Dating While Widowed: Yours and Mine and Adult Kids


The latest post at Abel Keogh’s Running Forward Widower Wednesday talks about pre-nups, wills and adult kids who can’t wrap their minds around the idea that their parents’ “wealth” belongs to their parents and not them.

I ran across this a lot at Ye Olde Widow board. People who were fine with idea of remarriage but adamant that their late spouse’s hard-earned this or that would never, ever, ever benefit in any way, shape or form the next spouse or, goddess in heaven forbid, his/her worthless children. A whole lot of assumption but basically stemming from the odd notion that what your late spouse might have left you in the form of life insurance, marital home or other valuables is somehow still his or hers.

When you die, you don’t take it with you. Not even in spirit. What happens, or is accumulated on earth, stays on earth. Furthermore, it becomes the property of someone else, who is now free to do whatever the hell they want with it. And trust me, they will. I have seldom witnessed someone inherit from a parent or grandparent and not piss the money away like trailer trash with a PowerBall jackpot.

As my late husband lay in the intensive care before being moved to hospice, his mother sent her best friend to query me about life insurance. How much? I was asked. And because I was completely stunned that anyone would ask such a question at such a time, I told her. Absolutely nothing.

It wasn’t until much later – after mother-in-law absconded with money from the memorial that was meant to help cover the expense of it – that I realized the inquiry about life insurance was about calculating her cut.

You would be amazed – or maybe not – by the people who truly believe that inheritance is a given and have their hands out sometimes way in advance of your death.

A sizable proportion of adult children are like this. They see their parents and grandparents as some sort of long-range saving plan. A way to pay off the mortgage, plump up retirement plans or just have a wad of cash to fritter away on vacations and material crap.

Second marriages make these kinds of people – nervous. They have visions of “their” inheritances being used frivolously by step-parents for outrageous things like … eating or paying the property tax and keeping a roof over their elderly heads.

So, the topic today is when you remarry, do you have a financial plan in place to make sure that in the event of your death your new spouse doesn’t end up homeless while your kids vacation in Tahiti?

Yeah, yeah. Their mommy or daddy would have wanted you to put your new spouse at the mercy of your greedy kids because after all, she or he worked themselves to death for the money that was left to you.

Except that they didn’t.

They took out that life insurance or built up the retirement plan to take care of you. You. Not your grown up kids, who you should have been taught well enough to be able to pay their own bills, save for their own retirement and goodies. You.

Money we inherit is no longer anyone’s money but ours.

Yes, we have an obligation to use it for the benefit of our minor children and to see that our very young adult children find a good footing in life, but at some point our kids get old. Really old. Sometimes as old as we were when we were widowed in the first place. They are adults who mostly ignore our advice in favor of what works best for them, and they build their own adult lives with their own spouses and their own kids. And if we did a good job raising them, they really shouldn’t be running to us with their hands out – ever.

But there are emergencies, you cry.

Yes, I would agree, but inheritance doesn’t fall into that category. Inheritance is a form of expectation based upon nothing more than the notion that because you sired or birthed them, they are entitled to some sort of monetary reward triggered by your death.

It’s wonderful when we can leave our kids, or grandkids, a little something, or even a lot of something, but we should shy far away from leading them to expect this from us. Or from giving them the impression that it is their due. It’s not owed to them because they merely exist.

Plenty of perfectly wonderful parents spend every last dime before they die. On themselves even! And sometimes they need that money because they get sick or have other pressing expenses.

Some parents and grandparents even leave their “fortunes” to charity or endowments or to people that aren’t even blood relations!

NOTHING good comes from adult children who’ve been led to believe that the money daddy left you is also theirs. Zero good. Refrain mightily from going there because even if you don’t remarry, it’s going to be a big ugly thorn in your side when you hit a certain age, and they start counting chickens they think you are overspending. You don’t ever want your 50 year old child questioning your need to take a trip or buy a new pair of boots or go out to lunch every Tuesday with your friends because it’s eating up the money you should be saving to leave him/her.

I am not exaggerating. Countless seniors live with harpy adult children who view all things mom/dad as eventually their things.

The best way to avoid tantrums from adult kids if you should decide to remarry is to not have even given your children cause to believe they have the right to question you on the subject of remarriage and to never have intimated that they are somehow entitled to an inheritance.

But if you haven’t done either, there is still hope. You can tell them now.

You should also make sure that you and your future spouse have thoroughly discussed all matters money. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you want your wills to look like in terms of what goes to whom and how you each plan to care for the other in the event of incapacitating illness and death. If there are assets or minor children that need special considerations, discuss and plan for that too.

Communication, as I have said before, is key. KEY.

Don’t be that elderly woman who is living in a house owned by her step-children who are just waiting for her to die so they can sell it.

Conversely, don’t be that old man whose late wife’s jewelry ended up in the hands of his second wife’s daughter-in-law because it wasn’t specified in the will that it should go to his granddaughter.

If it ‘s important then it is important enough to discuss and plan for IN WRITING and preferably with the assistance of a lawyer.

But just in case you can’t let go of the idea that procreation has saddled you with the task of scrimping, saving and leaving something to your grown up kids so they can enjoy a better retirement than you will, there are options like life insurance policies and trusts.

However, if you remarry, your primary concern should be your spouse. Leaving him or her to simply fend for themselves in their advancing years is so cold and harsh that it amazes me that people who would do this even find someone to marry again at all. What self-respecting person signs willingly to be accused of being a gold-digger and ends up on cat food and public assistance so their step-children can one day  indulge themselves on eBay?

Let’s sum up.

Money matters. Children do have the right to heirlooms. Second wives and husbands shouldn’t be at the financial mercy of step-kids when you are gone.

Talk, talk and talk some more about this before remarrying. Don’t include your kids! It’s not their business. Better yet, avoid raising your kids to feel entitled to enrich themselves via your death.

And finally. consult a financial planner or estate planner or lawyer or anyone who can walk you through the realities of what your new spouse will need by way of assets when you die. You might be surprised to find out that what you thought about money and second marriages and death isn’t at all what reality is.

Dating While Widowed: When Dating Goes “Wrong”


The Dating Game

The Dating Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An interesting search term on dating gone wrong turned up this morning and as so many of the search terms seem to query in that direction, I thought it might be a good one to address.

What does it mean when dating “goes wrong”?

In general terms, it probably alludes to the fact that more often than not, we don’t get what we want out of the experience. For whatever reason, two people are left frustrated and hurt and no longer together.

This is not a widow thing.

I know that widowed are schooled by the various grief outlets to believe that anything that gets in the way of a new relationship is related to grief in some way, but this is an over-generalization. If a person takes the time to look back at pre-marriage dating or even conducts a brief tour of the internet via googling “dating issues”, he/she would find that things going wrong is fairly common in the dating world and widowhood has hardly cornered an exclusive market as a reason why.

Usually, when relationships develop anything from hiccups to major breakdowns, the culprit is a difference of unspoken expectations and a difficulty or unwillingness to engage in direct communication about them.

I have said it before – often – that when venturing back into the singles scene, it’s better to have thought about why and what you expect from it and be ready to articulate that to those you date upfront. This way the likelihood of beginning a relationship with someone who is unsuitable is smaller.

Of course, this is not how dating happens. Dating and relationships in our modern culture tend to be stumbled upon via chance and hook-ups by people who haven’t really fleshed out their own motives for getting involved with another person.

From there, they lurch from one step to the next in a state of giddy inattention to details – good and bad – until one or both realize that the direction isn’t where they envisioned themselves heading. And then? Things have gone wrong.

There are no rules for dating again. There aren’t really formal rules in general for most of what passes for coupling in our modern age, but there are some things that are best thought about and really considered before jumping back in the game.

Why do I want to date?

What are my expectations of dating and of anyone who I might date?

What am I bringing to the table for someone else?

How will dating impact my life today? 10 weeks from now? 10 months? 10 years?

Am I a casual or serious dater?

Do I want to marry again? Have a committed relationship? Just hook up?

Am I able to date and not expect those I date to play the role of my therapist?

Can I set boundaries with my kids? Family? Friends? where my life as an adult is concerned?

Do I understand that dating can be emotionally unsettling and can stir up my feelings of loss and that I will have to really handle that myself?

And that’s just to name a few.

I don’t think most people really think about what they want before they begin to date again and I think that it is only by trying to date that you really begin to clarify your reasons and refine your methods. But, I don’t think that avoiding dating until you “feel better” or are “over the loss of your late spouse” are particularly helpful either because neither of those things are ever going to happen. There is no such thing as closure. There is just acceptance of reality and deciding to move on.

Which brings it down to this really. Moving on is a choice you eventually are ready to make. Dating is sometimes part of this but not always. There are no guarantees when you move on or date that life will suddenly be wonderful again. Wonderful is subjective and getting there takes time and personal effort. Magical solutions are no more real than unicorns.

Dating sometimes goes wrong. When it does, it will either work out with time, effort and communication; or it won’t and the relationship will end.

You may or may not meet your next great love right out of the box.

I entered the dating world again at about 6 months out. I met a lot of men. Some were nice but uninteresting. Some were neither nice nor interesting, A few were douchebags. And then I met Rob. We put time and effort into getting to know each other and deciding there was a basis for dating, commitment, engagement and marriage.

Rob met me right out of the box. Pretty much like he met his late wife. My husband has always been a pretty darn lucky man in that respect.

There is nothing wrong with you if dating goes wrong. It is not a sign from the heavens that it was too soon or that you are destined to be that sad lonely old widow in the nursing home weeping over photos of a long dead spouse.

It just means that you and this person weren’t suited. That happens. Walk it off. Consider what you might do differently the next time and when you are ready, try again. Or take a break. Or rethink the whole idea and give up on it.

This is your life. You only get this one once.

A Letter From the Dead Husband’s Mother


Right after the New Year, a Christmas card arrived for Dee from my late husband’s mother. Typically, all cards arrive after

 

christmas card

christmas card (Photo credit: merwing✿little dear)

 

the fact whether it be her birthday or Valentine’s. Sometimes no card arrives at all and I take that as a sign that she is once again in hospital due to one or another of her health issues, which my BFF, who is a nurse, is fairly certain will shorten the woman’s life but isn’t doing that quickly enough for me.

 

Accompanying the Christmas card was a smaller envelope addressed to me.

 

Lovely, I thought. Nothing says ‘happy new year” like a screed from Will’s mother.

 

“Please send me pictures of my granddaughter,” she wrote.

 

She never calls Dee by name. Even in the cards she sends, she rarely uses the child’s name and even more rarely does she do much more than simply sign her own.

 

Dee, from the beginning of her existence really, has only been an opportunity to claim the coveted title of “Grandmother”. In fact the first thing she said upon being told I was pregnant was to announce,

 

“Finally! Now I can buy one of those cute grandma sweatshirts.”

 

Being a grandmother has never been about Dee herself. It’s a status thing. It’s pictures to share. It was another opportunity to stake a claim on yet another territory of victim-hood because from the beginning, Will and I did nothing but tell her “no”.

 

No, you can’t name the baby.

 

No, you can’t be in the delivery room.

 

No, you can’t have the baby for overnight visits or the weekend.

 

No, we aren’t driving an hour every Sunday to your mother’s so you can play at being grandma for an audience.

 

No, we aren’t going to bring her to your house when your alcoholic sister is rampaging, and no your sister isn’t be a part of Dee’s life.

 

No, you can’t babysit because you can barely walk.

 

She was never kept from visiting, but she refused to come to our home because it was contrary to what she wanted. It also meant she was tacitly agreeing with the reason behind our avoidance of her home – that it was a hoarders’ heaven. Seriously filthy and in some areas, completely nonnegotiable. Weeks worth of dishes molding in the kitchen sink, the dishwasher and even on the breakfast bar. Mounds of fast food bags, wrappers and super-sized cups on the fireplace hearth and around the lazy boy where she nested most of the time. In the garage, the bloody vomit stains that preceded the death of her dog dried and flaked away for two years.

 

The war over Dee was not even the first or biggest battle that either Will and I fought together or I fought alone after he got sick. It was simply par for the incredibly predictable course where the woman was concerned. In fact, by the time Dee arrived on the scene, his mother would only call Will’s cellphone and not our home phone. She’d figured out that if I didn’t know about something she was up to until it was too late, I had a lesser chance of stopping her.

 

Most of her plots had to do with money. She’d perfected the art of guilting where her son was concerned and it nearly always involved a combination of throwing his dead dad at him and reminding him that she was just a poor, marginalized widow that the world was against.

 

Her biggest loss on the funding front came when I inadvertently discovered that she’d check his name on a joint checking account and was trying to use it to obtain a new line of credit.

 

The account was (I would figure out later after I’d been widowed myself) leftover from the days when she was collecting Social Security survivor’s checks. At sixteen, the money (and the account) should have been turned over to Will, but she never told him about it and there was no reason that he would have known this. She kept the account joint and continued to use the money herself. In addition, she made him get a job, pay rent and buy his own food.

 

I stamped down hard on the credit line idea and I made Will take his name off the account. If she found me hard to take before, it was war from then on.

 

Fast forward. Will died in January of 2006. She behaved atrociously the entire three months leading up to it with the highlight being the day she told the hospice Social Worker that I had physically abused Will while he was ill. This lead to the Social Worker hauling me into her office and demanding that I explain myself.

 

Of course, the accusations were fabricated from the half-truth/half-fantasy world that Will’s mother dwelt in and the Social Worker spent the rest of Will’s stay falling over herself trying to make it up to me.

 

The funeral was a nightmare.

 

And then I heard not one word from her for nearly ten months until she called one day and suggested that we both apologize to each other for our “crimes” against the other and then move on to set up visitation for her with Dee.

 

I did not quite tell her to “go to hell” though it was on the tip of my tongue. But I did set her straight on what I thought of her and that seeing Dee, supervised only, would only occur when she could convince me  that she was no longer emotionally unhealthy and that her relationship with reality and truth were more than just passing ones.

 

And then another year went by. During which time I met Rob.

 

It amuses me and astounds me by turns that I could met, fall in love with and plan to marry a man from a foreign country, quit my job, sell my house, emigrate and marry without one single member of Will’s extended family noticing. To me, this was, and still is, proof of how little Dee and I meant to any of them. Will’s mother included.

 

If not for Rob, I doubt any of them would still have the slightest idea of where we were because it was only at Rob’s urging that I contacted them.

 

Really, I wouldn’t have been moved to do it on my own.

 

And it was only my belief that Will would have wanted me to send photos of Dee that I bothered to make that small gesture at all. Will knew perfectly well that his mother was selfish, a liar and a user. He apologized for it with “she’s had a really hard life and I feel sorry for her.”

 

It was guilt and pity that motivated much of what he did for her. The bills he would pay. The cash he gave her. The odd time he would take on some household chore or task to help her out.

 

He resented being her only child because he had no one to share the burden as her physical issues rendered her more ill and increasingly disabled, and more than once, we discussed just moving to my hometown because it would put distance between us and her demands and also because he liked my family better. My family was a chance for him to have the real extended family he’d always dreamed about growing up. People who weren’t perfect but still had each others’ backs, which was very much different from the vipers’ nest of his mother’s family. The alcoholism. The dysfunction. The barrage of guilt and battering of self-esteem.

 

In a lot of ways, Will’s mother owes her continued ostracism to Will himself, who let me know from the first that he didn’t want any of our children to be too close to his mother or extended family because of the misery they’d made of his childhood.

 

The letter she sent about the pictures was nearly a grocery list.

 

“Next year I’d like a 5×7, wallets and a fridge magnet.”

 

Thanks to Facebook, I don’t print pictures anymore, so the photos of Dee’s school events, soccer games and holiday adventures stopped a while ago. All that’s left are school photos. I buy one package and divide them up between our family, friends and Will’s auntie and mother. They don’t go very far and she’s lucky I bother. I still don’t like her. I will probably never forgive her for the hell she instigated during Will’s last months when I, frankly, had no extra patience or time for her hysterics, attention-seeking or games.

 

For the time being, I haven’t told Dee the reason behind my distaste for her late father’s mother but when the time comes – I will. I have no intention of allowing Dee to meet this woman before she is old enough and armed with the truth. She will not use my daughter the way she used her own son.

 

Until then, I send photos. I resent the time and effort it requires. And I keep checking the obituaries.