Although I never suffered from “survivor’s guilt”, I spent the first years of this recovery hiding the fact that I was a widow. I had married my best friend and became a 30 year old widow less than a year later. When I returned to NYC and after I had weened myself off the anti-depressants, I was prepared to get back on the market. The dating scene had significantly changed and it felt foreign to me since I had gotten out of it several years before. Now I was ready to brave it’s new elements.
A brain injury support group facilitator pulled me aside and offered a couple of dating safety tips:
1. wait until at least the third date before revealing the injury
2. do not give too many gorey or graphic details about the crash that would paint the picture of victimhood
She also recommended that I give online dating a try. She said the eHarmony website algorithms would be a helpful tool to meet someone with similar interests and help eliminate the guesswork.
Whether professional, personal or romantic, there was one question during introductions that always induced terror… “So, what do you do?” This was a particularly paralyzing question when asked on a first date. I had developed a script with my PP (Prayer Partner) that still lives on my iPhone. I would practice it aloud while standing in front of the mirror:
Q1.) What do you do for a living?
A1.) My former occupation was a vice president of a PR firm here in the city & I’m currently exploring what’s next.
Q2.) If pressed, what happened?
A2.) I was in a car accident and needed to focus my energies on rehabilitating from that. So I decided to resign.
I watched the face in the mirror for any hints of nervousness or fear and would rehearse a smooth and convincing delivery. This question still occasionally trips me up, but I’ve grown more comfortable offering answers like:
I take classes at the gym, my spiritual center, and I volunteer, how about you?
I discovered one strategy to change uncomfortable subjects was to aways follow my answer with a question and invited the speaker to talk about themselves. This trick always filled awkward silences.
The most memorable awkward silence happened while on the third date with my first eHarmony suitor. He couldn’t find “Angela Betancourt” on FaceBook, so I took his iPhone from his hands and typed in “Angela Tucker Betancourt”. He recognized my eHarmony dating profile photo when it popped up. He read my name aloud, “Angela Tucker Betancourt”.
I took a deep breath and began to collect my explanation.
“Do you remember when l told you that I was in a car crash?” He nodded. I paused. “My husband was in the car too, and he was killed in the accident. Tucker is my maiden name.”
The space between us began to feel hot and his face turned red. Oh shit. I had just dropped a bomb on this poor unsuspecting fellow…
“You know what I like to do at times like these, when it’s hard to find something to say,” I turned to face him on the couch. “I like to just be quiet. Can we just be quiet for a second? We don’t need words right now.” He nodded and I could see relief wash over his face. He didn’t have to prepare a response and his shoulders began to relax away from his ears. This eHarmony date was a great teacher and has remained a good friend.
There were a few other men (or teachers) who passed through my life before Augustus came along. Each helped me grow a greater appreciation for this man I now call my husband. They helped me see how easy and effortless love can be when you’ve found the perfect partner. Augustus has helped me become the best version of myself, before and after the brain injury.