Dating a Widower, compared to Dating a Divorced Man

My friend and colleague Abel Keogh writes a popular column on his blog, and runs several areas on Facebook, about the perils and pitfalls experienced by women who choose to date widowed men.

I have various quibbles with this topic, which he and I have discussed many times. To me, the Dating a Widower movement, such as it is, looks like it's just based on following Google to high readership. Just because people ask a question, doesn't mean there is a substantive answer to be found... though it can be created by someone inventive, responsive to readers, and with tremendous knowledge of the subject... as well as first hand experience as a member of the population in question. Abel is far from the only author tackling this subject: in addition to his two books, Dating a Widower and Marrying a Widower, there is Julie Donner Anderson's Past: Perfect! Present: Tense! and her associated forums and other activities.

I'll admit that those who date widowed people is not a group I have chosen to speak to or for... and that knowing how few men under 55 are widowed compared to women (at one time Social Security told me it was 1 man to 7 women) makes me quite skeptical... but some of the stories Abel and his readers share are pretty dreadful.

Many of the men in question seem to have significant trouble living comfortably with their past lives and experiences. Perhaps some of them were even a little nuts before they were widowed (we are changed by our losses... but not that much).

I also think that widowers with children still at home (most of the widowers I know fall in this category) are a bit more justified in hanging on to "stuff" from their past lives and sharing family (like in-laws) and memories a bit more actively. This is a giant set of exceptions that negates, for me, a lot of Abel's advice.

To be honest I have been pretty suspicious of these areas in part because when I was dating, at 40 ... I looked only at men who had been married. To me, the only relevant person to compare a widower's baggage to was... a divorced man. (I mostly restricted my searches to men who had been parents, because I had a young child and needed someone who'd understand that if I cancelled a date due to flu that he shouldn't take it personally... and I considered never-marrieds undateable... prejudices which had been confirmed by experience.).

I do not doubt that many women DO ask these questions and that people are confronting some difficult situations with this "baggage." But emotionally unavailable men come in many flavors. And it seems too easy to me to provide advice to women who are dating... probably the most insecure people in the world. What makes widowed men so much more "difficult" to deal with than, say, divorced men? Or men who reached 40 without ever marrying?

So let's do a comparison of baggage. I married a divorced man and we spend more time dealing with his feelings about his 23-year marriage disintegrating and their divorce than we do with Gavin almost literally disintegrating before my eyes and his death. (Although the score does even out a bit if you start counting the time I spend on managing his posthumous career as an artist and the fact that I spend tons of time on volunteer work for widowed people like Widowed Village and the Soaring Spirits board. )

I've always wanted to do a comparison that went beyond "my husband didn't WANT to leave me." Abel has just published a huge list justifying why this is a legitimate area... some of the ways that widowers behave badly in the dating market. So let's tear in and see what we find!: 

Some widowers ... 
Do divorced men do something similar?
Have shrines to their late wives in their living room or large portraits in other places in home or office.

No. Often the ex-wife has been cut out of the family photos and pictures are spookily absent. Sometimes this means there are no pictures of the kids, either, or that the divorce lives in hotel-room-like impersonal environment. Having some amount of old photos on display is a good idea if he and the late wife had kids. Advantage: widower.
Hold the late wife as a perfect saint who can never be spoken ill of.
Frequently bring up the ex-wife as a demon about whom no good can ever be said. Advantage: widower.

Keep the late wife's clothing in the closet or toiletries in the bathroom, or offer the new girlfriend their late wife's jewelry, clothing, etc.

No, sometimes the ex-wife's possessions have been burned or tossed from a window, though, or sent to storage without her knowledge. Advantage: widower.
... same for lingerie or sex toys.

Just.... ew.
Want to be buried next to their late wives.
Well, it would be nice if the widower would at least pretend that this choice got complicated. If they had kids, the old plan MIGHT still make sense. Advantage; the fresh start of the divorce'.

Have a bedroom in their home dedicated and reserved for the family of their late wives.
If it's a huge house and they had kids together... maybe. I think I'd find it hard to complain about living in a house with that much extra space.
Talk about how their late wife was a great athlete, professional, mom, and an all around perfect human being
Frequently divorced men share with their dates their feelings that their ex-wife was a skank, dumbass, or spendthrift. Both behaviors are tacky and unnecessary in most situations. Both widowed and divorced men should be able to talk about people in their past without cartoonish characterizations. Advantage: widower.

Organize and participate in 5ks or other charitable events in the name of their late wife
No, but sometimes people who've lost a child or parent or friend to a disease continue these activities, and is that weird?
Wants to be reunited with their late wife in the next life
Okay that is pretty weird, but isn't it a question of theology, like, are you healed when you get to heaven? Even if you had an amputation? (Sorry. Not my personal set of beliefs so I don't quite "get" it.) And it doesn't apply to divorce anyway, unless the ex-wife has also died.

Have the late wife's pots, pans, dishes, spices, etc. in the kitchen

Well.... yes. We use a lot of items that belonged to Mr. Fresh's first wife. Wasn't most of it joint property? Are we expected to replace EVERYTHING? (Plus we live in their house but dude, I KNOW that's weird, and it was equally my choice.)

Have the late wife's voice on their answering
Okay, I personally think that should be taken care of before you date, at least, by the time that person calls your home number. Advantage: Divorce.

Live in a house that has their late wife's touches everywhere
See pots and pans, above.

Have tattoos of their late wife that they’re not willing to get rid of
Blech, but isn't a tattoo supposed to be permanent? I have mixed feelings about tattoo removal... because what is a commitment anyway? Unless he's out of space for a new one with your name on it.

Constantly compare you or have family members that constantly compare you to their late wife

People "compare" me to Mr. Fresh's first wife all the time, and they compare him to Gavin all the time, but kindly, and without excessive characterization. We both do it, too, but again, most of the time, we do it gently and usually we're talking about behavior and not, say, waist size. It is hard to avoid, but "constantly" would piss anybody off. Mr. Fresh and I have had our issues with it.

Wear rings that symbolize their love for their late wife
See answering machine, above.
Make a giant six-acre heart-shaped meadow for their late wife

No. As stated in many examples above, divorced men do not tend to have fond memories of their ex-wives. I believe however that new partners benefit from displays of love like this.... not to mention tourists: the Taj Mahal was built to remember the Shah's late wife. (History does not record for us how that affected his next relationship or the other concubines, concurrent or subsequent.) Isn't it possible he would do something like this for you, too? Advantage: Widower.

I have to admit my "baggage comparison" isn't really as decisive as I might have wished. I realize that it's probably not reasonable to compare dating a widow (a nice normal one like me) with dating a widower, but I think widowed people generally are treasures in the dating world. (I only managed to find one widower when I was dating. It didn't go well, but it had nothing to do with his loss.)

So I tend to wonder, why is there no comparable community (and books) for those dating widowed WOMEN,given that they are 7/8ths of the widowed population? (Annie and Able share their thoughts on this here). "Dating a widow" is probably an even more popular Google term than "widower," but leads you only to spam, irrelevant or disreputable dating sites, and p0rn ... not to an entire movement. While there is some discussion of dating widowed women, most of it is pretty low quality and it doesn't seem to have any traction. Nor does it seem to generate this much controversy, even though widowed women talk about dating a lot. (A LOT lot.)

It still seems like an insult to my friends who are widowed men (who are frequently outraged by these blogs) to admit that there is something there... but surely there is. Perhaps men are more frequently bad daters, overall? Who knows.

There is certainly scads and scads of material about dating divorced men... but those men are so prevalent it would be impossible to avoid them. Which I suppose is part of the peculiarity... it IS possible to avoid dating widowers, and look at all this advice on WHY.

What do you think?


Karen said...

Wow, I had no idea this was a thing. Then again, at 2 years since my husband's death, I'm not doing anything remotely like "dating."

But the thing that caught my eye, because it's the thing that most directly relates to me, in the position as the potential widowed dater, is the tattoo: I had my husband's signature tattooed on my arm 6 days after he died. If any potential Mr. Next can't deal with that, he may be a Mr. Next, but he's not a Mr. Right. My husband was and will always be a huge, huge part of me and who I've become and who I will become - and Mr. Right is going to understand that and accept it. I don't plan to be as immersed in my loss someday as I have been, and I'm already emerging into a different stage and dealing better. But the past isn't going away. Mr. Right will deal. Or he'll be Mr. Not Quite Right, sorry.

(Sorry for blathering.)

Anonymous said...

However Mr. Not Quite Right can find plenty of women who don't have a tattoo of a former love. I think this inappropriate and rather short sighted to permanaently tattoo your body with a past love and expect someone new ot Just "deal" with it. Sounds like you want a door mat to put up with your baggage rather than an equal partnership.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with many on the list particularly the photos/shrine. It's completely weird and unsettling to be hugging/kissing your man and whlie his former wife looks down from photos from every nook and cranny .Abel himself says in his blogs if the guy is starting to date then the guy should already be taking some of this stuff down. If there are minor kids at home an exception but certainly can start to gift some of these photos to the children for the room. No one expect you to forget a former spouse not love them, but geez the new person particularly if you seroius or for goodness sake remarried should feel comfortable in the home and that is not very possibly seeing your BF or husband on the walls embracing another woman. To me Divorced guy advantage. I would rather have a sterile apartment devoid of pictures than to deal with this issues . Also that is also rather an over generalization. I have been with divorced men who have famliy photos up just like anyone else, they simply consist of the man, his extended familiy and kids. Your right divorced guy doesn't usually frame photos of his former spouse - aggain what is wrong with that? It's one less thing a new love interest would have to deal with. Again advantage divorced guy .

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Anonymous, who are you talking to? And who are you?

annie said...

Actually the search term that brings way too many searchers to my blog that pertains to widows goes something like "when will a widow by ready to have sex with me" and it degenerates from there.

A lot of the issues that women who date widowers have, imo, stem more from their being unwillingly to simply set boundaries and enforce them than they do from "grief issues". I simply don't see how living with a guy whose vanity is littered with his dead wife's personal items and whose closet is so stuff with her things that you are living out of boxes is anything more than being a willing doormat b/c you are afraid that speaking up with cost you "this great guy".

A great guy wouldn't do to you even a 10th of the things I have read about. While a slight percentage have some problems that stem from their wives deaths or kid/inlaw issues in the aftermath, most seem cases of "she's letting me get away with it, so why change?" Which is typical lazy guy dating-think.

But here's why I don't think you'll see a message board dedicated to the guys who date widows, guys don't generally do the doormat thing. They leave and find someone new b/c they know they can. Women are socialized to believe that every man they date could be the last guy they date. Either b/c he is "the one" or b/c no one will ever ask them out again, so they cling and try to mold less than optimal circumstances into anything.

When I began to date again, I found nothing but divorced guys to chose from and I was less than thrilled b/c - having married for the first time at 35 - I'd dated divorced guys before and found that most of them were divorced for very good reasons. I only reaffirmed that the second time. Finding my widower husband was just a stroke of really good timing and though I can empathize with some of the angst the women who date widowers have - it's can be intimidating - I never experienced any of the drama. And I know more than a few widow/widower 2nd marrieds who don't seem plagued with memorial toothbrushes and adult children from hell (that's just poor parenting, imo, they were pains in the butt always).

I do think that when widowed date they should take pains not to inflict grief stuff on prospective partners and probably have a semi-decent handle on their expectations and what they are willing to give in return and be honest about it. Don't use ppl to "get over things" or as place marks - though this can easily apply to anyone, not just widowed.

One of the reasons, I think, that this is becoming such a "thing" is that for younger widowed, there really is no handbook when it comes to sex and love in the aftermath. It's almost as if the world at large equates widowhood with "retirement". But they are not small things and one way or other, they do need addressing.

I think Abel gives fairly good advice - from a man's perspective. I think Julie sometimes errs on the side of women "loving a bit too much" and not simply expecting to be treated decently without the hand-holding game playing.

Becky said...

Great post. As I read through your post I couldn't stop thinking about a great book I recently finished reading titled, "I'm a Widow, What Now? Embracing Life after Loss" by Patricia N. Muscari. The book is written by a widow, who has been there herself. The intent of the book is to move you through your grief and into contentment much faster! If I were dating a widower, I would strongly take some of the tips from this book to help him move through the process a lot faster (if he hadn't already done so), so that he could move into the relationship with me.

Wendy said...

I am a widow with a tattoo memorializing my husband (not his name, but definitely done "for" him and in rememberance). I also have a live-in boyfriend. I moved in with him about 9 months ago. We have pictures of my husband up, including wedding pictures. My boyfriend doesn't expect me to forget that my past ever happened, and to banish all things that would remind me of the man I loved so much. Heck, if I couldn't have any items or photographs that reminded me of my husband, I wouldn't have much of anything. Slowly but surely, some of the pictures are being taken down, as new memories are made. There are more pictures of me and the BF up than of me and the late hubby. Our wedding rings are at a jeweler so the diamonds can be used in a setting for my next marriage (with the wonderful BF).

Karen -- don't fret about what an "anonymous" person thinks about your decisions. Mr. Right-For-You will understand. I am living proof of that. :)

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Wendy, Karen, and anonymous... I also have no idea what you are supposed to do with ANY tattoo of a past love. Tattoo removal is, to me, pretty goofy (I'm sure I'd think differently if I had any ink!) and isn't it better for it to have a dead person's name on it than the name of someone who's, say, across town?

It's a hazard of the medium of tattoo... not anything having to do with widowhood.

BigMomma said...

I'm a widow remarried, 42 years old with lots of kids. I got myself a never married man! It has worked great. The reality is that by the time we are in our 40s we do have histories whether we are single, divorced widowed. And all of that has to brought to the marriage and worked through together :-) My first husband is the father of my 8 children and I spent 17 years of my life with him, of course he is part of who I am. But then that is true for everyone. We all bring expectations etc. It is not simple and it is not easy. But it is good :-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry I have to Agree with Anon. A permanent tattoo of any love past or present is short-sighted and its also true Mr. Not Quite Right can go and find a woman where this is NOT an issue. However, if he is for YOU I imagine he will get beyond it. I get the feeling from the widowed set that "anything goes" as far as memorialization and the new person better not DARE to object or feeling anything but RESPECT because this was YOUR husband... let's pull back a moment shall we? We get into a relationship because we want a RECIPROCAL relationship with someone. Someone who loves us unconditionally and we them. We don't want to be with a person whose heart and mind is split with another person - living or dead. Now, the baggage. Of course we all have it and of course we all have past hurts, loves, and marraiges who makes us who we are but does it have to be brought into the fore front of a new relationship or marriage. Can't it put to the past enough that the new relationship is about the two of you? Of course there will be discussions, some talking about the past, there might be pictures or family ties to the old relationships. This happens even with a divorced person. The theme of divorce bashing by the widowed community truly cracks me. Over and over I have see widowers and widows proclaim what "gems" they are in the dating world compared to the divorced and how terrible and screwed up the divorced are and further how W should be considered the "better deal". That my friends is the eye of the beholder ... and dependent on the individual person. There ARE many Ws who are in indeed gems but there are indeed many Ws who are messed up. The divorced the same way. I don't know that those who have lost a spouse somehow feel some comfort or ego boost by proclaiming how much better than they are compared to divorced people. It's your opinion. But I do think a lot of divorced and non divorced ppl would be turned off rather than attracted to the widowed superiority complex.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

@Annie, Great, great observations. I agree with you about people having trouble setting boundaries. To me, most of the advice is just "don't be a doormat," which is good advice, but not particularly related to dating a W. Thanks for helping fill in this picture!

@Anonymous (most recent). Yeah, I agree that the tattoo is problematic, but it would be the same with a tattoo of any former love, wouldn't it? Death would not make the tattoo more offensive? Yes, relationships are between the living. Yes, widowed people's sense of entitlement can be irritating, and no, not all divorced people are "bad" or anything. But as Annie says, most of the "literature" (such as it is) about dating after a partner's death assumes your life is over, rather than affirming it. So my ideas, the ones which I steer at my widowed friends, are geared toward reminding them of their vivid, possibly sexy and loving years ahead. Yes, of course everything is dependent on the individual person... one reason I have an issue with this type of advice column in the first place. But far and away, widowed people's concerns (at least the women) are about lack of confidence and silly superstitions about not being able to love "two people at once," which of course, is never any actual problem. :-) And the advice they receive 90% of the time, if they are 30s to 50s, is about divorce, and totally stupid for their situation (though as far as dating goes, the concerns SHOULD really be the same). Perhaps not the clearest response, but then, your comment was a little rambling too. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post...it really means so much to me. I've often thought that I would never be able to love again because whoever I love would want me to forget my DDH, and I absolutely refuse to forget him, and I absolutely refuse to stop talking about him when it fits into the conversation. So Karen...more power to you!! Yay for you!!! Wendy...love your situation!! You found a great guy!!! Abel's column makes me sad and depressed, and you ladies give me hope. Annie...I've read your comments on Abel's site and you're just as bad as Abel. I truly believe he never loved Krista, the way he talks, or not nearly as much as he loves MG. I also think he is able to forget about Krista so easily because even though she died, technically, she chose to leave him and took the baby with her. While I don't advocate anyone being a doormat, I also think Abel is WRONG WRONG WRONG on so many levels. And God forbid you disagree with him...some lady (a widow) commented one time on a post and he told her that her relationship was a threesome, which I would have taken offense to if I were her because that thought is just repulsive. There are so many times I've literally cried reading his posts...in fact, in the beginning, his posts made me almost feel suicidal. Thank you again, Supa. You made my day!!!!! You (along with Karen and Wendy) gave me hope again!!!!! You're the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woo hoo!!!!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

And YOU are the reason I wrote this.
Big hug!

Karen said...

Wow, I hadn't checked this thread since I posted my first comment. I love it that anonymous (of course) people think I'm looking for a "doormat" because I have Jerry's signature on my arm. Or that my past is "baggage" (read Widows Wear Stilettos on that word: Carole is pretty fabulously militant about it and has personally barred me from using it, and she is very, very wise) or that I must wipe any possible reminder of my husband away in order to keep a man that would otherwise like me from running for the hills (and someone without my husband's signature on her arm). This is just so hilarious. If a guy is so freaked by the fact that I lived a life before I met him and loved someone deeply and choose to remember him in a permanent way, just as he is a permanent and cherished part of who I am - well, all you anonymi, you're welcome to him yourself! If you can't tell the difference between honoring and cherishing and remembering the past while moving forward and creating a new future, and being stuck and putting the past before the present, then I suppose it would be better for you to be with someone who pretends nothing has ever happened to him or her before the moment you met.

If I ever meet Mr. Next, his having had loving relationships in the past and feeling positive about them will be nothing but a plus. A man who has known love and knows it's something he wants, and something he can give: can't think of anything better.

Karen said...

Oh, one more thing: I can't tell you how it warms my heart for anyone to have found something I've said helpful. I've been accused on my own blog (by someone "anonymous," of course) of being a whiny, childish, self-centered person for sharing my feelings and my widow's journey in as honest a way as I know how, and while I know whoever that anonymous person was had issues of his own if he needed to write something hurtful on the blog of a stranger, it still feels like an affirmation to know people get it... and appreciate it, sometimes.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Karen, ignore the trolls! And hang out with more widowed, I'm sure you'll get a LOT more positive affirmation as an inspiring example, just like this!

Anonymous said...

Anon you did hit the nail on the head. There is this theme of superiority complex of Widow/ers and divorce bashing. The widower I dated also had this superiority complex and it affected our relationship. Who wants to be with someone who sees themselves as one up to others? I also agree that people engage in a relationship for it to be reciprocal and that the widowed community really does seem to have an anything goes attitude as far as memorialization and the new partner better be on board with ANYTHING - However,if you are taking steps to engage in a new relationship and certainly if you chose to remarry you responsibility should be primarily to your new spouse not your deceased one. You took vows stating" forsaking all others"

I say this all with a heavy heart. My mother just lost her lifelong partner, my father. They were married for 48 yrs. I doubt she will date or remarry but if she did - while it would be odd for me I never would think she was forgetting my father, but I also feel it would be possible for her to find love a second time around just as strong as with my Dad albeit different because of stage of life etc. I would not expect her to throw away photos of my Dad or her life with him, but I would totally respect it if she remarried and the new husband didn't want to be faced daily with wedding pictures or couple type pictures of my parents over his own mantle while married to my Mom. A few photos with other family photos I can understand, but I really dont' understand those who remarry and still have a large couples photos up of their previous spouse. It honestly seems disrepectful to the present spouse. It really is about having courtesy and kindness to the LIVING as well as respecting the dead. There has to be balance. If you truly love your new partner you wouldn't want to hurt them and would want to celebrate your life with them not memorialize your past life at their expense.

My father is gone. His memory lives on in our hearts, but the heart has a great capacity to love and to love again romantically. While we are engaged with a living person it is our responsbility to be there for them... not have our hearts divided in a love long lost.

I am happily dating a "gasp" divorced man. He is amazing. Amazing. He has not a single issue you widowed attribute to the divorced. He is kind, his heart is undivided, he is romantic, he is strong and has so many amazing qualities. I have never been happier and I hope to spend the rest of my life with this man. HE has no commitment issues either!

I think first the widowed community needs to stop pigeonholing people into good vs bad categories - i.e. widower=good, divorced=bad. It's the individual.... Honestly as Anon said superiority complexes are not attractive. You are not better than anyone else because you are widowed rather than divorced - although I feel greatly for your loss.

Anonymous said...

"Annie...I've read your comments on Abel's site and you're just as bad as Abel. I truly believe he never loved Krista, the way he talks, or not nearly as much as he loves MG."

I think that is truly awful thing to say . Because Abel and Annie have chosen to move forward and focus on their present lives and spouses does not mean they didn't love and care for their previous spouses. Such terrible judgments and unkindness against people you don't know. Honestly Abel and Annie are doing what the living should do. they cherish their memories of the past but they don't live there and they have opened their hearts to someone new. The thing is if you don't feel capable of doing that yourself and you refused to stop talking about about your former spouses whenever he fits into the conversation (holy moly glad I don't have to be part of that conversation) - and honestly who wants to hear someone drone on and on about their deceased spouse ad nauseum or shoe horn them into every conversation that "fits" ; do you seriously expect people to put up with this indefinitely ? I feel for your grief and loss, but my goodness at some point you do have to start living in the present and future rather than focusing on your past marriage and spouse and holding others as a captive audience. Also there is whole world out there beyond your loss. Most people will be kind for a time and tolerate it but you will drive people away in droves . I do not say this to be unkind . I can totally understand if the loss is fresh or if it is occasionally but you yourself said you refuse to stop talking about him at every opportunity it fits into the conversation.. Really? No matter the audience? No matter if you are boring dear people to tears? Honestly it comes across not so much as a superiority complex but rather as someone who is inherently only interested in what interests Them and the hell with everyone else. My friend, you are not ready to be a partner to anyone at this stage . Abel and Annie were ready... they were ready to put the past behind them, cherish the memories, but live life in the here and now. Do not fault them or attack them for that.

Steve W said...

My wife passed a year and a half ago after a losing a grueling battle to cancer. For me, I needed to go through her clothing and personal items w/in a few months after she passed as one of many steps in letting go. I don't have tatoo's etc and the idea of a room as a shrine is downright creepy to me. We never had kids and although I do still look at photo's of us from time to time, once again, as a necessary step in moving on I have taken down wedding photos etc. Bottom line for me is that I wouldn't want to date any woman who has biases against widowers anway, because their bias speaks volumes about their lack of character and egotistical world view

Roxanne said...

I've been on both sides of the table, so to speak. I married a widower and I never felt threatened by the fact that he needed to move at his own pace. He and his wife had been together for almost 40 years when she passed, so I did my best to be understanding. He was literally incapable of getting rid of her clothing and many of her belongings. After we married, as time progressed and with his blessing I managed to clean most things out of the house - always keeping a "keepsake" box. They had no children, so there really was no one to save anything for, but the memory was important to him and non-threatening to me. After celebrating our 11th anniversary, he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer - he passed away 3 and a half months after diagnosis. I grieved through the summer as I took care of him and am ready to move on. I have donated all of his clothing and anything that the two of them shared, kept a few momentos and am struggling to find a new "normal". I still wear my wedding band, because it "feels right" and don't know when that will change. It is definitely a journey and a personal one for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I'm a man of which by all indications will be a widower soon. My wife has that horrible disease called cancer and it's been deemed terminal. It's taking all my energy to help her in her struggle and at the same time I am faced with my marriage of 30 years ending and being alone.

Absolutely nobody can know what another feels or will feel when such a loss happens. I have no idea whether I'll keep pictures, make a shrine, etc. until I reach that stage of this ordeal. I certainly cannot make judgements on anyone in that stage now. And as for dating, I also have no idea until I arrive at that stage.

Every situation is different and there are no formulas to follow that can work for all. Just as there is nobody who can make judgements for any given situation. I know that a certain piece of my heart will always belong to my wife and maybe there's enough left to share with another, and maybe not. She will never be forgotten nor do I want to attempt to erase her memory. It will be a certain amount of baggage for a possible future partner to deal with and all I can say is I will try to do my best to keep those memories of my wife from affecting any new relationships.

Everyone that reached my age has baggage and some will have it weigh them down, some will not. Nobody can say "I would or wouldnt do this..." unless they are or have been in the situation.

For now it's day by day and my future is very uncertain.

Anonymous said...

This is a long drawn out story, painful as it is.

Wife was diagnosed in July of 2009 with breast cancer. She felt the lump for 2 1/2 years prior but discounted by at least 3 of her parents doctors. She had been encourageable to live with. Her hormones were out of whack, very bi-polar. By the time the cancer was removed, it had already matestisized to her brain and sinus cavity.

She abanonded the marriage in a very crude & childish manner. I felt abused and used, yet my relationship with my sons became truly QUALITY time.

We divorced a year ago May 30th and the cancer took her life a month ago, leaving our two young children for me to raise.

From this horrid experience called marriage, I did have 3 years of wonderful union. The rest was overshadowed with manic hormonal disarray, that was all my fault of course. She was spoiled rich by her parents too which caused many problems as well...... I still love her and I do keep pictures of her in my home for my sons to remember her.

I am in my mid-40's now and know more of what I don't want, than what I do want. The list goes like this: no drama, autonomy from parents expectations, have your own career, your own identity, your own money, enjoy excersizing with me, good around children, & patient.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

To the most recent anonymous, I'm very sorry for your loss. We do have a few others who were divorced AND widowed (or various complicated scenarios like yours) on Widowed Village, you might find it helpful to connect with the others.
I agree that I felt much more like I knew what I wanted (or at least what I didn't) after one mature relationship and in some sense, that's an advantage... at least, over me when I was younger.
**big hug** and sorry you had to join the club.

bj said...

Dear recent anonymous so sorry for your loss. As unfortunate as you were in your marriage and in defense to your wife (
Sorry) sickness causes many people to act in selfish ways. I recently lost my husband of 16 years but I was with him for 10 years prior to being his wife. He was my whole life I am lost right now. I am 46 with 3 children one with special needs. I know I will probably be single for the rest of my life. At his funeral I found out that he knew he was sick but didn't clue me in never shared that with me so after 26 years one could say he was selfish and childish. At least I feel that way. You are grieving not only on becoming divorced but also her death anger is part of grief. I'm angy at him and myself I should have recognized the difference in his personality in the months prior to his death but I didnt. Hine sight is a bitch. I hope you find someone again. I hope this for myself and my children as well. Try to find peace and forgiveness so that if and when you do meet someone again you will be able to recognize it and embrace it.

Ryan said...

Hello, I have been a widower for a little over 4 months after being there for everything through my wife's 455 day battle with an unknown cancer. That battle ended with a month long in home hospice care where 3 of her best girlfriends and myself cared for her every need. My love for my wife poured out completely during her fight. I discovered how strong she and all humans are when push comes to shove. I've never loved and honored someone so much in my entire life. Then, one day, I was not able to express my love anymore. It is a part of me that has been forced to completely shut down. That is the hardest part of all of this. Because of her, I learned how to love, but now that I'm without her, I have nobody to love. Sure I have one child with her and 3 step kids of hers that I love and will always love, but that isn't the kind of love I'm talking about.
I want to be with someone again. I loved being there for someone and feel most comfortable sharing my life with someone.
I still have her stuff everywhere, mainly for the kids to remember her, but partially for me, as well. I haven't started dating yet, I've tried, but I haven't found anyone interested in me yet. So, I have no problem removing all of her stuff once someone does show an interest in me. It's just stuff and her stuff has nothing to do with my love for her. Everything I need of hers in my memories. But, with that said, I'm not going to remove everything of hers before I meet someone just so that someone can see that I've moved on. And, if someone does become interested in me, and I have her over to my house, I will remove pictures of my wife before she comes over. But, someone has to show an interest in me first.
That is the strangest part is nobody seems to be interested in me anymore. I seem to be avoided for some reason. I'm 42, fit, and that that bad looking. I've tried dating sites and sent emails to women who say they are okay with widowers and say they will respond to emails, as long as I have a picture on my profile. But, none of them do. Even a thank you, but I'm not interested, would make my day. At least, I would know something one way or the other. I'm beginning to think nobody wants to be in a relationship with a widower. I understand I have only been a widower for 4 months and maybe that is too soon to be looking again and maybe I'm not ready. But, if I waited until I was ready to do everything, I would never do anything.

Sorry for rambling. I'm really new to this, and really lost on what I should be doing.

I know I can love someone else again, and still love my late wife. I'm able to seperate my feelings for someone else and the feelings for my wife.

I really don't know what to do. It doesn't help that all the movies on the subject of widowers are movies like UP, anything with Clint Eastwood lately, and We Bought a Zoo seem to have the male dedicating his life to her memory and not wanting to move on. I don't want to me one of this bitter old guys that lost it one and only love and hates the world for it. However, I also don't want to be one of those players who's just looking for a quick hook-up. But, it almost seems that I'm expected to be one of those two.

Thanks for letting me vent. :)

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

First of all, so sorry for your loss, Ryan.
Second... don't give Hollywood one more second of your time.
Third... there is no "right way" to do anything, but you should keep taking care of yourself and your kids. But see if you can remove the words "should," "yet," and "still" from your vocabulary, at least when you are talking about yourself. Expectations are the source of much pain in the world, and you don't need any additional right now!

I'm sure you don't have any kind of cooties (though people can be afraid of the widowed and especially the recently widowed). Part of being ready to date means being confident and secure about your status as a widowed person and that may take some time to develop. We're all different.

You sound completely normal for one of us whose lives have been completely disrupted. Please, consider joining us on Widowed Village, where you can meet so many others just like you. The men in our community are wonderful -- you sound like their friendships would be good for "where you are right now" and maybe where you're heading... a course which, if you like it to, may include new love.



fish said...

I've been divorced for 5 years and have dated a variety of men. Until recently I had not dated a widower. I have been surprised at the special issues that exist in my new relationship and Abel has pretty much hit the nail on the head. The other morning I had a dream that my new friends wife called and was coming back. In the dream he was so excited and told me without a shred of mixed feelings. I shared the dream with him and without missing a beat he said he would take her back in a second. Ouch! Thus the internet search for the special problems with widowers. He has told me that he thinks of her everyday and misses her so much. I sleep in her bed and look at her cosmetic products every time I pass through the bathroom. I see all of her weavings and art work hanging on the wall. I feel like such an intruder. Every spare minute I have he is trying to get me to come over and fill the loneliness he has. Juxtaposed against this is the lovely, fun time I have with him when we are together. He has no regret or bad feelings about making her number one in his heart and mind. Never have I encountered this in my post divorce dating life. I've dated many a broken hearted man but none who felt like their ex deserved front row seat in their life. It feels horrible being second to a dead person.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

What's special about this niche of "advice" is that it's the only advice I can think of where the question is always, "how can I change someone else?" That's a good question. None of us ever can change someone else. But we can change ourselves, and we certainly can change who we spend time with.

The most common advice is "don't be a doormat," and it certainly does apply to widowed people, just like all advice. My question is about YOU.

Why are you dating a man who treats you so badly? That's what I don't understand. How can so many women put up with this crap? How is it on him? Why are these "special issues?" Isn't he just an asshole right now?

(Maybe he will be better later. Maybe he will treat you better later. Why are you there now?)

I agree with Abel that you deserve someone who treats you like #1. I don't agree that "don't be a doormat" is hard advice to give or that these are the only situations that require it.

I'm guessing that this is a relatively new relationship and that you are hoping it will change. Why don't you tell him how you feel and see what happens? Maybe he really isn't ready. Let him play that part out a woman who is an actual doormat.

P.S. Even if he treated you well (or does later), I'd allow room for him to keep artwork that she made on display. Even when he is feeling more sociable, his loss and those relics will be important to him, just as would be relics of any old friend or family member. I work with artists' widow/er/s and they truly can move forward without this being a sign of emotional problems.

Beth said...

Hey all...wandered over here from Abel's blog, which I read fairly regularly. For the record, I'm a formerly divorced gal married for 6+ years to a formerly widowed man.

Fresh Widow, thanks for hosting. As my DH is 17 years my senior, I am always scared that I am going to be the widow someday in the (hopefully far distant) future; I have no doubt that my perspective may change drastically if/when that occurs.

Fish--I felt so sad reading your post. May I ask how long that your boyfriend has been widowed? For a man to volunteer that he'd rather be with his LW over you is just cruel, IMO.

Ryan--I am so sorry for your loss. If you don't mind a random opinion from a stranger (who actually did meet my DH online), my initial impression, if I were to receive contact from a W so freshly widowed would be : There's no way he's ready to date. How could he be, at only 4 months? (Now--let me clarify, I'm not saying that you're NOT ready to date, just that I wouldn't want to date someone that newly suffering from a loss like that--and I suspect more than a few women may share that sentiment). Also, since I think about being widowed myself someday, sometimes :-( I personally cannot imagine being ready to give myself to someone else so soon...again, that's just me. I am not passing judgement on you or your situation; everyone is different.

My DH was widowed (suddenly) at age 41, had three kids with LW, to whom he'd been married 17 years, and he started looking online for another partner around 3 months post DOD. He admits (now) that he wasn't ready. That first year, he was visiting the grave weekly, they'd put up a shrine and he was very much in grieving mode, even while dating--most of which was long distance. I met him about 2.5 years after her passing, and there had been several girlfriends before me. But I truly believe that he was ready to move on when he met me. He proved, in every way possible (IMO) that he WAS ready for a new life, a new wife. He acknowledged that his love for his LW was a chapter that was closed and in the past. His LW has not been a huge player in our relationship, honestly. But that's because he has always been more than considerate about how I feel and made me feel like I was always the priority. And that makes all the difference.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Beth, Thanks for chipping in. I agree with you on most points, and thank you for being more compassionate than I was in my most recent reply. :-)
I am glad to hear you are doing well and it seems our perspectives are really not far apart at all!
Thanks for visiting.

Annette said...

I am divorced and recently started dating a man who is 47, his wife died a year ago from a long battle with cancer. He is a wonderful man and I want to get to know him better and give this a real chance for a long term relationship. I haven't seen this issue in other posts, so I thought I'd ask. He is strongly considering getting a tattoo of his LW's name on the back of his shoulder. He has no other tattoos. If he had this done while they were together I would have understood, but doing it a year after her death? Isn't he just basically permanently inking a "no trespass, property of LW" on his body? If I were dating a divorced guy and he told me in 1 breath that he wants to be my boyfriend and in the next breath says he wants to tattoo the name of a prior woman he was with on his body, I would run for the hills. It seems like a red flag to me that he is not ready to make room in his thoughts and feelings for a new relationship.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Well, traditionally, a memorial tattoo is done after someone dies.

And you have to remember that she is not a threat to you. There's no debating that she lived.... memorials, in some sense, demonstrate that the person lived. The tattoo is here, she is not. But people have all sorts of different intentions. (Personally, I find "MOM" tattoos on grown men as creepy as anything, and they are classics, right?)

At any rate, that one symbol is used in so many different ways by so many different people, it would be silly to make a hard/fast rule about it. See the responses above to hear many different responses to tattoos, which were each worn by different people with different intentions.

The real questions are still:
-- Does he treat you like second best?
-- Do you have a history of being a doormat to men?
-- Are you dating him with the expectation of being his next life partner, or just living in the moment?
-- What does *he* say, how does he respond, when you talk to him about this?

What does your answer to those 4 questions tell you -- that's the answer to your question.

IF I'm an advice columnist. But I'm not. But you asked. :-)

Annette said...

Thank you for your well thought out answer to my question. You Should be an advice columnist! The good things about this: he communicates really well, doesn't get upset or defensive if I ask about something. He most definitely doesn't treat me like 2nd best and it's wonderful. He is thoughtful, chivalrous, caring, probably one of the best men I have met in my life. But yes, I recognize in myself that I do have a history of being somewhat of a doormat in relationships. I have enough self awareness to see this is an issue for me and I try to consciously pay attention to my own behavior in my dating life. The really key thing you have keenly pointed out is that I do need to gently and respectfully talk to him more about the real meaning and motivation behind what he wants to do. That's important advice on all topics - hopefully others don't do what I did which was have a knee jerk reaction to what he said. It is always important to 'Seek first to understand, then to be understood.' This is the first time I have ever dated a widower and I am the first to admit that I'm in over my head and I'm probably going to say some dumb things. It's a bit like learning a new language. But I'm willing to learn and grow in this journey.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

And thank YOU for your kind response.
Widowed people his age are fairly rare, especially men, so I don't know how useful it is to generalize -- it's really about what is YOUR tolerance which is why the doormat question turns up so often. I do NOT think widowed people deserve such special treatment as they sometimes seem to get (as evidenced by Abel's trade) and I do not think that people who partner with people who were widowed are really all that special either -- they're just not emotional babies. But that's a topic for another day!

I don't think you should worry about saying dumb things. I think you should think about whether you want to spend the rest of your life with this guy, without expecting him to "change" through some "stages of grief" or some crap like that.

I love hearing you say there is hope for you to speak up, for him to listen, for you both to respond sensitively. It's a hint of it being "okay" if you say he treats you as #1. (More than a hint.)

I wonder, too, if part of this is your own baggage (sorry) about the divorce. You know, you do deserve love and whatever happened, you could get in some great situation this time. This is not the last man on earth, and you deserve the very best. OTOH, most people are way too picky and divorce, like death, can really leave people clingy/gun-shy.

Be willing to learn and grow... but please don't take any BS either. You have a long life ahead of you and probably a bunch of choices ahead, too. Make the most of them.


Andhee said...

personally i don't like stereotype, but people entitle to their opinion

my wife passed away 3 yrs ago, and i haven't dating other people ever since...

but, when i'm putting my self out there, i'm trying to be like single people again. i know i have baggage, but i don't want trouble other people with my baggage. i know maybe sometime i talk about my wife, but that's part of my history

and when you trying to be serious in relationship, communication is the key, how to compromise. sometimes people have shrines with their past spouse, but now you live with the new ones, please respect the living, he/she you live with from now on..

Dating A Widower said...

I was widowed over 2 years ago and want to start enjoying life again. Although I have lots of family around me I miss the company of someone closer to my age. "I'm looking for someone that likes doing the same things I do...and just wants to chat and be a friend for now and see how it goes from there."

Anonymous said...

Having dated 2 widowers, there were issues and probably due to the rebound effect, too much hurry on their part at first. Then again if I would have known them for years prior to meeting them, its quite possible they were cracked nuts before and during their marriages. I use the same boundary technique for a widower as I would in dating single, or divorced. They are a man and we've all had hurts and issues and I am not the cause of yours nor you for mine. We realize that our history is history and we have travelled that road but lets not bring it into our bed every day and centre every issue that we may have for fifty years on the fact that "somebody did somebody wrong" or "someone died in our life"...there are sadly only two absolutes...we live and we will die.
I am so sick of this Widower Disease. Its not special to be a widower is right but more than anything the women dating them present themselves as "extra special" to the cause and they are the mens saviors. Years later they are still waiting for a commitment and none is forthcoming. Of course not. Men are men, believe them when they say they are not going there, don't think you will change them and if you can guilt trip one to the aisle your looking for trouble. If you married a widower, make sure issues are communicated before, and if I meet one and he is still obviously wishing she was I, I will not stay...I have better things to do than wait on someone grieving. If your out there looking, your ready and if you not ready, then stay home.
For the women who are all over the internet boo hooing about their plight..You have two choices, either put up or leave. You can not change him , you will not change him, stop blaming everything on the late wife due to your own insecurities and if someone dead is such a threat your in the wrong place. Your jealous of his love that he had for her but your allowed to have loved in your past.
If the widower has had one wife and shes gone and he is searching and the woman he meets has been married three, four , five times...possibly he doesn't have the issue, but you do.
Stop trying to be his band aid...I am all female and I get tired of listening to other women on this subject. Stop talking about it to everyone and put your energy into fixing your home if your married. If your not and tolerating abuse, non commitment or not being loved and you don't want some of it but you want others...don't try to change him to love you, state your case once what you want, if its not forth coming do what any woman with common sense would do...value yourself and leave and find someone to love you that is capable of doing so.

Jane said...

Wondering if there's anyone out there who can advise/help. I'm dating a widower for the past 7 months. I've known him for 7 years prior to his wife's horrible death from cancer (we worked together when his wife was sick and passed. I had met her and his children previously). He has 4 children (12, 17, 18 & 20). The oldest 2 are daughters who have had eating disorders since Mom passed away and have been admitted to hospitals on an in-patient basis. You can imagine how much time he spends dealing with their food issues and hospital issues, and I don't mind that at all...I would think badly of him if his kids weren't his first priority, especially the two that are ill! I am writing this because I truly like this guy and he's worth keeping if I can work my way through this. I'm not blinded by my feelings for him at all. He has all the qualities that I've been looking for in a man since my divorce 13 years ago. He adores his kids and focuses on them as he should to help them through their issues. Problem is, he still wears the wedding ring (wife died in Dec. 2009), there are pictures of her all over his house. I know he still has SOME of her clothes, but his room is not littered with them or most of her possesions. But I feel he has not moved on yet. I describe it as there's a bubble around him and his kids and I'm outside the bubble and sometimes feel like I'm intruding. Example - he neglected to invite me to his neice's wedding last month, which he and his kids all attended, along with 99% of his family, who he has introduced me to. I asked him why he didn't invite me, and the excuse was that he was wrapped up in his daughters' food issues and who was going to the wedding, etc., and just never got around to inviting me. Very weak reason. His oldest daughter actually asked him if he intended to invite me. He has introduced me to all of his family and frieds, including Mom. I've developed friendships with his friends and like them very much and they like me. I'm 100% certain his children like me a lot. I don't to push myself into their lives in any way. I don't want to be their mom, replace her, or act like her. They need her memory (I lost my dad when I was 9 and wish I had more memories of him so I can related to wanting to keep those memories as best as possible). Bottom line: this is not his friends, his kids, his family. This is him. How long should I wait before I pull the plug? He's really a great guy so I'm being as PATIENT as possible, but I feel he needs to make room in his heart/life for me. When I described the "bubble" that I'm outside of, he said it will just take time. I don't want to remove his memory of his deceased wife at all, I just want him to find a place for me in his life. He claims to be ready for a relationship. I asked him if he is ready on our first date and then again during the discussion about the wedding. He claims to be, but actions speak louder than words. I find myself pulling back from him because I don't want to get hurt. I could fall in love with him, but won't allow myself to do so because I know he is not in love with me. How can he be when he still wears her ring (which, I swear is lit from within by a lightbulb because it's all I see sometimes)? I also recoil from his left hands....And, yes, her voice is on his answering machine. Why would he get involved with me? I know he cares about me on some level. I let him lead because I don't feel like I should pursue him on any level. I do not chase him at all. Further, even though he has introduced me to everyone he knows - all friends and family, I don't feel comfortable introducing him to my co-workers at work events or some friends. How do I explain that ring, which if you haven't noticed, really bugs me. I don't know if I should end this and move on or not.....opinions please.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Jane, you are a smart lady so you give us a lot of info. It sounds like your needs are not being met. OTOH it is only 7 months (although you have known him much longer). Do you feel you are being treated badly? If he were divorced, would you be less willing to cut him slack? What does your gut say? Life is complicated but advice columns are sometimes simple -- and I don't pretend to run one of those, this thread notwithstanding. :-)

Anonymous said...

The thing that turns me off about the whole widower thing is that everyone expects women to be the emotional caretakers for men. And it just makes me wanna puke seriously. Because that is the reason no one is talking about dating widows.

Because taking care of anyone is so bizarre to a man. It's alien. But everyone expects women to do this. All the time and no matter what. To 'fix' him. Because as a woman and the only one concerned about the relationship naturally, everything is her responsibility. It's actually quite sick. To women of course but not to men. In fact men would probably find it humiliating. Because feminine (and nurturing) behavior is mocked in this culture. As 'weak' and inferior. As belonging to the female class of people.

A woman who is sad and vulnerable and needs comfort is very heart-breaking and all, but what's in it for him? That's all a man is really concerned with. It's not that outrageous in fact it's the most common thing in the world. What women don't understand is that no one expects him to take care of you, but they expect you to take care of him. Hey, he's a guy. He's bad at emotions. Whattaya want from him? etc etc..

Unless you birthed him, unless he came out of your vagina then he is not your responsibility. Wake up ladies! Oh dear what a shitstorm I'm going to set off with the guys. Oh well. Do whatever you want with this.


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