Dating While Widowed: Hand Me Down No-No’s

English: Screenshot from the original 1958 the...

From the original 1958 theatrical trailer for the film Vertigo Frame taken from (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Normally, I ignore Dear Prudence when it comes to her advice to widowed who are in new relationships. Although she married a widower years and years ago, she’s often of the mindset that her husband’s widower experience, and her having navigated dating and marrying him, is a shared one, and that she “gets it”.

You can’t be or understand widowed vicariously. It doesn’t matter how up close the view.

Today, however, I noted a letter from a newly dating widower, who wondered if it was okay to give his late wife’s vibrator to his new girlfriend. It was an expensive, top of the line model that they’d barely had time to enjoy prior to the wife’s death.

Prudie said “no” and added an “ick” sentiment to her reasoning and I agree totally.

Which brings me to my point for the day, you can certainly bestow the material goods of your late spouse on friends, relatives and children – as long as said goods aren’t sex toys or other intimate in nature possessions – but when it comes to new significant others, just don’t.

While I know of cases where new girlfriends have been offered, and accepted, jewelry, clothing and even footwear, most new loves will be puzzled, hurt or even slightly repulsed by the idea of such “re-gifting”.

It’s difficult enough to deal with objects that are simply too vital or expensive to be replaced. For example, beds and other furniture or cookware and dishes. No one expects a widowed person to replace shared everyday items before they begin dating again or cohabitation with a new love. That’s not only impractical but it’s going way overboard with the idea of starting over.

But being sensible has its limits. I would never have offered my late husband’s clothing to Rob. And not just because their styles were quite different or that they are different sizes and body types.

It would have been “creepy” as my ten-year old daughter would say.

Hitchcock’s Vertigo centered on the attempts of a man to recreate his dead love’s appearance and mannerism via his new, look-alike love interest. The movie culminates in an incredibly disturbing intimacy scene that makes it clear this new woman is merely a stand in for the dead one.

Dressing up your new friend in clothing worn by your late spouse or making your Friday night dinner date at the restaurant you and late spouse loved – is kind of like that. An attempt to recapture someone and something that’s over and gone.

You should be careful with anything that is essentially a “rerun” for you. Vacation spots. Gifts that are things you would have given your late spouse. Pet names. If it is something you shared with them, be careful when sharing it again. A new love is expecting, and deserves, a space of his/her own in your heart and in the laying of a new relationship foundation.

I’ve read about women whose widowers think honeymooning or romantic get-aways at places shared with the late wife are great ideas and who become petulant when their new loves feel second best when they find out about the locations previous encounters. While a woman can be understanding about the mattress on your once shared bed, she isn’t going to be as thrilled about sharing a romantic locale. Beds are a practical matter. Romance is a matter of being creative, thoughtful and taking your new love’s feelings into account.

Not long after we married, we had a garage sale to try to clear out some of the clutter that the joining of two, very grown, adults can make. There was a box of Rob’s late wife’s clothing that needed to be sorted. He wasn’t keen but was willing to let me do it. And it was easier for me because I had no context to place the clothes in.

But before I started, Rob made an off-hand comment about my taking anything I fancied for myself.

Even if she and I had been the same size, and she wasn’t his dead wife, I still would have declined, but I also felt the need to point out that my wearing her clothing was a creepy factor beyond which I was comfortable and wouldn’t it bother him to see me in her clothes?

He conceded the point and didn’t offer me anything of hers again. Though I will admit that while I have kept and used many household items, and have no issue with them, I have always simply chucked others – even if they were perfectly usable – when I felt inclined. If my step-daughters didn’t want them and I preferred not to use them … out they went. It’s been enough for me to live in her house and integrate myself into her community. I didn’t need to keep everything simply because it might seem silly to replace them. I needed to establish myself as the lady of the house. Things that were mine alone were important to that process.

And it is a matter of comfort, so being willing to ask and have discussions with those you date or establish serious relationships with is a must. What might bother one person could be perfectly acceptable to someone else. Just remember to allow the other person their own feelings and don’t expect these feelings to mirror your own or that with a little pressure, you can persuade them to see things your way.That’s just selfish. While you might think you’d be fine living in a house that  your love shared with someone else, your new love doesn’t have to feel the same way and you should respect their feelings.

But getting back to sex toys- sex anything really – just don’t go there. Well sanitized or not, there are privacy issues where the late spouse is concerned and sharing items and details from intimate moments is, my opinion, not only disrespectful to the new love but to your late spouse as well.

A new relationship, if it is to work, should have as much “just us” to it as possible. Even if that means giving up your favorite vacation retreat or buying a new bedroom set. It certainly means springing for a new vibrator in any case.

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5 responses to “Dating While Widowed: Hand Me Down No-No’s

  1. Pingback: Dating While Widowed: Yours and Mine and Adult Kids | anniegirl1138

  2. I think the “rerun” theory applies even to exes (when you’re not a widow/widower, but perhaps divorced or have split from someone) – any new love deserves new experiences, and while some overlap of destinations and activities may happen, creating new memories together is so important.

  3. I remember my boyfirend (when we are just colleagues) shortly after the LW’s death presenting me a stunning emerald ring he bought for her when their son was born. I considered it amazingly beautiful. When we started discussing engagement issues he asked me whether I would like to have the same model with sapphires. I really liked that ring so I accepted that idea. I felt treated the number one which is the way of being treated I deserve. It even didn’t come to my mind that it could be an attempt of making me resembling the deceased wife. For me it was more like being officially promoted to the wife-to-be position. I used to diliske him speaking about her as “my wife”. It remimded me that I was only a girlfriend. Not so important role as being wife. The moment I was gifted with almost exactly the same ring has made me feel a peer to all the wifes, all the most important women in their men’s lives.

    • Not everyone finds the re-gifting upsetting, which is why it is important that couples have good lines of communication.

      And I only mentioned the Vertigo film because of the extreme example it is of trying to recreate a past relationship. You could say that people’s preferences for blondes or certain bodies types of ethnic groups (to name a few examples) is a way of ensuring that in every relationship there is a comfort zone. People are drawn to certain characteristics, which make the deja vu thing somewhat inevitable.

      I wouldn’t say that on the surface I am much like my husband’s late wife but I have (without any input from him) unwittingly drifted towards hobbies that she had in terms of fitness and healthy food preparation and wanting to take classes that I latter learn that she took. And he is an earthy type who sometimes reminds me of my late husband.

      As you point out, as long as you feel valued for yourself and number one that is all that matters. I just want to caution people a bit to get them thinking because often in new relationships we don’t and for widowed who may be longer in the marriage game than they ever were in the dating game, it is easy to fall into the trap of slipping a new mate in an already established slot in their lives without reflecting on how this new person might feel about it.

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