Published on December 20th, 2013 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles
When We Becomes Me
by Jim Duke
There is an odd realization when you reach out in a half-sleep stupor one morning and recognize that there is a dent in the bed. The dent itself is no surprise – it has been there a long time. It’s the occupant that you reach for and find missing. Whoever it was that created that dent is no longer in the bed, nor in your life. Where once there was we, there is now only me.
How you found yourself transitioning from partnered to single can take any number of paths. Gay love can fade away or shatter, separating the pair by mutual consent or by wrenching decisions. Divorce and separation can leave one or both parties ragged and bitter. By far the most difficult can be the sudden and unexpected death of a spouse or domestic partner, leaving the one who remains floundering and lost, searching for the warm companion in the night who is no longer there.
Any loss – whether chosen or foisted upon us – has emotional effects. Finding ourselves single leaves a wound that needs time to heal, even when the decision to become single was our own. Even leaving a bad relationship can have its toll, since the period of elation that comes from the new found freedom can be followed by second guessing the decision. The healing factor is time, allowing the emotions – positive and negative – to flow, recognizing that what you feel as you adjust to the new status will change over time.
If you are a relationship-oriented person and suffer a loss, the direction in which you look towards your life has a significant impact on what happens next in your life. A gay man who has lost his partner through sudden death may face backwards, mourning the past and glorifying the nature of the relationship and what once was. He may base his life around the past, elevating his prior relationship and avoiding new relationships because they feel like cheating or disloyalty to his previous mate. Some men who become single after being in a long term partnership find themselves stymied and afraid of new relationships out of fear that they will repeat previous mistakes or be subjected to past hurts. When new opportunities for relationships come along, they find excuses and reasons to avoid them, even though they desire them. And some men, finding themselves single, face forward and look to what is new, different and available. They honor their past relationships, are grateful for the lessons learned from them and for the positive memories they carry with them, yet open their minds and hearts to new connections and possibilities.
Whether you are single by choice or single by circumstance, there are three steps you can take that will help you move to the next phase of your life.
1) Accept the loss in your head.
What does being single really mean for you? Do you consider it a loss of status, having once been coupled and now being seen as the third, fifth or seventh wheel among friends? What freedom has it brought you? What does it allow you to do now (e.g., pick which side of the bed is yours) that you couldn’t do before? Are there aspects of life you depended on your partner to do that now you must master? How does it change your day-to-day life? What is the economic impact of being single? What will you need to do to move forward?
2) Accept the loss in your heart.
The emotional impact of becoming single can vary greatly, and often the emotions are mixed. A man who has seen his partner go through a terrible illness may feel relieved… and terrified. A man who ends a difficult relationship may feel elated… and bitter. Feelings of depression, the intense mourning of the loss, anger, sorrow, confusion, despair – finding yourself alone can result in any and all emotions, sometimes changing within the day, the hour, the minute. You are no longer in a relationship. How do you feel? What holds you back? What will propel you forward?
3) Accept who you have become.
Being connected to another human being changes you. Long term couples will say they become an amorphous combination of each other (such as the Brangelinas and TomKats of the world) with outsiders perceiving them as an enmeshed duo. When the duo becomes a solo, who have you become? You may have compromised your values and goals for the relationship – where does that leave you now? You cannot go back and be who you once were, you can only move forward, taking what you have learned and what you now want to create a new life for yourself.
If you find yourself in the transition from we-to-me and needing some guidance and support, a life coach can help you establish your goals and encourage you towards them.
Jim Duke is the Founder and President of “Guide For Gay Men,” a service which provides personal life coaching and consultation primarily to older gay and bisexual men. Navigating the issues involved in coming out, dealing with relationships, love and sex and the transitions of careers, life decisions and aging can be daunting… unless you have someone experienced to help guide you. Contact Jim and read what he has to say on these and other topics at G4GM.com.