The transition position
I met a woman in an online bereavement forum who lost her husband of 30 years. She insisted she would never be interested in another man, so we became friends. When we finally met in person, we held hands all day and slept in the same hotel bed at night. We kissed and cuddled but did not have sex, because she said it was cheating on her husband. I unintentionally made her cry by describing him as dead. She prefers “transitioned.” Her spirituality is one of the things I love. She wants me to consider moving near her Long Island home. I feel that when a man loves a woman, he needs to make love to her. This completes the relationship and is very beautiful. She won’t be intimate, yet declares her love for me daily. I love her too much to pressure her. I am too young to spend the rest of my life in a sexless relationship. How will I know when it is time to move on?
Friendship is defined as a relationship of nonsexual affection, actions that express care for the other and mutual disclosure of thoughts, feelings and experiences. That’s what you and this woman share: friendship. She has been clear from the start that her interest in you (and every other man) is platonic. Why do you resist hearing her honest words? Why believe that her explicit boundary is malleable? A night or more of cuddling and kissing is not evidence that she might alter her values. Hugging and kissing could represent the physical comfort she has missed since the death of her husband.
You can gamble on the possibility that her belief system will invert itself. Or you can believe that she is capable of telling you the truth when she says, “I will not let myself love another man.” Oh, yes, I know she tells you that she loves you. And she does love you, but as a pal, not as a partner.
If you choose to withdraw from this relationship, it will be like kicking nicotine. You will decide to take a break from each other. You will promise yourself that you will not call her. You will imagine that this gives her time to miss you and to appreciate all that you could offer her. Three days later, you will convince yourself of the need to make just one call to check on her. This will resuscitate the old cycle: talking to each other daily and professing your love; meeting occasionally for a few days of fun; hoping she will change her mind, knowing that means she has compromised her values. The cycle of quitting cold turkey, talking yourself into reconnecting with her and then feeling hopeful, just postpones the inevitable pain of loss.
Expect an echo from your past. Profound loss in the present reverberates through every other unresolved loss in a person’s life. If old wounds hurt again, it’s not a sign your friend was “the one.” It is a sign that you are carrying unresolved grief, and it’s an invitation to heal from that pain. Begin by appreciating solitude, practicing meditation and seeing a counselor.
Let me be clear: I am not advocating this woman’s belief system, nor am I criticizing it. I am pointing out that she is convinced that there is only one man for her for in this lifetime and for eternity. That belief is central to her spirituality. Where does all of this leave you? With a fresh, reality-based perspective on love! So, yes, forget who you hope she will become—the woman she is now, that is who she truly is. Knowing this, how will you choose to tend your heart?