Dating a Widow/ Widower
I wholeheartedly agree with Great Laker. An old rule for recovering from ANY relationship says that it takes about one year for every four years you were with someone to recover. I have been involved in a serious relationship with a widower for two years. He is three and a half years past the death of his wife and we are still working through issues.
As someone who has spent the last few years in the trenches, here are my thoughts:
1. I have been told it's different for Widow/Widowers because they don't CHOOSE to separate from their spouse. Well, here's a news flash: Widows/ widowers do not have exclusive privilege when it comes to grieving the loss of a partner. Not everyone who is divorced CHOOSES to be. Some are abandoned by people who they deeply love AND who they will continue to love for a very long time. Others lose their spouses over freak situations, such as immigration issues or medical conditions such as brain injury or mental illness. Everyone who experiences loss must grieve and must let go if they are to move on to whole and healthy lives.
2. Unfortunately, much of society expects people to behave based on HOW a spouse is lost and people tend to follow this code, even when it does harm. Society tells divorcees to take down the pictures and to let go of their life with their former partner EVEN when kids are involved. Society says "DO NOT pursue someone who is carrying a torch for an ex-spouse," therefore, people who lose a spouse through divorce are expected to let go of their former life and relationship, especially once they begin dating again. They do not send flowers to their former spouse on their anniversary and they do not leave the wedding photos hanging up in the bedroom, EVEN when the parting is amicable. They realize that history is just that HISTORY.
On the other hand, society (friends of the deceased, former in-laws) tells the widow/ widower, you must honor your marriage, you must honor your spouse, you must keep them as a part of your life FOREVER. And so, the widow/ widower acts accordingly.
Just because society say it is so, does not make it alright.
3. No one can or should tell someone how to grieve or for how long. That said, if you are going to put yourself out on the market as a free and eligible single person who is looking for a loving and committed relationship, you have a responsiblity to be just that...free from the past and eligible to develop a loving and committed relationship with that new person. That means a relationship between the TWO of you, not the two of you amid the lingering shadow of your former spouse. It isn't appropriate for a divorcee to talk endlessly about an ex-spouse and it isn't appropriate for a widow/er to do that either.
4. Until you remarry, you will be a widow/widower. You will likely be very understanding if you happen to date another widow/widower who suggests that you jointly memorialize your former spouses.
But I ask you this. Think back five or ten years ago. Would you have tolerated being in a relationship with your late spouse if THEY were behaving then as you are now? How willing would you have been THEN to sleep with the smiling face of your spouse's former lover peeking out at you from above the fireplace or from across the bedroom? How often did you enjoy perusing photos of his college girlfriend who he hadn't seen in years? How willing were you to listen endlessly to stories about what a fun girl she was and did you schedule annual visits to go see her family? I mean, that was, after all, HIS history so why shouldn't he have been able to celebrate it? My guess is that once you married, you pretty much expected that the pictures of other men/ women were put away...way away.
5. Was there ever a moment in your life with your former spouse when you turned to him or her to proclaim that they were the love of your life or think how lucky you were to spend your life with your very best friend? I wonder how many times your current mate might have been about to utter those loving words to you, but stopped short after a quick glance at that lovely smiling face on the dresser reminded him or her that they aren't even close to being the love of your life.
6. For those of you widow/ widowers who are grossly offended by my comments. Here's a last thought from someone on the other side:
You can demand that your new lover understand that you are a widow/er and that your pain is DIFFERENT, that your pain is SPECIAL. You can adamantly proclaim with every ounce of your soul that you will NEVER remove those photos, that you will ALWAYS visit and send flowers to the grave, that you MUST honor your late spouse.
You can do all of this. And you can win every single battle.
But know this... Your actions WILL hurt. They will hurt your new relationship and they will hurt your new love. You can justify, deny, proclaim all you want, but you need to know that you WILL cause pain in your relationship. If you are lucky, you will meet someone who will love you enough to let you get away with this behavior... and who will not secretely hate you because of it.
I am going to tell you what none of your friends will.Your new lover has his or her own needs. They are NOT put on this earth to heal you or to be your grief counselor. They are dating because they want to find someone they enjoy being with who will love THEM, probably exclusively.
If you begin dating before you are willing to let go of your former spouse, then you are being UNFAIR and UNJUST to an innocent, loving person who is out there ALIVE and WILLING to give you their HEART when you are READY. Do anything short of that, out of loneliness or just plain stupidity, and you will be irresponsible and your behavior just WRONG.
Now, you've been told so you can not every say that you didn't know!
your posting is the most eloquent and honest posting i have seen. i came to this forum feeling terrible for having the feelings that i have knowing that in the context of things i will always be labeled as selfish or unfeeling if i expressed my concerns about being second best or second in my s.o.'s heart. to this day, i still live around these pointers and reminders of her past and i am caught in the middle. if i do mention anything, i am a beast for saying so. honestly, i know she loves him more than she loves me and i will never be able to rise to that level that she once had. you are right, i do hurt, i do feel marginalized, i am starting to think about leaving even though i truly love her because i am getting hurt by her inability to realize that we need our OWN life. i do feel like a place holder and any argument i make comes out as disrespectful and uncaring and selfish. literally hundreds of reminders from her past. she has asked me to move in with her and when i did, the pics were still all over, the clothes, the belongings... i know i am a bad person for saying this, but it was just plain weird. why bring me in if you are not ready yet? she will violently disagree with my statement and say that she is ready, but if you walk into the house, you would have seen that i was right. she took down the pics but keeps the clothes and other things and claims that she doesn't have the time to box them up. she keeps his things and she still takes weekly trips to his grave. she has every right to do those things and i have no argument. perhaps i would be better off in a more traditional relationship where the other was either divorced or never married. i am becoming emotionally numb now and just want to thank you for the post. now i know that i am not be such a bad person for feeling the way i do. i do love her. she just continues to enshrine her husband (talks about him in present tense) and i am just along for the ride. thanks.
Dating a Widow (er)
Robbthefirefly. I am so glad that my post was helpful. You need to know that you are not alone and that you are NOT a bad person for wanting to be loved and to be in a relationship where YOU are the priority, just like you are making your significant other a priority.
And I agree with you, your lady friend has the right to keep all of the pictures she wants. YOU, my dear friend, also have the right to want to be in a relationship where this behavior is not taking place. My only caution to you is that ALL relationships come with baggage. You must decide what type of baggage you can both live with and THRIVE around. Being in a relationship should be about more than just surviving. It should also be about feeling good about yourself and the other person. Dating someone who is divorced or who has never been married may come with its own set of issues so dating your widow may be the best choice for you. Just be honest with yourself and your partner about what you can live with and what you cannot and I think, in the long run, you will find the peace that you are seeking.
That being said, there are many of us out here (people dating or married to widow/ers) who feel or have felt the same guilt and shame that you have expressed. Unfortunately, that is the tragic legacy of widow/er grief that no one dares talk about. I am hopeful that my post will start a dialogue where people on BOTH sides of the aisle can discuss what happens in these relationships and how everyone is impacted. Widow/ers in their grief cause so much damage that they are not even aware of. I know that they do not intend to, but it does take place and the best way to begin healing from that damage is to start admitting that it is there, without the guilt, without the shame, without minimizing the pain.
So, let's consider this the first step toward that much needed discussion...
once again tourismgirl, very good response and post. you are right about the baggage that other relationships can bring and in the context, my situation is really not that bad. i am perhaps feeling a bit better especially since your writing has "hit the nail on the head" for me. you also mentioned that my s.o. does not realize she is doing this which probably is the truth. i will monitor the conversation to see what the community says or thinks about all this. i live and operate in world where i have to be mentally at the top of my game and it seems that my breaking heart is starting to interfere with that. i just need to snap out of this and take it for what it is. let go of the self pitty and just live and love. you make very good points. you sound/write like a professional (???). thanks.
I think that the process of mourning the death of someone you love is never ending. Some days are worse than others and as time goes by the bad days get fewer and far between, but never disappear. There will always be a place in her heart for him, and it is something that should not make you feel like your place in her heart is threatened. It's wonderful that we do have the capacity to love more than one person in our lives.
I think she is not truly ready to move on with another man if she is keeping his clothing in her closet and pictures in her bedroom. At the same time, that does not mean she does not want you in her life, but maybe you came along a little sooner than she was ready for. I don't know all the details of your relationship, but I think you should make a decision of what you want to do. You could move on or you can be patient, give her space and support, and wait until she is really ready to start her life with you. You should know that her "moving on" doesn't mean she will get rid of ever image and memory of her past with him, and you need to decide if you can handle that. Don't make her feel like it's all or nothing. It's a compromise. You should not feel guilty about your feelings and should be able to express them freely to her. Also, she should be able to have some degree of empathy towards your situation and visa versa. That's just my 2 cents. Good luck.
I am dating a man whom lost his wife just shy of a year ago. They have 5 adolescent kids together. I also have a 4 yr old son. Let me say this, I am VERY aware that we moved too fast. I moved into his home 5 months after his sick wife passed. I kept asking him if he was sure that he was ready for a relationship, and he assured me he was. He swept me off my feet. I love him more than anything but I know that I need more than my love to keep me here. He was with his other half for 17 years (very rocky relationship), he married her 2 years before she passed. All over our bedroom is wedding presents and photos etc... He also compares me to her all the time. I did tell him to stop doing that. But every once in a while he asks me what I am thinking about. And I am looking around our bedroom at all "their" stuff. And I want to tell him so bad that I feel like an intruder into his home. I don't feel like this is my home.
I am a widow of just over a year. While I haven't begun dating again yet, I have a shelf on a book cabinet that I have momentos. Doesn't take up the whole shelf. And I do have some pics on my mantle. I can imagine how I would feel if the tables were turned. Probably couldn't do it. It is a dilemma as a widow, though, because I do still love my husband and always will, but I also want to try to move on.
So I think she needs to find a less conspicuous spots, and fewer of them, for pics of her late hubby. If she knows this hurts your feelings and continues to do it anyway, it says something about your relationship. After all, you are here, now, and I don't think you are being unreasonable.
Just my two cents.
I have been dating a widower for 3 years (wife died 5 plus yr ago). The picture of the young bride was put away. He knew it should, but didn't do it until I brought it up. I haven't even broached marriage! My excuse is my child in high school. Really, though, I think I'd fear that he had his happy life and this current relationship is only an option.
They say "Men Replace, Women Mourn."
Sorry, but I think that when you bring ANY man into the bedroom to make love, there should not be pictures on anyone there - the ex, the deceased, the kids, or the dog.
Put all pictures away. That's what those bedside tables are for.
I am dating a widow and I have experienced most of these same issues. Ie: the pictures, what to call the deceased, is she ready to date?, competing with a dead person. You are right when you say it would be easier to date someone who is divorced . Her hubsnd died just over 2 years ago. Maybe we are dating the same person??
No. It's just that widow(er)s are like drug addicts. They all deny they have a problem and are oblivious of the harm they do to others while they are are in recovery.
such a good analogy. i too am dating a widow and it's been an exceedingly heart breaking few months. the pushing away, pulling closer, pushing away is getting old. i have done nothing but stand in there and go to bat for her, and it just never seems to be enough. i am patient, i don't push, i go to the grave and plant flowers. i let her talk about him, don't mind the pictures, helped her clear some of his stuff out. i tell her i love her and my world revolves around making her happy. i do everything in my power to make her feel like she has someone who knows her, and understands her, and listens, and responds. but it's never enough. she continues to try to distant herself as the quickest glance or assumption that i DO want this to be long term. she has gone so far to break up with me, and then later explain that she is just freaked out at the thought of a long term relationship with anyone. well then WTF am i doing here?!!! i love her. i want to be there. but after all i have done, you still can't accept that i am a long term option?! ugh. so for now we are on a break at my choosing. i don't want this, my heart is breaking to not be able to hold her at night. but she is clearly still in the ACTIVE grieving process and there is just not enough room in her heart or life to be a partner who can reciprocate consistently. even with my ever diminishing standards for what i need, she can't meet them. i just don't know what to do anymore. i'm holding up her whole world, but she can't even hold me for 10 minutes before we go to bed. it makes me so sad.
ive been talk with a recent widow of 11 months.shes a wonderful person an i really like her.I know shes still going through the healing process an weve had some very imtiment conversation.ive asked her out for dinner an a movie but the timing was just wrong.though ive let her know it will be on the table.thing is when it comes to taking a step like that she seems to back off.Under no circumstances would i ever put pressure on her.so i just let it go .I guess my question is is this a normal reaction an its a sign of her needing more time?
What a relief to find this site. I have been dating a wonderful man for 7 months. He was married for 13 yrs. his wife tragically killed on their wedding anniversary 10 yrs. ago. He did the rebound relationship 18 months later. Married her, moved to another state and divorced after 2 yrs. He moved back to where he an his late wife had their home. I met him a yr. after his divorce , our 1st date he proclaimed his love for his late wife. I knew I should have gone running but didn't because he's such a awesome guy. My head just bangs sometimes ... it seems every conversation goes back to her or in a quiet way compares me. I've brought this to his attention early on in the relatioship that I refuse to have a 3-some and will not compete with a ghost. Things were OK for awhile but now everything is her in-laws. We had "the talk" again because I blew. Come on he still carries a credit card with her name on it " I've tried getting it removed but the bank just won't remove it" (I
bet I could get it removed real fast!) Anyway I'm babbling because I'm hurting. He is in such denial, he swears " I'm so over her". I'm really not mean but this is making me crazy. Sometimes I feel he isn't even present with me, that he's off in late wife dream land! Like you, this week I was ready to call it quits, I really don't believe I will ever be at the top of the pyramid. Heck, for his birthday I couldn't even buy him one of those mushy soul mate cards, that hurt!
Sharonp...I just want to let you know that you are supported and understood. Dating a grieving widower can be a shame-based, alienating and confusing experience. Nothing that you feel is wrong. Your needs, whatever they are, are appropriate because you, as a unique and loving individual, have a right to pursue a healthy relationship where your needs and wants can be met. Love this man as your heart allows you to, but in the process, do not abandon your inalienable responsibility to protect and respect yourself, and demand that your partner do the same. And remember that ALL people over the age of 20, and many even younger, have experienced loss of some kind in their lives. Being a widower does not make someone special and it is most definitely not an excuse for selfish, blameless, thoughtless and disrespectful behavior. People tend to live up to our expectations so keep your standards high or you will end up with much less than you deserve. Best wishes to you, dear friend.
I have been dating a widow for about a year now. She lost her husband to illness about 2 1/2 years ago. I love her and want to spend the rest of my life with her but, I am in a funk. Been searching the web for info to help me and came across this page that seems to be the only good discussions.
I do understand she is a widow and what comes with that, but what about me? She is making steps to move on but, not sure she is there yet. I would like to ask her to marry but, still not sure when the right time is. She is in her mid 30's so her biological clock is ticking so is that what she wants from me?
She still has picture around the house (not in the bed room). She claim she took all that don't include her in the pictures. Is this make it ok? She also has a shelf with pictures of him on it and put up a picture of us on it. I told her I didn't feel comfortable with it and she got mad at me. I bring things up and she tells me that I need to get over it. Maybe I do, I don't know! She stated to me (while crying)the other day when I mentioned something that she doesn't want to forget him! I am not asker her to. I just want to feel like I am the one!
Any help with this would be help me! I am just in a rut and not sure how to handle. Been doing good untill now!
I think she has gone a long way towards a decent position if she's taken down all the pictures of them together and put one of the two of you beside one of him. If she is throwing his memory up on a regular basis, you might have a problem. Is she saying "Roger would never do that" or "Roger would have taken care of this by doing..."? If so, your reality will have a hard time against his memory, but you didn't mention anything like that. If it's just his picture gives you the creeps, maybe you do need to "just get over it." It's not fair to ask her to remove every picture, just like you wouldn't ask her to remove pictures of her parents or brothers. Should I pass away tomorrow, I would hope that my wife would move on, but I wouldn't want to be erased from our house as if I never existed.
I haven't asked her to take them down. I guess it just makes me feel uncomfortable. My question is, should it or am I being selfish? She doesn't compare me to him as far as I know. She still has things of him and most in a trunk in the bedroom. these things just make me feel uncomfortable. She works on a foundation she set up for him and stuff like that to keep his memory alive. I am supportive but, It is now getting to me and not sure if it should. I guess I am looking at it if we are looking to marry, she is the only thing and everything to me. Should she be doing the same? Is she not limiting things because she hasn't or not ready to move on?
I am just looking for info to see things more clearly! I have been trying to talk to her( comunication should be the most important but, that doesn't seem to be working out).
Any help from a young widow would help if one is willing!
You said: "comunication should be the most important but, that doesn't seem to be working out)."
THAT is the real problem.
I have been seeing a widower for one and a half years, his wife died two years ago suddenly. He has two young sons aged nine and six who are wonderful boys. I wouldn't expect her pictures to be taken down they had been together for over twenty years and shes the childrens mum but he hasn't removed her clothes from the drawers.. When I am with him at home everything seems okay but when we are out he very rarely shows me any affection. I went on holiday with his family and extended family (not his in laws) and it was honestly like he was a different person. I didn't feel part if a couple I brought this up and he said he has never been affectionate and probably wouldnt have been any different had he been with his wife. He has also never told me that he loves me. He told me at the beginning of our relationship that he had never told his wife that he loved her in all that time together. I too feel like I am second best and less than perfect. I often think I am being oversensitive but I think also I might be too tolerant. I love him but many things really hurt me. I feel that if I bring things up I am not being very understanding. I am glad I found this forum it makes me feel that I am not alone.