Dating While Widowed: How Soon Is Too Soon?


The question comes up a lot among widowed and those who are interested in dating them – how soon after the death of a spouse is it considered appropriate to begin dating/or pursuing?

It depends on who you ask.

Other widowed people like to trot out the tired cliché – “If you have to ask, it’s too soon.” It’s such a circular and unhelpful answer that I’d like to ban the phrase from the grief lexicon because given the minefield of rules and expectations surrounding widowhood, asking is the only way to clarify whether the signals you are receiving from your peers, family and friends are about your welfare or their self-interest.

This isn’t Gone With the Wind times. Scarlett knew the rules on widowed decorum because society at that time spelled it out. Mourning lasted for one year. You wore black. Attempted to look resolute and somber, smiling wanly as you sat out your “black-shirted” year on the wallflower bench. It may have sucked, but everyone was clear on the time frame and waited (while perhaps discreetly lining up suitors for once the deadline had passed).

Today? Not so clear. Whereas the newly broken up or divorced are free to take the field again as soon as they like, the widowed must navigate religious, family and community rules on the subject, and they vary. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes simultaneously.

So how soon is too soon?

The best answer I ever heard was something along the lines of “taking a date to the funeral, or hooking up in the crying room of the funeral home, is probably a faux pas, but otherwise, it’s up to you.”

And it is. Up to you.

Stereotypes say that men date sooner and remarry more quickly than women do, and there is statistical validity in this. Average time frame for widowers who remarry is about two – three years while for widows, it’s three to five years. But, having children or not, being younger or older and your general state of resiliency in the face of tragedy plays into this as well.

Younger widowed date and remarry sooner, and at higher rates, than older ones. Once a widow hits 65, the odds for remarriage fall off sharply.

Widowed with children date and remarry with ease or not depending on the age of the children, and believe it or not – adult children can be the worst to deal with when it comes to dating and remarriage with teenagers coming in an unsurprising second.

But when? At what magical point in the days, weeks or month after a spouse dies is dating permitted?

I signed up for eHarmony at just shy of six months out from my husband’s death. eHarmony wasn’t a good format fit for me, and I abandoned the effort after a few weeks and only meeting a police officer who looked like Lurch with a bad comb-over. Next I tried to cultivate a dating minded relationship with an industrial tech teacher I’d met through my master’s program that summer. He suddenly wanted to “just be friends” when he found out I had a child. Then it was back to online with, which I found out after the fact is a well-known “hook up mostly” site. The majority of men I met through it were varying degrees of depressing in their hunt for on-call girlfriends.

It was while taking a break from dating that Rob appeared. Our relationship began online, and as friends, but when it was clear to us that this could be more, we deliberately took that step, kept moving forward and haven’t looked back.

So it’s always technically an option to date. More widowed than will admit to it try to date at some point within the first year. Some people even begin dating with weeks or a few months. But there are those who wait out the so-called year deadline of propriety too, and others who buy wholeheartedly into the notion that they must “work at their grieving” to get it all out of their system before trying to move on in any aspect of their lives, dating included.

You can date whenever you like. In my opinion, and experience, when thinking about it begins to more of a logistical “how will I do it” rather than a daydream to chase away sadness, you are probably ready to look into it at the very least.

A couple of cautions:

1) Your family and friends will be at different stages of “ready for you to date” than you are. Taking their feelings into account is good, but don’t forget that they have their own lives to mind and should leave the minding of yours to you. If you weren’t living your life by committee prior to your spouse’s death, don’t start now. You can’t please everyone, and what other people – even your kids – think about you isn’t your business anyway. Generally, if you have good, supportive relationships with kids, extended family and friends, this will all work out and they will be happy and supportive. Be patient. Don’t be a doormat.

2) You are dating. Your kids are not. Try to avoid a revolving door of dates where underage kids are concerned. Only introduce them to people you feel you have a future with, and when you do, expect them to behave like well-brought up humans. Disrespect shouldn’t be tolerated.

If problems arise with adult children, remind them that they should spend their time and energy minding their own lives. You don’t tell them how to live or who to love and they don’t have the right to tell you anything either. Once you hand the keys of your dating life over to your kids, they won’t give them back, and do you really want to be that old man or woman, whose adult children talk to them as though they were small fluffy purse puppies?

3) Be honest about what you want out of dating with yourself and the people you date. If it’s just fun and sex, say so. If you are in the market for more – act like you are.

4) Which brings me to this: if you are in the habit of using your widowhood to manipulate situations and people, you aren’t ready to date. And don’t look so innocent. You know what I am talking about – playing the “widow card”. Widowed who are truly ready to date do not use their widowhood to control the  pace of a relationship or coerce their girl/boyfriends into accepting unilateral terms of engagement. Playing the widow card in the relationship arena is a no-no. It’s manipulative and unfair, and frankly, widowed who do this are the worst kinds of assholes.

Finally, it’s okay not to date. Or even ever want to. Some widowed find contentment and even a lot of joy in being single and unattached. If the idea of dating makes you nauseous, or seems like something best put up on a shelf for the time being, there’s nothing wrong with that.

The point is that the days of donning mourning for public displays of grieving for specific periods of time are long over. Anyone who is spouting rules and timelines at you has an ulterior agenda, and you are within your rights to question them and it.

It’s your life and only you know what’s best. Even if you aren’t sure, meeting a guy or gal for coffee never hurt anybody, and enjoying the occasional Starbuck’s isn’t a commitment to anything.

113 responses to “Dating While Widowed: How Soon Is Too Soon?

  1. Dear Annie,

    Thank you for this post, this really helps. I lost by husband 5 months ago, at the age of 31. He was my world.. I have had a lot of support from family and friends, even from those who I didn’t expect. We used to play world of warcraft together and were part of the same team for more than 6 years.

    When our team found out, most of them reached out to me via facebook to give their condolences..I was so touched by this. This is when I got in touch with M. It started out quite platonically – he messaged to give his condolences and to tell me that he was there if ever I needed to scream or shout or just be my punching bag. For some reason, I did actually do that. He was connected to F (my husband) and me but not in a way that if I started to break down..he would too (this was the case with most of my family and friends).

    After about 2 weeks of my rage..I was pretty exhausted and decided to ask questions about take my mind of my issues. He had also been in a 10 year relationship and it broke for different reasons than mine. What he said stuck with me ” in the are heart-broken..and this is what hurts more than anything”.

    We started talking more and more and I realised that I started developing feelings for him..I obviously freaked out…and then the guilt wave struck in full blow…I mean it hadn’t even been 3 months!!! He admitted to me that he did indeed have “a thing” for me and things sort of took off from there.

    Here’s the thing..He was completely into it and then he backed off..I mean REALLY backed off..I point blank called him out on it and his answer was a bit baffling…”What if things get really good between us..then what?” (yes its a distance thing). From there it progressed to..”I don’t know” – this is his catch phrase. ” It should feel easy”..”It shouldn’t be that hard”. Basically he says he still has “a thing” for me (we have not defined what this is between us…we call it..whatever this is) but there’s this one sort of block in his head which he is unable to explain.

    I told him to stay in the moment with me..but apparently he can’t. Now its been 2 .5 months since this “whole thing” started and what once used to be texting everyday and is now almost 0. I won’t hear from him if I don’t initiate contact..

    Yes, I’m hurt, and yes I want what I want which is to find out what this actually is. A while ago he suggested that we meet in October..I am totally up for it but since then..October has sort of been a “maybe” – he blames this on the nature of his work. He works in a shift rotation and doesn’t get his schedule before a month in advance.

    I am not quite sure what to do. I know the obvious thing is to drop it..but…I don’t want to..I think this could actually be more if he could just get his head out of his ass.

    Any advice would be welcome.

    • First, you’re right about the obvious thing to do. He’s kinda ghosting. Politely because he still responds when you initiate but still pretty much a ghost.

      LDRs are hard when both people are keen to make things work but at the moment, you are wanting this more than he is.

      It’s pretty normal (and common) for widowed to get into relationships early on and for those relationships to have sprung out of friendship but like all relationships, some work out and some don’t.

      You could simply chalk this up as your first post-widowed relationship. You were both dealing with heartbreak. You got each other through it. You’re still friends. Start looking about in your daily life for dating opportunities.

      But as you don’t want to drop it, the logical thing is just to put your cards on the table and see what he will do with them.

      Tell him how you feel and what you think the future could be if you both decide to seriously explore this relationship. Be prepared to follow up or accept that his perception, wants/needs don’t match yours.

      Final note, you are five months out. Which is not a long time. Be certain of your motivation. Is this relationship what you really want? Is he?

      Ultimately, dating is still dating. It hasn’t changed since you’ve been away and now that you are back to it again, all the same rules apply.

  2. I am getting married in a couple of months to a man that I dated 13 years ago, and due to him getting accepted at college 3 hours away and me (then 18) taking care of 3 of my cousins that I got temp custody of while my aunt and uncle were in jail… we parted ways. I got married and so did he. I divorced in 2013 and have a 6 year old child. His marriage ended that same year when his late wife passed from cancer leaving him with an 18 month old child. He spent 6 months trying to acclimate to not being a caretaker and trying to get over his feelings of guilt for not being sad due to the fact that he wasn’t happy in the marriage before the cancer diagnosis. However, after she got diagnosed (their daughter was a little younger than 3 moths old) he wasn’t going to leave her during that traumatic time in her life. So, he took care of her and did what he was supposed to as a father. Very noble in my opinion because most men could have just walked away especially dealing with an ending marriage before a sudden cancer diagnosis that had no cure and was too far progressed to really save. It literally was a death sentence for her. She also suffered from what sounded like post partum depression and never really bonded with their daughter. She would get angry if the baby would stop crying or prefer her father over her even though she didn’t want to really deal with the baby in the first place. It’s an altogether very sad story, honestly for the child because this was the treatment BEFORE cancer was even in question. After the cancer diagnosis, the attitude never changed and she decided that it would be best if she just stayed away from the baby as to avoid her “bonding” with her so that it wouldn’t be as hard for the baby when she passed and so that he could get used to being a single parent. So, there’s the background story there…. She died 15 months later when the baby was 18 months old. So, after 6 months of getting acclimated to being single with a child as a man, he decided he wanted to see what I had been up to and to his surprise I was divorced. He contacted me and things just fell into place where we left them 13 years ago. We got along great, our kids got along with each other, his kid liked me, my kid liked him. It was seemingly very happy! We couldn’t see the storm brewing ahead…. We decided to move in together, he should the marital home he once shared, and we moved into a new house to start a new life for the 4 of us. The kids were 5 and 2 1/2 when we moved. It seemed wonderful! New house, pool, big back yard, room to ride bicycles… it seemed as if everyone was getting a second chance at a glorious life. Then, out of nowhere, HIS parents and siblings started to tell his child that she had an old mommy that is in heaven but loves her very much and has a new mommy at home. WE NEVER ADDRESSED THAT. I was just called by name and we were all so happy. I had boxed up important things to share with his daughter when she was old enough to inquire and had a BIG plan for that moment for her and I to really bond as friends later in her life. I was ok with the fact that she didn’t call me mommy, because we were all happy!!! So, she goes to see her mother’s parents the following weekend, and comes back calling me mommy, but only in front of them and other people or if we are out somewhere. When we get home, it’s back to calling me by name, except now, she doesn’t listen to me, doesn’t want to play with me, refuses to accept food or drink from me if her father is not home, has started to hit/kick/bite/punch/scream at me, and has just turned into a child I never expected her to be over the course of a year and a half. She is constantly reminded by extended family on both sides that her old mommy is in heaven but loves her and she has a new mommy at home. I don’t know what to do about this… He asked her when she came hold talking about old mommy if she knew where old mommy was and she said she was in heaven in the sky. How do you fix that? We were all so happy until everyone started over stepping their boundaries and it’s been a year and a half and we’re supposed to be getting married but I don’t know how to handle this now. WE had a great plan. WE wanted to be the ones to tell her on our terms and when she was ready. Now, she seems like she has a loyalty to her “old” mommy that she doesn’t remember b/c she was too young and not bonded with her. She never seemed like she felt she was missing or had anything different. She seemed very happy when we all moved in together and was excited she had a big sister. I just don’t understand how people could damage something so wonderful in the name of the deceased? Shouldn’t people sometimes let it go… then rally around when the kid is old enough to understand the permanence of death and the concept of heaven to share stories about how their birth mother was? I’ve asked questions so that I would know her better, but honestly, the only thing people can come up with is that she was nice and taught them a lot about life from dying from cancer. No stories, nothing to journal about so I can better help this little girl make good memories of her mother through others’ stories… She journaled a lot and had nothing nice to say on a daily basis and was very unhappy with anything anyone did or tried to do for her. She constantly diagnosed people with either being narcissistic or bipolar or manic or something! Then she would turn around and diagnose herself with all these kinds of anxiety disorders even though she saw a counselor, she never agreed with her initial diagnosis of attention seeking personality disorder or whatever, I have no clue what she had or didn’t have I just remember reading the journal while trying to decide what to keep for the child. I didn’t keep that journal. How could I? So, do you move forward and tell people to stop the drama? Or do you step out and tell the man you love, sorry but I don’t think I can make this my entire life? I’m not equipped to be able to handle a kid manipulated into not liking her life at home and is it too late to change that? After a year and a half of me trying everything under the sun, she just seems like her affection to me has been lost and it tears me up inside. At night I cry silently, praying for something to happen to ease the tension she has towards me and for God to please give me back that sweet little girl that was so happy before people stepped in without even talking to her dad first about any of it or how he would like to approach it. They just took it on themselves. We got engaged and it got worse and is progressively getting worse. I just don’t know what to do and I need a good outlet to vent and try to re-group without feeling defeated and just leaving because I know that’s not the right thing to do either, I just feel so helpless now.

    • I have two friends who married widowers with very small children. In both instances there was some push back from in-laws that was confusing for the children. And in each case, the husband simply had to lay down the law to these people. In one case, things worked out well and in the other, the grandmother finally lost her visitation until she worked out her issues.

      Sadly, you can’t do anything. Your boyfriend has to be the one to talk with the relatives, express disappointment that they overstepped and make it clear to them that they are causing his daughter emotional harm.

      As she is very young, should rules about what can be discussed with her be put down and followed, she will probably be able to get past this. Her change in behavior is likely related to the fact that she’s been given information that conflicts with her reality and that she is too young to be expected to understand or deal with.

      But he has to set the relatives straight. That’s not your job. And the two of you probably need to talk about your family situation and what you want to do moving forward.

      I am sorry this happened. It’s not unusual. It is stressful for all but it can be worked out if everyone is willing and remembers that what is best for the child is most important. She cannot be dragged into grieving for someone she never really knew no matter how many memories she is given. It will only hurt and confuse her if this continues.

  3. Just fishing for advice I guess. I was in a relationship for 5 years before we decide it wasn’t going to work out. During this time, my gf had a friend that I liked. Liked as in a really really good friend that just so happened to be super attractive to me. Im not a cheater just looked at it as a bonus of my gf having good looking friends. Loved my gf to death at the time. I’ve always thought this friend was beautiful and funny but I was in love with mine just as she was with her husband. Life goes on but she is now a widow. Her husband was my friend as well during this time (8 years).

    Now im unsure of what to do. I’m now single as is she obviously. I have consoled her recently over this time without any ill intentions but now my feelings have flared up again. Part of me says that I have no business trying to pursue a relationship because of the circumstances of me being friends with both since the beginning and with her husbands death only being 7 months old. Another part tells me I need to at least tell her how I feel regardless of how weird it could make things because I would hate to lose an opportunity to maybe have something more with her.

    What’s your take on this? Should I take a back seat here?

    • Is she indicating in anyway that she is thinking about dating soon? If she is, letting that be your gauge is a plan.

      Though you might feel odd, given your past friendship with her late husband, I know many people who ended up dating and having long term relationships with late spouse’s friends and even siblings.

      If you like her and she seems receptive, there is nothing inappropriate about asking her out on a real date.

  4. Hi! I’m confused and don’t know what to do! I’m a single mum been divorced for 4 months now I have been feeling alone and want to move on.
    I’ve been seeing a guy for over a month now his very nice and charming and treats me well problem is he finds it hard to meet me and have a simple coffee.

    His wife died 2 years ago and I think his scared of moving on I’m not sure! I want to help him as much as I can! Should I leave him for now and wait till his ready I don’t no?
    Any advice will be good! Thanks

    • I am guessing that you are communicating with him online and haven’t met at all, right? Or if you have, it’s been very infrequent and never progresses?

      Lots of people in the online dating world – not just widowed folk – use virtual relationships to test the waters and to feel less lonely without having to actually get involved with people in real life. Or they view the people they met as “on call” type dates. Something they do when they feel lonely or don’t have anything else planned.

      I am not saying that this is what your guy friend is doing but people who are serious about wanting to date, set up real dates and will talk about how they feel in concrete terms. The fact that he isn’t doing this could mean a lot of things but it’s pointless to speculate and unless he is willing to be honest with you about his reasons, it’s a waste of your time. It’s probably not fear though but more like ambivalence.

      I have encountered many women who think that widowers just need time, understanding, a sounding board – the list is endless – and then they will be ready to date, fall in love, commit. What I often don’t hear from these women is want they want. What their dreams and hopes are. Their expectations. Mostly because as women we are trained from an early age to please and adapt in order to get love. Many of us don’t think about expecting potential partners to be pleasing and adapting to us.

      You are going to do what you want ultimately so generally, I don’t frame anything as advice. You say you want to move on from your last relationship because you want to share your life – so why don’t you concentrate your efforts on someone who feels the same way? Someone who wants to move offline and have coffee?

      I am not suggesting you stop communicating with your widower friend but he doesn’t want to meet up and you want to meet up with someone. So concentrate on what you need and what is best for you and let him figure his own life out.

      Dating a widowed person should be like dating anyone else. Grounded in the present with a eye on the future. It shouldn’t be about doubling as a grief counselor.

      Never in the history of dating has any women fixed a man. My advice is this – you are ready. Find someone who is also ready. Until you have a commitment from someone, your priority should be what’s best for you

  5. hello i have been seeing this guy for over a month now,
    his wife died 2 years ago and he is finding it hard to go for coffee with me
    he says he wants to meet but just cant something is stopping him maybe his scared i dont no ? his very nice and treats me well but just cant meet up with me i dont know what to do ? should i leave him for now until he is ready ?

    i really like him and i wanna help in anyway possible? please and thank you if you reply

  6. I hate when you say that the child has no right as to how soon a widowed parent dates. From my experience, what do you think about this? My beloved mother passed suddenly and due to medical error 2 and a half years ago. My parents were happily married 34 years. During most of which I saw my father be completely goo goo over my mother,. Well guess what? I was worried about him for a literal second because that’s how long he was a widow, a second. Not even was he single a day really, he immediately had this girl from his work over and “comforting” him and she had no problem stepping right in to his attention and love. It has had a profoundly negative effects on me and my grief recovery and I will always hate her and see his lack of ever having to deal with the death by just getting a replacement.
    I never could even have anyone have a loss like I did, no one to talk about it cuz they were in the honeymoon phase. And I heard them have sex one week after. I never heard my parent have sex. I heard that who’re having sex in mom’s bed one week after she died.

    • The reality, whether we like it or not, is that our parents are adults and the relationship they had with each other has nothing whatsoever to do with us.

      You had no voice in your Dad’s relationship with your Mother – nor should you have had – and his relationships after being widowed is simply a continuation of this reality.

      Do I think that widowed shouldn’t take their children’s feelings into account at all? No. Certainly you and he should have been able to talk about how you felt but just as he has no say so in your personal life, you have no say so in his.

      I don’t advocate bringing new partners into the lives of kids, teens or adult kids without warning or before you know it’s going to be a serious relationship and I don’t think sleep-overs are a good idea until commitment is on the table, so if your Dad had come here and asked me what I thought about how he handled it, I would have told him “Badly and you have some bridge mending to do and good luck with that.”

      But, this is all a done deal, right? And the only person in this scenario you have any control over is you.

      So you can choose to be angry and bitter and unforgiving – it’s totally your right – but I wouldn’t recommend it. Long run this hurts you more than anyone and you’ve been hurt enough. Why hurt yourself?

      You say didn’t try to talk to him because he was in his “honeymoon stage”, so by giving him this pass, you missed an opportunity. However, it’s not too late to let him know how you feel. Calmly. And see what he has to say. My guess is that by keeping silent both your dad and his girlfriend felt that you were okay with things. People aren’t mind readers. They only know how you feel if you tell them.

      Life is far too short to hold grudges or to pass up opportunities to rebuild relationships. Choice is yours.

      • Thanks for your opinion I needed it from an outside perspective. And you are very fair and pleasant. What I meant was we couldn’t/didn’t talk about my moms death too much because they were in a honeymoon stage , meaning he didn’t experience the loss like I did. He instead used her to fill the void, my dad doesn’t really have any friends, my mom was his everything. I’m living there taking care of my 92 year old grandma with severe dementia (moms mom) and do he kinda does have a lot of say in my life. My whole life is on hold for grandma. I know your maybe not a therapist but apparently I have a lot to get out, thanks for listening, I’m just trying to find out if I’m being selfish or if the gnawing feeling of anger that slaps me in the face is there because it’s not right. Mind you this was my moms moms house. The girlfriend always comes to our house and she not at all what my dad deserves and I hear her talking crap about me nightly and my dad doesn’t say anything. Ok sorry, thanks any input is welcome.

        • You don’t need to apologize. Your feelings are your feelings. And you are in a stressful situation and grieving.

          I don’t think you are being selfish. It’s difficult to look at our parents and see anything other than our parents.

          I don’t know that your dad is necessarily using this woman to fill a void only or to avoid grief. Relationships right after loss aren’t that simple or easy to define, even for the widowed person.

          There are a whole lot of issues here and I would really urge you to find someone – family member or friend who can see what’s going on – you can talk to because this is a lot for you to carry on your own.

          And being a caretaker for someone with dementia is very stressful. If you are carrying this all on your own, think about seeking out support groups/organizations in your community too. They can be very helpful.

          Ultimately, having a one on one (calmly) with your dad is something you should consider. You aren’t going to know what’s really going on with him unless you talk with him and vice versa. At the very least, he needs to know how hurtful it is for you to hear the things his girlfriend says about you and feel that perhaps he agrees because he is not defending you. And although it might appear that your dad holds all the cards, stop and consider that you are holding down the fort, so to speak. You probably have more power than you think.

          It could be your father is just dating because he is lonely. That the girlfriend isn’t a permanent thing. Some widowers do date and remarry quickly but many don’t. Dating, even intimacy, aren’t predictive.

          I’m sorry things are hard for you right now. You’re a good person and awfully patient one dealing with both caregiving and a dad who is been more than a bit blind to you. Post anytime but please do think about finding a sounding board in your real life. If for nothing other than to listen, validate and remind you that you are probably doing better than you think you are.

  7. It’s been 2 months since my dad passed away. Its been hard on everyone, but i feel like it’s harder on me.. I am 16 years old , and i was very close to my dad, he was my best friend. Anyway, I was on my moms phone a few times and every time i have it she gets a message from this guy. At first i thought he was a co worker, it turns out he is but he’s more than that. I decided to click on the messages and although reading them broke my heart i kept going. I honestly dont know if its heading to a relationship , but for a fact i know she’s hooking up with him. I’m not okay with it. I get consumed with so much anger, i have tried talking to her but i dont have the guts to. Im close to her but not that close to actually talk to her about it, i guess i always trusted my dad more. I notice that sometimes at night she sneaks out, i assume to see him. I just need someone to give me their opinion, i need someone to talk to.

    • Samantha, I am sorry for your loss.

      I know two months doesn’t seem like a lot of time in terms of your mother dating again, but though it’s not typical – a fair number of widows do date and rather soon. If your mother is younger (under 40ish say), the odds go up on how soon widowed people begin to date.

      I can only speculate, but it appears as though your mom does not want you to know she is seeing someone. Probably because she worries that it will be hard on you and most likely because she doesn’t want to introduce anyone into your life until such time as she feels a) the relationship is serious and you should get to know this person b) she feels you are ready.

      The problem is that you know she is seeing someone and you can’t un-know it.

      You do need someone to talk to about this. Do you have an older sibling, friend, teacher, school counselor, aunt? Someone you can trust to help you decide what you should do next because you do have options.

      The first being, nothing.

      Your mother is an adult with feelings and needs that are very separate from being your mom or you dad’s wife. Her grief is going to be different from yours because she had a different relationship with your dad than you did. Dating, if that’s what’s going on, is sometimes just that. It’s not about anything other than distraction and comfort and being with another adult for a while.

      So, if you are able, you could just elect to do nothing and trust that your mom knows what she is doing and is keeping her dating under wraps to give you time.

      Second, you could confess. There’s a reason we shouldn’t read other people’s mail and texts and you’ve found that out first hand. It’s because we sometimes find out things, we didn’t need or want to know.

      She might be angry but maybe you two need to have this conversation.

      Either way, you should give some thought to finding someone you can really talk to about your feelings. You could check with your local hospice about grief groups for teens. There are online groups and organizations too. I would start with Soaring Spirits. They mostly deal with widowed people but they have a wide network and might be able to point you in the direction of organizations for people your age.

      I would imagine that you are feeling let down by your mom and pretty alone given that your dad was your go-to. The first months can be quite difficult. Even though you feel that you aren’t close enough to your mom to talk to her, I know that if it were me, I would want to know that you’d found out and how you felt. She can’t help you unless you give her a chance to do so.

      I hope this helps in some way.

  8. I came to your blog after a man I am dating for a couple months told me last night, when I tried to end things between us, that he has been very guarded while dating and in new relationships because he didn’t in fact get divorced, instead two years ago he found his wife who had hung herself. A lot of what he had told me about past relationships now seems cloudy and I wonder whether I should give him a second chance.

    My issues are that he is not attentive, does not freely give affection, does not freely accept affection, and does not make me feel like he desires me or finds me attractive/sexy. I lost a lot of weight last year (he did too, and now I understand that weight gain to have been related to depression) and so he is aware that feeling desired by someone I am dating is a concern to me. When i shared these concerns with him last night (which was not the first time) he said he likes taking it slow, he likes where things are at right now and doesn’t want to see it get ruined. My issue is, I was telling him I did not like where things were at right now.

    Then i gave it some thought, come and read your blog and #3 and I become confused all over again — he has stated very clearly he is looking for a relationship. He had even had a year long relationship since he became a widower. BUT he doesn’t act like someone who wants a relationship – he’s standoffish unless we are together, he never compliments me, he doesn’t seem to like to give/receive affection and he only answers texts sporadically and I try to respect that that is his preferred form of communication.

    Maybe you can shed some light on all this confusion I feel. I know I said we’ve only been dating for a couple months, but I would like to understand whether based on what I’ve described if it sounds like he is even ready for a relationship or if this odd unaffectionate behavior may be normal for some widowers, even two years later. Thanks for reading.

    • If I am understanding this correctly, he says he wasn’t a relationship but his actions don’t really match up and even after your telling him what you need, he doesn’t seem to get it.

      I firmly believe that men who want to be in relationships are very clear both action and word-wise.

      Even those men who’ve been hurt whether because they are widowed or because they’ve been through a bad break-up, will still overwhelming show you that they love you.

      Does this mean your situation is a lost cause? That you should move on?


      You’ve talked to him and still feel uncertain of his intentions.

      He could be one of those people who simple isn’t affectionate. Love is more reserved. Those people exist but can someone like that be a good fit for you long term? You would need to discuss this with him and really think about it for yourself.

      A lot of times, people show up here and are looking for me to give them their answer. I can’t. And most of the time, you already know what you want to do, you’re just looking for validation.

      So, what do you want? It really is that simple. Do you want to give him another chance? This time really consciously working on creating the kind of relationship that works for you.

      Or is this just a relationship that was okay but not a good fit and it’s time to say, “This won’t work for me. No hard feelings.” and then go out there and find someone who is a good match.

      I can’t read his mind. I think that someone widowed people struggle in the first years with relationships because they don’t really know what they want yet. I wish they knew they could be that honest about it with the people they date, but many aren’t. They fear they won’t be accepted where they are at and with the “baggage” they still might be sorting through.

      But still, this is about you more than him. Talk to someone you know and trust if you can but ultimately, you just need to decide what is going to make you happy and work in your best interests.

      Good luck.

      • Thank you for your reply Ann.  I am not looking for someone to tell me what to do, I am trying to understand it from a widower’s perspective I guess.  We’ve been dating for a couple months and this is the first I have heard about him being a widower, and not just a widower, but a man who found his wife of 10 yrs after she had hung herself.  I would’ve totally gone about my dealings with him a different way if I had known this information from the start.    He has told me a lot about past relationships and his marriage but all under the guise of him having filed for divorce from this woman. 

        This “I firmly believe that men who want to be in relationships are very clear both action and word-wise.” is also what I believe and thus my confusion with his requests to take things slow, because right now it feels more like a friendship, and a very inattentive one at that.  His words and actions show he is not ready for a relationship, but when I brought this up he basically asked me not to leave him.  I like this guy and have come to start caring for him, but I don’t really owe him my patience if he is not meeting my primary needs.  This has been difficult for me to accept and act on.

        We are going to discuss it further on Sunday, but to me, this is not a where is this relationship going conversation.  I am merely going to reiterate what i want, which is not unreasonable, affection and interest shown in me in words as well as actions, and he will have to decide for himself if he can offer that or wants to offer that to me.  If not, I am going to tell him I need to see other people.

        Thanks again for your response.

        • Sounds like a good plan to me.

          He sounds like he perhaps has things he needs to work on personally but you don’t owe him anything. I really believe that – issues or not – widowed who date shouldn’t expect bad behavior passes. They should be ready at the very least to be honest about where they are at, what they are able to give and should recognize that they need to treat prospective partners with the same respect and care they want in return.

          I hope things go well on Sunday.

  9. Thank you so much for this article and your follow-up responses. I am probably unique here in that I am both the adult child of a widower (my mom passed away when I was in college) and now a widower myself.

    You are absolutely correct about not allowing children to have veto power over if and when their surviving parent starts dating again. In our case, my dad didn’t just start dating again, but was remarried 6 months later. We all thought he was crazy (and obviously would have vetoed it had he asked us), but looking back at it 20 years later, I can see that it was the best thing that could have happened to him – and they are indeed still very happily married to this day.

    In my case, it was helpful to read that “many, many widowers seem to begin dating, or trying to, somewhere between 3 – 4 months and the end of the first year.” I’ll hit the 4-month mark in a couple of days, and I’ve just very recently started to think about dating again – hence the Google search for “widower dating too soon” which led me to this post. It may still be a while before I actually go on a date, let alone think about remarriage, but it’s good to know that I’m not crazy for thinking about it this soon.

    • I am glad you found some information here that helped.

      My husband met me around the four month mark. He’d told his young adult kids two month earlier that he was definitely going to date, so he’d already made up his mind. He wasn’t looking to date, however, when we met, but we were dating within 6 wks of meeting and married when he was 10 months out (I was 15 months out).

      It is perfectly normal to want to date again and to get back to it quickly. But there are no rules that say you should or shouldn’t feel in favor or opposed either. Anything that exists is merely cultural and it’s up to you to abide or not.

      Having experience as a young adult with a widowed father has given you perspective that many don’t have, so thanks for sharing that here.

      Good luck to you!

      • I wrote in reply to this article close to 2 years ago. I was widowed at 29 when my husband chose to end his life. I knew from early on that I wanted to date again. I didn’t want to be alone and still wanted things in life. I was ashamed of wanting to date so early and afraid of what people would think or say. To be perfectly honest I was also afraid if this was not good for me, maybe I did need more time and I now had emotional baggage in any relationship I would begin. I decided to date and that I didn’t want anything serious and then I met my boyfriend of over one and a half years. I couldn’t deny my feelings for him and I felt ok moving forward. My friends and family, including my in-laws, were all very supportive and wanted me to be happy. I’m sure there are some who don’t know me that pass judgment and I would be lying if I said I didn’t care. The truth is there is no manual for being a widow and everybody heals in their own way and in their own time.
        You will know when you are ready.

  10. I married at the age of 20 to a widower with 5
    children ages 15,14,9,8,and 5 and it was love at first sight so I married him right away not realizing that his children would cause problems for me. We have a daughter and son
    together, and his children were absolutely horrible through out our whole marriage which lasted 24 1/2 years. Through out our whole marriage my husband kept pictures of his late wife and other items belonging to her for his children (which I understood). We were
    married 24 1/2 years when he became very I’ll
    From prostrate cancer and congested heart-
    failure which he died from. Again his children
    were horrible to me at his wake,at the memorial,and after that. They told me how to act and dress during my late husband’s funeral. So after my husband died I decided to get away from his 5 children and I moved closer to my own family, I keep in touch with our daughter and my son lives with me. I haven’t spoken to his 5 children or their families in 11 years and prefer to keep it that way.
    I wore black the whole year in support of my love for my late husband, and even had dreams every night that he was still alive, but I knew better. My first year of widow-hood was the most horrible for me as I cried everyday, and thank God for my daughter’s little ones, my Grandbabies who taught me it was ok to cry and laugh when I was ready. So now I am much stronger now after the 10 years have gone by.
    Your article has been very helpful to me 100% and yes I have come pretty close once but my gut told me after awhile he wasn’t Mr. Right so I broke it off. And it seems like everyone I meet are widowers when they are scammers.
    I recently meet a seemingly nice widowe with a 8 year old son, I still have trust issues.yet over the others and my late husbanf, so I am being cautious at the same time. So is it OK for me to go back to dating? My heart tells me differently when I am chatting with him.

    • It’s okay for you to date whenever you feel okay about it. If your gut is telling you otherwise, it’s good to listen and try to figure out why that might be.

      Perhaps there are valid reasons for not dating this guy or maybe you are projecting emotions on this situation because of the issues with earlier guys.

      As I was once told, a date is not a commitment for anything other than a date. Coffee is just coffee. A movie is just a movie.

      Keep things simple. Only do what makes you comfortable and always be as 100% upfront and honest about your intentions and expectations as possible. You can’t control how he will behave but you can (and should) walk away if it sets your spidey sense tingling.

      Given your history, it’s only natural that you are hesitant. Take things slow or take a pass. This is your life and you are calling the shots. Do what makes you feel happy and safe and if you have a good, trusted friend who you can run things by without worrying that they will judge (or they have their own agenda), by all means – talk to them. As often as they can stand it. Sounding boards are good.

      Bottom line is always you. Good luck.

  11. Hi,

    I read your article, and have read a good amount of comments. I am a widow’s daughter, and I really need advice from a neutral source from my Mom’s perspective. My brother is about to turn 19, and I am about to turn 21. We are both college students, but I go to school 4 hours away from home while my brother goes to a commuter school. My Mom just turned 53, and my Dad was 56 when he died unexpectedly. They were together for 32 years. My Dad died a little over a year and a half ago (I try not to count the exact time), and I have had a harder time with my Dad’s death than my Mom and my brother (or at least that’s what it seems like, but that’s a whole other issue than what I’m asking about).

    I know he and my Mom weren’t on great terms when he died, and when my Mom started dating publicly after 1 year, I was supportive. I want my Mom to be happy, and I understand that she had a different loss than I am experiencing. My brother also understands, but disagrees with it entirely. I try to be really supportive to compensate for my brother. I have willingly accepted all of the guys she has dated except two, because the first guy had my brother’s name, and the second guy had my father’s name. She was very upset that I was upset, which made me even more upset and feeling hurt and rejected by my mother. She started dating another guy, and I have been really stoked about this one. He treats her very well, and I even have some common interests with him. She hadn’t mentioned any of the others for a while, so I thought that she had narrowed it down to just him for now. She is visiting me at college in a few weeks, and she just announced to me that the guy is going to meet us there for a dinner one night. She didn’t ask me if that was okay, but just informed me that he’s meeting us for dinner. At first I was excited to meet him, but then I realized that she was still texting, and calling, other men. He’s more serious than the other men, and they’ve been dating for 2 1/2 months, but I feel like he isn’t worth meeting if she’s still talking to other guys. I told her this and tried to be gentle with it, but she got really defensive and angry, and told me that they were hanging out whether I was there or not. Her best friend (who is essentially my second mother) was there, and at first agreed with my sentiments, but then flipped sides once my Mom got upset. I let the conversation die because I didn’t want to ruin the holidays.

    Am I wrong to be uncomfortable with this? She and I have entirely different dating styles, so that makes it harder. I don’t believe in dating multiple people at one time, and that’s what she’s doing. However, I do realize that’s her choice and I respect that, just like I respect my friends who make that lifestyle choice as well. I agree that my Mom has the right to date whoever she wants, but am I wrong to not want to meet this guy, especially in my college town? I feel a bit trampled on, as if she doesn’t respect my grief at all. I am still devastated that my father is gone, and she throws this at me 4 days before Christmas. I would really appreciate your perspective on my situation since you have gone through something similar to what my Mom has because I just don’t know how to deal with this anymore without fighting. I try to avoid the topic as much as I can, but she brings up something about dating in every single conversation that we have. I really, really don’t want to fight with her about it because we usually get along so well, and I love her so much.

    Thank you,
    Daughter of Widow

    • First let me say that I think what you are feeling is perfectly normal and I can understand why you are upset about your mother’s multiple dating and her insisting on your meeting someone even though you are uncomfortable.

      You are absolutely entitled to your feelings and to your own value system when it comes to dating and I can understand how upsetting it is to disagree with your mom especially at your age and given that you are very close to her generally.

      There is probably nothing you can do to change your mother’s mind. She’s been out of the dating world for a long time. In fact, the last time she dated, she was your age and I can tell you from experience that when you start to date again after being widowed, you tend to fall back to whatever dating pattern/mindset you had when you were last dating. At least initially because it’s all new again and you’ve got nothing else to run with. And whatever your age, everyone gets caught up in the excitement of dating someone new or being the object of someone’s attention. It’s a human being thing.

      It’s also a bit overwhelming to go from a marriage to being able to attract romantic attention from multiple men (though that is not the case for every widow. some never date and some find dating difficult). So your mom is sorting through a lot (and yes, even grief, it doesn’t go away because you are dating or because your previous relationship wasn’t so great.)

      She probably talks to you a lot about it because she views you as peer in this respect. You aren’t, of course, but if you have a good relationship and could talk about anything, she might feel that this now includes dating.

      This is more likely the root of your problem. She wants you to be a part of her dating. Talking about the guys. Reading between the lines. All that kind of thing that you might do with your friends.

      You need some boundaries. And it’s up to you to set them. And doing this might cause some initial hurt feelings.

      It’s okay for you to not want to hear much or anything about your mother’s dates. It’s equally okay for you to decline meeting dates she doesn’t yet see as “keepers”. Note the “she doesn’t see”. It’s not up to you decide who has potential regardless of the time frame or the presence of other contenders.

      My guess is that your mother doesn’t realize that she is overstepping by treating you like a girlfriend instead of her daughter who still needs her space to grieve

      Eventually we all develop relationships with our parents that allow us to speak freely and frankly but usually that happens when everyone is much older. Circumstances dictate otherwise here.

      Personally, I always opt for honesty and I usually tell people that it is better to just have a conversation and put everything on the table and see where things go from there. However, you have already told your mother how you feel and she doesn’t appear to be listening.

      But since it’s nearly Christmas, perhaps it would be better to wait until after to have a talk with your mom and set up new ground rules. Tell her that you love her but don’t want to be her dating sounding board or have anything other than the briefest, most casual contact with her dates unless she feels that the person might be a keeper. If she objects you could reinforce your point by asking her how she would have felt had her mother put her in the same position. She will likely understand that.

      For this upcoming dinner. your options appear limited. You could still say no. It would force a boundary talk though. Or you could simply change the dynamics by bringing a friend with you, moving the meal to lunch or scrapping the meal in favor of coffee. You can also have another engagement that you have to get to in order to keep dinner really short.

      Sometimes, we have to do things to keep peace and for the greater long term good (a sucky side of being grown up, I know) and sometimes, we need to stand up and assert ourselves – also for the greater long term good.

      I don’t know you or your mom, so this is really your call. Before you do anything, run your options by a friend that you really trust and get some in real life feedback.

      And then just do what you think is best and trust that things will work out. You seem to me to be a very smart young lady and you are, in my opinion, a very good daughter. Good luck. Merry Christmas.

      • Ann,

        Thank you for taking the time to respond so quickly, and as fully as you did. My Mom believes on mother and child boundaries, so I believe that this will go over well. The dinner is going to be with a really great man, so maybe meeting him could give her the confidence she needs to settle with just him, or maybe not. Either way, it’s the best way to love her right now, and to avoid becoming the “evil stepchild”. Thanks again for your advice.

        Merry Christmas.

  12. i could be raked over the coals for what will be read here-but please understand that some of what you read here are not moments i am proud of-but i am still human and am looking for wise counsel…

    i am so conficted and torn and mixed up and sad and happy and ugh…i just don’t even know…

    a man id known some time ago-a man i loved deeply but who had made the choice to continue in his relationship with his ‘wife’…(long time girlfriend) …while i was the other woman emotionally for sure-we were never intimate until he left her for a short time-and then he decided that being with me would be too big a risk to take-he didn’t want to end up alone if i decided i didn’t love him…he has some physical limitations that add to his fear i am sure…

    when he made the decision to stay with her-i thought id never recover-that id never be whole-it was as if he had died-and it took me six months to even be able to work again-i believe it affected me in this way because i hadn’t properly mourned the loss of my marriage (even though i was content to be out of it, i believe i needed to mourn that) and also because i was a person of great faith and believed myself to be above falling for a man who was not available to me…those things combined…made for a pretty intense healing process…

    its been seven years now-and not a single day has gone by that i did not think of him-i no longer wept for him-and i tried to open my heart to new people-but those things never did pan out…

    about two years ago, we spoke for about a year back and forth by email-during which he told me that letting me go was one of the hardest things he had ever done and that i would always have a piece of his heart-and he let me know that there had been two great tragedies unfolding in his life-one involving one of his children and the other being that his long time girlfriend had been diagnosed with a rare cancer…in aug of last year we lost touch-and i was ok with that-i prayed that either she was in remission or that they were enjoying the last days devoted to each other…and i prayed that god would be with them and reveal himself to them…

    last month she entered eternal rest-and about ten days after i had an overwhelming sense over a few days-he was plaguing my thoughts…so i did an internet search and found out that she had passed-so i sent him an email expressing my condolences-and we began a dialogue…

    i am so terrified of all of this-to have him back in my life-and for it to be closer to right than its ever been-he is still grieving very much-and i am encouraging him to seek as much counsel as possible…he tells me that he loved her with all his heart-but that he also loves me…and i know that this is partly about fear-but i also beleive him when he says he loves me-and that i am an integral part of his healing-and that he feels like he chose to stay with her-to make right the hurt we caused her-and that he made it up to her and he knows that she passed knowing that he loved her-but that he is also being given a chance to make right the hurt he caused me…he feels like he is being given the ultimate gift to have me in his life again…

    im so overwhelmed and so very guarded with him…i love him…i probably never stopped loving him in seven years-he was the last man to touch me…

    i struggle with is this even right? does this dishonour her in any way? can he love me and simultaneously grieve her? is this more about his fear than it is about loving me?

    ive made so many things clear to him about who i am today and about how i will NEVER compromise again-and he tells me time and time again that whatever it takes…however long it takes…to make us perfect…he is willing to wait…(and part of us being ‘perfect’ is for him to work hard toward his healing and to not let his grief get the best of him)

    i don’t know what i am hoping to hear from people here…i just need objective thoughts…

    thanks for listening…

    • I can appreciate how confused and overwhelmed you feel and he probably also feels.

      There is no right or wrong way to grieve in terms of time frames. And many people do grieve and start new relationships while doing so.

      How all of this will turn out depends a lot on how honest and open you are with each other. Communication is very important.

      Your complicated history is going to influence your current relationship and so, in my opinion, it might be a good idea to make sure that all history is settled. There are no hard feelings, guilt and ideas that the past can be changed or fixed by your relationship now. The past is past. Peace should be made and make now about now and about planning for the future – if that’s what you both decide you want.

      It’s good that you have been upfront about now compromising. It would be good if you both periodically made a point of talking about where you are at and where you want to go.

      But don’t forget that a relationship should be fun and happy. Don’t make it all about the past (in fact settle the past and move on) and don’t make it all about the future.

      In other words, don’t over-think. You are fortunate that you have found one another again. Concentrate on that. Things will progress or they won’t. That’s the way with all relationships regardless. There is risk in love.

      Be patient with yourself. (He should cut himself some slack too). Just take it a few days at a time.

      Good luck. I hope things turn out the way you hope they will.

  13. Interesting artical, are people still discussing this topic here? I’d like to share my story if so.. I’m a young widower my wife passed on this year at the young age of 26, im not dateing or anything but starting to think maybe I should after the 1y mark, I have very young children now two in diapers… Anyways I’ll wait and see if this is still active before sharing more of my logic on the subject, I’ve written long stories in these things many times and they had already run there course.

    • Stewart, this is by far the most read post here but not many ppl do more than read and those who do are generally women who are dating widowers.

      Anything you share will very likely be read and greatly appreciated but isn’t likely to provoke more conversation.

      I read and reply to most things but this is a topic I have moved away from. There really is only so much that can be said and then it’s just repetition.

      I have found that most people have to simply discover for themselves that dating is dating and relationships are relationships and the rest is merely details. The only thing we have control over is how we behave and the standards we set for ourselves.

      Thanks for leaving your comment.

  14. Your response to shirking off the children’s opinions seems very valid. Those kids are just kids right?! Regardless of how old they are, why would issues that concern their family realllly matter?

    • I am going to quibble with the idea that as an adult, my intimate relationships are “family matters” that need to be run by and cleared by my children.

      And, I am realize that I am going out on a presumptive limb here, my basic impression of the majority of widowed folk is that they are not rendered emotional simpletons by their losses and are still able to make sound judgements of suitability and character about the people they may date and or marry.

      Kids certainly need to be heard and reassured but they should never be given veto power or be allowed to behave like monsters just because they don’t like the idea that Mom or Dad has needs and wants beyond simply being a parent.

      If you and your late spouse didn’t allow the kids to tell you what to do, why start now? (And please spare me the tired and totally incorrect trope that kids can “see” things about people that we can’t – utter bullshit).

  15. Hi Ann, I appreciate your perspective and am finding some reassurance in your article. Haven’t read all the letters yet.

    I am a widow of 5 years, having lost my husband suddenly after 21 years of a quite difficult marriage. Am just now re-uniting with an old boyfriend from high school, who lost his beloved soulmate after an 8 year battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He has been widowed less than 5 months. We’re finding that we enjoy each other’s company very much, but I am so worried that it is “too soon” for him. He is clearly grieving and devastated by his loss, which is compounded for him by the deaths of two other close family members in the last few years. For my part, I have a mentally ill and volatile teenager.

    I guess my question is whether two people who are at times quite fragile should even contemplate a romantic relationship? Or when can they begin to contemplate it? Or, how can we do this without risking hurting each other?

    Our time together is so very special and fun, but I am worried that the freshness of his loss means that our budding romance is doomed. I feel like if we were able to wait at least a year, perhaps the most acute grieving will be behind him. Perhaps today is all we have… I’m just very conflicted, wanting to experience all the joys and experiences that love can bring, but not willing to risk inflicting or experiencing pain. I guess that is true for any relationship tho….

    I also find myself holding back and letting him take the lead, because I feel it would be inappropriate for me to encourage him to focus on me, and an intoxicating new relationship rather than staying present to his pain and “doing the work” that needs to be done. I don’t know, I’ve found that a lot of grief advice is just so generic and over-rated… so confused right now…

    Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you so much for this forum.

    • Anytime you begin a romantic relationship, you run the risk of possibly getting hurt or hurting someone else. You kinda have to be okay with this in advance or you might wind up regretting taking the chance in the first place, and there is nothing wrong with risking. We risk all the time when we encounter new people or run into people from our pasts. If we didn’t accept some risk, our lives would be poorer for it.

      I understand you concerns about your friend being relatively fresh in terms of widowhood. There is a big difference between five months and five years out. On the other hand, my husband was less than five months out when we met and just ten months out when we married, so the whole “too soon” thing is rather relative to the person and the situation.

      That said, it can be challenging to begin a relationship while still working through the loss and sadness. I am not a big believer in the idea of “grief work”. Grieving is a nature reactions to loss. It doesn’t need to be “worked” as much as it needs to be acknowledged at certain times and put away at others. We never really stop missing someone we’ve loved who has died, so if there is any work at all, it’s figuring out how to move on and live even though we’ve been through such a tragedy. It’s tricky. Some people master the balancing act sooner than others. A few people never do.

      I see nothing wrong with letting him set the pace at this point as long as you are comfortable with it and you are both communicating your feelings.

      Look, you are just dating. That’s it. We date to see if there is something there worth pursuing and maybe building a life on. Sometimes we find life-mates. Sometimes good friends. Sometimes it ends. Nothing ventured, however, nothing gained.

      I am going to assume that you and he have discussed what you are doing and agree that it is dating? It’s important to be on the same page. Otherwise, try not to over-think. You are having fun. Dating should be fun. If it’s just a distraction for him, he’ll figure that out soon enough and I imagine you know the signs of a dating relationship that has run its course.

      Here’s the most important thing, in my opinion, that you know what you want and that you remember to give equal or greater standing to your needs and feelings at this point. When you are in a committed relationship, you can be as self-sacrificing as you please (though I don’t recommend that because good relationships are really built by two people who seek the best for each other), but in a new relationship – your number one priority is you. Don’t quash your feelings or do things you aren’t really comfortable with just because he is grieving.

      First, that’s not really helpful for the grieving – to always get there way and second, he’s a big boy who is dating of his own free will, so expect him to behave as such.

      Early dating widowed find true love again just as often as those who’ve never been widowed or those who’ve been divorce or widowed for a while. There are no rules, and if this feels like something worth pursuing – do it.

      • Thanks Ann. I think you are right that it’s all about communicating clearly and knowing what your own priorities and expectations are. For instance, I can’t even believe that I wrote that we were “re-uniting,” when in fact, we are simply dating. Need to be clear in my own mind what is going on and keep those communication channels with him open at all times. All life is a risk, frightening and rewarding in equal measures, if we’re lucky. :)

  16. Hi Ann. Thanks so much for such a kind, understanding, well written article. I’m glad to see that the majority of the responses have been positive. I’ve been widowed for just under two months, and admit that I am already THINKING about dating. We had a great life and love, dating for about eight years prior to be married for exactly two months short of fifteen years. I’m finding that our deep, romantic love makes me want to find love again, and I’m pretty sure it’s not just to fill the emotional vacuum caused by my spouse’s loss, but because love is good, and something I think I personally need to be truly happy. And I know that my departed spouse (who died of an “intercranial hemorrhage” and “intercranial carcinoma” that went bad very quickly, before we had a chance for any discussion about me “moving forward” if things turned out fatal) would undoubtedly WANT me to be happy.

    At 47 years of age and having not been in the dating scene for a very, very long time, it’s a daunting proposition to me. I was never very good at it in the first place, and am very shy and awkward when it comes to interactions with the opposite sex…at least the available/unattached ones. Much of what you wrote has been on my mind, including the perception of others, ranging from the friends we had together, to the reaction of family, This morning on the way to work I was actually even thinking that perhaps a good time to start pursuing dating is right after vacation in July, which will include the scattering of ashes where we were engaged and at another spot special to us. That will be just past the three month mark of her death, and about four months since she was last conscious and able to converse with me. Yes, I’m a widower…that strange breed that, by in large, does not share their thoughts and emotions to the extent of most widows. The same breed that apparently “moves on,” on average, faster than widows.

    I frankly have no idea how things will go once I SEEK to start dating again, or how “ready” I’ll be in terms of emotional stability. I know I am very aware of the pitfalls and the widow/widower card factor. I don’t WANT someone to be nicer to me or perhaps even date me out of pity…I want them to because they’re interested in me as a man. I’m also not expecting a reincarnation of my wife, and know it will be impossible to find someone who had so many interests in common with me. I’ll definitely be cognizant of the whole “being widowed” thing if I do start dating, and try to toe that fine line of being open without making my dead wife the focal point of conversations. The whole dating thing is a scary proposition to me right now…like I said, I tend to be shy and am not at all experienced with the dating scene (and none with the modern version of same!). I only had a handful of “dates” with other girls before meeting the young lady that ultimately became my wife. I’m no George Clooney, yet have high expectations myself! How’s that grouping of characteristics?! At least I don’t need to worry about the reactions of children, as my deceased wife and I did not have any.

    Anyway, thanks for the nice, fair article/blog.

    • You are welcome.

      I know I have mentioned this in replies here and there on widowed dating posts, but my husband was just a bit past the four month mark when we met, and many, many widowers seem to begin dating, or trying to, somewhere between 3 – 4 months and the end of the first year. Maybe it is a guy thing, but I don’t think so. Widows, in my opinion, think about it too and probably would try to if it weren’t that societal expectations are a bit harsher when they date early than they are for men. Just the typical double standard stuff.

      If you do go ahead with your plan, I think you are already ahead of the game because you’ve started to think about your expectations for yourself and anyone you might date. Lots of folks, and not just widowed, tend to jump in without any plan at all. This is what leads to issues and disaster, again in my opinion. As long as you know yourself, know what you want and expect and are open and honest about it with people – things are likely to be just fine. It’s when we just wander along, expecting everything to work out like it does in a rom-com that we get the opposite results or we end up starring in our very own very bad rom-com minus the comedy and the happy ending.

      A good place to start is by alerting those close to you that dating is on your mind and that you don’t plan to let any opportunities to that come your way pass you by. This way, no one is taken by surprise and who knows, someone might even know someone who is looking to date as well.

      Online dating sites can be hit and miss but shouldn’t be ruled out entirely.

      Groups are nice. Volunteer organizations or church related. You could take a class. The workplace can be problematic but it’s also somewhere that we are bound to know people or people who know people.

      Mostly dating is the same as it’s always been but being older, you don’t have the the large pool to fish in that you did in your 20’s or teens. It’s a matter of keeping your eyes open and seizing opportunities.

      You mention that you don’t want a woman to date you out of pity. While women, who haven’t been widowed themselves, will likely feel sympathy for you, it’s been my observation that what draws them is a sense that a widower is a better catch than a guy who is divorced or has never been married. Widowers have the appearance of being “proven”. You dated, married and stayed til the “until death do you part” thing. Silly? Probably. People should be judged in the present tense and not by their relationship resume, but when people are new to each other, our pasts are all we have to form opinions. And the opinion of many women is that widowers are hot prospects.

      Half the battle to get out into the dating world again is preparation. Knowing what to expect of yourself and others can make it easier to deal with when situations arise because you will have already thought about how you might respond.

      Just remember that going out for coffee is just going out for coffee. Getting to know someone is just that and nothing more unless you both decide it could be something more. Be yourself. Be honest. Have expectations and remember that love happened once and there is no reason in the world why it can’t happen again. Good luck.

    • Hi Ann,

      I have been a widow for two years now and I have such mixed emotions to get back to dating. It is very scary these days, you see my husband was my first and only man for 45 years. I was 17 and he was 19 when we got married. I was 63 when he died with Colon Cancer.
      I really don’t know how to date because it’s been 47 years now. Things and people are so much different now. Plus I’m no longer that little 90lb girl but have become that over weight woman. I understand men today only want hour glass girl’s/women.
      My husband and I had 2 boys and 2 girls, but loss our oldest boy four months before my husband. My children thing it’s ok for me to get into the dating world and even remarry if that’s what I want to do. They are behind what ever my dicission is.
      I mostly worry about the man and what he thinks of me and if I would be pleasing to him no matter the weight, but to want me for who I am.
      Thank you for allowing women like myself to be able to express my thoughts and feelings without being looked down on. Again thank you

      • Hi Doris,

        I agree that it is hard and scary to get back into the dating mode the longer you’ve been away from it. And it is much different in your 60’s than it was when you were a teen.

        But you have a lot of positives going for you because your children are supportive and you have good relationship experience under your belt.

        Although the media sells the idea that only women who look a certain way are desired, that wasn’t true back then and still isn’t. There is a man for every way, shape and size woman there is. While it is true that some older men date younger women, there are also men who prefer women in their own peer group, and remember that to a man in his late 60’s or heading into 70’s – you are a younger woman. And men’s bodies aren’t immune to time either. Most men experience weight gain and are hardly the guys they were in their late teen’s either. And they worry too.

        If it is the weight thing that is giving you pause, there are things you can do – not necessarily to lose weight – but to give you confidence. Take a fitness class or start walking or try a yoga class. Sometimes just being physically active is enough to remind us that our bodies might be aging but they are still capable of more than we give them credit for.

        You might also think about dance classes or joining a league of some kind – bowling or golf. Nice active pursuits where you might meet someone and you can regain some body confidence.

        You are correct that you should be appreciated and loved for who you are. Understanding that going into dating will save you trouble later on.

        Just remember, dating is simply the process by which we choose companions. Meeting for coffee or dinner or a movie is just that and nothing more unless both parties agree to progressing. Don’t stress. Know what you want. Don’t be shy about having expectations and voicing them and just be you. Your husband thought you were awesome and someone else is bound to have that kind of good judgement too.

        Good luck.

  17. I started dating a widower over six months ago. He has two grade school children and his LW passed some time ago (I think over 7 years). I have come to this site as I am looking for insight. Admittedly, I have felt like a ‘dirty secret’… only calls me when he’s going to or from work, out on errands, or after the children have gone to bed. On a separate cell phone no less (another story of texts and charges). I have never been to his home so I don’t know if a ‘shrine’ exists. He has met my family and some of my friends. I have met only an old high school aquaintence of his that he connected with on FB… not any of is other friends or family. With regard to his children: I had not expected to meet them right away, having it happen when the timing was right. He shared that in a past dating disaster, it ‘blew up before it really got started’… I honestly wouldn’t want to date a man who didn’t put his children first (divorced or widowed), but …. He hasn’t even told them he’s dating at all in a generic sense, let alone dating someone exclusively. Holidays were filled with his deceased wife’s family (which is apparently really complex with half and step sisters) and I was once again not able to be in contact with him. I keep getting told that it is complicated and they wouldn’t understand him dating…. blah, blah, blah. Drama abounds with the sisters-in-law and he runs to their aid even though they have other men in their lives. It’s this seemingly perverse (& no, not in the sexual way) co-dependency that I am having trouble dealing with. Okay not entirely. He has broken dates with me, does not call when he says he is going to, is constantly late, apologizes, then repeats the same disrespectful behaviors. When I’ve expressed my feelings and concerns, he is extremely remorseful and states that he’s only human and can only learn from past mistakes. True enough. We’re all human and make mistakes. Am I making a mistake in taking a leap of faith with a man who isn’t really available? When reading these posts, I’m wondering if this ‘widower card’ behavior is closer to the mark. I opened my heart to this man and thought we might have a future together as he has discussed that as well. Any insight or even a good swift kick in the ass would be appreciated.

    • I think you already know what’s going on with this guy. He had a bad experience with dating again and his kids, which he didn’t handle swiftly by being the Dad. He is overly concerned about his in-laws feelings on the subject of dating. However, he wants to date and isn’t willing to simply say “I am going to do this. It’s time. No one gets a vote b/c I am a grown man.”

      The question is, is this okay with you? Are you okay being a secret? With broken promises. With not having the relationship you want? It is your relationship too. He doesn’t get to dictate simply b/c he is widowed. That should carry no weight in the discussion. He is either in or he is playing games – whether he thinks he is or not.

      And yeah, it’s the widow card if all his excuses and rationales for not being a good boyfriend run back to the same source – his dead wife.

      You are allowed expectations. In fact, I encourage you to have them. What do you want? What would make you happy? What needs to change for this to happen? We women are often afraid to speak up when things begin to go off the rails b/c the man might dump us. But so what? There are a lot of men in the world (though sometimes it might not seem that way). Men who would be more than happy to have a relationship where both parties are happy, committed and working to a common goal.

      You say he has discussed a future? If this is what you want, perhaps it’s time to have that conversation again only this time, tell him what needs to happen in order for you to be convinced that this is really what he wants. It will probably not be easy. He has allowed his children too much power. Children just don’t give back power without a fight and they’ve already run off a girlfriend, so they are going to try it again. Success breeds overconfidence in kids. His late wife’s sisters are also much like his children. They will not give him up willingly. You should expect issues there too. And he has come to rely (after 7 years) on the widow card. It’s a seductive thing b/c it is easy to use and so few people stand up and say “Look, Dude, it’s been awhile. No more special treatment.”

      Ultimately, your primary responsibility is to yourself. You deserve to be loved and happy and a participant in your own life and relationship. Ask yourself, what do I want? What do I need to do? And then make a plan and execute it. Unless status quo is okay with you (and I am guessing not since you are here), what do you really have to lose?

  18. Great article! My wonderful husband died 132 days ago. I struggled ( and continue to) for months and had vowed that I would/could never be interested in a romantic relationship ever again…..then I met someone who I was immediately attracted to. I’d never met him but had been a friend of my husband for years. We have been communicating regularly for about 3 weeks and obviously I am interested but I am worried that it will appear to friends that I was not 100% committed and deeply in love with my husband. I have been honest with my new friend and we are both well aware that this is complicated. I feel like I need permission to date…especially so soon. I did not go looking…in fact these feeling blind sided me….I know it is my life…and in order to go on without my husband I need to join the living….I shouldn’t worry about what people think….but I do NOT want anyone to feel as though I am dishonoring my marriage and my husband….advice as to how to pursue a new relationship and inform friends?

    • My husband was just 4ish months out when he and I met online. I know he was not looking though I was 11 months out and had been thinking about/actively trying to date since about 6 months out.

      We started out as friends and when it became quickly clear that there might be much more – we made the decision to explore it. We were never secretive but it was only on a need to know basis that we slowly enlightened others.

      It’s good to have a friend you can talk to about things as you move forward. I have a very dear friend who listened and gave advice sparingly and encouragement often. She was a great help to me.

      But there will be people who question and even have the nerve to judge and call your love for your late husband suspect when you begin to date, explore commitment and even fall in love and really move on. Not much can be done about this. However, you know the truth and there will be others – family/friends – who know the truth and will be supportive.

      One thing that my husband and I were clear on with our kids, families and friends is that though they were entitled to their feelings and opinions, this didn’t give them the right to judge us, makes demands or be rude. He and I were adults and we didn’t need anyone’s permission to move on if we felt we’d found the right person to do it with. It helped enormously to take that stand from the beginning and to not engage in any debates about it. You can only manage your own feelings and those who truly love you (and don’t have agendas of their own) will quickly come to see that supporting you is the right thing to do. It may take them longer to be happy for you, but most will put on a brave face for you if you seem sure and happy.

      There is no one way forward or a right way/time to date. People come along and you make the decision to seize and explore the opportunities or you decide to wait for the next one. In that way, dating and falling in love again after changed much.

      Internal conflict is inevitable. Mixed feelings and second-guessing happen. As long as you are true to yourself, open/honest with the person you are dating and allowing him to be the same, it will likely work out as it is meant to.

      Don’t stress. You are normal. We are not meant to grieve intensely or continuously forever. Most people are or have started to move on within the first year or shortly after. Take it a day at a time. Allow yourself to be happy. It’s a choice regardless of what some might say. Good luck to you.

  19. What is the most common action towards a daughter (17 years old) who feels that remarrying a widow (I am her dad and I am a widower since November 2012) in 2014? My daughter told my girlfriend it was too soon.

    • My stepdaughters were 22 and 24 when he and I remarried. I asked him what he would have thought if one of them had come to me and told me it was too soon for us to marry.

      He said, “You ask this gentleman if he is in the habit of allowing his child to tell him what to do in all other areas of his life or just his intimate personal life.”

      My husband then went on to say that he would have been angry had something like this occurred because while his daughters were welcome to bring their worries and concerns to him, it would not have been okay for them to try something as manipulative as going behind his back to me to try and scuttle our plans.

      It’s perfectly normal for children (and the older they are, the more likely they are to take issue) to be upset when their widowed parent dates and/or remarries. Being there to listen and reassure them is part of the parenting job, but allowing them to decide who you date and when you remarry is out of bounds and they need to know this because once you let them have veto power over your personal life, they are unlikely to give that power up. It’s a very bad precedent to set.

      I am going to assume that you and your late wife did not allow your daughter to dictate the terms of your marriage and see no reason for you to let your daughter have that power now. Reassure her. Allow her to grieve in her own time. But expect her to respect your decisions and to behave like the well brought up young lady that you and her mother raised her to be.

  20. Thank you for writing this article. My husband of 12 years committed suicide last August (it was an unhealthy and dramatic relationship, the day of his death I had found out about a very big issue, on top of over a decade of other big issues, none of which I have shared with anyone ever, so since most people don’t know what he had done (it was very bad and likely the main contributor to his stupid decision to commit suicide), it is their natural reaction is too blame me instead).

    I am only 32, and am career oriented, intelligent, and a strong person. I have a wonderful son, a pre-teen, but he is special needs, so really I am not worried about explaining it to him as he does not understand nor care about social norms (as stated in the article, he won’t even meet someone until I think it is serious, and that is a long, long time away!)

    I think I am over the major emotional meltdowns of his death…and have started to long for intimacy and just good conversation lately (I work remotely so haven’t really left my house besides the grocery store and school since he passed away, and my son cannot talk…so it is pretty dang quiet around here).

    But I just don’t seem to know where to start…or what I will say if a date asks how my late husband died…or how to explain to his family and my own if/when they find out…

    You gave some great advice, and thank you to the other commenters that have been in a similar situation, it makes a lot of this mess more clear, and I hope that I have courage to accept a date sometime this summer!

    • Online sites are a good place to start. You might want to just find sites that interest you rather than the dating sites at first. There are all types of web forums and you are really only limited by your own likes.

      But if you prefer to get out, there are the Meet Up groups (people post online about real life meetings for people by interest and hobbies). Or you can check out local clubs via your church or library.

      When it comes to explaining how you lost your husband that’s entirely up to what you feel comfortable sharing and whether you prefer to keep that info to yourself until you’ve gotten to know someone well. When you do share, the truth is best and short versions of the story are easier for most people to digest. And you can always say, “My husband committed suicide, but I prefer not to talk about the details.”

      In my opinion, people begin to plot, plan and actually date when they are ready to do so and not really before. Sometimes things work out and sometimes it takes time to get your “sea legs” back. The latter doesn’t necessarily mean you tried to soon but that you have things to relearn.

      I am glad you find the post and the comments helpful. I wish you success on your journey.

    • There is a novel about a woman who is 32 years old whose husband committed suicide. She has two young children and does everything she can to avoid telling them how and why their daddy died. She doesn’t want them to think that committing suicide is a way to get out of your problems, as their father did. You are her exact age, and you are working through some of the same issues she has, including what to say to a date who asks her how her husband died. This novel, Realities by Marian D. Schwartz, has been helpful to women whose husbands have committed suicide.

  21. What the heck is the “Widow Card” I never heard of such a thing and how can it be wrong to set the pace of a relationship while having going through the trials of being a widow?
    My husband lost his battle to cancer January 5th 2013 He was 34 and I am 35 and we have 2 children a 16 yr old and a 4 yr old. We have been together for 18 years that’s about half my life.
    I am not dating nor have prospects but am simply curious on how people go about dating again.

    • The “widow card” is using your new “station” in life as leverage to get your way. It’s as innocent as explaining a late credit card payment by telling the customer service that “my husband died not long ago and things have been crazy, promise it won’t happen again” to “I know that I said I understood when you said you were tired of being kept a secret from my kids and in-laws, but they are just really not ready for me to date and I don’t want to upset them.”

      The former is something nearly every widow can attest to having done once. Playing on people’s innate queasiness about death and their tendency to err on the side of sympathy to cover something she/he should have done but didn’t or didn’t do but should have. The latter is the way some widowed, who find themselves in what can only reasonably be termed a committed relationship, use to try to manipulate rightfully unhappy boy/girlfriends.

      When a person uses sympathy to maintain strict control of the what, when, where, who and how of a relationship that’s playing the widow card. And it’s wrong. The fact that many who date widowed willingly allow this in the beginning stages in the hopes that the widowed person will see them as great catches doesn’t help much either.

      A relationship has to be give and take and more or less equally concerned about what both people want, which is why widowed should really think about what they want before they begin to date and be very articulate in the early days with a new person. For example, if you are looking for simply going out and having pleasant evenings with another adult but aren’t sure (or are completely sure) that commitment, sex or meeting each other’s friends, family and kids is what you want – you say so. Up front. And be understanding of anyone who declines interacting because that’s really not what they are looking for.

      In other words, it’s okay to just want to go out for coffee or to the movies. Just like it’s okay to be just looking for no strings intimacy or a another long term relationship or to decide that perhaps, you are just not interested in dating for a while … or ever.

      The fact that you are curious about the process suggests that you’ve thought about dating. Next step would be to think about under what circumstances. Like dating sites. Or letting your friends know that you wouldn’t object to being set up on a date if they knew someone.

      Then, you set to it. Set up a profile. Vet your friends’ suggestions.

      Decide whether you will tell you children. Plan for positive, negative or neutral reactions and what your response will be (Hint: it should be supportive but firm about just who is the adult and who is the child and what behavior is/isn’t acceptable).

      Dating is easy for some people. If it came easily to you before it probably will again but you aren’t a teenager anymore and that matters.

      Conversely, if you weren’t good at dating or didn’t enjoy it – that might still be the case.

      Statistically, the younger you are, the more likely you will date and you will remarry. Men seem to do this sooner than women but that’s probably one of those anecdotal things that a bit of real research might prove false … should anyone ever decide to research something like widow dating and remarriage. As far as I know, no one has.

      Regardless, when the time comes or opportunity knocks, you will be fine. Really.

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion. The more the merrier and the better for next person who stumbles upon this post.

  22. vee
    its almost a year after my husbands death when i accepted the former friend also a widower for 7 years…after committing to him, thoughts about the reaction of my children, family and in laws came into my mind..I think i am not prepared to be in relationship with…should i tell the man whom i think im in love with? I am happy to have know that someone will love me and in return someone i could love to…is this not the time yet to be in relationship?

    • If you think it’s too soon for you than it is. You do owe this man a conversation about your decision and feelings and he is entitled to his reaction. Don’t let that reaction color your decision – and by that I mean, he might try to talk you into continuing or you might feel guilty if he takes the break up badly, which might lead you to going against your gut feeling about it. It’s more likely that he will understand, given that he is farther out then you are and there is nothing wrong with remaining friends. It’s nice to have male friends after being widowed because we get used to having that male perspective.

      It’s okay not to date. It’s okay to try and and find that maybe you would rather wait some more (as long as you aren’t playing games with the person you date or using them. That’s not okay.) It’s also okay to decide you aren’t particularly interested in partnering up again. As long as you are doing what is best for you and not letting other’s grief agendas have more influence than they deserve.

      • I posted back on Jan 30th about my in-laws reaction to me dating just a few short months after my husbands death. At the time I was very upset by my in-laws negative reaction this. I later learned two very important things 1) I was not ready to date and 2) my in-laws (although they came off the wrong way initially) are hurting and they weren’t sure how to handle it.
        The awesome guy I was dating knew my entire situation because was 100% honest with him from the beginning but still got hurt when I reiterated the fact (a month later) that I didn’t want to be involved in a committed relationship. My heart, mind or soul is not ready to be shared with anybody else. I still miss my husband soooo very much and still cry often. I can’t imagine giving all of that to somebody else when it was always his! I think that a male companion would be nice though, somebody to go out with, laugh with, have fun with of the opposite sex but do realize this could very tricky. I like how my therapist put it to me (as I am truly blessed with many dear friends and an amazing support group, including my in-laws) he told me that I have many meaningful and important relationships in my life and I don’t need a another one! Haha! I have recently started to lose wait, utilize my spare time in meaningful ways (as much as possible) and focus on myself for myself! God has a plan for me and whatever it may be will happen, I just need to do right until it does!!!

        • While it is regrettable that your great guy got hurt, hurt is what we risk when we date. Not every relationship works out as we hope. Widowed daters and those they date are just like everyone else in the dating game in that regard.

          Not everyone who dates (widowed or not) is honest about their motivations and needs, so good on you that you were.

          And not all widowed folks find dating or new relationships are in their futures – immediate or farther down the line. It’s not something all of us know even until we try. For some of us, there is only one great love just like for some of us there might be second or thirds and for some, there will never be a great love.

          I am glad that you have come to a place where you know what is best for you and that you are happy with it. That’s what matters. Figuring out what works for you.

          Thanks for stopping back and updating. This post gets a lot of traffic and sharing your story might help someone else who finds themselves here someday.

        • Thank you very much Ann. I know that there is a ton of traffic here, which is the main reason why I came back to leave an update.

  23. I truly appreciated this article. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it has made me see in 5 min, even after an hour session of therapy last week discussing the same exact thing. My husband took his own life 3 months ago. We had a very bipolar marriage and had gotten into a huge fight that same week. My husband was an extremely loving, caring, energetic, hard working, well liked, center of the party kind of man, but had 2 totally different sides to him and the other one wasn’t good. I believe in my heart of hearts that I was done with him that week. I am 29 years old and he was 34, I had been with him since I was 20 and we were married for 6 years. I am extremely close to his family (one that my good friend calls a cult) His sister is my age and my best friend. His other sister and sister in law mother and I are also close. I have been part of the family for 9 years and have 10 nieces and nephews, they will continue to be a part of my life for the rest of it. I am with high hopes that our relationship stays the same, but I am not sure. Two weeks ago I was bored and lonely at home and joined a dating site. I met a man, spoke with him for a few days and then met for coffee. In the last 2 weeks we have spent 8 days together. He is extremely nice and I have a lot of fun with him. I have no idea where this may go but I feel it will go somewhere well (Sorry if I’m babbling.) His sister (who I can’t even try to hide anything from) found out first and was upset that a)he was at my house already and b) that me dating was making it (his death) “more real” for her. After I told her I was no longer going to discuss my dating life with her we agreed on talking about it in smaller doses. I told my MIL on Sun, she seemed fine about it, at first. Him and I went snow tubing on Sun and I posted a pic of us, just a pic of us standing in front of the lodge. She texted me today asking that I take down the pic? She would like to speak with me first about how she feels about it. I was livid but so upset. I truly and honestly care for and love my in-laws deeply and I would never do anything to intentionally hurt them. At the same time, however, I think they really have no business dictating my life. I am a grown ass woman. I think it may be a little early for me to date but I truly crave what I currently have with this man and I am 100% honest with him and tell him that I do have baggage and I am still grieving and he understands! I think as a grown ass woman I should be able to make my own decisions and if they aren’t the right ones then I will figure that out on my own. Nobody knows how I feel and therefore should not be able to dictate and/or judge me. Am I wrong?

    • No, you are not wrong. It is not wrong to want to live life and move on and be happy. It is not wrong to seek out companionship and enjoy having found it.

      And it is perfectly normal for your in-laws and friends to be upset when they discover you are dating again. In fact, I think the late spouse’s family and friends usually take it harder than our own family b/c – as you sister-in-law put it – it makes everything real and final for them.

      Your being hurt by their reaction is normal too. As you say, you are a grown woman. You don’t need permission to decide what you need, when you need or how you are going to go forward with life. And it feels like being told what is and isn’t acceptable when family, in-laws and friends suddenly go from supportive to behaving as though you are a teenager who needs to be told what is and isn’t proper.

      The reality is that this is new territory for both you and your late husband’s family. It’s change and change is difficult. This doesn’t mean that you stop dating and put their feelings first. It does mean that there will be discussions and possibly some emotional pain for them and for you as all of you redefine your relationships.

      About the last thing a widowed person has for others who are not at the same place in the grieving process has she is, is patience. To preserve relationships, patience and understanding is required, and I know this seems backwards, but widowed are often called upon to be the cooler heads of reason in these cases.

      I think that your discussion and solution with your sister-in-law was a good one. You’ve agreed to table the talk about your new friend while she adjusts but you stood your ground about the fact that you will continue to see him. Something similar needs to happen with your mother-in-law. It’s not difficult to exclude her (and other in-laws) from seeing status updates and photos on Facebook and to avoid discussing your dating with them, but they will need to understand that you are dating and will continue. That’s your decision and they need to respect it as you respect their need to take a bit of time to adjust.

      My own family was very supportive when I met my now husband, Rob, but I had a few dissenters among friends and co-workers who I simply told that they had no say in the matter. I understood their feelings and concerns, but it was my life and I wasn’t a child.

      Rob’s grown children were supportive of the idea of his dating but not so much the practice as it became clear to them that he intended to marry me. He too was firm on the position that he would not be told how to live his life even while making it clear that he understood why his moving on and remarrying was hard for them.

      None of this easy. It can be frustrating dealing with others once you’ve begun taking the steps to a new life. People often use the widowed person as a way of gauging where they should be in the whole grieving thing. It’s upsetting to think that the person closest to the late spouse has begun to move on while they are still hurting. It feels personal when it’s not.

      Just remember, people who love and value you will come around quickly to the fact that your moving on. There may be some dissension and you might wish that they aren’t catching up with you or being supportive enough in the short term, but usually, they get on board. In the meantime, just keep doing what you are doing. If you’ve taken the steps to date and begun dating – it’s not too soon. We generally don’t make moves unless we are ready and should things not work out as you hope, don’t confuse this with your grief for you late husband. Sometimes dating just doesn’t work out and it has nothing to do with the fact that we are widowed.

      You are meant to have a full and happy life and to love and be loved. Good luck to you.

    • I started dating a widower 3 months after his wife passed, we were all friends and very close to one another, I sat with her on her death bed even. All in all it felt right to both of us, however her grown children didn’t agree, that was the hardest part they both said some very hurtful things to both of us, I am a good person with a good heart and I too lost someone 14 years before to suicide. To me their relationship felt over many years before, but it carried on to till death do we part, maybe perhaps this is why it was easier for him to move on. I was even accused of having an affair before she passed, which is not true, I lost friends and respect of others. However we get along perfect, and his side of the family welcomed me right in, and my family we are very supportive, so that helps. I won’t lie if I could go back in time, I would of rather waited and gave him some space to grieve, but now we are already in and we work through issues as they come up. So my advice to you, you can’t worry about what others say there will always be nay sayers, everyone is allowed to their opinions, but it is up to you to decide when it is right for you to move on.

      • Agreed. You can only live in the moment and plan for the future. Second guessing and allowing others’ agendas to influence personal relationship decisions is rarely a good thing.

        I am glad things are working out for you.

  24. Where do I begin? I wasn’t a blank canvas before I met and married my husband, but emotional difficulties… I’d say yes. Becoming his wife, and he my husband made me a different person, the selfless love from him, I do believe changed me at the core.

    I am at a TOTAL loss and bereft without him (year mark just passed) but I feel a completely different more sufficient person having become his wife. He gave me validation and only now am I learning to validate myself.

    I think the nonsense that we have to be complete persons before having a relationship is just that – nonsense. Of course relationships make us stronger and we want them, else we wouldn’t all be sitting here talking and writing about it.

    I was and am a professional health care provider both before, during and now after my husband and I became one. I wasn’t a blank canvas before, but I miss him more than life itself. There was a 21 year age gap between us, I live in Britain, he was a great historian, and we were and now I am an eclectic mix of “Victorian” attitudes and very progressive attitudes at the same time, perhaps an unusual mix, but it’s me, through and through.

    Yes I still wear black. I sit under a UV light which helps me not be so depressed and gives me a sense of control, and the other day wearing a high vis. bright yellow hat – I looked well and it was “fun”? okay – but my heart sinks at the idea of fun without my big bear of a sweet husband, and I NATURALLY want to wear black.

    I feel I’ve carried this bereavement as far as I can take it alone, and to move on I will and do need companionship again, and complexly at the same time I have no patience for pettiness or patience for people’s bull or nonsense at all.

    ? How does a person deal with the complexity of needing companionship whilst at the same time feeling the need to be alone to fully feel the feelings of the loss and, still shock at times ? Being a very committed Christian, I would never consider extramarital anything, but oh… this is complicated.

    If someone replies, maybe it’ll spur me on to share more… I just returned from 270km above the arctic circle on a xc ski trek, trying to “continue to live” and I’m going to Oslo for a professional seminar and will xc ski some more. Cycling also has been a great help. But as a person who relishes and loves being with someone – that is, some people think to talk and some people talk to think, I’m one who talks in order to process my thoughts not the other way round for me… so I need someone close to talk to in order to fully sort out my thoughts, but as a person of this type, I’m finding for the first time that I’m pushing people away and want solitude – YET at the same time I want and know I need companionship.

    Complicated enough??? also feel and have survivors guilt I’m sure. That’s another story – but I do need companionship, and someone who has been my best friend other than my husband, this man is like a brother to me (only a brother), well his wife is getting REALLY upset with how much we chat, and I can understand her, I need MY OWN companion. Sorry this is so, so, SO long, and thanks for reading all the way to the end. What a diatribe! sorry

    • No need to apologize. It’s a complicated matter in a lot of ways – feeling the need to move on but yet not.

      In my opinion, once a person decides that another companion, possibly new love, is in order, it is a matter of being open to possibilities and putting yourself out there in order to find them (or let them find you).

      It would be easier if there was a handbook. Some kind of one size fits all plan, but it’s very individual.

      I was just reading yesterday about research that – again – supports the fact that most of us “get over” loss. Regardless of what the loss is. Even widowed folk. And that it generally begins to happen earlier than most folks think. Within the first year. And by the end of the second, the majority report being as happy or more happy than they had been previous to loss.

      Even so, this will not mean that missing our spouses doesn’t or won’t ever occur even when we’ve regained “happiness”.

      It sounds to me as though you are doing what you need to for yourself. It probably feels as though things aren’t moving at a quick enough pace. I remember feeling that myself as I approached the first year mark. And there is nothing abnormal with being impatient for it all to be over. The number of us that enjoy widowhood is very small indeed.

      It’s normal too to find male companionship preferable to girlfriends in terms of being able to talk. That’s what you were used to after all before your husband died. You have to take care though with a married male friend. Men like that “rescuing” thing. You might think about casting about for male friendship via another avenue than men you know who are married already.

      Everyone gets to this awkward stage of widowhood where you feel like clinging and casting off the widow weeds at the same time. Transitions are hard and being human, we are not big on change even when it is a positive thing.

      You will get through this. Just keep pushing yourself out there. Do what you are doing. One day it will all fall into place.

  25. Pingback: Dating While Widowed: When Dating Goes “Wrong” | anniegirl1138

  26. Thank you Ann. You are correct. Everybody knows but not the in-laws, late wife’s cousins, grandparents. He does not like much her family. I suppose they realize what is going on from the very beginning. While he stayed alone after the wife’s accident with toddler son the father-in-law hired a private investigator to check up on him especially in terms of caring a baby. He leaves his 2-year-old son for every weekend with in-laws so they see each other twice a week and have just a small talk mainly concerning the baby.
    The other aspect of that secret may be that her father claims a very high compensation connected with her wrongful death. He wishes to be seen as a lonely widower whose wife was recently for me almost two years is not too recently) killed in a very dramatic accident.

    • Ah, so a few things are in play: 1) a lawsuit with money and 2) visitation coupled with childcare.

      Some widowed get into situations where the in-laws in effect end up thinking they are co-parenting b/c the Widowed parent relies on them for childcare to the point that they are basically sharing custody. And if the parent and in-laws weren’t too friendly to begin with the end result is that the parent often has to “keep secrets” to keep the in-laws from making life unpleasant.

      It still sounds like you and he need to have an honest discussion about his real reasons for keeping the in-laws in the dark (and frankly, in-laws usually figure out when dating is occurring no matter how well the widowed person thinks he/she is hiding it). Maybe he is worried about a custody fight as in-laws have been known to do that or maybe it is as simple as he just appreciates having someone dependable (and free) to watch his child every weekend. Regardless, he owes you an actual explanation and then really, you need to decide if the status quo is something you can live with or not. It sounds like “not” but that’s up to you to decide. Even though you may think (and maybe correctly) that he is just milking his situation for sympathy (some widowed do), you won’t know anything for sure by guessing.

      Secrets always come out and the fall out in the aftermath is usually worse than just having been honest in the first place.

      Have you checked out Abel Keogh’s Dating a Widower Facebook group? There are women there who have or are experiencing similar issues and sometimes it’s nice to have a group that understands – because they have been there – to talk to.

      The Internet is teeming with resources for widowed these days but there is still not a lot of credible, factual info for the people who date and marry them and, often, not a lot of empathy for the difficulties that can arise.

  27. Best article I’ve read so far on the subject. Very common sense.
    My thinking has always been, if you’re thinking about dating then you’re ready to start. Thank you!

  28. Hi, just like to say thanks for such an interesting post. I lost my husband 4 months ago, I’m 29 and he was 40. I have been thinking about the question of moving on, but haven’t been brave enough to ask any friends/family for fear of their reaction. I still love my husband and miss him, and he will always be in my heart. But I want to move on with my life and make the most of it. We spoke about this subject several times in his last year after he was diagnosed with a terminal cancer, and he wanted me to be happy. I was single for a long time before meeting my OH, so don’t feel I have to be so again to ‘find’ myself. What the experience has taught me is that life is for living and I feel that I can go out and have fun, without feeling too guilty, as it is what he would have wanted.

    • You are welcome.

      Really, everyone eventually finds the answer to this question in a way that works for them. Despite what the “books” or society or family/friends say, there is no one size for all.

      Good luck to you.

  29. I think there is no such norm as “too soon” as far as “dating while widowed” is concerned. After all, it’s just a matter of personal preference. But dating and getting married again are two different issues. Dating could be just keeping company with someone, dine out or even going for vacation together while re-marrying is a life time commitment with all the legal and social complication. Children, in my opinion, are the prime determining factor. Being children of my widowed mom and widowed mom of my own children, I’ve experienced that role both ways.

    My mom told me she stared dating about 3 years after dad died in 1984 but it was not until 27 years later (at 74) that she decided to marry again. Her main concern over the years was about our (me and my sister) feeling and the social pressure for being disrespectful to dad. In retrospect, I must admit that we weren’t comfortable to see mom getting replacement for dad (my sister I was I 26 and 24 at the time) and yet I was mature enough to hide our discontent in view of her personal needs. It was not until I was in my mid 30’s before I finally accepted her dating and another 10 years before accepting (but without saying) her living with someone. I wish I were more mature and frank enough to speak with each other on this issue (I knew she had missed a few good men because of us). Something I still regret up to this day.

    When my husband passed away last summer (also predeceased by my brother -in-law a year earlier!), we finally realized the pressure that my mom had gone through. Despite that my husband and I were already separated when he departed, the sense of loss was much intense that I first anticipated. As a successful career woman, I am emotionally stronger than mom. But at the same time, I was taking a lot more pressure financially and from work. Compounded with the fact that I was already transferred to Singapore at the time while my daughters (21 and23) were still studying in the States, the feeling of isolation was simply tremendous. I felt lonely, depressed and totally stressed out. Under such groomy circumstances, I started dining out alone with male colleagues only 4 months after my husband’s death and start energizing myself with a more balanced lifestyle. I kept paying detail attention on my personal appearance (I regularly buy new shoes and wardrobesto please myself while getting spa and pedicure treatments on weekly basis), get regular exercises and constantly involved in social activities with male companions whenever viable. Determined not to spend the rest of my life alone, I also enhance my emotional status by taking regular Tai Chi and yoga classes while atending Positive Thinking seminar from professional speakers. Putting my new marital status into prespective, I started introducing myself as a widow soon after my husband died and continue using my “Mrs.” gender on all social and business occasions. Confirming with modern etiquette norm, I also started switching my wedding abnd to the right hand as a symbolic gesture of my changed status. Before long, things just started falling to proper places and I’m indeed enjoying my single status. So far, my new journey is still proceeding on perfect footing.

    BTW, a British colleague of mine actually started dating within a month after her husband’s funeral with the owner of the floral shop where she bought her casket spray from! And he even sent her a beautiful white rose grave saddle for free (which I paid USD169.99 for a blue roses bundle) from Singapore to Oxford UK during the unveiling of her husband’s grave! Happily, they are together for well over a year now and all is going well.Learning from the experience of mom, I voluntarily discussed these issues with my daughters and in-laws not long after my husband passed and managed getting full understanding (in effect, blessings!) from them regarding my social life. I’m grateful of their understanding and proud of their supports during the mortuary arrangements (there were 2 wakes, one funeral and 2 memorial services in my late husband’s case!) and the subsequent affairs.

    As far as dating (as a widow) is concern, openness remains my personal principle. And I’m real glad it’s working.Time has changed and I am sensing objectivity and acceptance from most people nowadays.There are just so many of us now (unfortunately) that people have no choice but to accomodate us and treat us fairly like everyone else. Widows no longer as easily identified as in the old days but I’m not sure if that is change for the better (I honestly love getting special treatment every now and then!) After all, the bottom line is that we are still having full control of our own destiny – with or without anyone’s blessing. I hope you also agreed.

    Mrs. Victoria GL

    • I think your approach was a thoughtful and healthy one. Too many times widowed buy into the idea that the way to move on is by embracing a lot of the less constructive approaches and go the Queen Victoria route rather than realizing that staying as positive as possible and active will get one back on her feet and feeling more like herself faster.

      And I wouldn’t feel guilty about your reaction to your mother’s dating and living together. I think most adult children struggle. It’s when struggle becomes acting out and sabotage that the line is crossed. It’s impossible to understand our parents as human beings until we become parents ourselves, imo.

      I am glad things are working for you. Good luck to you in the future and thanks for offering your story and perspective.

  30. Ahhh, yes..the good old days, when society dictated one year and one didnt have to wonder… I have to say i think society got that one right. My mother in law was married 40 years before her 2nd husband died. She was dating a man within three months afterwards. Everyday, i worry his grandchildren (in college in our town) or his adult children nearby will find out and be heartbroken. Surely, none of us expected her to remain alone for life, but jumping back into a relationship so fast sends a message to his family that he was forgotten quickly and dare i say his memory disrespected. Of course, as mentioned above. There is also the vulnerability issues of the widow. I tnink six months to a year is reasonable and prudent. I’ll probably get slammed for this comment as the world marches on to the “if it feels right to you, just do it” behaviors that tear our society down, piece by piece, every day.

    • Widowed people don’t date to send messages or to scandalize family. They date because they find that they want to and that it makes them happy. Family and friends would do better to feign happiness for them – even if they don’t feel like it – b/c it’s really none of their business.

      Alive or deceased, your MIL’s relationship with her husband is no one’s business. For all you know, the two discussed this very issue at some point, or many points, during their marriage. My late husband and I did in fact discuss dating again and remarriage. He told me that he wanted me to remarry – largely b/c his own mother was widowed at 33, dated sporadically but ultimately decided not to “until you were grown” to which my husband replied, “you didn’t marry George b/c of me? That was stupid.” She was surprised. “You didn’t like him.” “I was 12 Mom. I can’t believe you passed up the chance to be happy again b/c I was ornery.”

      He made me promise, should I be widowed young to do the opposite of everything his mother did. Which I have.

      My husband now and I have discussed the “what if”. He says he would not marry again but he doesn’t rule out dating. I am indifferent and think I will not bother again.

      My mother is 80 and widowed. My sister and I have told her that whatever she wants to do is fine with us. She is an adult and as a mother, she has had the excellent sense to not ever offer comment or advice on our love lives, so we are extending her the same courtesy.

      If I was widowed again, and decided to date, and one of my grandchildren or children got it into their head to take me to task for being “disrespectful”, they’d only get one shot b/c I would make sure they knew that it was not their place to judge me, and I would remind them that I never once commented on the parade of irritating and unsuitable boyfriends and girlfriends I’d had to endure at their hands.

      I think that if a widowed person wants to wait a year or wear black or build a monument in his/her front yard – he/she should be left to it. But if one wants to date that’s okay too. Children, extended family and friends are most helpful when they are supportive. When they are full of criticism or try to be controlling – they are just short of being just another burden for the widowed person to put up with.

      When I began to date after my first husband died my attitude was thus “When I want your advice or opinion, I will ask for it. Until then – shut up.”

      • “Widowed people don’t date to send messages or to scandalize family. They date because they find that they want to and that it makes them happy” Spoken like a true “Widow Card” carrying widow. How dare Robert have an opinion on his family (breathtaking in its self-righteousness)….

        On the whole I think Robert has hit the nail on the head.

        You may or may not have been ready to have started dating again when you did, I obviously cannot comment on that.

        I would strongly advise anyone dating a widow before they habe had the twelve months to properly mourn and deal with the first anniversaries that never end (first time we met, X’s birthday, day X proposed, Wedding anniversary, first birthday without X, first birthday of “X and my child without X”. It’s a subtle form of emotional blackmail that has no response.

        You may well have been emotionally equipped to deal with it but I strongly doubt it.

        Widow card-carrying widows are the most self-indulgent selfish lowest of lows. They refuse to confront their own grief by projecting their lost hopes and dreams on a poor, kind, well-meaning man who can never live up to the saintly figure they are always being compared to. They are emotional vampires who then leach of their families and friends when it, inevitably, all goes wrong.

        Most psychologists swear by the 12 month rule, but then again Ann who are we to argue with a widow……

        Simple advice fellas, obey the 12 month rule

        • Robert can have any opinion he likes, but as a woman, I found his attitude patronizing and a shade or two sexist. If it was his father in law, I doubt he’d feel the same way or if he did, he wouldn’t dare bring it up in any form. The rules for widowers are still different than those for widows. And I was merely pointing out, that as a grown woman, I expect my children to remember their place – which is not as my peer. I suspect his mother in law has similar feelings on the subject of being schooled by family who haven’t her years of experience.

          The actual research on bereaved, widowed included, found that they are well on their way to having reestablished their lives somewhere btwn 6 and 12 (majority) and 15/18ish months (at the outside). Only a very small percentage continue in active grief from this point on and they usually had a history of emotional problems prior to their loss. The whole year thing is just one of those rules of thumb founded more in social/religious origins than anything else.

          Argue with a widow? Feel free. I don’t claim to be a “grief counselor”. I merely share my experiences, which not surprisingly mirrors many others.

          Was I “well-equipped” to date? I wasn’t good at the whole girlfriend/date thing before and unsurprisingly, I found dating to be an irritating mash up of game playing and tedium the second time around as well. I never dated for any purpose other than pairing off and marriage and I am fortunate that both late and current husband were/are of the same mindset. I am also not the only widow I know who dated early and was married under the two year mark. And we are all just fine in our relationships, but thanks for your concern.

          If anyone has an issue here, it seems to be you. You’ve dated widowed or widowed and it’s not gone well? Regardless, your bitterness is showing. Personally, I am sorry if you’ve been “widow carded”. It’s a shitty thing that some do and mostly because they are encouraged by the same sort of ridiculous and unfounded grief rules that you are spouting at me.

          Rest assured that people will do as they want no matter what they read here, or anywhere else, and in spite of the efforts of their family and friends to make them conform.

        • I agree with Robert. I’m 50, a woman, married. My husband’s mother just died in May, and his Dad just sprung a girlfriend on the kids at Thanksgiving. This has certainly upset my husband and gotten me thinking about what I would want.
          When our kids were small, my husband told me he wouldn’t want me to remarry until the kids were adults. I respected that and fully planned to honor that wish, should he die.
          Our kids are nearly grown now, and should I die before my husband,I wouldn’t care if he ultimately remarried, but I would expect him to be considerate of our son’s feelings because they are my primary concern.
          What I would expect from him are 3 things.
          First, that he wait a full year before dating, if not for his own need to heal, than for his children’s. As mentioned above, there is a low or healing/emotional work to be done that first year, and stuffing another person into the hole the late spouse left is not going to fix anything. Also, even if he isn’t still grieving, his my children will be.
          Second, That once he started dating, he wait wadate/wait a year to get married. While this may seem arbitrary, it gives him a fighting chance to get healed and to not launch into a misguided relationship for the wrong reasons. (And maybe this is petty, but he waited 2 1/2 years before marrying me, so what is the big rush? What with assets and children, he has A LOT more to lose now than he did then.)
          Last, I would expect him to get a prenuptual agreement specifying that alll assets accumulated prior to this new union be left to our sons. Afterall, I did not work all of my life so that some other woman can take my husband for all he’s worth and give it to her kids. I worked for my children, and I expect my husband to honor that.

        • Everyone should deal with the widowed thing as suits him/her best because really, no one has any idea of what needs to be done but the widowed person.

          An interesting thing about your scenario is that in it – you are dead. Your husband will have enough to deal with without the additional burden of worrying about whether or not you approve of how he is doing it.

          My standard reply to anyone who wondered what my late husband would have thought about x, y or z was “He’s dead, so he doesn’t get a vote.” And why should have he? He wasn’t on the ground. He was under it. He would have no way of knowing the details of the moment or what was important or not, or what was necessary or not. And frankly, I was a grown up woman and quite capable of making decisions without running them through the “what would dead husband think” mode.

          But to back to the question of healing, the research – not the anecdotal stuff they push in grief groups – virtual or live – says that the vast majority of people begin to move on between the 6 to 15 month post death time frame.

          And the idea that a widowed person must be using a new boy/girlfriend as a “healing” therapy is insulting. Widowed people meet, are attracted to and fall in love just like non-widowed people do. There is nothing about us that changes in that respect. We are perfectly capable of separating the apple of grief from the orange of moving on.

          Where it gets sticky is that widowed live with the loss every minute of every day but extended family generally don’t. Children especially almost seem to leave the heavy lifting of grief to their surviving parent and get a bit miffed when that parent begins to move on because it forces them to do so as well – and that’s difficult to do when you are only focusing on a task sporadically.

          I stick to my original stance. There is no way a child of mine gets to tell me what to do. It’s disrespectful for one thing and it’s childish and presumptive as well.

          Your father-in-law might have warned you given that it was a holiday but regardless, he is a grown man and your husband – if he was raised well at all – should know that no matter what he thinks/feels, he has no right to pitch a tantrum or to make his Dad (and the new girlfriend especially) feel as though they have done something heinous (which a lot of adult children do. I am appalled by the stories I have heard of grown men and women behaving like kindergarteners when their widowed parent dates or remarries).

          As to material wealth, my sister and I have told our mother that she can do as she pleases. Whatever my dad left to her is hers. He didn’t build his net worth up with the idea of leaving it to his grown kids who should be able to support themselves but to make sure that our mother would live her life out comfortably. It makes me a bit itchy to hear people rail against the second wife as though she should expect to live in cardboard box in the river valley should she outlive her husband. Anything that’s left behind should first take into account the surviving spouse whether she gave birth to you or not. I couldn’t imagine leaving everything to my daughter and expecting my husband to pound sand in his old age.

          Edited to add: One thing I would encourage you to do, if you haven’t already, is to let you husband know your thoughts. I think it’s healthy for couples to discuss the “what if” scenarios. It sounds as though you are your husband are on the same page about placing restrictions on each other when one of you dies. I am not sure however that all couples will be as sympatico. Best to hash these things out while both parties are around to contribute to the conversation.

  31. Thank you so much for such an honest article about your experience. I really appreciate it! I am 4 years on from being widowed and finally in a good place. Just browsing the Internet to get an idea of what the “norm” is for young widows. of course, everyone has their own situation and comfort level. I really appreciate your comments about the “widow card”! Even going through what I did, I have seen how important it is to not let what I have been through define me…. Or even more so, not bring whatever sadness and loss from my previous relationship into something new. thankfully I have met someone who creates a beautiful space for me to be new version of myself I have become. For me it felt very natural at that point – and hence I echo the sentiment that we all can/will figure it out as the time is right and it is so very important to define that in our own terms, not by the timetable of anyone else.

    • Wow. Just wow. Ann, you seem to be quite judgmental of those who disagree with you. I understand its your life but your life changed dramatically when you had children. At least it should have. Babies or grown adults, your children deserve your respect. To you, dating and moving on is all about your happiness. To your children, it may feel like you are stomping on the grave of their father. I wonder if you’ve lived your entire life so selfishly or if its just convenient to be selfish now that you’re widowed and want to date without your children’s approval.

      • First, my child at the time was four. She just didn’t get a say. She was four. But even so, I am not a big believer in child driven families. I wasn’t raised that way and my decades spent teaching public school only reinforced my opinion because the kids that were the most difficult to deal with came from families where parents had abdicated decision making to their kids.

        Second, I don’t say that you shouldn’t be respectful of their feelings or listen to them. I just point out that you are the adult and the buck stops with you and that kids are not mature enough or long term thinking oriented enough to be allowed to have veto power. I also point out that you shouldn’t bring someone new into their lives until you are very sure the person is sticking around.

        Which brings me to three, I am opinionated, won’t deny that, but your single-minded focus on a single point in my post to the exclusion of everything else makes me wonder what your motivation for bothering to leave a comment is all about.

        Finally, I am years past dating and widowhood is way back in my rear-view mirror. The child, the grown step-children and my husband and I are happy and no one ever felt disrespected or stomped on or like Mom and Dad were too self-involved to hear them. Just because I respond a bit harshly to those who come here spoiling for a fight does not mean I do the same with my kids. Sometimes the only way to make a point with certain adults – especially on the internet – is to hit points hard. If that offended you, you probably shouldn’t read my posts on widowhood and dating anymore.

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  38. “Playing the widow card in the relationship arena is a no-no. It’s manipulative and unfair, and frankly, widowed who do this are the worst kinds of assholes.” Never a truer word was spoken. I have just had my heart broken by someone who had started having sex with their next door neighbour THREE DAYS after her husband died and who was in that relationship when we met. All unbeknown to me of course, and hidden by the “friends who set us up” until after we broke up when the truth comes out.

    From someone who considers themselves a kind, considerate person I would offer the following advice to widows thinking of dating again.

    (1) Get your house in order (literally) – If your house is still a shrine to your late husband with holiday, wedding and family photos everywhere that is not fair. Have a few special photos (after all, he’s not a secret and a decdent man will respect your previous love) but leave the rest for a memory box.

    (2) Address your late husband and your relationship but leave the reminiscing to with your friends. The new person in your life wants to be your future not be trapped in your past. Try and not talk about him too often.

    (3) Be honest about your past relationship. Acknowledge his flaws as well as good points – noone can compete with a saint. A good line is “You and XXXX are different people. I loved him and of course I miss him from time to time but I your are my future and I love you and you have your own unique qualities that XXXX didn’t have”

    (4) Get your house in order emotionally. If you don’t have a plan for your life and are waiting for a guy to make you happy you are not ready

    (5) If you have children, DEMAND (away from you) that you are shown respect. You are not a guest in their life. Defend your new partner against rude behaviour or even worse a child that simply refuses to acknowledge you in any meaningful way. Defend your new partner in front of your child in such instances and talk it over later. Allow your new partner to have a say in house rules – do not say “XXXX and I decided that this was how we would approach this” Discuss issues and alllow your new partner rights – he should not be a spectator in his own life.

    (6) Finally, and most importantly, if you realise you are not ready and cannot cope with the new relationship, BE HONEST and tell your new partner, don’t make keep him there for comfort whilst playing emotional cat and mosue. Don’t play the Widow Card – be an adult and explain gently and kindly that you think the world of that person but you are simply not ready.

    Hope the above does not sound bitter….

    • No, not bitter, and you are entitled to feel however you feel in the aftermath of a break-up.

      I read widow blogs here and there, and run across widowed who are dating but still living, and wanting to be treated, as widows. You really have to resolve to be just a man or woman when you decide to date again. You’ll always be someone who was widowed once” but you have to leave the active state of it behind and allow the title to be just one of many on your life’s resume.

      My advice to those dating widowed is don’t play counselor and don’t let your new bf or gf’s tragedy colour the way you react to things. If you wouldn’t tolerate it from someone else, don’t tolerate it from them. People make the mistake of thinking that if they put their feelings second that somehow they will end up first in the widowed partner’s eyes and affection. It should never be a competition.

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience. Thanks for commenting.

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  43. Great advice, as usual. It seems that widowers (don’t know about widows) usually get involved in comitted relationsihps long before they’re ready to emotionally commit to someone. That’s why it’s important to know how they’re feeling inside when they start dating again. Nothing wrong with just spending time with someone so long as you set expectations.

    • Exactly. Though, given what I know about men, I think that most do realize that they are playing a bit of a disingenuous game. They know that there are women who won’t involved themselves seriously or even sexually unless there is a commitment, so they play along with it to get the companionship (and by companionship, I mean sex) that they want without pondering the consequences too deeply (or at all).

      And widows do this too. I can’t even count the number of posts I read on Ye Olde Widow Board where women were dating but not really “feeling it” and were told by other widows that it was perfectly okay to do this AND to expect the new SO to be okay with the arrangement (and the commitment to grief over moving on).

      Trouble is, in my experience, that grief is treated either as life-long illness or it’s seen as something that can be worked through to the point of it vanishing. Neither is true. This leaves widowed folk struggling in new relationships and their new partners stuffing their needs and feelings. Not a recipe for success. That’s why, I think, it’s important to open your mouth and state your needs for both parties. It heads off misunderstanding which leads to hurt feelings or worse.

  44. Observing other people’s attitudes and assumptions about this issue has been really fascinating for me in a sort of anthropological way. Generally, it seemed that around a year was when people started watching me for signs of dating–not in a negative or judgmental sense, but with leading questions and knowing little smiles. Between two and four years they started asking “don’t you want to find someone?” or flat out telling me that I needed to (or in a couple of memorable cases, passing that message on from their mother/auntie/grandma/whoever), and between four and five years they sort of seemed to give up on me as a lost cause. Pretty much, I think it’s safe to say that no matter how soon or late you date, someone is going to have an opinion about it, so you might as well do what you want. :-)

    • Exactly. I got dating questions even before my LH died b/c he was vegetative and I’d been alone really for over two years when he did die. It’s natural for people to wonder and worry or just be noisy where they don’t belong.

      I always knew I would date and probably remarry if the right person came along. I’d been single long enough before my first marriage that I knew I could take care of myself and that single was not some feminist manifesto that I needed to revisit in order to “know myself”. Not that some women don’t have that as an issue, I just think that anymore young widows grew up in an age where independence and career and stuff was a given. It’s just not the same as what older women who didn’t grow up in the shadow of the Women’s Movement have to face.

      Society though has such a straight-jacket set of notions about grieving and widow behavior that seems very Victorian on one hand and steeped in 12 step culture on the other. You aren’t going to win, so you might as well forge your own path and not worry about it.

  45. I love this. I appreciate your honest and straight forward discussion about dating. I did a brief stint at dating, then decided to take a break. I’m still open to it, but realized that until someone special comes around I was not interested in putting too much energy into it. Now I am feeling ready to get back out there, but more for fun and the occasional romp.

    • Knowing yourself and what you want/need is so important. I think in the widow culture we are encouraged to pay more attention to the sadness than to our real, normal need to seek out ppl and activities that make us happy.

  46. my father in law died in March, and my mother in law was involved with (I use that term loosely, as no one knows who it was but she confided that there “was someone”) a man since his death. And I don’t know why she didn’t find someone sooner. Like 15 years ago. Kidding, kidding. Sort of. They were married 35 years. He wasn’t a bad guy, but I would have never been his wife. Or even his friend.

    I’d love to say I miss him, but I don’t. I miss his presence in my child’s life, but that’s about it. He was sort of a pain in the ass.

    Wow. That feels good to get out.

    You’re right, everyone is on their own timetable about the dating thing. When it’s right it’s right. And not a minute sooner

    • Exactly. Whatever works. Trouble is that ppl feel pressured one way or the other.

      Hard to cop to not missing someone -especially when they are dead. Being dead elevates even the worst person to vaguely untouchable heights.

      • I have been a girlfriend of a widower almost since her sudden death. My fiance wanted to keep it a secret and I agreed but for a limited amount of time. After passing a year I demanded introducing me to all the acquaintances of his, family of his etc. It’s been a year and a half but he still keeps me in a secret from his wife family. We have just moved into a new place which I found. I arranged his former flat to be rent and organized our moving. When I am listening to him telling his mother-in-law on the phone conversation that he has moved as is now living himself in a new place I feel angry and sort of humilitated. Also, when I am calling him at the time when he is at in-laws’ he never picks up the phone. Recently, we had a row about that. He said that has no obligation to tel the stories of his private life. I called him a candy-ass who tries to make an impression of forever grieving loving husband who enjoys all the privileges of having a mistress, a housekeper etc.
        I still love him and realize that a man in love does not seek for excuses. It really hurts me, or rather my proud. The more important issue is that we used to be more open to discussion and negotiation on these topics.

        • Being someone’s “dirty secret” us the ultimate insult and I suggest you put your foot down. Unless their relationship with their late wife’s family is estranged then out of rapect to you then he simply should acknowledge your existence. Sure it’s a difficult conversation but if he’s not prepared to have it then I’d wipe him. My personal experience with my ex was that even though I was meant to be her future I could never answer the phone just in case it was the MIL calling. Pretty sure the preservation of money benefits was also a factor. To be someone’s dirty little secret is the most humiliating experience in the world and NO-ONE should have to put up with that behavior.

        • I agree. But, you are a guy, and in my experience it is not typical of the male gender to make excuses for and/or hang on to a crappy relationship deal in the hope that other person “sees the light”. Men don’t (generally) play those types of games. Women, however, routinely do. It’s got a lot to do with the idiotic way we are socialized as pre/teens. We get “good girl” points for hanging in there in cases where we are clearly being treated poorly.

          So, I seldom come right out and say “dump him”. I know that a woman in love is going to hang on until she has no choice but to let go and maybe even a while longer.

          Widowed are not special in any way. The experience doesn’t really change their core personalities. Someone who is treating you like a dirty secret more likely treated their late spouse with some equal manner of contempt. I never believe anyone who claims to have had a perfect marriage or late spouse, and I always consider the way they treat their new partners as being a good way to judge how they treated their late spouse (who sadly isn’t able to warn anyone away).

          My own in-laws ranged from people I barely knew to those who hated me and tried to interfere with the relationship/marriage that my late husband and I had pretty much from the word “go”. So I never felt bad about cutting ties or not sharing my life with them as I moved on. But, if my husband had kept me a secret from his in-laws – I would have known that all was not well because he sincerely liked them and had a good relationship with them. My being a “dirty secret” would have screamed volumes.

          Being a secret is almost always a sign that you are not the one. A man (or woman) who loves you, and is sure that there is a future, wants to share it with pretty much everyone they know.

        • Just to be sure I understand. Your boyfriend has told his friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers about you. And they accepted you? However, he has not told his in-laws? But he has an on-going relationship with them?

          My husband had to push me to tell my late husband’s family that we’d married and I had moved out of the country. I’d really ended any relationship I had with them and honestly didn’t want them to be a part of my (our) life. But he liked his late wife’s family and had a continuing relationship with them and thought it odd that I didn’t at least tell my in-laws (which I did and regret – but that’s another blog post). So, it’s not unusual for widowed to not inform in-laws of the circumstances of their new lives, or to not share much, especially if they are hard feelings or was never much closeness anyway.

          It is odd, however, for widowed who have close and on-going relationships with in-laws to hide new partners. It usually means that something is up. Perhaps the widowed fears the in-laws reaction or is under the impression that the in-laws are too fragile to handle his/her moving on. Sometimes it is fear of change – the in-laws might become less a part of his/her new life.

          Whatever the reason, it’s not fair.

          Maybe your guy does like the dual aspect of his life. Widower points from the in-laws and moving on points from everyone else. Some widowed really like the “perks” of their new status (as odd as that may sound). Or maybe he is using the in-laws ignorance of you to control the pace of your relationship.

          But it isn’t about you, so don’t take it as a reflection of anything you’ve done or not. Guys who behave less than well in their relationships are motivated by factors that seldom have anything to do with the awesomeness level of their partners. He has his own agenda, so don’t be hard on yourself.

          You are right to expect to be a known quantity to everyone in his life and that includes the in-laws. You live together. This is not play. It is your real life and deserves to be respected. It is absolutely disrespectful at this point for him to keep you hidden from anyone who is a regular and important part of his life.

          You can’t make him tell them, but if you stick with this relationship, you don’t have to enable him to avoid it either. Further, it would be a good idea to – in a matter of fact, non-argumentative way – let him know what you expect in terms of openness, discussion and negotiation and then stand your ground.

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