You’ve Got A Friend (Post #31)

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“You’ve Got a Friend”   (Post #31) Lessons Learned by a Dating Widower

The last time I checked my gender, I’m still a male.  I don’t know how it is in your country’s culture, but here in the USA, with that gender comes certain expectations.   Certain traditions.  Certain behaviors.  Certain assumptions.

We’re tough.  We don’t need anyone’s help.  We can do ‘it’ by ourselves.  We’re independent.  And, last of all, we don’t cry.

Well, when you become a widower, you can flush all of that down the American Standard toilet!

As of next week, I will have been a widower for 3 years.  And if there’s one lesson I learned in that time, my gender is NOT tough.  We DO need help.  We CAN’T do ‘it’ by ourselves.  We are DEPENDENT.  And lastly, we DO cry.   Chuck all those cultural male qualities!

LESSON LEARNED:  While I simultaneously straddle the path of dating AND the path of grief, I need a male friend to share the joys and pains.  And that’s exactly what widowers experience when we start dating.  While we are enjoying the companionship of women and the possibilities of new relationships while dating, we’re also dealing with recurring issues of grief.  Talk about mixed emotions!

For me, it’s like eating Mexican food.  I absolutely love it.  But there are certain unpleasant digestive reminders that remind me that my stomach isn’t familiar with those spices.   And when those ‘digestive reminders’ are ‘released’ from my body, people in close proximity are offended.   I know, I know – it’s a crude word picture.

Enter the ‘antacid’ – ‘George’.

Thanks, ‘George’, for being my friend.  ‘George’ is also experiencing a journey of grief, and is also experiencing the struggles of dating.  We have bonded.  He KNOWS how I feel.  He’s traveled the same paths.  He calls me.  I call him.  He figuratively cries on my shoulder, and I reciprocate.  I share where I’ve screwed up with women, he reciprocates.  He encourages me when I’m ‘blue’.  I remind him of God’s hope for his life when he’s ‘down-in-the-mouth’.    When he’s tempted to ‘throw in the towel’ on dating, I’m there to commiserate.  And vice versa.

And something really, REALLY cool; we end up holding each other accountable!  When I’m tempted . . . tempted to give in to Satan’s temptations (you know – like the porn I talked about in post #29; or when I wanna date a woman for the wrong reasons), he’s there to listen, and then gently remind me of his confidence – his confidence that I will make the right decisions.  And knowing that I have to answer to ‘George’, I tweak my behavior.  And vice versa.

Thank you, God, for several ‘Georges’ that you have placed in my life.

Widowers, YOU NEED A BROTHER(s) LIKE THIS.  And if you look around you, I’m sure you’ll find that God has placed someone in your life; someone that needs you as much as you need him.

There’s no question in my mind – you CAN’T travel the path of dating OR grief without of the help of our Heavenly Father.  And I lean DAILY on His help.  But in our life He has strategically placed buttresses in human form.  Oh, that we could just step away from our convoluted cultural male expectations and lean on those buttresses.

Hey, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend?  People can be so cold.
They’ll hurt you and desert you. Well, they’ll take your soul if you let them,
oh yeah, but don’t you let them.

You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.

Partial Lyrics from ‘You Got a Friend’  Carole King 1971

Pernicious Porn (Post #29)

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“Pernicious Porn”   (Post #29) Lessons Learned by a Dating Widower

It’s time for me to ‘come out of the closet’.  I need to painfully share a struggle that I have as a widower.  I’m embarrassed to share it – but I believe that it’s important that I am truthful with you, my fellow widowers, because if you are truthful with me, you probably are dealing with it too.  Either way, this particular post is going to be difficult for me to write.  I can only do it because I’m here in the privacy of my own house, and you, well you are widowers in countries like Russia, Australia, or widowers from any other of the 45+ countries around the world that are reading this blog.

My struggle is with pornography.

I really don’t know why porn remains a temptation – but it does.

When my wife ‘Ruby’ was alive, I don’t remember having many issues with it.  I know and you know that this temptation is ALWAYS there for ANY living/breathing male.  No matter their age.  No matter if they are married or unmarried.  No matter if they’re in a happy marriage or in a horrible marriage.  No matter if they are married or a widower.  No matter what!  I just know now that I’m a widower, my vulnerability has me drawn to this temptation more than ever before.

The world is polluted with pornography.

I recently typed a harmless word into my computer browser – and I was appalled with some of the images and sites that were linked with the search.  OK, the images were nothing more than ‘soft porn’ . . . which was harmless to look at, RIGHT?  After all, that image of that great looking girl with the amazing cleavage is just a harmless image.  And it’s not a sin for me to look at it, RIGHT?

Being a living breathing male, I have a natural attraction to great looking women.  Seeing a woman’s continental-divide-cleavage, or her sleek sexy legs is naturally eye catching for me.  Especially now that I’m a widower.  When seeing the real thing in public . . . I turn my head and look away after noticing her (OK, well, at least I try to).  But when in the privacy of my house, when that soft porn appears on my computer, or on TV, or in a magazine, the temptation is there for me to ‘gawk’ at the image; or like a dinner – it tempts me to “go back for seconds”.  And if I do that, then it turns into ‘lust’.  And I know what the Bible says about lust.  It just ain’t right.

The best model for porn control was probably my own father.   Dad and I enjoyed watching baseball together on our small black/white TV console.  And one of the faithful sponsors of the game would invariably be Muriel cigars.  Edie Adams, dressed in sexy attire and impersonating Mae West would be the spokesperson in the commercial.  When that commercial played in between innings back in the mid1960’s, with ‘remote controls’ not yet invented, in a fit of disgust, dad would drag himself off of the sofa, hustle across the floor to the TV, and turn the picture black (yeah, you could do that with a round knob on the front of the TV), and then turn the sound off.  We’d both watch the clock, and after 60 seconds, he’d turn everything back to their normal settings.

A good friend, ‘Billy’, who is a happily married man approached me just a couple of weeks ago, and confided with me about his recent difficulty with pornography.  And he shared how he is working to fight the problem.  Step 1) after he admitted to himself that he was having a problem, he prayed for help.  Step 2) he then took it to his accountability group of Christian friends and got their support.  Step 3) he took positive action to remove its availability (removing certain apps from his mobile device).  Step 4) [claiming this was the hardest step] he reluctantly but remorsefully shared it with his wife.  That led to step 5) counseling with his pastor, and step 6) joining a new accountability group of men all battling the same porn problem.

None of those steps were EASY.  They were ALL DIFFICULT.  But difficult problems call for difficult actions.  And the Biblical book of James instructs us to actually “confess your sins to each other…so that you may be healed.”   ‘Billy’ schooled me by explaining the net result of following that verse; the ‘sin of darkness’ loses its power as it is bought out into the light.

I’m not an expert on the topic.  I don’t know the difference between ‘soft porn’ and ‘hard porn’ – but I have an idea that ‘soft porn’ is images of women wearing little or revealing clothing.  And ‘hard porn’ is images of women wearing no clothing, or involved in some sort of sex act.  And from personal experience, I can ashamedly admit, ‘soft porn’ CAN and WILL lead to ‘hard porn’.  And I can imagine that use of either ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ porn CAN and WILL lead to an addiction.

It will be a topic for another post, but due to emotional trauma, I would imagine that widowers (and divorcees) are particularly susceptible to addictions in multiple forms (alcohol/drugs, sex, eating, etc.).  Porn has ‘brought down’ many a man, no matter their occupation, socio-economic status, marriage status, position in life, or their reputation.

Battling porn takes an incredible amount of self discipline, and help from the Holy Spirit.  And sometimes . . . it takes forgiveness.

NOTE: THE GRAPHIC AT THE TOP OF THIS POST IS A LINK THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO THE WEBSITE OF ‘TREASURES’, “…A UNIQUE AND FAITH-BASED OUTREACH AND SUPPORT GROUP FOR WOMEN IN THE SEX INDUSTRY, INCLUDING VICTIMS OF COMMERCIALIZED SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND TRAFFICKING.”