Dating While Widowed: Support for the Remarried Widowed


Marriage

Updated July 28, 2014: If you have followed the link provided by a widower on the YWBB in response to the most recent dust-up in the Social Situations forum, you need to know that I am NOT referring to E in the following post. In fact, at the time I wrote this post, E hadn’t been posting at the YWBB as E or under any other aka for some time (that I am aware of).

This post chronicles one of the periodic flame-fests that breaks out in the YWBB forums. Such incidents date all the way back to its earliest days and though they can be unsettling to newbies (and irritating to old hands) like all things, they pass.

The widows behaving badly I was discussing here have, as far as I know, moved on to other venues because there are a lot more of them now than there were back when I was first widowed in 2006 or when E was widowed several years before that.

The old timer culprit I reference was someone who took a lot of joy in harassing my husband and I after other board members learned of our relationship and engagement. She was good at playing the contrition game and so managed to kick a lot of shit before her bouncing in 2012, but as far as I can tell, she no longer posts at the YWBB.

I believe that in the thread where this link to my blog is found, a few other old-timers – who were veterans when I was though not friends of mine – have explained E’s history and how she was stalked and bullied in her early days at the YWBB. However, I don’t think they noted that the culprits were never punished or banned, and that not one of them has ever really apologized (again to my knowledge) to E for what they did to her.

I knew E as Elysia when I roamed the forums at YWBB. I found her to be eccentric and pointed, but she was one of the few who ever had my back when I was being hounded and I still appreciate that.

So, long story short – E is not the widow you are looking for. Move along.

 

Someone’s google search term landed them here a couple of days ago as he (or more likely “she”) scoured the virtual world for a “support forum for remarried widows”.  For her sake, I wish I could post a few links to help out, but the sad truth is that nothing much exists.  There are widow boards here, there and near everywhereWidow blogs ad nauseum.  But if you were widowed and have moved on to a new relationship or even marriage, it’s s.o.l. for you.

Most of the boards I have seen really are loathe to set up special forums for the those who’ve moved on. Partly it’s because they want to discourage the popular notion that one can’t really say they’ve moved on until they’ve hooked up again, but the bigger reason is that many of those widowed, who either haven’t found a new mate or have no interest in doing so, are vicious to the point of bat shit crazy about remarried widows.  Despite lip service to the contrary, even widowed believe that falling in love again and remarrying is some sort of magical healing that erases the painful memories and renders a remarried widow immune to the occasional sad thought or longing.  In some ways, widowed can be just as clueless as those who have never been.

Some remarried widowed folk hide or downplay their new marital status so they can remain part of the online widowed communities.  More often they simply walk away and deal quietly and alone with issues as they come up.  And mostly it’s women.  We make up the majority of those widowed anyway but, regardless, I think it is harder for women to not have the outlet because we are socialized from an early age to seek out and share with those who are like us.  Single.  Married.  Widowed.  Mothers.  Etcetera.  Etcetera.  We do this for company but also to try to determine if we are “normal” or what we are feeling or experiencing falls within the boundaries of most other people’s experiences.

I argued myself blue with this and that board admin on the very real needs that widowed who have remarried have but to no avail.  It’s a small subset and in the interest of not stirring up the majorities who populate these online communities, the admins chose the path of least effort and headache*.

Still, I see a lot of searches for this type of support and wish I had more to offer in terms of information or advice.

Oh, surely, it can’t be that bad?

Recently, my search log lit up with hits for Ye Olde Widda Board, and after a couple of days of this I was curious enough to click over and check out the latest flaming shit storm.  I have to chuckle a bit when these wars erupt because older widowed members will drag out the same tired excuses and nearly all will lie through their keyboards with some variation on “Oh, these things come and go. No hurt/no foul.”  Which is total bullshit.  The YWBB is one of the foulest of the widow boards.  The nasty threads actually pale in comparison to the hateful private messages some members heap upon remarrieds, early daters and anyone who disagrees with the prevailing notions about grief being a catch-all get out of jail free card.  How anyone can defend the shit-slinging that goes on there still amazes me, but the chief reason it occurs is that the board itself has no moderator and the board admins lack the moral fiber to delete hateful threads or members.

Until this latest flare-up, I can’t recall anyone ever being chastised, much less banned, but two members were blocked after last week’s dust-up. Only one of them really deserved it.  A long time member who is a rabid dog about moving on and should have been punted years ago.  I have no doubt she will end up on another site.  She needs them in order to hang onto the turmoil and ache of early grief.  She’s a vampire really, using newly widowed’s to stoke her own hurt and rage.  I pity the community she lands in next.

But the YWBB’s expense lesson is just one of the examples of why widowed who remarry can’t really avail themselves of existing forums.  They just don’t quite fit in.

As you move on, it’s not grief in any way the books mention.  It’s nuanced and muted and separate from life as it’s being lived.

People who marry widowed like to believe that it’s still grief but just not as often and that it will eventually cease to be completely.  A nice fantasy, but ridiculous.  Widowed who’ve remarried even like to feed that delusion with nonsense that as you move on, you put your late spouse in a non-romantic love context that stems from mutual off-spring or just the general sadness we all feel from time to time about lost loved ones.

The reality is harder to explain.  My late husband holds a part of me that is lost forever – to me or to anyone else.  I seldom think of him only in terms of his sperm donation.  When he pops up, it’s always in a context that is his alone, and while I can’t say that what I feel is missing or longing, I can say that he will always be a part of me in a way that transcends the child we had together.  He doesn’t vanish.  He hasn’t given up his place as my husband**, and he will always be significant in a way that is his alone.

If you are a widowed who has remarried and finds yourself reading this, know that you are not alone.  Others have walked with dual life path and we’ve struggled with those who don’t get it or want to marginalize the effort that goes into blending families and dealing with the unexpected issues that come up.  Know that you’ll be okay.  It’s normal to move on.  It’s normal to want to love again.  It’s not abnormal to love again as fully and as deeply.  It’s not a betrayal to love two people.  It’s okay to insist that extended family, old friends and even children man up and accept your right to move on.  You don’t owe anyone but yourself.

*It’s ironic because many of these sites are run by remarried widowed, who certainly realize how fraught the widowsphere is with anti-remarried’s prejudice.

** Divorced people are very touchy about the terms “husband” and “wife” because they tend to lean toward the very artificial and legal contract side of what marriage is (they remind me a bit of the “marriage is one man/woman” crowd in their self-interested pov).  As if marriage is nothing more than a piece of paper. Marriage is far more than the words and the paper.  It transcends.  But the remarried widowed find themselves tilting at angry windmills when the whole “death ends a marriage just like divorce” arguments begin and that’s just one of many issues that we share as a group that those who haven’t remarried don’t get either.

Family Ties Loosely Speaking


By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. Lambda rep...

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Of late I have been more immersed in my family of origin than not. Number One Nephew’s situation resulted in a bit of “scheming” with my brother which resulted in N1, as of last evening, being safely in CB’s custody out in California. N1 sounded brighter and more hopeful than he has in a long time, and I know that my brother is tickled to have the boy out there.

We also have Mother for the week and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. She’s preparing to semi-retire and wants to use up holiday time before she plunges into the lap of leisure. Since we visited over the summer, I suggested fall for her visit and she agreed.

The interesting thing about all this is that for the first time in a long while, I feel connected to my own roots. Most of the time, family is Rob and the girls. His family and his in-laws. Physical distance keeps my side of the relations a strictly virtual experience although sometimes that’s more than enough. But having Mom here plus the hours spent on the phone with my brother in the last couple of weeks has brought up opportunities to talk about myself and my history. That’s not something that happens much anymore.

Monday evening while Rob was out fetching Dee from Girl Guides for me (he noted that I was exhausted and offered to go in my stead), Mom and I sat on the sofa in the living (I cannot tell you how long it’s been in days since I had a sofa or a living room) and talked. The discussion meandered but it centered finally on Will. Nothing earth shattering, but when I thought about it later, I realized that I don’t really talk about him. Because I don’t really have anyone with whom to talk about him.

Dee is uninterested in her late father. I doubt she will ever care much about him at all aside from the passing curious inquiry, if that. That’s as it should be. He was never her dad in an active sense, and she doesn’t need to be burdened with obligation to a memory. Will’s own mother bludgeoned him with his late father’s memory, and he resented it, and her, all his adult life.

Rob listens here and there, as I do to his occasional references to his late wife, but they have nothing to do with our life, us or our future, and so have no place outside the incidental in our conversations.

No one ever brings Will up. Until this past summer, when my sister DNOS surprised me with an out of the blue reference to Will, my family ignores his existence and have readily transferred Dee’s “ownership” to Rob, which probably reflects heavily our backgrounds as adoptees because we don’t place the same odd premium on DNA that most people do.

But all of these things remind me that I am not moored to extended family that is “my own” or to history for that matter. I am like a transplanted tree.

Mick asked Rob recently what our plans for Christmas were this year. Her mother’s nephew and wife want to host the holiday at their home up in the Canadian Rockies. Last year, we moved Christmas Eve to the home of nephew’s auntie. A last-minute venue change to accommodate the older girls wanting to hang out with cousins on their mother’s side. It was a bit disruptive for Dee but she is used to rolling with it anymore. Christmas in a mountain hotel (shudder) would be a bit more than a “roll with it” thing, and add the unpredictable nature of nephew’s alcoholic mother* to the scenario, and a quiet Christmas in front of our own fireplace is infinitely preferable.

Rob just joked that maybe he, Dee and I would go to Arizona to spend Christmas with his mom and her husband then. Dee would like that, but she would be terribly lonely for her sisters either way. But their moving on to traditions of their own is inevitable and her being so much younger means she will have to put her ability to roll to more active use more frequently as time goes on.

This will be year five that I haven’t seen my family at Christmas. Not that it’s here or there. You grow up and away and begin traditions of your own as you date, mate and breed. It’s not the Disney theory of the “circle of life” but more accurate in terms of what life really is. My nearness to my family in the past coupled Will’s dislike of his own family lead us to spend the holidays with them more than anything. Had his mother’s family not been a drama infested Bedlam and his dad’s not an aloof bunch, it might have been different.

It’s proximity (which is totally relative) that dictates our current defaulting to Rob’s in-laws and his family recently. If we’d relocated to Texas or overseas as we’d thought once upon a time, everything would be different. But it’s not as if this happens all the time or that I am even aware of it often because most of the time, it’s just Rob, I and Dee. The older girls have their own lives and we have our routines as well.

Thanksgiving is at our house this weekend. A huge gathering with hopefully better weather than the wet gloom that plagues us right now. The new kitchen is operational minus the dishwasher thought that should be up and running by week’s end. The dining room will be rough, the living room isn’t painted and we’re still padding about on sub-floor, but the decor is the least of a feast.

And I am not complaining. Just observing. Awareness is just that and nothing more.

 

*They are a hard-drinking lot when they gather. I stayed on the outermost bleeding edges at the few family things I’ve attended – and even factoring out that these were funeral oriented where people tend to drink a lot more (although getting hammered after a funeral is not a family tradition that I grew up with, I know that it exists) – I have distanced myself from some branches of my own family because of the tendency to equate copious amounts of libation with “fun”. Growing up with an alcoholic just makes me want to avoid anything that reminds me of it and shield Dee from the idea that drinking too much is ever a good idea for any reason. The main reason though is that people tend to dig deep into their past hurts/issues when the tipping point comes and though nothing has ever been directed toward me – I have heard things I wasn’t meant to hear. That wouldn’t be a Happy Christmas for me.

 

The Wedding


This is a shot of Lake Edith in Jasper Nationa...

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So, the date is set for Tuesday, June 26th at 5 p.m. in Jasper National Park. The invitations have been issued. The rooms and photographer booked. Dinner plans made. The dress is being altered as I write this.

 

I sent Rob some pictures of me in the dress. His daughter, Mick, saw them and him looking at them and asked, “Isn’t that bad luck?” He told her that he had helped pick out her mother’s dress, and they were married twenty-five years. I told him that Will hadn’t seen me in my dress until the wedding day, and he was sick not even three years later. So much for the bad luck theory.

 

He asked me if I am getting excited and, truthfully, I am not quite there yet. I did most of the heavy lifting getting the wedding arrangements made when I married Will. Wedding details consumed me and it was made worse by Will’s insistence on a princess bride type thing. Because the wedding is taking place in Canada, Rob is taking care of many of the traditional bride things. He runs things by me. A bit of a role reversal which helps me understand better the lack of apparent enthusiasm men seem to have for their weddings. It is not a lack of interest but rather the fact that they are not intimately involved in much of the planning. And there is still so much here to be done. Sell the house. Wrap up things at work. Pack. Successfully cross an international border. I guess I am too mired in the details of here and now. I know the wedding will be beautiful. Rob is determined to make it so, and I trust him. The setting is gorgeous with a mountain backdrop by a river. He has previously proven himself quite the romantic, and I have no doubt the ceremony will meet or exceed standards already set.

 

My dress is beautiful. Ivory satin A-line with a deep v-neck and two thin straps on either side in the back. It had a very small train which I had the seamstress, Sally, remove, so now it just skims the ground slightly. I have an ivory pashmina in case it is a bit cool and white sandals that I don’t think completely match, but since they are on my feet and mostly hidden, who cares? I have been thinking about how to wear my hair and what old, borrowed, blue and new items I can wear. And flowers. A bouquet is a must. Not roses though that is as far as that thought has gone. For jewelry it will be just the necklace that Rob gave me the first time we met in person in Idaho Falls. Two interlocking hearts. One silver like the chain and one gold with a single diamond setting. I have never taken it off.

 

In truth the only thing about the upcoming wedding that is really on my mind is the wedding night when we are finally just us. In Arkansas we spent part of one evening dancing in front of the fireplace. Just lost in each other. I could spend forever looking in his eyes, pressed against him, wrapped tight in his arms. Music in the background. Warmed by the fire. Time spent by just we two has become the most precious thing. Whether it is romantic interludes, sweeping water out of a flooded basement or just having breakfast and talking.

 

Rob was talking with his sister-in-law last evening before our nightly conversation and she wondered why we weren’t going to try just living together for a time before getting married. I can understand why people would think that would be a good idea. I used to think that living together before deciding to marry was a good idea too. But Will and I lived together but with the understanding that I expected a commitment within six months. Even then I didn’t believe that living arrangements should be open ended. I did not think it wise to put distant or even vague deadlines on such an arrangement. Living together until you graduate from college or save enough money for the wedding or to buy a house. I don’t see how you can truly commit to another person if the intent is not right there from the beginning as opposed to something you work yourself up to. Research has actually proven my assumptions correct. Couples who live together for a short time with the intentions of marrying are more likely to marry and stay married than couples who live together with the intent to try out the arrangement before committing to marry. Furthermore, couples who co-habitate without a firm marriage commitment up front are less likely to marry in the first place and more likely to divorce when they do marry. I remember being mildly rebuked for our living arrangements by the priest when Will and I were planning our wedding and I hauled out these very statistics for him. I could tell he was aware of them too by his reaction, and by the fact he never mentioned our “sinfulness” again.

 

You can’t practice being married. How could you? Could I have practiced for the difficulties that can only be encountered in a union that is committed? The struggle with infertility that Will and I faced or the years of care-taking that preceded his death? Could Rob have been prepared for Shelley’s cancer? Her last months? And even the happier times. Or the day to day? You can live together. Split the rent and the bills. Buy furniture and a car. Take vacations and shop for groceries. Make love or just have sex. But you are still only roommates because the door is still technically open. Husband and wife. Partners forever. That is something that is achieved day to week to month to years. It goes even beyond the outer boundaries of love. It calls for a commitment up front that is really faith-based and asks that you trust the other person to love and support you, even when you are not so lovable and giving the support requires effort, if not actual hard-work.

 

I am looking forward to our wedding day, the rituals and the nervousness, and the romance, but it is just the first step on a longer road. A wedding is just for a day but a marriage is for a lifetime.