Dating While Widowed – Widow Card Fall Out

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A new comment appeared on a post I wrote about widows who “play the widow card” when dating or within new relationships. The gentleman had recently broken up with his girlfriend, who had been widowed. He liked my post and wanted to add a bit of advice of his own, based on his recent experience:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope the above does not sound bitter….

It’s good advice and I appreciate that he took the time to share his story and leave a comment because too often in the widowosphere the point of view and the experiences of those who date widowed people and their feelings are overlooked or downplayed as though they are less important than those of the widowed dater.

A key thing to remember when you begin to date again is that your prospective dates are people with feelings just as precious and fragile as your own. If you venture back into the dating arena loaded with odd notions about your feelings being primary and your past pain being put on a pedestal, you are not ready to date. Dating requires us to be more cognizant of the other person than of ourselves. But what I read from the trenches of both those who date widowed and those widows who date – it seems that the burden of deference is placed squarely and unfairly on the shoulders of the non-widowed boy/girlfriend.

While it’s probably not premeditated on the part of the widowed person, many of them have become accustomed to wearing their pain on both sleeves and being treated accordingly, and it’s only natural that this is going to provoke a protective response in a new partner. However, I would caution both parties to not give in to the pity – giving or receiving. Relationships can’t handle an imbalance like that for long without one party or other feeling hurt, misunderstood or plain old fed up.

For the record, no matter how much your love tells you that he/she doesn’t mind the shrine in the bedroom or the toothbrush still on the vanity or the 57 pictures in the hallway and living room … he/she is just being polite. Giving you space and hoping that you will eventually love him/her enough to see that these things have to go if your relationship has a hope in hell of not dissolving one night into something tearful and ugly.

And for those who dated widowed, door-mat behavior encourages your lover to be self-involved and entitled. A healthy relationship hinges on both partners having their needs met.

I am forever amazed by stories of love-making that takes place in the glow of an illuminated portrait of the deceased spouse that began its existence as a blow-up at the departed’s memorial service, or the tales of widowed who are appalled when called upon by their non-widowed girl/boyfriend to suck it up, don the grown up undergarments and do something for them for a change.

Relationships of consequence require you to think more of the other person than you do of yourself. The only people who can get away with thinking more about themselves than their loved one are called “children”. The parent/child relationship is an uneven one. It is give/take for decades really but that of couples should be give/give. And if you aren’t ready for that, it’s okay. Just don’t date. And if you aren’t getting that from the person you are with, consider whether or not you ever will and then consider valuing yourself enough to walk away if you can’t live with the answer.

13 thoughts on “Dating While Widowed – Widow Card Fall Out

  1. Annie,

    I can appreciate your point of view but I compleltely disagree with you. I do like Dan’s comment very much and I think he/she (A little confused by gender as the name is Dan but mentions late husband) hit the nail on the head.

    I read your bio and I see no qualifications for conseling or psychology or any credentials whatsover. So this is just opinion. The sampling, as you mention is not appropriate. Think about this. Who would even read this and comment? Those you view this the same way. The happy couples who made this work wouldn’t even bother to google it. You know why? Because there is no playbook for this. We are all unique.

    You need to take responsibility for your posts and the harm it may do. There is already ALOT of misinformation on this subject written by well meaning individuals, even widowers. But they do what everyone does with this issue. They bring their own playbook and act like it is THE playbook. Sorry, but neither you nor Abel Keogh know nothing of me or my journey.

    You assume that widowers are manipulative who have no feelings of their own. Why should we be respectful of the new love’s feelings, when obviously they want us to “bury” ours? How is that a successful partnership? How is that building trust to be who we are?

    We have alot to offer and it shouldn’t come at the expense of who we are. Yes, we are alot to handle. I will give you that. We come with issues. But so do divorced people. So do abused women? Why are we so different?

    My adivce to anyone considering a relationship with a widow/widower is do NOT try to make us forget who we are, who we loved, and how we got here. If you truly love us, you would embrace our lost love as much as we do. Because that person, that loss, that event made us the person you supposedly love. Think about it.

    The whole picture thing still baffles me. I have two young kids who need to remember their mom. If a woman cannot accept that, fine. She’s not the woman for me because in essence, she is rejecting me. And I am WAY too confident to be bullied into accepting a rejection of who I am.

    My wife IS apart of me an always will be. You seem to treat our loss like much of America treats thier marriages… as disposable. Ask yourselves this. Would you want your SO to put away pictures of their late father or mother? Why is this different? If you feel that you are a replacement, well..maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror! More importantly, who is the one who is insecure? If you are offended by a piece of paper with an image on it, perhaps you need to look at your OWN insecurities. It’s just an image of a time in our life. Much like a high school photo.

    I tell every woman I date this:

    “I still love my late wife and I always will. She is apart of me and I will honor her if for no other sake than that of her childrens. That doesn’t mean I cannot love you just as much if not more. But If you cannot handle that, let’s just be friends.”

    The fact is that we can love just like anyone else, but with a different viewpoint. An older widower who is happily married used the analogy of loving your second child just as much as the first. You think you can’t, but you do. Your heart grows to hold more love and doesn’t displace the love you have.

    I’m sorry, divorce is NOT the same as death. It just isn’t. Any comparison is futile and irresponsible. There was no decision. There wasn’t a choice. They did not leave us of their own free will nor did we leave them. Apples and oranges. Is their grief in divorce? I would assume so.But I am not arrogant enough to project my PLAYBOOK on theirs. Please have the courtesy to do the same.

    The guy who wrote that sounds like a spurned lover and this had nothing to dow with a widow/widower. Sour grapes. The fact that she was a widow has nothing to do with it. Yes, assholes can become widows/widowers too. But quit drawing a parallel between who they are and their loss. The woman sounds like a piece of work REGARDLESS of her marital status!

    With all of that said I will concede some points I have learned in my journey. NOTE: These are not hard and fast rules people. I’m not as arrogant as some when it comes to this. I can only relate my own personal experience.

    1) Comparisons are bad, I agree. it is time to focus on where you are going with the person you are with, not where you have been. BUT, if those past experiences help your new SO understand why you feel a certain way, it should be just fine to talk about them.

    2) Wedding pics…yes, in a shared home I do not think they are appropriate. I BELIEVE the walls should be plastered with pics of you and your new love. But that doesn’t mean you cannot have pics of who you are and how you got there. Get a grip people! WOW! But I do know widows/widowers that have EVEN made those old wedding photo’s work in their new homes. How do you explain that?

    For those looking to date a widow or widower. I urge you to make your own decisions and not listen to this. Advice is good, but hard and fast rules are not. We are all unique and there is no playbook for this. You will know when it’s right…and you will know when it’s wrong. Trust yourselves.


    1. Actually, people who don’t agree with me at all read me a lot and sometimes – like you – comment, but I believe within this blog post I refer to the commenter’s advice as advice.

      No, I don’t know you or your journey, but you don’t know me or mine. I was widowed once. I fell in love again with a widower. We married, blended our families and have been happily together now for five years and a bit. By my count (and judging from what you shared) that puts me one, possibly two, up on you as far as actual experience goes, which is why I write about this and that widow/love/remarriage thing.

      I’ve spent a lot of years in the widowosphere with message boards, blogs and social media. Usually angry outbursts like your comment aren’t usually about the topic at hand. You might want to ask yourself why anything I wrote here, Abel has written, ticks you off so much. It would probably be a better use of your time.

    2. It is WAY over the top and melodramatic to suggest that a blog piece is somehow going to cause “harm.” Generally people are at least as intelligent as you are, and can decide for themselves what to take and what does not fit for them in Annie’s opinions. And she certainly does not need “credentials” to state them. I notice that you certainly had no problem stating all of yours, and I don’t notice any letters after your name either.

      I am a very happily married WOW and all I can say is, thank God my widowed husband had enough respect for my feelings, and enough true love and commitment to me and our new life together, that his behavior in our courtship resembled NONE of the views you have stated here. I shudder to imagine being presented with such an arrogant, “my way or the highway” attitude from any man, be he widowed, single or divorced. My husband and I have always put each other, and each other’s feelings, absolutely first. His LW was his past; I am his present and future. Period, the end.

      I am amazed by the little speech that you quoted as something you tell every woman you date. Perhaps there is a hint there in the fact that you have had the opportunity to give it so many times, that you have it down pat … I’m sure it goes over like a lead balloon.

      As far as “playbooks” go, I will simply conclude with this observation: Annie is happily married to a former widower and very much in love and happy with her blended family. I, who agree wholeheartedly with her take on this, am very happily married to a former widower, and could not be any more blissfully content with my husband and our combined seven children, including the baby boy we had together 20 months ago. Abel Keogh just celebrated nine years of marriage with Marathon Girl and the birth of their fifth child. You, apparently, are still floundering somewhat in singlehood, delivering your little speech (and if that is not playing the widower card, I don’t know what is). So perhaps those of us using this “playbook” are not quite as misguided as you would like to believe, and rather, there are some things in your attitude that are preventing you from moving on in a healthy, constructive way. The three relationships outlined at the beginning of this paragraph spanned a very wide range in situations, locations, prior relationships, manner of late spouses’ passing, blending prior children (or none) …in fact they are three amazingly different “case studies.”. Yet our commonality is the philosophy written about by Ann and Abel, which my husband and I (and countless other happy couples) share.

      Something you should perhaps give some thought to, as well as the rigidity of your position.

      1. I think what upsets some widowed ppl where my opinions are concerned is the trope that the world pushes ppl to “move on”. While I admit there is a statute of limitations to the world’s general sympathy, I don’t think that the majority is cold and unmoved by other ppl’s losses.

        And it’s my opinion that the fact that those around us do eventually begin to prod us forward is a good thing. It’s a necessary thing. Moving on shouldn’t be viewed as optional.

    3. I tell every woman I date this:

      “I still love my late wife and I always will. She is apart of me and I will honor her if for no other sake than that of her childrens. That doesn’t mean I cannot love you just as much if not more. But If you cannot handle that, let’s just be friends.”

      Hence probably why you are still dating…. Such martyrs. Really … The all-suffering pining widower. Bleh It’s been way overdone in Hollywood. And while Hollywood tries to make the widower romantic in his pining for lost love and all women swoon over the allegiance. In real life this is rarely the case. For the most part it will get you exactly where you are — alone. Constantly dating. A woman wants a relationship of equal footing not one where she has to live a life in deference to your late spouse. Wake up.

  2. Many good points here Annie. As you know I am dating, and what I found with my new love is that we both come with past loves. I don’t feel like I have a widow’s card, or he has a divorced card, rather, we both have past relationships that brought immense love, and troubled pain. We have chosen to be open about discussing our late/ex spouses, and also not to linger on them too much.

    When I moved from my prior home to my current one I purposefully put up only two photos of my late husband and me. I made a deliberate plan to not recreate any type of shrine. Now I have out both a photo of my late love, and one with my current. It’s a nice balance. One thing that my current had to accept was that my late love’s ashes are in an urn in the bedroom. I just presented this as matter of fact, then went on with our intimate evening. I asked if he had any problem with this, and taking my lead, said it was not an issue.

    As for the kids, they love my current, Abel, very much. I let him know that the kids were initially crazy about my late husband Michael, but did begin to act up when he moved in with us. They eventually, with clear limits set by me, changed their tune. I wanted Abel to know that this is common with new relationships where children are involved. It might be stronger with a deceased parent, but the same dynamic none the less.

    I caution people, like the gentleman you refer to, to not generalize about widowed dating. No two of us are alike. It also strikes me as being a bit blaming, because it’s too easy to place judgement upon someone after a nasty ending. People do things out of need, or out of bad judgement, but I don’t know that they do them solely because they are widowed. Someone who is divorced can play that card as well I suppose.

    Ultimately we need to understand each other’s past, and keep open dialogue. I have never ended a relationship with airing their dirty laundry, and would caution anyone else with doing the same. Better to acknowledge our hurt and disappointment, and figure out what our part of the break up we are responsible for. Nothing is one sided.

    Interesting post.

    1. Not everyone is as balanced and open to communication as you obviously are. When things are discussed and everyone’s needs are important and met is, in my opinion, the best way.

      I agree that we should steer clear of generalizing, but I have run into more widowed with the attitude that new partners have to learn to live with constant grief issues, second class relationship status, rude children and in-laws than I have not though this may be due to the nature of the internet, which is not the best sampling some times.

      Widowhood doesn’t normally turn decent people who care about others into selfish creatures. They were likely damaged and difficult before, but I won’t stop someone from venting on a post like this because it’s hard for widowed who date or those who date them to find venues where they can express themselves or ask question or just not feel freakish.

      But there is another side to this. It would be interesting to hear her version. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your viewpoint and am glad you chose to share it with those who read here.

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