By Esther Mann

Dear Esther,

Four and a half years ago, my husband, the love of my life, passed away. He was young, and it was tragic. We were married for over 40 years and had a great marriage. Our children are grown and out of the house, and I’m on my own. Despite the fact that I miss my husband every day, I’m not lonely. I’ve built a very full and wonderful life. I work, I have family and friends with whom I spend my time, and I have learned how to enjoy my alone time. I kind of like spending time with just myself. It feels good!

The problem I’m having is that well-meaning people constantly try to set me up, encourage me to go to singles events, and seem unhappy that I’m alone. They don’t believe me when I tell them that this is my choice, that I have no need or intention to meet another man, and that I want to keep things exactly as they are right now.

Even some of my children get on my case at times (despite the fact that I try not to impose on them or be even the slightest burden on any of them). Most of my family and friends can’t seem to wrap their minds around what I’m trying to tell them. They seem to think that I must be lying to them and secretly crying myself to sleep every night. I sometimes feel that some of them even pity me, which is something I can’t stand. I was so blessed to have such an amazing marriage for so many years; now I have wonderful memories but also a wonderful life. Frankly, I enjoy doing what I want, when I want, exactly how I want. For most of my life I was busy taking care of other people and accommodating others, which was fine for that time of my life. But the fact that now I can focus on myself and do as I please is really fantastic, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Why is everyone trying to change my mind, making me feel guilty for being so content, not accepting my words, and trying to talk me into doing something I have absolutely no desire to do? How do I get everyone off my back, once and for all, to leave me in peace? Sometimes, even strangers I meet for five minutes try to figure out which man they can set me up with. It’s so annoying and, frankly, I don’t want to start explaining to them why I’ve make the choices I’ve made and why I want to stick with them.

Any suggestions regarding how I can handle this situation that seems to intrude on my life so often?

Content

Dear Content,

Despite the tragedy of losing your husband at such a young age (no age is good!), you sound like a healthy and independent individual who has figured out what you want your life to look like at this stage, and you are enjoying your life with conviction and authenticity.

Though you are not asking for it and don’t need it, I give you permission to do exactly what you want, and I absolve you of any guilt or responsibility to explain yourself to anyone. Many people won’t understand or believe what you have to say anyway, so why bother?

In order to understand the dynamic that you find yourself in, let me explain a few things to you, though I suspect you know all this on your own. Firstly, many people find being alone difficult; they need a living body next to them at all or most times. Even if that living body isn’t particularly exciting to be around, it’s still better than facing the experience of loneliness. I think the reasons vary from person to person, but in your case, not only are you OK with yourself, but you truly seem to enjoy it, which is a tremendous gift that you are lucky to possess. Not everyone “gets” it, and that’s OK.

Secondly, many people naturally project onto others what they are feeling. Rather than step back and understand that we are all different and we all process the world in our own unique way, many assume that what their heart tells them is a universal feeling, and they expect others to be living a life very similar to their own. So those people, who are probably coming from a good place and want the best for you, are projecting onto you what they would want if they were walking in your shoes. It’s a narrow-minded way to approach life, with friends in particular. We all need to be heard and accepted for who we are, separate and distinct from everyone else.

That brings me to my final point. Perhaps part of your frustration comes from the fact that we each truly want to be heard and known in a legitimate way. When people are not seeing the true you for who you are but rather the “you” they want you to be, it doesn’t feel good. It leads people to feel misunderstood and, frankly, “unknown.”

We can’t change the world. We can’t even change the few people in our immediate orbits who seem to not get it. But as long as you feel you are living a life of meaning and purpose, which it sounds like you are, don’t let anyone else’s needs or words throw you off course. It sounds like you’re doing great and have figured out a way to respond to your life in a wonderful way. Frankly, in this regard, that’s all that matters.

Esther

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