to the waiter or dismissive to the receptionist, or, or , or………

“Ultimately, I didn’t feel like he was right for me,” she said. “It’s uncomfortable for my family and friends right now, so I thought I’d get away and let those who seem so heavily involved in my decision simmer down.”

I think Ellen was smart to call it off.  She knew she couldn’t change his behavior after marriage. She wasn’t apologetic for her decision. She did what she had to do to prevent a stressful marriage from disintegrating into a stressful divorce.