Three months ago, in Personal Blog #6, I wrote that I hoped to add more happiness to my life and reduce some of my loneliness. I had already moved on enough after Clare’s death to be able to describe my life as “okay,” but I wanted to see if I could do better than okay and, for that to happen, I needed to move out of my “comfort zone.”
Since posting PB#6, I have taken four major steps to move out of my comfort zone to seek that “continued happiness” which Clare had wanted for me after she passed. One relatively easy change was “trading” one of my daytime bowling leagues for one in the evening. Starting in September when the winter bowling leagues re-start, I will continue to bowl in my noon and 4 p.m. leagues each week but, instead of continuing to bowl in a 9:30 a.m. league, I will now bowl in a 7 p.m. league. Forcing myself to get out of my house one evening every week to do something I enjoy, while also socializing with others instead of sitting home like a couch potato, should be helpful.
A second relatively easy step was to agree to get out of my house two more times each month to help others. For the past six months I have been facilitating a monthly Alzheimer’s Association support group for caregivers of spouses with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This month I will also begin facilitating a support group meeting twice a month for caregivers of spouses with moderate to advanced stages of AD.
The next two steps I took to move out of my comfort zone were not as easy. My third step was to register on an internet dating site and I posted the following “introductory message” on that site: “After 2 years of widowhood following a wonderful marriage, I'm no longer dealing with daily sadness or depression and am enjoying life again. I am hoping to be lucky enough to find a special woman who can add to my happiness and reduce some of my loneliness while I do the same for her.”
I also posted a longer personal profile and each week I received notifications from interested women. But after four or five weeks, I still had not established contact with any of them because of one phrase common to their profiles. Each woman was seeking a “serious relationship.” But did I also want a new serious relationship ... or did I want something else?
I re-read my site introduction and profile over and over. I thought back to my one experience with a “singles group” at my local community center several months after Clare died. At a certain point, the social worker leading the “singles over 60” group, about 40 women and 10 men, asked us to be seated and briefly introduce ourselves. As part of our introductions, we were asked to discuss the relationships we were looking for.
When it was my turn to speak, I described my fairy tale marriage, my ten years as an AD spouse caregiver, and how I was now pretty much set in my ways after living by myself for so many years. I said that I was looking for a woman to be with several times a month to enjoy companionship and a physical relationship, but nothing much more serious than that. I said that I did not want another serious relationship, and that I was probably looking more for a “friend with benefits.”
As soon as I had finished speaking, several men and women criticized my remarks. They said that I needed to be willing to compromise with what a woman may want in a new relationship. I responded by saying that, with all due respect, at my age I felt no need to compromise. If I couldn’t find a woman to enjoy the kind of relationship I wanted, then I simply would not enter into a new relationship.
Recalling that experience, I realized why I had not yet initiated contact with any women on that internet site. I edited my profile, writing in part: “Now that I have been on this site for about a month, I'm realizing that I am not looking for a long-term ‘serious relationship.’ I am looking for a ‘friend with benefits,’ a woman to be with just several times a month instead of a woman to be with more often or on a daily basis. Just being honest!”
I felt much better after posting that revised profile. It was now even more clear to me that what I had been missing most in my life in recent years was the physical relationship with a woman. A friend with benefits is exactly what I needed, and wanted, to add happiness to my life and reduce my loneliness.
One morning, while having breakfast with a very good female friend, she asked if I had found someone yet to be my friend with benefits. I said no. She then surprised me by saying that she would be interested in being my friend with benefits. This is a woman whom I have loved deeply as a very close friend for more than 25 years. My initial reaction was something like, “Are you serious? Are you telling me that you would really consider this?”
I asked her to take the next week to think more carefully about entering such a new relationship, and the next time we got together we discussed my expectations more fully. I told her that I would be ecstatic if she would become my friend with benefits, but I wanted to be sure that she wanted this new relationship as much as I did. She said she did, so we decided to give it a try.
The first time we got together to begin our new relationship, we agreed to take things very slowly. However, our physical relationship moved along very quickly, much more quickly than either of us had anticipated. But everything that happened felt so natural, as if it were meant to be. We were both very pleased with our first experience in this new physical relationship, and we have continued to try to be together this way once a week. And although enjoying our new “benefits,” we are convinced that even should we decide not to continue with those benefits, our deep friendship will always remain.
I never did respond to anyone I met on that online dating service during 3 months, and I have not renewed my subscription. But had I not taken that step to sign on, I may never have known that I was correct in thinking that to find continued happiness I only needed a friend with benefits. Clare will always be with me in my heart, but I can now finally say that I have moved on with the rest of my life.
By moving out of my comfort zone, my life is no longer just “okay.” For the first time in many, many years, I can now honestly say that I am happy and my life is good.