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Dating a Widow, Feelings of being Secondary

 
 
Rover
 
Reply Sun 27 Dec, 2009 10:38 am
I have met an amazing woman about two months ago, she happens to be a widow, married 22 years her husband had died about 20 months ago. I am having a bit of trouble with feeling like I am second, that if she could have her husband back she would -- and who could blame her? He is the father of her 2 daughters and although there was some distance in their marraige he was her "best friend". My own feelings seem sort of vain to me -- Love is not a competition, and maybe it's silly to feel threatened by someone deceased. But, to me, the issue is also "what am I to her?" I feel like she could be the Love of my Life and she assures me that she totally loves and adores me. Actually, she seems even more into the relationship than I. She has said that I am perfect for her and could be the Love of her Life. So when I saw her expressions in describing the events surrounding his sudden death I felt like if she could have him back she would. It's all hard to reconcile in my mind; I do want to have a special and unique place in her heart. Also, I wonder if she is really as ready as she thinks she is to have this relationship. And am I ready for this situation? There is so much good and natural about us being together, I'd hate to step away just out of fear and insecurity (if that's what this is). I'd welcome any thoughts or insights as I am beginning to feel like I should pull away and just give it time. But she will probably sense that and it could be the beginning of the end, I don't know.

More Background:
I am divorced and I have never dated a widow before. We are both in our mid-40s. I did have some initial reservations (I was unsure what obstacles there might be in dating a widow), but we really seemed to "click" right away. It's been an unexpected, magical experience for me and she has demonstrated that feels the same; She actually seems more into the relationship than I in some ways, probably because I have dated more than her and have learned that dating relationships that seem very promising can quickly unravel.

This poor lady actually had 3 deaths in her life, each one year apart (her brother died of cancer in 2006, her 20-something nephew died suddenly in 2007, and her husband died in 2008). We have talked openly about all of this several times, she seems to have a healthy attitude saying she was really down for a while during this time but has come to the realization she wants to live and love again. She had dated 2 other men for a few months before she met me. She is a psychologist and seems to be very knowledgeable and self-aware.

We spent Christmas Day together (2 days ago) and she had drank some wine and was explaining the details of the death of her husband to someone else. I could sense the deep loss she felt and I guess I took it as she had lost this wonderful husband and she felt like she would rather have him back, which would all be understandable, but it's still hard to take. I just left the room and came back. Later we ended up discussing it because she could see I was effected by something. She then had a pretty major episode of grief; I held her and comforted her for hours. We talked about it and she said that just as she could be the love of my life (after the relationships that I have already had), I could also be the Love of her Life. I told her I doubted that I could be because she was with someone for so long.

I wonder about this: Is it immature or misguided for me to feel like I want to be just so special to her and feel like I'm competing for that special place with her husband? I have several children, each unique and special, and love them all equally, can it be the same with romantic love? I want to respect her feelings and her situation but I also want to be honest with myself about my needs if they are valid.
 
CalamityJane
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 Dec, 2009 11:54 am
@Rover,
Hello Rover and welcome to a2k.

Well, do the simple math: she was married for 22 years to a wonderful man,
and she has met you only a few weeks/months (?) ago. You'll have many years
to catch up to and if you're patient with her, you might become the most
important person in her life. It won't happen today, and not tomorrow and
probably not the day after, but if you're both committed to each other,
it will happen. All I can tell you is be patient and don't push her!
sullyfish6
 
  3  
Reply Sun 27 Dec, 2009 01:16 pm
I know exactly how she feels. I lost my husband 7 1/2 months ago.
There is a yearning for recovering the past. I want my life back - really 5 years ago, before he got sick. That ain't going to happen, obviously, so my grieving is now really pouting about not getting what I want. S
till, I ache for the comfort of the past.

So, along comes you . . .
You are different, new, unknown. You are her Here and Now man.

It's scary for her. But you probably feel so good to her that she does not want to let you go. This seems right to her, but she is still pulled back by memories and the comfort of the past. She may just not be sure where you fit in. Lots of push and pull, here, for her.

My advice? Give her a wide berth. You may have to let her go way outside of your relationship to get her back. Like, even both of you dating others. It's like fishing, when you let the hooked fish take the line way out - so that you can reel her in slowly.

Be patient. Develop nice memories with her so that she will begin to yearn for you.

Good luck. You sound like a wonderful man. I guess we have to learn to love like there's no tomorrow, huh?





Rover
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Dec, 2009 02:04 pm
@sullyfish6,
Thanks so much, Sully, I appreciate you sharing your perspective.

I didn't really emphasize this in my mini-novel above, but it certainly seems like I am not at all pushing anything, I mean I have been sort of wary since the beginning (since this is a new situation). But she has been very interested in having a committed relationship with me, she says wonderful things about me, is considerate, loving and consistently so. We just seem to "click" and I know that it's a rare and special thing. We have spent a decent amount of time together and I think are mutually endeared to one another.

So her consistent message to me has been "I AM Ready and I want YOU!" It's completely OK that she revisit her grief at the same time and I understand it will always be that way.

I guess I am trying to find some validity in my own feelings (Is it OK to feel this way or is it self-centered on my part?) and some new perspective that allows me not to feel like I'm dating her in his shadow, but that our relationship is wonderful & unique in it's own right. She reaffirms that in many ways in the things that she says. But after seeing her grieve so deeply it just felt like I am in his shadow. I wonder if anyone out there has gone through these feelings and persisted and made things work.

Thanks Again, Sully.
0 Replies
 
eoe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Dec, 2009 02:52 pm
I would think that it's okay every now and then for you to feel the way that you feel. Anyone in your situation may, at some point, feel overshadowed by a spouse that has passed away, but from your post it appears that you are bothered by this alot, or your discomfort is a constant, and if that's the case then it seems that you just aren't cut out for this relationship. You say that she has assured you many times that she cares for you and can imagine a future with you. But still, you are haunted by the ghost of her dead husband and can't bear to see her express any type of grief or sadness concerning him. I'd say this simply is not the relationship for you. It takes a certain kind of person to date a widow or widower and it sounds as if you're having too many personal issues over facts that absolutely cannot be changed for the relationship to move forward. It's the same as some people, men and women, who have trouble accepting children from previous relationships. They just can't"or don't want to accept the reality of the situation. Alot of child abuse stems from this dilemma, I'm certain.

Be very honest with yourself. If you can't handle the circumstances this relationship carries then do both you and her a favor and move on. Can you imagine ever feeling differently about it? Can you imagine holding her as she cries on the anniversary of her husband's death or escorting her to the cemetery?
Rover
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Dec, 2009 04:04 pm
@eoe,
Thanks for your response but you have made some erroneous assumptions and may be reading something into this that's not there (perhaps you have had some relavant experience?). It hasn't been a constant issue and things have been great most of the time, otherwise how would the relationship have progressed at all? She has expressed grief several times and it has not been an issue. But this time, when those feelings did pop up in me, they hurt and I am attempting to understand them and deal with them. Reading through relavant posts on this website and posting my question is one way to educate myself. I absolutely CAN see myself comforting her, I am very empathetic and do that naturally. I was very willing to do so just the other night for hours.

Feelings of vulnerability at the beginning of a relationship do not indicate personal issues on my part, especially when it is a new and different situation such as this, and I am not alone; I have seen others posting similar feelings in similar situations. I have dated other people and had several serious relationships; I have always readily accepted my partner's children and their past life experiences in general. I disagree, this situation is not the same, it's certainly different. I'm making every attempt to understand this new situation and consider things carefully (with my head, heart, and gut). I could just end things but that seems premature and ill-advised, at least until I've processed through it a bit and made sure that's the right decision. She adamantly expresses that she is ready and wants this relationship to work. I want it to work as well. The passing of her husband is an issue we both have to deal with if the relationship is going to progress.

The one thing you said that did resonate with me was that I should be honest with myself about these things because certain things here aren't going to change. I definitely agree.

Does it really take a certain kind of person to date a widow or is it something that people can come to understand and deal with??? What traits does this certain kind of person possess?
eoe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Dec, 2009 05:37 pm
@Rover,
Please forgive me Rover if I misread your post. I thought you were saying that this is an issue for you and not emotions you were faced with only on Christmas Day. As I said in the beginning of my post, it would be only natural for you to feel this way once and awhile but somehow it seemed to be more often than that.

It's just as I described about people who cannot accept a love interests' children from a previous relationship. No matter how hard they may try, or how much they may love that man or woman, the idea of that person having children with someone else, sharing such an intimacy, is just too much for them to bear. It's not the most mature or adult-like attitude to have but it's the kind of thing that should be dealt with honestly because it's not going to get any better. It will only get worse.

Hang in there. In time you will more than likely feel stronger and will realize, either through her actions or your own, that what matters to both of you is the here and now. Not what was. In the meantime, it's good that you were open and honest about your feelings, both with yourself and with her.

I wish you much luck.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Dec, 2009 07:10 pm
@Rover,
No experience with this myself, but my father has been single in the 50+ market for over 15 years now and his stories match yours. You walk into the widow's home, her mantle is covered with family shots, wedding photos, etc and you really feel like you are walking on some other guy's grave. Worse yet, the puzzle piece that you are doesn't fit the hole that was torn in your friend's life. She had a pattern to her life and you don't quite fit into it. Take your time to see if both of you can reshape things so that you fit. By the way, word from my dad is that it's harder with divorcees since you have the hole to fill and have the bad associations to overcome.
0 Replies
 
sullyfish6
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 05:05 pm
Often, the deceased gets elevated to a god-like status. This Perfection does not allow for the person to be human. If she thought about it, he probably would have had lots of faults. Maybe she's in this state and is clinging to a fantasy of him.

But remember, you are the Here and Now.

Rover
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 03:43 pm
@sullyfish6,
Thanks again, Sully.
I'm not sure how to take being her "Here and Now Man". That seems like it lacks depth or something. Maybe we all want to be the number one guy/gal, period. Maybe that's just the way our psyche works; I've seen others say things like that in posts on this site.

I don't think she has idolized him, quite to the contrary she has stated that they had their struggles and she probably wouldn't have stayed with him when his financial misdeeds were revealed -- upon his death she discovered a relatively large debt he had run up without her knowledge, enough to threaten their ability to maintain the home they had for their kids, it wasn't the first time I'm told. At the same time she refers to him as a good man (which I think he was) and her best friend.

At my age whomever I would date would likely have someone in their past who was very dear to them and is no longer there. I have never been one to worry about that before, but the depth of her grief (on the rare occasion I see it), and the pictures in her home make me feel a little bit different somehow. Plus I don't want to impose in any way, complicate things, or be some kind of replacement. So I've been kind of cautious. My intuition is that she was looking for a relationship to "live again" as she puts it (she had a long dark period after his death), and after dating several people we found each other. We really do click in a very good, natural way. She very adamantly claims she loves me, and seems to be aware of the feelings/patterns associated with her situation as well as her children's. I cannot expect her to forget her past nor would I want her to. It speaks well of her that she grieves and feels that loss deeply. I think I should take her at her word and progress down this road slowly and cautiously. I really hope it works out, just need to wait and see I suppose. One thing for sure is that I never want her to feel torn, or have any kind of constraint in expressing her grief or going through the whole process, so I'm determined to get my mind around it and make sure I understand where I'm at. I've been thinking about this incessantly over the last few days and feel like I'm much clearer about things now.
Thanks Again, I wish you the best on your journey, Sully.
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 03:47 pm
@Rover,
Best of luck Rover. Please come back to let us know how it works out and to participate on other threads. The more the merrier.
0 Replies
 
sullyfish6
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2009 12:01 pm
I am having a nice relationship with a fine man. HE is much more serious than me. He is a recent widower, too (8 months)

While I am crazy about him, I know that he is not "the one." Sometimes I wonder if he is not distrating me from the business of grieving.

The main gift that he has given me is that I know I will be OK in the future. He has awaken some female feelings in me that I thought had been frozen forever. I can laugh again, too.

I wonder if your gal has grieved properly. If that gets interupted, then it comes out sideways and never does get thoroughly processed.

I know you mentioned she is a therapist, but did SHE get outside grief therapy?
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Mar, 2010 11:42 pm
Could I offer a perspective from the other side? I am a single woman of 62. For some time, I looked for a widower. Frankly, nothing turns off my ardor faster than meeting an ex-wife or an ex-girlfriend who is . . . disappointing. Dating a widow/widower, you never have to meet the former spouse.

I don't want a man who is still bitter or a man who hasn't learned what he should have from a former relationship. That is not to say a widower isn't "out of the woods." But, at least a widower will not offer an uncomfortable meeting during the holidays or at a family event.

Grief takes longer for some people than for others. This may be good. After all, it allows both of you to learn each other.
0 Replies
 
Torn
 
  1  
Reply Sun 11 Apr, 2010 09:24 am
@Rover,
Rover, I just came across your posts as I was searching for the answer you seek. I am in the exact situation. I am so curious how you are working through this very real issue.
Torn
Rover
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Jun, 2010 01:42 am
@Torn,
Torn, (hope this response is not too late to help you)
We are still together and have been very happy with each other. We've talked about this several times, but honestly it comes up very infrequently now (in my own mind and even less with her). Although it did come up recently with an annual golf tournament that raised scholarship money for her/his daughters. That was a bit tough because there was a public mention of it and all the soccer parents seemed to look my way (probably curious about my reaction). Anyway, it prompted more discussion between us and she made some changes in her home, took down some pictures, etc. her idea) She was married a long time (23 yrs) and has not had many relationships at all. She seems very realistic about his faults and positive traits. She talks about us being together and seems to really want that. I sometimes feel concerned that she is trying to rush things a little. I want to know that the motivation is coming from a healthy place, but I am thankful that she is so interested in being with me. I am not a replacement, more like a chance for something she had always wanted, I guess when we marry young and are building a life with someone in our earlier years (20s & 30s) things can get messed up between two people. We don't have that problem in our mid to late 40s. Her teenage daughters seem to accept me and like me although with one of them I think it's been hard for her, she feels conflicted I'd imagine, but that's understandable. Anyway, after 7 -8 months, our relationship health and prospects for a future together have much more to do with our own personality dynamics than with the fact that she is a widow. I think she is exceptional in her ability to progress past the loss of her husband, it's been 2-3 years for her and she seems to have her past life in a good place, taking the good stuff she can and leaving the rest; It all seems to be resolved in her mind. Hope this helps ... Good Luck to you, Torn.
0 Replies
 
unknown male
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 10:20 am
I don't feel like it's a good idea at all to date a widow. Expecially if that widow had been married for 10 years or longer. I went through a brief marriage to a widow whom had been married for 25 years. This man had not treated her well, had cheated on her ( with her sister), yet she still thought of him as a God-Like being who could do no wrong. She got over it from time to time, long enough for her to get married to me, but she would always go back to him in her mind.
I began to see, after about a year that I couldn't compete with him. Sure he was dead but somehow he had control of her. So, I became bitter and put fire on the bitterness with hard words . She resented this of course and told me I didn't understand. But, I did understand that the only way I could achieve the same status as him was to die. Well, I didn't want to die so we got a divorce.
She can be with him now without having to go through me.
I know this sounds mean, but it's just an outline of the way it really is when you get involved with a widow woman. My STRONG advice. DON"T, GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN, or you will be hurt just like I was...
PUNKEY
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2010 02:23 pm
It has now been 14 months since I lost my husband.(When I first posted on this thread, it had just been 5 months - see Sullyfish posts)

I have attended 2 in-person grief groups and participated on 2 on-line grief groups, with one on-going now.

I find that people who are not stable to begin with really have a hard time with grief. Their behaviors and hangups get exaggerated with the grief and all sorts of bizzare behavior can be seen. But their lives are screwed up anyway, so this is the frosting on the cake.

There are those who are just not going to make it after a death, those who just go back to being what they were before, and then there are those who are better from the experience and learn from it. These are called the "triumphant survivors"

Don't dismiss the widow or widower. Just look to see how they handled this - and other crisises - in their life. Find a "triumphant survivor.'



0 Replies
 
fiestafan
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 01:53 am
OK, I am late to the party, but Rover, your story sounded like mine, except I am the widow. To be honest, yes, if I had my druthers I would want my late husband to still be alive. It was a car accident, and he died instantly, so there were no processes to help me prepare. It was sudden and traumatic. We were actually preparing for his father's pending death as he was in the very late stages of cancer (he died just two weeks later). But gone is gone. I am quite the realist.

All of my adult memories, stories, accomplishments, failures, etc. were made with "David". We had met we were 16, dated for 6 months, broke up and kept tabs of each other over the next couple of years, and back together @ Christmas time our first year in college. We got married 5 years later, and were married for nearly 21 years with two daughters. Yep, he could be irritating and maddening, and impossible, but he did have great qualities I still find myself looking for in other men.

I waited almost a year before i started dating again. Widows, especially those of us in our 40's, frighten the heck out of men our age because the men we date have either never been married or are divorced with horror stories and they are so happy to be rid of their ex, that they don't understand our feelings towards our late husband.

Meeting a widow my age is not a common experience, and most people that I meet don't know how to respond to me. I never wore black, I didn't create a shrine to the past, I just keep trying to take steps forward, At this age, it is impossible to meet anyone who hasn't been affected by past relationships. If there is such a creature, I certainly don't want to be their first.

Divorced people tend to rid their home of any evidence of their ex. Widows however probably have children (mine were 17 & 20 at the time), and so family pictures remain in the house, as do collections and nick-nacks. It is important to keep some of those memories around without building a shrine.

But a good measuring stick is a widow’s bedroom. Are his clothes still in the closet? Are there pictures of him in there? I actually ordered a completely new bedroom suite. My original set had been made by my father-in-law, and used for 20 years. I needed to make the change in order for me to move ahead. I slowly make changes to the home to make it more mine, than ours. Ideally, I'd move away from this dream home we built 10 years ago, but the economy has made it impossible to sell the house at this time.

There is another way to look at the issue of dating a widow who was married a long time, and honestly believes that despite the inevitable ups and downs, that the marriage as successful. They know how to maintain a long term relationship, and they know what makes them happy. If they are willing to share their lives with you; you are special. Just as she will feel grief in different situations or during times of the year where birthdays, holidays, or anniversary occur, be supportive and give her space. But you must talk about how her grief affects you. You have to be honest and open. She can’t be supportive of you, unless you talk about it.

Most guys feel guilty about feeling jealous of a dead guy. Most decent-hearted people would; especially after meeting family, friends and so on who knew the guy, and you find he probably could have been someone you would have liked and respected. And since you find yourself attracted to this widow, you may feel like you are involved with someone’s wife. Again if you are a decent guy, this would leaving you feeling a little weird.

I actually feel sorry for the men I've met who couldn't come to terms with the fact that I could actually still have been in love with someone when the relationship ended. It is far more common to have relationships end in anger and resentment, so it's easier to feel like you are the knight in shining armor in the next relationship.

Widows are not trying to replace their husbands. I know in my case David was one of a kind and there will be no-one that could ever come close to being him. I also know that I can't build the same kind of memories with a future spouse because many of them are one of a kind as well. I can't and don't want to have children again for example besides, we grew up together – I was never with anyone else as a legal adult. I actually felt like a dating misfit because I didn’t spend my early twenties doing the bar scene or whatever young adults do when they are single. What I do know is that I want to share my life with a man who adores me, encourages me to be the best person I can be, and accepts me with all my flaws, poor housekeeping skills, overflowing closets, dogs and all.

Yes, I was married to the love of my life, but I still have the next half of my life to live, and if I can find it once, I hope and pray to find it again.

It's great that you have the questions, and it appears that you have worked your way through them, but I thought I'd give the other point of view for others with the same concerns.
0 Replies
 
widow2010
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Aug, 2010 08:50 pm
Hmmm...not sure how I should take all this....

I'm a new widow; my husband passed away 4 months ago. Some of what I've read here really angers me, especially the guy who was saying "GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN" as if we widows are poisonous.

Widows (and widowers) were IN LOVE when their spouse died. You cannot expect them to fall out of love with the person. You have to realize that if the widow that you are dating says she loves you, and shows that she loves you, and acts like she loves you, then I'm sure she does. But you have to understand the overwhelming GUILT this woman is experiencing. She still loves the dead spouse, and on some level feels like she is cheating on him or betraying the love they had. That guilt doesn't go away easily, if it ever does.

DEATH IS NOT DIVORCE. Too many people dating widows think that the widow is supposed to just forget about the first spouse as if he was an "ex" - someone they wanted to be rid of. But he is not. My house certainly is not a "shrine" to my deceased husband, there are actually very few pictures of him on display, but I can tell you this - the few pictures I have up will never come down. If I ever did fall in love again, (which I doubt because my husband was the absolute best and he loved me more than I ever thought a man could love a woman), I would be willing to add pictures, but by no means replace them. And if I ever find the man that is willing to accept this part of me, then HE will be a keeper. Not some whiner who can't deal with a few pictures.
Big Col
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Aug, 2010 02:14 am
I've been going out with a widow for a year, her circumstances were the same to fiestafan. Whilst I love the person I am going out with despite the difficulties, if I had known how it difficult it was going to be I would not of entered into a relationship with her. It's quite often one sided with 2 people and my own life is on hold during the phases that she often struggles....
 

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