Posted by fxckfeelings on April 17, 2014Share This Post
Timing isn’t just a crucial factor in comedy and decent microwaved popcorn, but also in finding relationships, especially when you’re reentering the dating scene after a long absence. Some people decide they shouldn’t try again because they got hurt, and some that they should just to relieve loneliness. In truth, however, some hurt people have good reasons to keep dating and some lonely people are likely to get into trouble if they try it. So don’t let feelings guide your dating decisions. The most important thing to consider when timing your return is whether dating is worth doing and whether you have the skills to manage the risks. Then, whether it works out or not, you’ll know you made the right decision, and you’ll know when the time is right.
I’m in my early 50s, and newly widowed after my husband’s extended illness. I’ve been lonely for a long time, he had Alzheimer’s and was like a child for many years. Recently, I joined a dating site and met a number of men. In the last three months, I’ve had eight sexual partners. I decided to get testing done for STDs and found out that I have hepatitis B. I ‘m not really sure whom I contracted it from, and not sure if that matters. I have advised all of my partners of my diagnosis. My question is, how do I go on from here? I’m scared of what this diagnosis means, and embarrassed to be in this situation. I can’t tell my family or friends because they would be appalled that I was having casual sex, and a couple of my partners have been nasty and threatening. I had hoped to eventually pursue a healthy long-term relationship, but now I feel dirty and like damaged goods.
To endure a husband’s suffering and early death from Alzheimer’s is a major achievement, at least to anyone who knows how hard it is to watch someone slip away bit by bit and not be able to mourn him or move on because he’s not yet gone. It’s a harrowing experience that would leave anyone struggling to find her footing.
Whatever other feelings your brain may throw your way, or however you explore your post-married life, you deserve to feel pride.
In addition, there’s no reason to believe the hepatitis B infection you’ve acquired is recent or from having sex. You’re not describing an acute infection, so you may have acquired it years ago from non-sexual sources (like a shared tooth-brush in college), so, whatever your concerns, you shouldn’t blame it on your sexual activities or be ashamed of them for that or any other reason.
As you probably know by now, persistent hepatitis B can cause long-term liver damage, so you’ve been evaluating the activity of the virus (measured by a blood test of your liver enzymes) and whether it has good or bad prognostic markers on the molecule. Don’t let shame or the overwhelming nature of medical jargon interfere with your ability to ask the basic questions that will make you an expert on this problem in no time. Then you’ll be ready to decide whether and what treatment will help.
Meanwhile, your illness will quickly tell you who your true friends are. If they’re worried about being exposed to hepatitis, they should get a blood test, but the virus often disappears after an acute infection, so the chance of their acquiring a chronic infection from you is not high. If they blame you, then your hepatitis has the positive side-effect of doing long-term damage to your worst relationships.
If you’ve survived caring for Alzheimer’s, you’ve been through worse and met the test. You’ll get through this and figure out what you need to do about hepatitis. Then you’ll get back to the task of finding friends and sex partners you can count on, while never apologizing for or feeling ashamed of the problems that life dumps on your head.
“I feel like a leper with venereal disease, but I’ve never behaved badly and I’ve stood by my friends and family in their time of medical need. I will continue to look for friends who have the same standards and track record I do.”
I wish I could get my dad to date again, but he has seemed paralyzed since his divorce was finalized. He’s a good guy and a good father, but he’s always there for everyone else, particularly his kids, and he’s not used to going out and looking after his own needs. My mother is a difficult, needy woman who pushed him around a lot, but he never thought she’d leave. I think he’s trying to cover up his anger by throwing himself into working hard and being an extra-helpful dad, but that just keeps him from defining his own priorities and finding someone new. My brother and I are both settling down and starting lives of our own, and I worry about what is going to happen to him when we don’t have as much room for him in our lives as we do now. My goal is to help him get a life.
When you’re good at giving to others and you’ve raised a nice family, as your father has, it’s hard to change your ways and focus on your own needs. For one thing, if he starts dating, he’s particularly vulnerable to hooking up with needy people who have more to take than to give. As in the case above, it can be risky for him to talk, or have any other kind of intercourse, with strangers. As much as you’d like to see your father find a nice partner, many relationships are worse than being alone, and he may not be ready for safe dating.
Instead of pushing him to seek relationships that may not be good for him, ask him whether he wants to beef up his selection skills. Tell him you’re worried about his getting lonely if you and your brother are less available, but you also don’t want to see him drawn into another take-and-take relationship just because he’s lonely and likes to help needy people. Ask him whether he’s given some thought to this issue.
If he says he doesn’t like to talk about his love life and feelings with his son, tell him that’s not what you want, either; you’re not interested in intruding into his feelings or telling him what he should have done. You simply see a transition coming that could offer him opportunities, depending on what he wants to do with the next stage of his life, and you’re offering support if he wants it, because you can’t promise that you’ll live in the same city or marry someone who likes to hang out with fathers-in-law. You can, however, help him do safe, effective dating.
You obviously respect his success as a nurturing father. Without blaming your mother, or wishing to change the past and erase your own birth and photograph, you would like to see your father find someone who has more to offer him than your mother did. You want him to take advantage of what he learned from his marriage, rather than repeating it.
Give him the benefit of your concerns without telling him what to choose; you’re offering him a way to think about the risks and benefits of the decisions he has ahead. You’re urging him not to do what he’s done before, which is to give, react to others, and let things happen. Having done that, you’ve been a good son and friend.
Hopefully, sooner or later, he’ll find your advice useful, instead of just finding ways to make himself useful to everyone but himself.
“I’d like my father to be happy—happier than he was with my mother—and I can’t promise to make him happy in my future home. I will not, however, make myself responsible for his happiness but instead encourage him to take responsibility for his own tough choices and the changes he needs to make if he wants his life to be different.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname