On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter March 3, 2023, by Tom Blake columnist
I’m Not Lisa
“I just read your February 10, 2023, eNewsletter about ‘Joan’ and her concerns about being compared to a previous spouse. I’d like to comment on that article and a bit about grief.
“My husband Matt is a widower, and I am (twice) divorced. We live in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. There is grief experienced in both situations. Matt was married to his first wife for 25 years. I was married the first time for 25 years and the second time for 18 years. There is no way, having been married for 25 or 43 years, that it’s possible to avoid talking about previous marriages.
“I read your eNewsletter to Matt this morning, and he commented that it is possible to still love a previous spouse but also love and appreciate a new partner. When I learned about Matt’s experience with his wife, I was glad that he had loved her and continued to feel love for her.
“If a person has been in a loving relationship that he or she highly values, I feel they can engage in a loving relationship again. I think ‘Joan’ should consider it a positive thing that a potential partner would describe his previous relationship as loving and even as ‘the love of his life.’
“That was the ‘love of his life’ then, but it doesn’t mean that he can’t find ‘the love of his life’ now. The key, as you, Tom, wrote, is to make each other a top priority and focus on the new relationship.
“I’ll share with you a couple of issues that arose with Matt and me regarding our previous spouses. I moved into the house that Matt and his first wife lived in. It was a house that Matt had not been enthused about but she ‘loved it,’ and he bought it for her. I admit when I moved in, I felt to some extent like I was living in ‘her’ house.
“Graciously, Matt agreed to my ideas of redecorating which I felt we needed to do primarily because he had been trying to sell the house, but it hadn’t been updated from the 70s. An important benefit from the redecorating was that the house now reflected my taste (Matt gave me the green light on the redecorating) and the feeling of living in ‘her’ house greatly diminished.
“Another issue that arose was when we gave each other permission to put family pictures on the refrigerator. Matt put some pictures of his deceased wife on the fridge. Initially, I didn’t think it would bother me as I knew he loved me and was devoted to our relationship.
“Eventually I realized that it bothered me a little seeing pictures of her every time I opened the fridge door! I had not put my ex’s pictures on the refrigerator.
“So, we talked about it and I asked him to keep pictures of her in his office, which he understood and agreed to do. I had not put pictures of my ex-husband where Matt could see them.
“Regarding my ex-husband, occasionally issues have arisen concerning my reaction to some of Matt’s comments that reminded me of my ex’s behavior. Matt has responded by saying, ‘I’m not your ex,’ and we have been able to talk about my reaction and feelings.
“I think especially in the case of a divorce, there are negative experiences that can trigger a reaction even before you are aware of it. The key is to be able to talk about feelings and reassure each other of the love you share and be able to comfort each other for what was lost and/or experienced in the previous relationship.
“As you said, Tom, whether you have been widowed, divorced, or in a committed relationship, grief is experienced over the loss of that loving relationship.
“I think entering a new relationship as a ‘senior’ has different challenges compared to when we are younger. I hope Joan will continue her online search for a new, loving relationship and will be willing to look beyond an initial response from a potential mate.
“My wish is that you Tom are doing well as you move through your grieving process. I am reading a great book, Atlas of the Heart, by Brene’ Brown, a social worker who has researched emotions for decades. Concerning grief, Brown says, “Grief does not obey your plans or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to.
“In that regard, grief has a lot in common with love. When a person adapts to a loss, grief is not over. We’re not sad for the rest of our lives, but grief finds a place in our lives.”
Tom’s comment: Cheryl’s story emphasizes the need for open, honest, and drama-free communication among older couples. And how to deal with grief and each person’s pictures of lost loved ones around the house when two seniors move in together. Actually, if they are in a committed relationship and living apart, the pictures will likely still be a subject to discuss and agree upon.
A woman I recently spoke to said to me, “It shouldn’t even matter if the pictures are on the refrigerator door. You just can’t wipe away the years you had together with a person you loved.”
I had to smile when I read Matt’s words to Cheryl, “I’m not your ex.” Those four words reminded me of the 1975 song by Waylon Jennings’ wife, Jessi Colter, titled I’m not Lisa, especially, these words:
“I’m not Lisa
My name is Julie
Lisa left you years ago
My eyes are not blue
But mine won’t leave you
‘Til the sunlight has touched your face.”
It’s an incredibly beautiful, heart-wrenching song. Heavy on steel guitar, which I love. I recommend you listen to it. Jessi’s voice is the best. Here’s the link.
JESSI COLTER- I’M NOT LISA – Bing video
Jessi is 79 now.
Matt and Cheryl Matthes, Mt. Vernon, Ohio, wedding June 2021