Here's our Part 6 of the Q&A series for you - only one more to go! Good thing we've been traveling a ton and have had a ton of time in the car to get all these questions answered, otherwise, it would have taken us months to get through it all. Tonight's questions are relationship questions.
1. Could you talk a little about the progression of your relationship, as it moved quickly?
Vee: Well, I feel like we’ve covered some of this in other areas, but I’ll touch on it again. I realize that for a lot of people – myself included had I not been the one experiencing it – think that things between Steve and me happened quickly. And it did. But what you also have to take into account is that we weren’t looking to “date” – we both had families, lives in the work, and responsibilities to take care of. We lived in different states and weren’t about to put ourselves or our family through a long distance relationship going back and forth if it wasn’t worth it. And we made sure we discussed all the hard issues very early on, no pretenses. What also needs to be taken into account is that we knew of each other first. We weren’t close friends, but had hung out enough for me to know what kind of guy Steve was, what kind of dad he was, and the integrity he showed in the midst of his divorce – it didn’t just come from him telling me, I got to see it. We weren’t strangers, and our closest friends trusted him and loved him, so I knew I could too.
What I find so funny is that Jeremy and I had a pretty quick relationship as well. We dated for about 5 months before we got engaged, and got married 4 months later! Only 3 months longer than I was with Steve before we got married. What can I say?! When I know, I know!
Steve: As Vee stated, we weren’t strangers prior to our relationship. We had know each other for a couple of years, hung out on several occasions, and knew each other’s back story. I had seen the kind of relationship that Jeremy and Veronica had, I knew that she was a great wife. I had seen the kind of relationship that Vee had with her kids and knew that she was a great mom. I had seen the kind of relationship she had with God despite losing Jeremy and could tell she was a woman who followed after God’s heart. The real part that was unknown was whether or not we could be more than just good friends.
The first night that we talked on the phone, we both laid it out really simply and really clearly that neither of us wanted to date just for fun. As Vee shared, there was too much at risk for both of us. Because of our past circumstances and histories, we cut through a lot of the formalities of dating in a few hours and got to the meat and bones of a relationship. Truthfully, I knew I wanted to marry Vee within probably a week of us talking…let’s be honest, what’s not to love about her? While it may seem fast for some, I feel like it was all in God’s timing. As Vee and I talk about it, even today, we can’t imagine it being any different than it was – we feel like it was exactly the way God worked it and we have a lot of peace about that.
2. Do you ever feel like there is a third person in your relationship (or maybe 4, I don't know Steve's situation)?
Vee: While I take pieces of my life with Jeremy with me (how could I not?) I feel like my relationship with Steve is one in its own. It’s complicated of course, because I am completely in love with two people and the way that plays out can be confusing. But what’s incredible about how God gives us the capacity to love is that neither outweighs or negates the other. Jeremy and Steve are two different men – they have some things in common, but my relationship with each of them is different. There are things Steve and I handle differently than Jeremy and I would have – and that’s ok. Because what I know is that I love and trust Steve and together even if our strategies are different, the goal is the same.
Steve’s ex wife holds no influence in our relationship, other than in the insecurities that have been left behind in Steve and his self-image, and really that just makes me strive to show him what a good and healthy relationship looks like. We handle minor issues regarding Zada and Reagan, but she’s not an entity in our relationship.
Steve: This is an interesting question and one that I’ve seen talked a lot about in various blogs and writings for widows and widowers who are remarrying. There’s a stance for some that says when you marry a widow(er), you should be prepared for a marriage of 3, while others state that the widow(er) should completely leave behind their past relationship to move forward with a new one. While I can’t speak for anybody else, I am uncomfortable with both of those. No doubt Jeremy and Veronica’s relationship changed them both and despite Jeremy’s death, it doesn’t change Vee’s feeling for him. It’s an ongoing part of the story. But my marriage to Vee is ours. We talk about Jeremy, Vee shares memories, but this in no way implies that there are 3 people here. The same is true for my ex-wife. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t shaped by my relationship with her. From time to time, she is a topic of conversation (though not spoken of as fondly as Jeremy) but in no way is she a part of our marriage. Vee and I have our own way of communicating, our own way of raising our children, our own way of loving each other that is unique to us.
3. Do you think it's wise to make plans for the big "what if" my spouse dies or is that morbid? If so, what kinds of plans do you wish you had made with Jeremy or are you now making with Steve?
Vee: Of course I think it’s wise to make plans for if your spouse dies. It might be difficult, but the truth is, one of you is going to die first. If and when it happens, you’ll be sorry you didn’t do more. Have life insurance. Have a will. It just makes things go smoother. Not easier, nothing makes it easier, but it will be one less thing you have to worry about. My other suggestion would be to take the time to write a letter to each other only to open if your spouse dies before you. I had done it for Jeremy as a wedding gift, and I would have given anything to have one from him. Just to have his words to hold onto would have been so special. Cheesy, maybe – but trust me, it would be invaluable.
Steve and I haven’t put anything in place yet, but it is a topic of conversation because we want to do that soon – establishing a will, writing letters to each other, talking about what each of us would want for funerals, burials, etc. – so that we know. But Steve isn’t allowed to die first – we made a deal. ;)
Steve: I think its super important to talk about those issues long ahead of time. I worked with many couples who had never discussed issues of where they wanted to be buried, what kind of funeral service they wanted to have, never wrote out a will, or even talked about what would happen if one of them passed away, and yet one of them was facing just a few weeks left to live because of a terminal illness. Trying to make those decisions while in the throws of grief is needless pain when you have the opportunity to discuss if beforehand. Vee and I have had several conversations about our own deaths, funeral wishes, burial wishes, and what we would like to happen with our children if either one of us dies first. While these talks aren’t easy, I feel like it’s given us some peace about what the other person wants. I know that this is especially a hard topic for Vee, because this is one of her greatest fears, but it’s also a reality and something we have to face: one of us will die before the other.
4. My 27 year old husband died suddenly from heart disease (that we didn't know he had) 2 1/2 months ago. I am now dealing with the fear of those close to me just dropping dead. Did you deal with this fear? If so, are you still dealing with it?
Vee: I did have this fear, especially at the beginning. Saying goodbye to people was very difficult. But I suffer from this in another form: If I am trying to get a hold of someone and can’t and have no idea where they are, I have major anxiety attacks. This has happened 3 times now with Steve, and I had no idea how severe it was. But every time, I have flashbacks of texting Jeremy and not hearing back from him, then my mind races to every horrible scenario that could possibly have happened, and my heart races and I hold back tears. Last week, I went to a movie with some friends and never heard back from Steve. I called, no answer. I knew he should have been home with all the kids, but I couldn’t stay – I had to rush home to make sure he was okay because I was starting to panic and didn’t want anyone to notice. He was sleeping, of course, but it took over an hour for me to calm down from the idea of losing Steve. I couldn’t even talk about it with him, even knowing I was being ridiculous, without tears. The fear of losing other people I love haunts me often. Steve takes every precaution to make sure he takes his phone with him and gets back to me when he can. The only way I deal with it really is knowing that fear can’t keep me from loving people with all I have – it’s better to love and lose than never to love at all. I am living proof.
Steve: Your fear and reaction to that fear are a normal response to anyone who’s gone through a tragic or traumatic experience. Vee and I have talked about this as she shared some of the fears that she’s had when she hasn’t been able to get a hold of me. These times are called ‘triggers’ and they trigger an emotional response from a previous event. Some counselors or psychologists refer to this as post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This is fairly normal for most people who have gone through something traumatic and no reason for alarm, unless it something that’s preventing you from your daily life. The main thing you can do to help work through those anxious moments is to be able to talk them out with someone you trust over time. Vee and I have been able to share her feelings and thoughts she had when she wasn’t able to get a hold of me. It doesn’t mean that the next time she’s unable to get a hold of me she won’t still feel anxiety or fear, but it allows me to do everything I can to help prevent those moments. It allows her to confront some of those fears with somebody she knows loves and supports her.
5. How do you and Steve handle holidays you shared with Jeremy (your anniversary with Jeremy, Jeremy's birthday)?
Vee: Steve is so loving and gracious in these areas. He’s very good about allowing me celebrate Jeremy, and even joining me in honoring him, and letting me grieve when I need to. He makes himself available to me to talk with or cry on if that’s what I need, and also gives me space to grieve privately if that’s what I need. For Jeremy’s birthday, we host a birthday party and bring all of Jeremy’s favorite foods and Steve is committed to helping me continue that tradition, not just for me, but for our children as well. Since my anniversary is coming up on the 19th of this month (this Thursday), Steve has already asked me what I would like to do on this day and how I would feel most comfortable spending my time. He’s very thoughtful in these areas. Actually, he’s pretty thoughtful in most areas. J
Steve: In a previous question, Vee was asked if I allowed her to grieve Jeremy or to celebrate or remember those special occasions. For me, there’s a difference between ‘allowing’ and ‘supporting’. She doesn’t have to have my permission to grieve Jeremy – that’s natural and expected. While I hurt to watch her grieve, I’m honored to be able to support her as she grieves and to grieve along side of her. It’s nothing she does on her own. While her intensity is greater than mine, because she was married to Jeremy, I share in her grief and I support her fully. I try to look for opportunities to allow her to express her grief and although not always easy for me, give her the space she needs when she wants to grieve privately.
6. How did you ease into being intimate (emotionally, physically etc) with a new partner? Did you find it was really difficult initially?
I have only been with one man and that is my husband - how did you adjust sharing yourself emotionally, mentally and physically with Steve. Was it a hard adjustment?
Talking about intimacy in the widow world can be very taboo. No one wants to talk about it; therefore it can be very difficult thing to deal with. Not just the loneliness that comes along with losing a partner, but also the ache for intimacy that’s included. Add that to pregnancy hormones, and I can say the first 3 months after Jeremy’s death were very difficult for me, and I was only able to share that with a few people!
Steve and I had a much better transition than I thought, but I attribute that to the fact that Steve is very patient and loving, and I trust him with my heart. If we hadn’t been emotionally or mentally in line, then the physical stuff probably wouldn’t have been either. That’s not to say it is always easy. Steve was lucky enough to have to deal with an emotional bride a few times on our honeymoon, poor guy. Not because our relationship isn’t beautiful or wonderful (which it is!) but because I am still grieving, and needed to grieve that part of my life with Jeremy. But I think intimacy is a part of relationship that reflects all the other pieces. Steve has been very careful with my heart and we have a great relationship mentally and emotionally – therefore, our physical relationship is pretty awesome as well.
Steve: Intimacy was honestly a big deal for both Vee and I, but for very different reasons. For me, I had been really hurt in the past and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to get hurt like that again in the future. Vee understood my insecurities and knew the vulnerability I felt in intimacy and was really patient with me as well. Because of what I went through, which was honestly one of my biggest fears, our emotional connection and spiritual connection laid an amazing foundation for our physical connection. From time to time I still have those insecurities about intimacy, but since Vee is such an amazing wife she’s been very healing for me.
The last section of questions will be miscellaneous ones along with any new ones that have come up since we started. Thank you all for allowing us to share pieces of our story with you!