Widowed women get to date and have a boyfriend. Yup. You know, it really stinks to lose the husband you loved and depended on when you're 44 with two young kids, so there should be some kind of bonus delivered after all those years of worry and pain. Now I get to have a boyfriend at age 50. So there. I'm enjoying it. I haven't had one since 1992.
Having a boyfriend is really different than being married. First off, we don't live together and we don't have any kind of contract in writing, so I don't have to get all irritated at him for leaving his socks on the floor or not fixing the sticky lock on the back door, or being late coming home from work, or pissed that he left it to me to cook dinner for the 10 trillionth time, or left a wine stain on the counter, or won't help me figure out the damned health insurance morass. No, that sort of conflict is for married people. If you have an offsite boyfriend instead of being married, at this age, you don't get all pissy over household tasks and general maintenance and administration. Nah, I'm already used to doing every single one of those things by myself. However, if my offsite boyfriend does, on the other hand, CHOOSE to help me cook dinner walk the dog change a lightbulb fix a broken table drive my kids: HE'S A GREAT BIG HERO, because he doesn't have to do any of that stuff. It's not part of the deal.
I've been thinking that maybe married people should pretend that their spouses are actually just boyfriends or girlfriends and have maybe a few less expectations around the household maintenance, administration and organization. I've realized that I can actually get on quite well with unchanged lightbulbs and sticky back door locks but, boy oh boy, when that boyfriend walks in the door, I'm so happy to see him and the first thing I do is NOT grimace at him and tell him what he needs to do for me. I think when you're married it can be easy to forget that your spouse does not exist to fulfill all your unmet needs, mop up where you spilled, and be a sponge for all your free-floating garbage. The offsite boyfriend is out there in the world independently of me, living his life, doing what he needs to do. It's kind of easier to see him for the individual that he is when we're not spitting in the sink together or wondering who's going to finally clean the mudroom.
The other benefit about the offsite boyfriend when you're middle-aged is that you don't have to see each other every day, thus eliminating any kind of "Oh, it's you again" feelings that just might possibly maybe crop up after you've spent the last 8,978 days in a row sharing the same space. Married people: I think you might want to consider getting away from your spouse on a regular basis. I don't know how you might do it, but I think I'm onto something here.
Now, tonight, the boyfriend is trying to get me to go Swing Dancing! Is that crazy or what? I mean, it's Tuesday night, after all. He has already once before convinced me to go Tango Dancing, an event which I found frightening and fun and one which had me laughing pretty much the entire time out there on the dance floor. With the boyfriend, you try some new activities. Hey, research shows that long married couples have to reinvent date night because doing novel things can make your relationship more exciting, while simply going to that favorite restaurant AGAIN can feel as old and tired as...changing a lightbulb. You can read all about that study here http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/health/12well.html
The Offsite Boyfriend: he's not my husband, my kids still don't have a father, and he doesn't live here, but he's got a lot going for him. I look forward to his next visit.