Author Topic: Guilt at happiness  (Read 1363 times)

Quixote

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Guilt at happiness
« on: January 24, 2017, 06:06:41 PM »
I suspect I'm not alone, and I equally suspect that there is little cure save time, but--

I'm still staggered by the fact that I'm in a strong, committed relationship with an old friend.  Long, involved story, but we've known each other for over twenty years, have always been close, but only recently looked at ourselves as a possible couple.  Probably because I'm clueless, or to be more honest, it's only been recently that I haven't been a complete grief-wracked mess (a bit over five years out now).

NG was a close friend of my wife's as well, and loved her, too.  There's been a lot of tears shed by us both as we work through things.  What can I say about someone who told me "I know there's going to be a night when you hug me in your sleep and call her name.  And that's ok"

I'm making this sound like a mutual therapy session, but it's not.  We share so much together, from a love of horses and the outdoors, to a general need to make the most out of life that we can.  She's a cancer survivor herself (in fact went through chemo at the same time my wife did-- they talked constantly), and some years ago lost her serious boyfriend to a brain aneurysm.  We don't like wasting the precious little time we have on this planet. 

Yatatatata....you get the idea.  I'm in love, she's in love, the light seems brighter and each day brings promise.  And I thought to myself the other day, "I've never felt happier".  And a second later came the crushing guilt. 

And that seems to be my major issue right now.  I feel almost as if I'm betraying my old relationship with my new one.  Not in a literal cheating way, but in the sense that I always felt that I had the perfect marriage--  heck, people told us that all the time.  And in a crazy way, as I feel headed for another terrific relationship, on a gut level it still feels wrong.  I'd be the first to say I'm not trying to replace my late wife (and for all their strong friendship, they're very different women), but it still kind of feels that way.

I'm still trying to get my head around it all.  I guess we'll work it out, but it still holds me back from being as emotionally open as I'd like.

WifeLess

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2017, 06:53:04 PM »
Quixote,

All throughout my first year of widowhood, I believed that I would never become romantically involved again. But shortly after passing my one year point, I met Bluebird, who was 8 months widowed at the time and a fellow member of the old YWBB (as well as this site). Although neither of us had dated since losing our spouses and we were not even actively looking, we fell in love almost immediately. And our love grew much deeper with time.

With regard to the guilt you describe, yes, you are not alone. Many of us here have expressed such guilt as we began a new and meaningful relationship. But eventually I was able to post this:

"My love for her is deep and genuine, and completely without guilt with regard to my wife. As some other members here have expressed, we often feel (or at least like to think) that our departed spouses had a great deal to do with our getting together. Despite their illnesses and tragic deaths, they wanted us to have as happy a life as possible, and so found for us the perfect person to share ours with. It's a beautiful thought."

--- WifeLess

sojourner

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2017, 07:37:47 PM »
I can see why you'd have feelings like that, Quixote. However, if I'd been the one who'd died, I'd not have wanted my surviving husband to live out his days alone and lonely. I'd have wanted for him to meet someone again who brought joy into his life. So, from that perspective, I'm saying congratulations, and I hope those feelings dissipate. I wish you much happiness and many years together!

Quixote

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2017, 08:10:21 PM »
Thank you both.  Wifeless, I'm can't tell you how much this speaks to me right now:

"My love for her is deep and genuine, and completely without guilt with regard to my wife. As some other members here have expressed, we often feel (or at least like to think) that our departed spouses had a great deal to do with our getting together. Despite their illnesses and tragic deaths, they wanted us to have as happy a life as possible, and so found for us the perfect person to share ours with. It's a beautiful thought."

It was actually she who brought up the subject of us being more than friends.  She told me that she could hear my late wife's voice in her head, saying "You need to tell him.  He's pretty much clueless."  I laughed so long when I heard that--  it's exactly the sort of thing my wife would say (I freely admit to being pretty competent at a lot of things.  Picking up on social cues ain't one of them).  We're both pretty agnostic when it comes to spiritual stuff, but at the edge of my sleep, I've spoken with my wife.  I heard her voice say "I'm dead, you know.  Besides, it's Nan."  Then I felt her kick me in the ankle.  She was like that.

I just don't want to blow this with my neurotic overthinking.

TooSoon

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2017, 09:25:55 PM »
Quixote, honestly, I could have written your post about a year and a half ago.  Andy and I "met" on the old board three plus ago now - hard to believe.  My husband had died 10 months earlier after two really traumatizing years with terminal brain cancer; Andy's wife long before that.  Anyway, we, too, were just friends for about six months, writing occasionally and then more and more often until we finally met in April 2014 and well, that was that. 

Anyway, I also had a marriage people envied.  And it was great trip to be on until the diagnosis and even sometimes after.  People told me often, especially people in failing marriages, "How can we have what you all had?"  and all I could think was, "Quit wasting your time being unhappy!" 

I had some trouble accepting how happy I was/am with Andy but eventually came to understand that so much has happened in the past 6 years and I am older and (eh-hem, questionably) wiser now and my new relationship reflects the aggregate sum of both mine and Andy's experiences being widowed young and with small children to raise and careers that required (require) investment.  Priorities shift.  What was important when we were 30 and just setting out no longer mattered.  My priorities now are different.  I want to live in bright color.  There are things I want to do and see and learn.  As a widower, Andy shares that outlook with me.  There is an immediacy now I couldn't have imagined when I was 30 or 35. 

For a time I did struggle with the feelings of guilt.  How can my new relationship be better than my marriage? How could I love someone more than I loved Scott?  But if you reframe the question then, at least for me, it was easier to reconcile and becomes a question of different rather than better.  Everything I bring to the table in my relationship with Andy stems from my marriage with Scott.  Were it not for my marriage with Scott, I would not be the person I am now, the person he loves (and that's a big ask!).  It gives me such great appreciation of both my late husband who I carry with me always and also Andy who understands, embraces and appreciates that because he, too, has been through it and carries his wife with him, too. 

Sending you all of my best wishes.  I was happy to read in your post that things are going well. 

Forgottenwife

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2017, 04:36:55 PM »
I get it - I am the happiest I have been since I can't even remember. I am in a loving and fulfilling relationship, my kids are grown and I can focus on my career and continuing my education. My new partner is supportive and always has my back. I enjoy his company and easily choose him over time spent with any other person. My life is so peaceful. 

I remember the recognition of these feelings bringing guilt. How could I love another and genuinely laugh and be happy? That was then, now I don't feel any guilt at all. I am here to enjoy the time I have left, and I am so grateful the guilt is gone. I truly hope the same for you Quixote.

MrsDan

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2017, 08:51:56 AM »
It's interesting that you put it this way, "guilt at happiness" because although I don't feel particularly guilty about being with another man, I do feel guilty that I am finding happiness. Like, how can I be happy when Dan is dead?! I don't think my guilt stems from my boyfriend being the source of that happiness. More like I shouldn't be happy at all. Sometimes I wonder if I should feel guilty at how integrated my BF has become into Dan's family. Because he's there instead of Dan, I don't know.

One thing that helps is that I really think Dan would think very highly of N, and under different circumstances they would have been friends. I think N is the kind of man Dan would want in his daughter's life, and I hope he would appreciate the kindness and acceptance N has shown my ILs.
You are the Bear of my heart dear,
And nothing can take that away.

Mizpah

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2017, 09:41:07 AM »
Quixote, I don't know if you'll find this similar, but I'll throw it out there anyway just in case....

DH and I were euphorically in love in a way that didn't fade in the years we were together.  Everyone wanted to be us, to find what we shared - we were the couple everyone envied.  When he died I didn't think I could ever have feelings for another person.  Five and a half years later, I'm in a committed relationship, and we have a young daughter.  And here's the guilt: while I can objectively recognize that DH was an amazing man and we shared something absolutely indisputably extraordinary, I can also say that I no longer miss him.  (It sounds so terrible, and it looks terrible written.)  I am fully accustomed to life without him.  I feel it's healthy, but I also feel, again, terrible: he should be missed, forever, intensely.  But. 
widowed 2011 (DH 28)

tybec

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2017, 10:10:43 AM »
I understand the confusion, and I am just dating and have fallen.  5 years Friday was sadiversary.  Never thought I could live without DH but I have and am.  We had a wonderful marriage, so fortunate.  How could it be better without demeaning my first love, marriage, father to my son?  I don't know but it is working out.  NG is military like DH.  They have lots in common, in fact, that I didn't know until I got to know him better.  But then different enough to not compare. 

NG said to me that he thinks DH would be saying to me, "Go with R.  He is a good guy.  He will lead you well and take care of you and DS."  NG has said he and DH likely would have been good friends, which is possible.

The hard thing for me is to think, "love of my life" with NG (not there yet) when I had the LOVE OF MY LIFE with DH.  So confusing.  And guilt ridden.

Trying

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2017, 11:18:31 AM »
I fell into the guilt trap in the early (and not so early) days of my chapter 2 relationship.  DH and I were together 25 years and married 20 years and while we had a great partnership in many ways there were some things lacking in our relationship.  When NG started filling in those areas that were lacking I felt a sense of guilt and sometimes anger.  Guilt for being happier in certain aspects of my new relationship while still deeply missing the overall package of my marriage to DH and the unique and special person he was.  I was angry that DH and I didn't work harder to fix the areas we were not connecting well in and felt that we wasted the time we had together not focusing more attention on our relationship. 

Now I am engaged and the guilt pops up less often.  FiancĂ© is the right man for me right now and DH was the right man for me for 25 years (and would've been for much longer if we were given that option).  I didn't ask to be in the situation I am in and I think DH would be happy that I am not alone and that I am loved.  As for the anger, I have let that go.  I approached my chapter 2 with all of the experiences of love and loss from my life with DH and I think all of that contributed to the type of partner I am this time around and what my priorities are in a relationship. 
You will forever be my always.

Forgottenwife

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2017, 11:25:45 AM »
Quixote, what a great thread, I'm glad you put this out there. I can relate to things you said, and I can relate to every poster here in some way. We all have this common experience in our lives, so grateful all of us can share here.

wecouldbeheros

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2017, 04:36:04 PM »
You seem to very blessed. No time nor need for guilt.

oneoftwo

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2017, 07:50:00 PM »
Hi Quixote
I am not there yet, as in I am widowed and still alone.
But I think I can understand where it is you come from. The guilt. I know for sure I will feel it if I do ever come across happiness again.
But don't deny yourself that happiness, it is such a good and uncommon thing.
Enjoy
I hope I will, if it happens again
   

Quixote

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Re: Guilt at happiness
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2017, 11:46:34 AM »
It's interesting that you put it this way, "guilt at happiness" because although I don't feel particularly guilty about being with another man, I do feel guilty that I am finding happiness. Like, how can I be happy when Dan is dead?! I don't think my guilt stems from my boyfriend being the source of that happiness. More like I shouldn't be happy at all.

This. 

Sounds silly when we say it out loud. But yeah, I think that's what my gut feels.