First, I’m sorry about the loss of your husband, and I hope you’ve had a good support system as you grieve and re-build your life.
Second, your letter is a good reminder, to those of us who don’t yet have the years of experience and wisdom you’ve surely gained, that many of the feelings we have when single and dating are universal, despite age, circumstances, culture, and lifestyle. And so, my advice to you is the same as it would be for someone fifty years younger: If what you want isn’t what you’re getting, you need to decide if what you’re getting is worth sacrificing what you want. It sounds like what you want is a committed partnership and what you’re getting is more of a FWB situation (that’s Friends With Benefits, if you aren’t up on the acronyms). A FWB can be great. It provides intimacy and companionship without the strings of commitment. It works for people who aren’t looking for a relationship but still want to enjoy sex with someone whom they enjoy spending non-sexual time with, too. And there are lots of reasons someone might not be looking for a “real” relationship — maybe they just got out of one, maybe they’re raising young children and want to focus mostly on that, maybe they have very demanding careers that require a lot of time and energy, maybe they travel a lot and want to be free to explore relationships in difference places.
But it doesn’t matter what other people want or what their motivations are. It matters what YOU want, and it matters what you want in relation to what you’re getting. It doesn’t even matter why your man friend is sleeping with you while not agreeing to be anything more than good friends. What matters is that you want more. You’re not getting more, so you have to look at what you ARE getting and decide whether it’s worth the sacrifice of what you really want (which you could potentially find with someone else). You could keep looking for that something more while also continuing your casual sexual relationship with the guy you’re seeing (just as it seems he might be doing), but if that doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do that. Don’t be seduced by the times you’re with the guy and he’s being caring and generous and you feel happy. Don’t be seduced by 30% or 40% or even 60%, when what you want is 100%.
I can imagine — or maybe I can’t, really — how lonely it must feel to lose a spouse. I can appreciate wanting to fill the void with someone new — to feel cared for again in the way a spouse cares for you. I hope you find that again. But it’s important to remember that no one will ever love you exactly the same way your spouse did. That doesn’t mean you won’t be loved as much or as deeply, but it won’t be the same because the person won’t be the same, and your relationship won’t be the same. This is both heartbreaking and exciting. And just in case you are looking for something like you shared with your husband, I want to leave you with this: Your next love probably won’t look like your previous love. I don’t mean that just in the physical sense. I mean that in every sense. So instead of looking for what you lost, look for what it is you want now. And, again: If you aren’t getting what you want, decide whether what you are getting is worth settling for. And if it isn’t, you can either move on, or you can keep taking what’s being offered to you while you continue looking for more elsewhere (just be honest about doing so!).
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.