Dating a Widower

Day of the Dead - Band

Until I read Abel Keogh’s Widower Wednesday, I had no idea that dating a widower was such a widespread practice* that it required its own self-help dating niche. Silly me though because where divorced and never-married men get lumped together in the douche category when they exhibit behaviors that clearly speak to their disinterest in anything other than their own needs, widowers get a pass. Proving that the “widow card” is a mighty little act of self-interest in more areas than simply workplace or guilting one’s family, friends and the occasional stranger.

I am still working on my “success” story for Abel’s upcoming book on dating widowed men. The whole idea that Rob and I are some freak success doesn’t sit well really. I never actually approached our relationship in terms of our being widowed. We liked each other. We became friends. He proposed dating. Then he just proposed and we got married. In “how-to” terms, it wasn’t any different from the first time. And I don’t know that it should be sold as being different either. When we start making exceptions for bad behavior the slope gets shit slick in a hurry.

Abel’s book simply covers the questions that women have posed to him. They wonder if their feelings or the situations that arise are normal. It’s normal to wonder if you are normal. He hopes to caution women away from men who are clearly not ready for relationships or might be using their “grief” in a manipulative manner. In essence, his book is no different from the other dating books out there because the bad behavior men exhibit in relationships really is the same regardless of the label he wears.

What I wish is that women would stop reading men like tea leaves and just ask for and expect to get what they need and walk away when they don’t get it.

On our way back from the city yesterday, we were listening to the CBC’s book talk. One of the authors had written a romance novel that she based partly on the somewhat universal notion women have that love is like the books and the movies they grew up on. Girl meets Boy. They clash. And clash. Until they realize that their antipathy is really love and then they continue to clash all the way to the altar and beyond – because that’s what love is, right?

But it’s not. Love is not that hard. It isn’t fraught with tension, second-guessing and tears.

At least it shouldn’t be and if it is, one should step back and really look at what is and isn’t going on.

A man who loves you is not ambivalent in his expression of it or his desire or in his follow through. If you are loved, you will know it. If you don’t, you probably aren’t loved.

No one wants to hear that or be the one to point it out to someone else. Hence the world of dating self-help. It’s a way to use anecdote, pop psychology and a lot of sugar to tell angsty women what they already know – that he’s just not that into you. Or that his idea of how you fit into his life and future plans isn’t the same as yours.

Lots of couples fall into the trap of being with someone who doesn’t quite fit because they despair of finding someone who does, and it’s sometimes hard to know if the ill-fit is a genuine mismatch or just two people not putting their best forward due to some self-inflicted story they’ve insulated their emotions with over the course of dating and its past disappointments. But if it feels like you are a square peg who hips will never slide through that round hole – it’s time to be really honest with yourself and the other person because love shouldn’t be a drama-fest unless it’s a Hollywood movie or a bad paperback from the rack at the grocery check-out.

Rob and I didn’t “make” our relationship happen. It was a logical progression of escalating feelings. Honestly, grief was never an issue in the way that the world of GOWS (girlfriends of widowers) are taught to believe. Grief isn’t a life long disease. It subsides within a year to a year and a half, and falling in love again, in my experience, should speed that process up quite a bit. Widowed hate the idea that new love is “healing” and I don’t disagree though only because I dislike the “healing” terminology. It makes feeling sad because someone you loved has died seem not normal somehow. However, the best remedy for a “broken attachment” is a new attachment. What worked for us when we were teenagers suffering through a break-up or unrequited love still works when we are grown ups – falling in love again. The simplest solutions endure for a reason.

If you are dating a widower and he is anything less than totally into you, keep looking. You can do better because if he loves you, there is no guessing or tears.

*Disclaimer, it was rather widespread at the YWBB, though no one wanted to own that inconvenient truth. Widowers are in short supply on the grief sites and they are hunted like trophy animals by some widows due to the old wives’ tale of widowed men being proven and seasoned husbands. I don’t think that is the case given the number of my fellow females who are willing to settle for less than stellar consideration. The odds of a widowed man having been not so great a husband but simply married to a woman willing to put up with him is probably 50-50.

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55 responses to “Dating a Widower

  1. Hello Ann,
    I read all the replies you gave to the other ladies and i want your opinion.
    I met a guy on a greek dating site i am greek he is german. we started chatting he lost his wife in a car accident while on vacations with their little son. His wife was greek as well and he said that he wanted to move on with his life he really liked greek women and he wanted his son to grow up with his mom culture thats why he joined a greek website. We were chatting for months when he decided to come and see me. We had a fabulous time. and we discussed that even though this is difficult we both want to give it a try. So we started a long distance relationship. We made arrangments to go and see him. But a week before my trip he is saying that he misses his wife very much and he doesnt know what to think of what we have. even though he likes me and i make him laugh it hurts too much. I am thinking since it was his kids second birthday a couple of days ago that brought it on. The question is… what do i do? Do i fly to germany anyway to see him?

    I would very much like to hear your opinion on this!

    • Konie, Have you talked with him since this conversation where he expressed doubt? Is he still back-pedaling or is he back to being positive that the difficulty of a long distance coupled with his grief are just details that can be dealt with as you work towards a future?

      I ask for two reasons. The first is that while it is common for people to be blindsided by anniversaries, it generally doesn’t cause them to rethink relationships they are committed to and that make their lives better. Second, long distance relationships are stressful even when no one in the relationship has been widowed and bad conversations that wind up upsetting both parties will happen. It’s always a good idea to have a follow up conversation and make sure that what was said earlier is addressed.

      Should you still visit? Do you want to? I think whether you go or not is entirely up to what you want, feel able to deal with and whether or not you will be okay with whatever the outcome might be. Things might work out and this hesitation of his was merely grief induced second-guessing or it might be the beginning of the end. Would you be okay if it were the latter? Able to chalk it up to “it was worth taking the chance even though it didn’t work out”?

      What are your expectations? Is he aware of them? Have you both discussed honestly how you really feel and what you really want?

      There are no guarantees in love. You just have to decide – based on the evidence you have – what the possibility of a future with him is worth to you and if you are going to be able to move on if it doesn’t work out the way you want.

      • We did discuss it yes. And it was pretty clear that he is in no position right now to have a relationship. It was a hard talk for both of us. But he is in a really bad place right now only have energy for his little son.
        I did get in to this situation because i found things in him that i am looking in a man.
        So the trip is cancelled. I am not at my best of course.
        He wanted to keep talking to me (as he said i am the only thing that makes him smile and brighten his day but he in so much pain) but i told him that i need my time too and if he is better in the future we could “meet up” as friends or as a couple you never know. If i keep talking to him i ll end up to be a friend or a comfort for him which i dont want.

        My question now would be do i occasionally keep contact to see how he is doing? In the hope that something might change? Or do i let him contact me at some point even though i told him not to?

        Unfortunately not a success story 😦

        • It is not a success story in the way you want it to be, but it’s not a total failure either. You met a man who had qualities you are looking for and pursued the possibility of a future. Sometimes, there isn’t a future. It happens.

          But you did put your needs first, which a lot of women don’t do, and you initiated a conversation about the problems as you saw it and came away with valuable information and insight that will serve you in the next relationship. Because you will have one and in my opinion, it is women who are able to do what you have just done that attract the kind of men who make good partners.

          If you feel like occasional contact, by all means do so but only if you are simply doing it because you feel it’s the best thing and not because you are hoping that he has changed or his situation has changed. If you continue even occasional contact with expectations of something more, you are likely setting yourself up for more disappointment.

          I am sorry that this didn’t work out the way you hoped.

        • Thank you for the help and advise. You are 100% right. Right now i dont think i can keep contact without wanting something more (of course i want him and the little one to be fine and safe). If and when i am ready i will initiate contact since it was a man that treated me right and if for any reason i find myself wanting more i will back off.

          Again thank you

  2. Thanks for your comments. I find myself in a confusing,yet not-that-confusing situation.I dated a widower (wife gone 2.5 years) for about 6 months last year. We both have daughters the same age (age 9) and that part seemed good for me, but I could tell he felt weird about it for reasons he never shared. In all, the relationship felt like the “square peg” you mention and we ended it when I eventually asked if he was interested in making a life together and he basically said no. I think it was part not being ready — he didn’t spread his wife’s ashes until later that year and finally cleaned out her closet — part me not being “the one.” We saw each other again after a few months and have been involved in a very casual, mostly sexual relationship for a few months now. When we started back up we both made it clear that we’d let each other know if we met/wanted to sleep with someone else. So basically, this is going nowhere but where it’s at. I really care for him as a friend and the sex is great, so I figure why not? Except a part of me is still disappointed he doesn’t want more, and I wonder if I’m making it so I can’t meet anyone else. I guess this sounds more like a general dating situation versus a widower-specific problem, but I still wonder if anyone has thoughts…

    • I think you are right that this is a more “dating in general” issue and not widower related, and it’s good that you’ve considered the fact that this relationship might be a way of keeping yourself from meeting someone who would want a future because often when we put ourselves in less than optimal relationships, there is a reason. It doesn’t just happen.

      Dating is just dating for some people. Perhaps that was all your guy was interested in to begin with and he sensed you were looking for more, which is why he felt weird.

      And being “the one”. So many factors are in play even when you aren’t coming out of a relationship that ended in death that I don’t think that party that isn’t “the one” should take it as a personal thing. We meet and click. We meet and it’s nice and fills a space for a while. We meet and it’s… “next”. And still, it’s not all that easy, which is why some relationships stop and start and stop and start up again.

      It’s disappointing. By staying involved so intimately, it puts the disappointment in your face more than if you’d just remained platonic friends. Your feelings are normal.

      What to do? Whatever you want and whatever is best for you. Put yourself first. If it works to stay in a FWB situation but you want more, you might want to actively start looking for it. If you are content to just let life happen, remember that he might find someone and you could end up feeling more than just disappointed.

      Thanks for sharing your story. I hope you find what you are looking for.

  3. I didn’t read Ann’s response before posting and I think she makes perfect sense…If he is not communicating at all, I agree it’s time to move on and focus on your life.

    And, Ann…do you think my guy has another woman he’s stringing along?

    • Given that you are a known person to his friend’s and family, labeled a girlfriend and the amount of contact you have daily – I would guess no. You are his only girlfriend.

      But what you said before reading my post makes sense too. It’s perfectly fine to stay friends as long as you understand that “just friends” is the status quo and you aren’t expecting things to suddenly change based on his “seeing the light” or something.

      I think it’s hard on a person to play the friend role when she really wants more. I am not sure why a person would expend the energy and endure the heartache on the off chance that the situation might change. But that’s just me. Only Scarlet can know what is best for her.

  4. Scarlet, I have enough experience with the grief stages to think this indecisive behavior you and I are experiencing (and I think the two men & our relationships with them are different) is symptomatic of that grieving process. The fact that your guy says he has a “girlfriend” and is not regularly initiating communications with you would make me reconsider how much I’d want to invest in that relationship for now. Staying his “friend” on the sidelines may be the best way to stay engaged in his life without getting too emotionally involved. Sounds like he doesn’t know what he wants…and he could change his mind at any time and seek you out when he is more emotionally ready. But, I think you need to protect your heart while he figures things out. (I’m doing the same thing with my guy…)

    In my case, my guy refers to me as his “girlfriend” and has told his family & friends about me. Because we’ve known each other for decades, he came on really strong, really fast & then we had to back it up & take it slower. I made the decision to let him initiate 99% of the communications with me so that I could be sure he was pursuing me. That’s key IMO. He emails/texts me daily and calls several times a week & always says he misses me and loves me. If that starts to change, I’ll know his feelings/commitment are changing. He wants me to move in with him–that’s been consistent–but without a long-term commitment, I won’t do it. Could be your guy’s GF feels the same way!

    If I were you, I’d keep communicating as a friend only and keep it light and happy, so he associates those feelings with you. So, when he needs a shoulder, he seeks you out and you are there for him. But, I would have no expectations for anything more beyond friendship, at least for now.

    That’s my two cents for whatever it’s worth!

    • I was thinking about this thread today, and am wondering how you are doing Susanna? I got to the point where I became tired of the back and fourth, and him saying he needs to change his life but doing nothing about it. Him telling me how much he loves his girlfriend, and that she is putting pressure on him to move in together – but if he loved her like he says he does, then why the pressure. He told me they want to get married, yet he is still hesitant to move in. I am in week three of no contact and already feel better. Ann was correct in saying I need to look out for myself – I look back on her responses and now see it for what it is. Thank you Ann 🙂

  5. Reading what Susanna writes, I sometimes wonder if her and I are not talking about the same man! This one of mine even gives his girlfriend excuses as to why they cannot move in together, yet he tells me he is happy with her but I can hear in the tone of his voice he is merely trying to convince himself. He goes to see her every second week or so, but he refuses to make the move or allow her to move here to be with him.Yet he comes on all hot and heavy with me, and now he has gone all quiet on me as we have texted, but not spoken on the phone in over a month. The whole thing just hurts as I feel I am always there for him, let him know I am thinking of him on the anniversary of his wifes death (which i genuinely think he did really appreciate), yet I constantly feel forgotten about – even after I have given so much. Why do we do this to ourselves and how can I stop myself wanting to be there for him? I feel like if i do not initiate the contact now, there won’t be any. And now he knows so much about me, my personal life, my life growing up, so much… Now i regret having told him so much. What do I do?

    • You cut yourself some slack, come up with a plan to start building a life that doesn’t include him and execute it.

      Almost everyone has gotten into a relationship where she (or he) has thought, “If I am just 100% there for this person eventually he/she will come to realize that we were meant to be” and have felt vulnerable, regretful and hurt/angry when this didn’t come to pass. I know that knowing one isn’t unique isn’t much of a comfort but it does serve as a reminder that some relationships will not pan out as we hope that our disappointment and other feelings in the aftermath are normal and that we are not alone in having experienced this so – it’s not us. It’s just life. An “effing growth experience” as my 80 year old mother would say. You’ve been upfront and open and him, not so much. You’ve got nothing to feel bad about. You were true to you.

      You can’t take back the effort, time and pieces of yourself you have given. You can recognize that you deserve better and take steps to finding that person who will see all the things that this guy is overlooking and will want the relationship that you want.

      As to the similarities between your guy and Susanna’s. Try to remember that this is a guy thing not a widowed guy thing. Men from the beginning of time have used excuses of all sorts (and played their particular vulnerability cards) to manipulate the pace of a relationship. And they have strung more than one female along at a time as well.

      If he is not making an effort to stay in contact perhaps you should take advantage of this. Lose his contact info and focus on you.

  6. Ann, this is sound advice. I have much more to lose if this didn’t work out, so I’m not going to do it. What complicates matters is that I’m separated & not yet divorced, so there’s a lot going on that needs resolution. He’s even said he won’t propose marriage to someone who is still married. I’m feeling this is becoming too “hard” and although I still love him, I’m falling out of love with him. I’m also troubled by the fact that he makes detailed statements about our future together and then recants them only to repeat them again, so I can’t trust what he says. That’s a big red flag to me and I need to heed it. He may not be ready to be serious with me or with anyone else and may just want someone to fill the lonely days. I don’t know how long I can hang in there with him. BUT, I will keep the conversation going and just see how it goes. Thank you for the help!

    • You have a lot on your plate, so focusing on you and what you need to do is a good thing. You know, just dating is okay for now. Gives you both time to take care of business and then worry about where this might or might not be going later. Regardless, keep your best interests foremost until you are sure of what you want and need. Good luck.

  7. I have an update…We’ve spent several weekends together and talk/text/email daily, sometimes several times a day. He tells me he loves me and has now asked me to live with him. What I cannot determine is whether or not this is primarily out of loneliness or not…I’d prefer a commitment of marriage before moving in with him, but he says he still has anxieties and guilt that he needs to work through. Should I take the risk?

    • Because I am not personally a “let’s live together and see where this goes” kind of person – I have never moved in with a guy without being up front about my expectations. Both husbands knew that I believed living together was a prelude (a short one) to marriage.

      I get where he is coming from but I didn’t personally (and neither did my husband) let grief or related issues keep me from committing because that’s what I wanted to do. If you want to commit, you do.

      Here’s the only thing that should matter to you though – will you be okay with having taken the leap if things don’t work out as you hope. If yes, then go for it. But if no, it would be a good idea to have a conversation or two (or five) with your guy about your anxieties, expectations, etc. There are two of you in this relationship and both of your feelings should be accommodated before taking big steps.

    • I did and your questions and fears are understandable and very normal.

      Try not to overthink. Be yourself and expect no less of your new love than you would have had he not been “widowed”. Nearly everyone experiences lost love in one form or other. It’s a consideration but never the basis of a good excuse when it comes to giving your all in a relationship b/c a relationship is a choice you make. Like happiness.

  8. Yes, I’m willing to give it more time. I just didn’t expect it to go in this direction, because he was the one getting serious almost immediately. I should have known better that it was too much, too soon, for both of us. I think slow & steady is the way to go, but the 1500 miles between us makes it challenging. I’m more cautious going forward, though. For this relationship to work, there needs to be give-and-take on both sides, as you point out. Hopefully, we’ll meet in the middle at some point. He’s a wonderful man and I love him very much.

    • As long as you are comfortable and there is give/take/open communication that’s all that matters. I hope things continue to work out for you both.

  9. Ann, so the time came when I had questions. I needed to know where we were headed, even after just 3 meetings. He said things were moving a bit fast for him, he was still getting over what he’d been through with losing his wife, and at this stage, he didn’t know what he wanted. (I’m separated from my husband, btw) He said he loved & adored me & wanted to continue seeing me to find out where the relationship would lead. So, I need a reality-check. Is this a reasonable position for him to be in at this stage, is he getting cold feet or is he just not that into me? To recap my posts above…we live 1500 miles apart and we’ve known each other for decades. Thanks!

    • Just three in person “dates” right? And you are the first person he has dated since his wife died – two years ago?

      It could be considered reasonable. The speed with which we decide on relationships varies, which is where issues arise when one person’s time table seems rabbit fast or turtle slow to the other.

      When I was dating my late husband, we moved in together within the first month. It is the way of things among our peers (and younger generations) for co-habitating to simply happen for convenience sake and drift or not into marriage. I am not okay with that attitude from a personal standpoint and I told him “we can play house until the spring but if we aren’t planning a wedding by Easter … I will feel free to make new plans.” This was in October and it wasn’t a threat. It was a statement of just how long I was willing to commit fully to a relationship that wasn’t heading in a direction that matched up with my goals and how I felt. He proposed the day after Valentine’s.

      With my husband, Rob, our long distance (me in Iowa and him in Canada) had to be resolved quickly b/c neither of us had the money, the free time or the personal fortitude for a long term ldr. I decided to be the one who moved but again – I am not a girl who plays house and I let him know that. And again, it wasn’t an ultimatum but a declaration of who I am. He proposed before I’d even quit my job or made plans to sell my house. We were married two weeks after I arrived in Canada.

      I tell those stories to point out that your boyfriend has his needs and you have yours. All you can do is mind yours and hope they meet at some point. We date for romance and fun but often for a purpose – marriage maybe – but there is in most cases an understanding of commitment that suits both parties.

      Do you want to give him more time and see where this might lead? It’s not unreasonable. What would be unreasonable is if you end up doing all the compromising of what you need and want to accommodate him. It’s not much of a relationship if he gets to set the pace all the time. I would expect a man to at least half the time to be stepping out of his comfort zone too.

  10. Ann, thank you for your guidance:) You’re right–1500 miles is a lot. The physical distance is a barrier to the kind of communication he and I need to have now. Texting/emailing can only get us so far and face-to-face is where I need to be to queue up some of these conversations. He has been “pursuing” consistently on a daily basis and your words about how to judge whether or not a man is in love–words and actions align–is exactly what I see from him. It’s crystal clear and I have no doubt that I am loved. I just hope we can bridge the physical distance sooner rather than later…

  11. Just wanted to give a follow up to my posts above…We met and it was as if we’d never been apart. Instant chemistry. We talked non-stop for 7 hours, hugged and kissed, and made plans to see each other this week. We are talking about a future together and the love between us just feels right. My question is…how slow do we go? What should we be talking about relationship-wise? We live 1500 miles apart…And, I see Ann’s advice consistently is to ask for what we need, but all our “rules” training says let the man take the lead. So, how do I balance the need for clarity on what’s happening going forward with his need to “pursue”?

    • That’s wonderful. I am glad the reunion went well and you are agreed on moving ahead.

      It might seem that clarifying for sanity and practicality’s sake isn’t compatible with romance from either the male or female’s perspective but consider this, what we are taught to do as young teens is largely based on mythical ideas that have nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of being in a relationship with someone you love romantically.

      You ask when you have questions. You confide when you have fears or doubts or worries – that have far reaching impact. Some things are simply too small or transient to turn into mountains.

      We seldom give ourselves permission to just be ourselves and in the beginning there is “best behavior” and that’s okay but at some point, you need to let your real face, needs and wants show.

      1500 miles is a lot. That was about the distance btwn my husband and I and we knew from the start that we couldn’t possibly bridge that gap for too long, which is one of the things that propelled us into practical mode sooner than if we’d lived in the same city.

      You know what, let him pursue. Men who are seriously pursue consistently. But speak up if you need to. Men who are serious about you are not going to be put off by this.

      I have always been a cards on the table girl in relationships and I will admit that only twice has this worked for me, but both guys ended up my husband.

      Just trust yourself.

  12. This is so hard for me, and I honestly cannot thank you enough. Ann thank you for your brutal honesty. This blog has been a lifeline. I really care about him, but if he does not want anything with me then so be it – and I shall look after myself as I would like to look after him. Thank you for the constant reminder. Then what happens is what happens, and it will be a hard pill to swallow but rather now instead of later down the line. For now he clearly doesn’t want to mess things up with his girlfriend, and I have always been mindful to never contact him when I know he is with her, so I shall stick to that and respect their space as I have done so far. I still think he enjoys having me as a toy on the side, but whether or not that is the case, I feel I should step away here and leave it up to him. I cannot force him to want more with me, be it a fling or otherwise. He goes to a certain point, then backs right off again. I am worth more than a yo yo mess around.

    • Oh, I hope I haven’t been brutal. Not my intention. I just think that your happiness and welfare are important. You are going to be okay. Good luck to you. Your happiness is out there.

      • So here we go again. Things have developed a little deeper, not sexually, but on a more deeper level of emotional intimacy. Two weeks ago I told him about some personal stuff, and he sent me an arb reply back which hurt as it seemed he did not care. Then the next night he sent me a message saying that he feels sad for me and that he feels for me “so very very much” but that he had to back away to preserve himself in his own selfish life (his words).Then he said that he would talk to me once he feels he won’t bring me down with him, and i did reply to that message – and i have not heard a word since. What do i do here? Please help? This is tearing me apart.

        • Happiness is a choice and you deserve to be happy. Are you happy? I think you know everything you need to know in order to decide what to do next. He has told you in words and actions who he is and what he is willing to do.

          People, in my opinion, don’t want advice as much as they just want someone to listen and hear them. They already know what they need to or are going to do. Do you want to be happy? What’s it going to take to make that happen? Only you know. Do that.

        • It is amazing how much happiness we put into other people. Hearing from him would make me very happy, but then again I realise that it is within myself – he cannot provide it. He has admitted his selfish life and self preservation, which I read as an excuse. Should I contact him, or just leave it be?

  13. I am not sure what it is that I am ready for… I guess just having a connection with him means a lot to me. I have taken your words into consideration, and have been asking myself what is good for me. I will continue to think on that one.

    And yes, for now I have to assume I am a secret because I do not know this woman he is with, and I doubt he would have mentioned me to her even if in general conversation whilst talking about other people.

    As for his girlfriend, I have been supportive from the get go about it. I care about him so much, that if this woman really does make him happy, then I honestly am all for him starting a new life with her. But they have been ‘serious’ for quite some time, yet neither of them are moving town to enable them to be together. He has also told me that he does not want to lose her.

    But on this note, I still don’t consider us as having a relationship because nothing has happened. We talk on the phone about once a week / once every second week and in between we text every so often (not even daily), so I don’t consider this a relationship. Do you?

    • Do you have a relationship? Based on the evidence, I would say there is a bit more than just friendship going on.

      And I am going to harp on this again, the important things is to look after yourself. You want him to be happy, and that’s nice, but you don’t have to be so selfless all the time. It’s okay to want happiness for yourself and it’s good to put your needs first.

      I am glad that you are going to take some time to figure out what you want. That’s an excellent place to start.

      Try not to over think. People arrive and depart from our lives all the time and usually for a reason and often not for the reason we think. Just focus on you and let this sort itself out. If he really is committed to this girlfriend, he will eventually begin sharing some of his feelings with her and not you. If not then he is not ready and that’s his problem to deal with not yours to fix.

      • Thank you for putting it into words which I understand. Lately my mind has been a mess over this, not knowing how to work it out. You do so very well, thank you. You are right, there is a relationship going on (of sorts) even though I don’t consider it any proper relationship. Not sure how to put it actually.

        Based on what you say, I am going to put myself first here as I do forsee this landing up with a lot of hurt if i fail to do so. I have decided I won’t contact him again, and I will wait it out to see if he makes the next contact. If he does not, then I have my answer in any case. Even though it would be nice to spend some intimate time with him, that is the part which may land up in lots of hurt.

        I don’t think he is ready for a relationship at all. Certainly not a serious one which involves moving in together. He is still so grief stricken, even though it is nearly two years later, his grief may take years to work through before he is ready for a commitment like that. Is he just playing a hurtful game with me? As much as I don’t want to turn my back, perhaps I should for my own good 😦

        • No, I don’t think he is playing games. People wander into these things and find themselves stuck long before they realize what’s really going on or the real potential for a lot of hurt.

          A man who is ready for, and wanting, a relationship isn’t hard to mistake. Words and actions match up and he will make anything happen that needs to in order for things to fall into place. A man who loves you and wants forever is full court press – “what can I do for you?”, “what do you need?”.

          A good friend of my husband’s recently moved back to the area. The reason? His girlfriend had an awesome job opportunity within her company that allowed her to move to the city where her sons attend university. This guy had a house and a good job where he was. He sold the house and quit the job b/c in his mind, what was best for his girlfriend and her kids was what was best for him too. Relationship trumped. That’s a guy in love and sure of it.

          As for “working through grief”. That’s a myth. You don’t work through anything despite what the grief “experts” say. You simply live your life and in doing so, you find purpose again. Those who wait to stop feeling sad or angry or who look for “closure” are generally the ones who don’t find their feet again after a loss. And there are many more people who are/have moving/ed on within the first couple of years than not. My own husband was just 4 months out when we met and we married six months later. I was six months out when I started looking into dating seriously again. Don’t make excuses for him. He is where he is and you are where you are. Timing.

          Do concentrate on you. You deserve that. Be at least as mindful, or more, of your own needs right now as you have been of his. Just keep reminding yourself that it will be okay in the long run because it will.

  14. You are both going through big personal changes. Which makes you vulnerable. Sharing this with each other opens you up in a way that can lead to intimacy. Sharing deep feelings is a big deal. And as you say, you are someone who thrives on deep connection.

    But again, the real question is “are you ready for this and what is it that you feel you are ready for?”

    We women get so easily caught up in “what’s good for him?” and “how can I help him?” and “is he okay?” that we forget to ask those same things about ourselves.

    He has a girlfriend and you are a secret.

    Would you be okay if this relationship progressed, became intimate and then he decided to stay with his girlfriend? Would you be okay being the “other woman”? Are you going to regret anything if things don’t work out?

    What ifs can be annoying to live with but regret can do some serious damage to our souls.

    I know it’s scary to think about just having an honest conversation about what’s going on between the two of you but you are not going to know unless you do. Lines have been stepped over. Secrets are being kept. Perhaps you should find out from him why, what and what happens next. But, imo, it’s really your own welfare and emotions you should be most concerned about at this point.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and asking for information or for what you need.

  15. I am in a quandary about a widowed man who I have known for many years – I knew his wife too before she died. She has been gone 15 months now, and she died from suicide. Him and I were never close, but about 2 months ago we had a very deep conversation which seemed to spark further conversation on a personal level. Nothing has happened between us at all, and all communication so far has been over the phone or via text.

    I went away for a month recently and on the day that I left he text me a long message saying he is there for me and he hopes I see a way forward with my life and so on (I am married but on the brink of divorce). At this point I thought he was single… but in a phone conversation about a week later he admitted he had a girlfriend in another town, and he went on to tell me how serious it is but due to circumstances they are unable to be together all the time at the moment. To be honest, I see this as his booty call because I get the impression from him that it is convenient to have a girl in another town as he then gets to control the contact and how much of it etc. Then why did he come on all hot and heavy with me, he was basically courting me full on.

    But then a week later from that things between him and I got a little sexual, but we stopped it and spoke about it, cleared it up and that was that. From then on we spoke on the phone and text, nothing sexual, just genuine friendship. Then last week things really did get sexual and he even told me that he is having many mental images of me and that if he was not ‘attached’ that we would land up in bed.

    I care about him deeply and I honestly want him to be happy, and if that is with his girlfriend then I just genuinely do hope he loves her and is happy with her. But he cries with me over the phone about his late wife and has told me he cannot talk to his girlfriend about his grief and loss. She has no idea at all about his grief and how empty he becomes on weekends when they are not together (they get together about once every second or third weekend).

    But then what about all the stuff with me? I am just a play toy on the side in-between his girlfriend, even though nothing has happened except on text? He often tells me he is thinking of me. I just don’t know what to do here. I fear I am developing feelings for him even though he has a girlfriend and I am still currently married. He has also told me that he deleted all my text messages from his phone (I guess to erase evidence?). Please help.

    • Your friend seems to have compartmentalized his life a bit. He has a distance relationship with a woman, who he can see when he wants and can keep things from getting too serious by using distance and by keeping his feelings to himself. He has your friendship, which appears to have become a bit of a grief outlet/support for him. And there is nothing wrong with this. We all have people who we share with and people with whom our relationships are specifically centered on certain things. We don’t share our inner selves with everyone we know

      The problem is that the potential for you and this woman to get hurt is pretty high. Does she know about you? Are you okay with becoming involved with a man who is in a relationship?

      Widowhood and grief issues aside, this triangle already has the potential for much drama. Is that what you want?

      Really, the issue here is you and what you want and what is going to be best for you in the long run.

      If there is going to be a relationship, perhaps it’s time for all parties to lay cards on the table. You can guess at what he wants or you can just ask him. He can assume that you are cool with status quo and maybe adding a physical relationship option or you can tell him how you feel about it.

      One thing I would caution you about, being a grief counselor with benefits often does not end well and it is probably good to know if his attraction to you is to you or is growing out of the fact that you are the one he is sharing his angst with.

      Basically this really boils down to you and what you want. What do you want? How do you see this playing out? Trust your gut. And remember he is a guy first, widower second. Don’t let your sympathy for his situation cloud the real issue. This a guy with a girlfriend who is sharing his emotions with you and not her. He’s cheating and if he’d do this to her chances are good he’d do it to you too.

      • Hey Ann. Thank you ever so much for your prompt response. I think you are right, I never thought of it in the way of compartmentalizing it. He has nearly said as much in one conversation that having a long distance relationship allows him to control it. I also think he does not want his girlfriend seeing him when he is down and crying – he has told me that she has no idea about his grief and he has also told me that he cannot bring himself to talk to her about it. So that alone tells me that he is keeping her somewhat at arms length due to this, even though when they do spend time together it can be for nearly a week at a time, but then they both go back to their own homes afterwards.

        We have become close with the information we share, but now I am worried I have shared too much with him about myself? I am a very deep person and I thrive on deep connections with people, but I now worry I have told him too much about me.

        I do not think she knows about me. I highly doubt he has even mentioned me, even if in passing. He knows about my looming divorce, and I somehow have doubt that he would have mentioned anything to her – nothing like “oh a friend of mine is about to go through a divorce and she is battling” or anything. I really doubt it as he does not strike me as the sort to share that information. Also if he were to tell her, he may know that it may raise suspicion with her? Even though nothing is happening between him and I – he even refuses to go for a coffee with me as he is worried he will be seen by someone he knows.

        Things became very sexual the other day via text message, and he told me that if he were not attached that he would bed me. So obviously he has thought about me in more ways than one. I just do not know how to read it, as he takes it so far then he backs right off and goes completely quiet again. Then i never know if i should drop him a line, or just stay equally quiet as well?

        I do not know if his attraction is genuinely for me, or as you say growing from me being a good listener. How would I know? I do realize he is cheating on her, even though nothing physical has happened between us. The fact that he clears his phone of our conversations says quite a bit too.

        What should I do? I am so confused. I value him so much as a friend, but I am worried about the emotions that are being stirred.

        I have also been very supportive of his relationship with his girlfriend, and I have told him numerous times that I would never want to intrude on what he has with her – as he says he is happy? I just don’t know, do I run from this, or stay put?

        Again – thank you Ann.

  16. Thanks very much for your reply which really made me think I’m jumping the gun here! No, we haven’t discussed intimacy or what relevance this meeting may or may not have. I’m seeing it as two old friends/lovers seeing each other after many years to see if we can rekindle our relationship. We have not advanced to the point of having the discussions that need to happen for the relationship to move to another level and that is a sensible and self-protective thing to do. I would not feel okay about being intimate on this first meeting, if things didn’t work out. I tend to “assume” a lot without getting verbal confirmation. So, my intimacy question was premature. What kinds of issues should we be discussing at this first meeting? Can you give me a few examples? Many thanks. So glad I found this blog.

    • Do you know what you want? Do you know what he wants? Does he know what he wants? Because that is a good place to start. How do each of you see yourselves? As a possible couple? As two old friends who keep in touch and occasionally meet or travel together? It’s up to the two of you to decide and your relationship can look however you want it too. Don’t get mired in what others might think. What works for you two is what works.

      And there is nothing wrong with just meeting a first time to reacquaint, share, catch up and have fun without worrying about what comes next. There are no rules. Just what makes you comfortable.

      Try not to over think. When in doubt about anything ask rather than try to read his mind. Regardless of what we were told as girls, we actually can’t read minds. Boys can’t read minds either. Just be honest and be you.

      Once you have met and you think this might go somewhere that’s when you start exchanging pertinent to relationship building information. For now, stick with the basics. Do we still like each other “like that”? is as good a place as any.

      • Thanks, Ann. Good advice. I think I’ll just let things flow and see what feels right and, as you suggest, stop over-thinking it. I’ve had advice to purposely keep things on a “friend” level and take it very slow, because he is still grieving and may not be ready to move on. But, I don’t think he would see me if he was not ready and/or interested. I’ll keep it real and just focus on catching up and enjoying his company. I can’t wait to see him:)

        • At two years out, he is not exactly sprinting back into dating. Trust your instincts. He wouldn’t be seeing you if he didn’t want to or wasn’t ready. Although there are some widowed who jump back into dating thinking it is some sort of “cure”. The vast majority are not that callous with other ppl’s feelings or that selfish.

          Have fun. The beginning stages of dating should be fun and flirty. Good luck.

  17. I love your no-nonsense take on relationships with widowers. I’m at the starting gate of such a relationship, or maybe not. I’m meeting a man in a few weeks who I dated 30 years ago and whose wife died 2 years ago. We’ve kept in touch through the years and saw each other throughout that time and we were very much in love. We had chemistry. Lots of it. So, my question is…how slow do we take it? We’ve been communicating for 6 months and we’re now ready to see each other to see if the flame is still there in person. Should we avoid intimacy at this first meeting even if we’re both feeling it? I’d like the relationship to have the best chance of succeeding. Thanks in advance.

    • Should you avoid intimacy? Have you discussed intimacy? Are you on the same page about what might or might not occur when you meet again? Because really, it comes down to what you’ve discussed and agreed upon. You are meeting to see if your relationship has potential after all and intimacy is part of it.

      Rob and I had discussed the possibility of intimacy before we met the first time. We knew where the other stood and what each of our expectations were for the moment and the future.

      There is no truth to the myth that having sex early in a relationship (even on the first date) queers the deal for a long term relationship. As many ppl who end up spending the weekend together never leaving the hotel room wind up happily together on the long run as those who chastely retire to their separate beds.

      So, assuming that you and he have discussed the possibility of sex and are aware of each other’s feelings and expectations, the thing left to ask yourself is “Will I regret having been intimate if things don’t end up working out?” Because if you will then you have your answer.

      Key to any relationship is talking about everything. Being honest and being open.

      If you haven’t discussed things, I would recommend doing so. If you have and are comfortable with just meeting and seeing where things lead, we come back to “are you going to be okay regardless of how things work out?”

      The pace of a relationship is best decided upon as a couple.

      Good luck and have a great time (and my husband reminds me to add – if intimacy happens, make sure you use protection.)

  18. You don’t say whether or not either of you have children adult or otherwise. Add children into the mix and it’s not as easy. It’s way more complicated then what you’re describing.

    • We have 3 girls. They were 24, 22 and 4 when we met. Things came up, but we were the parents, our relationship was out of bounds in terms of their input and we were clear about that always. However, having spent 20 years as a teacher in middle and high school, I know very well that pre-teens and teenagers can be difficult, stubborn and relentless when they are not happy. Still, my advice is the same – adults set the ground rules and families are not democracies. One can be sympathetic and mindful of the children – whatever age – without giving them the power to dictate. Parenting is not easy anyway and add dating/remarriage has the potential to stir things up, but children want us to be grown-ups even while they fight us. Asserting themselves is part of their growing up process after all, but it’s up to us to set the boundaries. Rob and I were very clear with our girls that dating again and possibly remarrying were givens. We listened to the concerns of the older girls and we dealt firmly with our youngest when she acted out (and she did despite the fact that she adored Rob from the beginning and really wanted a father b/c she was just 3 when her dad died). Kids will push and continue to do so as long as they feel the adults in charge are inconsistent or might back down. That’s just what they do. Everyone I know who’s remarried in a widowed situation has had kid problems. The ones who’ve successfully blended did so by having rules and expectations and not tolerating bad behavior. I don’t believe that raising kids in any situation is as complicated as it just is work. The work gets in the way of the romance and spontaneity of a new relationship in a way that’s different from when we were young and unencumbered, but my bottom line is that kids don’t get a vote and bad behavior is not excusable.

  19. “Grief isn’t a life long disease. It subsides within a year to a year and a half, and falling in love again, in my experience, should speed that process up quite a bit.”

    Well said. I had the same experience. Meeting Marathon Girl sped the process up.

    Can’t wait to read your success story.

  20. I went into this whole widowhood thing very cognizant of my uncle’s experience. My aunt was killed in a tragic car accident at the tender age of 39, my uncle with two teenaged children, whom he then essentially abandoned to the care of my grandparents. My father recalls hearing someone from my uncle’s church (a very weird, non-mainstream, fundamentalist-type Protestant sect) urging him to remarry– during the viewing! They hadn’t even buried my aunt yet. My uncle complied. He was remarried within the year. That marriage was unhappy for pretty much its entire duration, estranged him from his children, and eventually ended in divorce.

    Since then I’ve come to know plenty of people who have had successful remarriages who started dating during the first year, but my first impressions were formed by the disasters left in the wake of my uncle’s remarriage. He’s since remarried and divorced another time.

    I always interpreted this as a warning against hasty remarriage rather than against dating widowers, but clearly, like I said, remarriage within the first year works well for some people. Maybe some other people interpret experiences like my uncle’s as a warning against dating widowers, which I think is wrongheaded. I think he needed some therapy or something. Again, not everybody does! But some people definitely do.

    One size does not fit all in the grief department. But that’s just my opinion, and I’m new at this. I hit a year and six months come May.

    As always, I ❤ your blog. Kudos on a thought-provoking and insightful post! The whole GOW thing made me crazy when it was linked to on another blog. Your take on it is less beserk-button-provoking.

    • I think your take on “it’s the person” is correct. It sound like perhaps you Uncle allowed his church to do his thinking for him and that wouldn’t make him unique. For some, it’s just easier to let others direct our lives rather than taking charge and being responsible.

      I guess the thing that gives me the most pause are the online cultures that spring up supporting the excesses of both Widowed and those who date/marry them. The “help” is based on the rather flimsy premise that grief is and yet is not at all normal. Very confusing and yet easy to buy into when you don’t want to deal with the reality that our feelings, like our actions, are completely at our command.

      I am glad you didn’t find this too polarizing. I have that effect on some people. Thanks for commenting.

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