Dating While Widowed: The Search Term Edition

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The search term that brought you here does not go unnoticed. Reaction varies. Amusement. Puzzlement. Dumbstruck with horror. Feeling as though a through scouring of the mind’s eye is in order.

Some searches make me sad.

Queries like “how will I know when widower loves me” leave me stuck with the image of tear-stained keyboards for instance.

Others make me want to grab shoulders and shake sense into the searcher. “How can I help my widower grieve?” Who in blogland is perpetuating nonsense ideas like this one?

There is a general underlying theme of “please just tell me how to make the person I love get over his/her dead spouse, so we can be happy.” Which is the saddest of all reasons made more sad by the fact that some people have only Google to turn to for advice.

My current personal favorite is “when will a widow be ready to fuck?” Have to admire the direct nature and honesty behind that even while questioning the integrity and ulterior motives that are probably driving such a quest for this kind of information.

So today, in no particular order, I am going to address some of the more ubiquitous search terms in the hopes that someone might find the answers to questions they are tossing at Google like it was a Magic 8 Ball.

Why widowers are not excited about second marriage weddings?

Men, in general, are not typical Bride’s Magazine target  audience for a reason. Wedding foo-fooery is a girl thing. If your intended is not terribly interested in the finer details of gowns, rehearsal dinners and wedding pageantry, it’s more than likely it’s because he is male, and they just didn’t get that gene.

However, some widowed folk can be annoying in their attitude that a second wedding is not to be the big production that the first may have been. If this is the case, blame society first. Although it’s slowly changing, second and third weddings are often downgraded affairs because one or both of the principles have done this before and family and friends have done this before and there is this Miss Manners expectation that any wedding after a first wedding should be tasteful and underdone because no one should be flaunting the fact that they have to do this more than once.

I’ll admit that I did not want a Bridezilla  bash the second time, and I let Rob do most of the planning. But as we married on his home turf, it was just easier that way. The only job I was given was to arrange for flowers, and I waited until four days before the ceremony to do this, which had more to do with the fact that I had no clue about local florists, and no one assisting me, than anything else.

It is a bit surreal to remarry after you have been widowed. People don’t expect to be widowed, and how ridiculous is that? Marriages in our times, however, more often disappear in a legal flurry than in death, so I would say that many remarrying widowed do so with keen awareness of the circumstances that led them to the altar again. It’s neither a good nor bad thing. Just an awareness, The new partner can choose to make a big hairy deal out of it, or just let it go as one of those things that makes the new union different from other unions.

How to bring up a discussion about the  deceased wife with a widower

Don’t. That’s my advice. She’s going to come up all on her own without prompting and in more instances than you can know over the course of dating and marriage. It takes a very secure in themselves person to not let that bug the shit out of her/him. This is where having your own emotional baggage checked and in cold storage is a wise thing. People who carry insecurity issues into new relationships tend to have a rough time anyway but with a widowed person, especially one who had a pretty good marriage, they can find themselves floundering and without much empathy from their new partners to help them.

But if you really have to go there, the best route is the direct one. Just ask. However, own your part in the feelings that it might bring up for you. Don’t blame the guy (or gal) if you ask, he/she answers and now you feel bad. You asked for it.

How should a relationship progress widower?

Like any relationship with any other man should progress. Forget about being understanding or patient unless that is what you do with men who haven’t been widowed too. Don’t feel sorry for him or make excuses for anything that would send you packing if he was any other guy. Widowhood does not have a special category when it comes to dating. Any widowed person who is floundering emotionally, runs hot/cold or is in any way giving off unbalanced vibes isn’t ready to date, and no matter how great he/she looks on paper, move on. Just because some dead woman managed to get him to put a ring on it and breed, doesn’t mean you will or that he was all that much of a catch back then.

Take off your tinted glasses and realistically assess the man and the relationship in terms of what is good for you now and ten years from now.

Healthy relationships progress at a mutually satisfactory rate that is tears and drama free. Anything else is an episode for a widowed person reality show that TLC just hasn’t gotten around to exploiting yet.

Dating a widower with grown children who don’t like it

The key here is how is he responding and how do the kids take it? If he is understanding, yet firm about his autonomy and their needing to get with the program – and they do – count your blessings. If he is the equivalent of Chamberlain with the Nazis – it’s all about appeasement – and they take this as a sign that the war is on, run away.

Adult children rarely kick up an obvious fuss if they have been raised properly. By this I mean that as children and teens, they knew their place, and it wasn’t that of a peer to their parents. Adult kids who have been running the show since toddlerhood aren’t going to give up their position of power ever. They will feel free to poke their nose into their dad’s business and make demands always. Even if he should grown a spine and take a stand expect acrimony and lingering issues for a long time to come.

The same holds true for in-laws. Evil in-laws were always such. They were that way before and they will continue. Some widowed simply can’t or won’t take a stand and own their lives. It’s up to you as to whether this is an existence you can live with, but remember, if you chose it – own the consequences yourself.

What is average time for widows remarry?

There aren’t a lot of stats. Young widowed tend to remarry faster than those in their middle years and seniors remarry the least of all. Males remarry faster than females. Having children or not factors as well with widowers been less hesitant than widows because of the fact that men are far more likely to be abusive step-parents than women are – which is funny because evil step-moms are the stereotype and not the other way around.

Generally men, if they are going to remarry, do so within about two to four years and women within  three to five, and those over 60, regardless of gender, rarely remarry. It’s not a hard and fast thing, and there are those of both genders who remarry quite quickly, just as there are those who take years to even date. It’s a personality thing, and often in our society, widowed parents are applauded for putting off dating until they’ve raised their children, which unsurprisingly can lead to adult children who feel entitled to put their two cents in where it doesn’t belong thus creating a vicious circle.

Widower expects girlfriend to grieve with him

Run away. Quickly. Grief is not a couples activity. You can’t grieve for someone you didn’t know. And this is just plain silly. Anyone who is expecting this is looking for grief counseling with benefits.

Widow meets widower

An unsurprising number of widowed people prefer to date each other. It cuts down on the endless explaining about what is and isn’t where being widowed is concerned. Unwidowed people buy in to the idea of grief as a process and a lifelong issue at even more alarming rates than widowed people do themselves. They are also, if this is possible, quicker to push therapy and pharmaceuticals* as means to “happily ever after again” than the cluelessly well-meaning family physicians of widowed are.

For Rob and I, it has meant not having to wonder how the other feels about this or that grief related thing. For me it means that I am not threatened by his late wife’s memory, and I don’t fall into the competition trap because I know that the dead are in no position to offer up much by way of being an opponent. Shelley was a real woman with real feelings who occupied a real place in Rob’s life for a long, long time. But that was before me, and now I occupy that space. It’s really not that difficult of a concept and it’s not something to angst about, but if the person you are dating is making it a big, dramatic deal about all issues death, you have thinking to do.

Like any relationship, there has to be attraction and common ground, and it can’t be simply grief. Relationships that are based purely on being widowed just won’t work because grieving does end and then what is the couple left with?

And dating another widowed doesn’t offer immunity from in-laws from hell or surly teens and adult children issues. There are plenty of widowed couples who can attest to that fact. It also won’t help you much if you are moving on and he/she doesn’t really feel like doing so. There can still be battles about late spouse pictures and memorabilia and general clinging to the past.

It was nice that Rob was widowed instead of divorced. His attitude about relationships and marriage was not as jaded. He did not feel the need to “test” me, which in my experience with divorced men was tiring and irritating by turns, but Rob and I have always had far more in common than dead spouses, which is why we’ve worked.

“Widower” sex

It’s sex. Nothing weird about it as far as my experience goes. If intimacy issues arise, or rather nothing much arises, then this is cause for discussion and possible a medical examination to rule out physical problems and illness. But I would say that widowers in general are no different from any other man where sex is concerned.

Dating a recent widower who is ambivalent

Ambivalence in a man (or woman really) where dating is concerned is a sign that he isn’t all that sure about you. It’s not a widower thing exclusively. Don’t assume that every hiccup in a relationship has deep dead wife meaning attached to it. Sometimes men just date. Even widowers. And sometimes, you aren’t going to be “the one”. Be honest and be realistic with yourself. If he isn’t moving mountains at the speed of Mohamed, you would do well to keep your options open. Widowers are men first and men can date and be intimate without being in love.

How soon is too soon to introduce a new girlfriend to your adult children after the death of their mother

I wouldn’t bring her to the funeral.

But when? When you are sure that she is more than just someone you are just dating. If your girlfriend is important, and you can see a long-term relationship developing, the sooner you alert your children the better. Hiding her will damage your relationship with her and with your children.

Talk to the kids first. Let them know you are dating and it’s serious. Warn them upfront that you are an adult, their dad and not their peer, and that though you understand they might be upset, it’s not their place to tell you what to do. Expect them to be courteous but don’t be hurt if they absent themselves from your life for a while as they adjust. Remind them that this is the same respect you accord them with the people they have chosen to date and/or marry.

Communication is key. Listening without judgment is important. Respecting that their grief is theirs and you can’t speed it up is vital. However, it’s also important to be true to your needs and put your new girlfriend in the number one spot. You wouldn’t have allowed your kids to come between you and your late wife, so don’t let them do so now.

Be patient but be resolute.

Did i remarry too soon after widowhood?

I don’t know. Did you?

Is this what you think or what others are telling you? I have written about his before and you can read it here.

Summing it up

Did I miss anything? Probably and you can feel free to ask questions in the comment section, check out links below or shoot me an email. My contact information is on the Me, If Your are Interested in Knowing page.

Widowhood is not mysterious or a chronic malady. It’s a life event and like all experiences, we go through them, hopefully learn something and move on. Take off the kid gloves and stop being so squeamish.


*Despite the fact that reputable psychologists don’t recommend grief therapy or anti-depressants for the bereaved in the initially months, non-widowed in particular are quick to recommend it because our culture is mired in the idea that no one’s sadness should interfere with what we want. Americans in general have become a nation of prescription drug addicts out of naivete and ignorance where psychotropic drugs and therapy are concerned and when anyone can get obtain grief counselor status with a quick weekend workshop or a month of Thursday nights taking courses at the local hospice – buyer be aware.

11 thoughts on “Dating While Widowed: The Search Term Edition

  1. Dear Annie i happened to come across this beautifully yet simply put, drama free article that you have written and i hope that the thread has not closed. I am i widowed 47 year old( 6years) and have just met a recently widowed( 5 months) man on an online dating site. Our initial meeting was great , fun, exciting and loads to talk about. We had 2 follow up dates also as great as the first and generaly spoke very casualy about relationships and dating. He obviously loved his wife a great deal and spoke beautifully of her( they have four kids together) . I mentioned casualy that im not the kind of woman that goes into a sexual relationship when we were in a heated embrace on the third date. To which he responded that we both not in relationships and we just enjoy while we see where this goes and also that he at leasts wanto honour his wifes marriage wth him by not bn in a relationship for at least a year. I thought is was sweet and told him so. We have communicated via fonecalls and texting ( its bn almost two months since i met him) but recently he has called less and doeznt text at all anymore. His worklife i know is crazy coupled wth 4 teens all needing his attention. I have not texted him or called but just once a few days ago to which he said i shouldnt worry he will be intouch just very busy. But i feel in my gut that he is giving me a wide berth as he feels i want a relationship or that the timing is out on when we met. Is there any hope for us do u think? I really really like this guy. He is sweet, kind and a true gentleman. I dont fall for guys easily and am very carefull hence me still bn single 6 yrs after my husbands passing. I know im clutching at straws but so hoping that as an outsider looking in to what i have told you, you can give me perspective and some advice on how to handle this situation or take it for what it is that our timing was off and he has run away?

    1. I am an outsider looking at only what you have shared, so my perspective is rather limited.

      And I am stranger to you.

      Bear this is mind.

      Men, generally, should be believed when they say they are not looking for a serious relationship. Sometimes they change their minds but that is the exception not the rule and you can never know you are the exception until you are – in fact – told you are the exception.

      At five months out, lots of widowed are trying to date. In my opinion, more widowed try to (or get into) relationships in the first year and half than do not. It doesn’t mean anything in terms of their readiness.

      My husband was fourish months out when he met me and within a month he was proposing that we explore our potential as a couple. Not because he was ready but because (as he admitted to me later), “You were ready and if I had waited, someone else would have scooped you up. And I knew you were the one.”

      Men also, generally, are not subtle when they’ve found the person they want to be with. Their interest does not run hot/cold. They are quick to return calls and texts. They make time for you even when time is in short supply.

      Women don’t trust their instincts enough and they don’t ask enough – they speculate and they run speculation by others. This is not a criticism. I am a woman. I do this too.

      I think you are probably correct. I also think that this is not about you at all but him, where he is at and factors that you don’t know about.

      It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t turn this around with a heartfelt discussion where you lay your cards on the table and declare intent (I know because I did this with my late husband and it was a game changer) but do you want to and is it, in your opinion, worth the risk? He could say “no, I am not ready and I really do want to wait a year. you’re wonderful but timing is wrong for me.” That’s a big ouch.

      You could just chalk this up to a lovely but brief romance that is now slowing ending, perhaps you will remain friends and a reminder that you are wonderful, and someone is going to come along who will see that and things will be very different when that happens.

      Mostly, I think we are in charge of our destinies. You might see the six years on your own as a result of your caution where I suspect that you simply haven’t run across the right kind of man. If being in a committed relationship again is what you want, take this guy as a sign that it’s possible and probably near than you think. Reply to his texts when they come. Keep it friendly and continue with your online pursuit.

      Probably not the perspective you were looking for and certainly not advice, people who comment here usually have a very good idea of what they know and want already and writing it down, putting it out in the world, is just part of the sorting process.

      Whatever happens be the driver in your life and not the passenger. You deserve happiness. It’s out there. Good luck. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. We have been together nine months and making some plans for our future. I am sort of realistic person and have not develop still much trust. I believe that our relationship should undergo a lot of testing (I mean we need a lot time and situations) before these declarations and that person could be trusted to such an extent to make a serious commitment for a lifetime. Throughout my whole life I have tried to pay as much attention as possible to integrity and treating other people fair and seriously. I have been taught if I offer that, I have the right to expect the same.
    The whole thing is about official introducing me to the family, neighbours, acquaintances and so on. As you know from one of my previous posts we started to date (actually my widower calls it a relationship from the very beginning) soon after sudden death of the deceased wife. The widower is a friend of mine for many years and we did consider each other very attractive, however it did not even came to my mind to have an affair with a married person or consider relationship with a divorced one when I was in my twenties. Currently, a lot of people knows the truth about us or considers us a couple (for instance my family living next house to me, neighbours seeing his car in front of my house almost every day, etc). The same refers to his environment. I quite often visit his parents who support him caring for his baby son. I met his family (brother with his wife and children during Christmas) and see his colleagues from work often. Few people met us in shopping centre. Few weeks ago his father-in-law saw me in his car and seemed to be astonished. The issue is that I have never been introduced as an official girlfriend. We try to keep the relationship secret on the one hand but on the other…you see. In our country the norms about official time of grieving are quite strict and people do not accept dating or declaring to be in a relationship or living together before elapsing this magical year. I understand my widowers fears in this respect. He says that is not about him but more about his son who could suffer from other people hurting comments on his father rebounding immediately after mom’s death. I feel the need for protecting the boy whom I consider my son-to-be. However, it came to me one day that we are not able to protect him. So many people knows and the probability of finding out the truth by him became very probable. I am not also convinced to lie to the child in the future about the start of our relationship. That is one of the reasons I feel the need or even the necessity of telling the world officially about us. One year of bereavement is passing in few days. I could give him, let;s say several months, but not more. I am going to bring up that issue in discussion. We did what we did and we should accept the responsibilty. I am getting impatient and sometimes, and tending to feel that he wishes to protect his public image in the eyes of certain people more than to take care of my feelings, relationship etc.

    1. Being widowed is a bit like being pregnant, everyone feels free to comment, give advice and place expectations on you whether they have a clue or not. The pressure to live up to some kind of made up social norm is real, but in the long run it is better to do what is best for you and yours and not worry about how other people (who aren’t living your life) are going to feel about it.

      Whether you wait a while longer before insisting that it is time to officially declare your couple status should be a mutual decision. The widowed person’s vote doesn’t count more. While I can sympathize with his worries about his son, you are basically the boy’s mother to be and the one he will remember most as “mom”. He is probably not going to judge you or his father harshly when he learns how soon you began to date even if others do. Don’t underestimate the ability of a child to see through the artificial rules that grown ups allow themselves to be forced to live by.

  3. I am always amazed that so many people don’t ever understand the simple concept that you wrote:

    “Healthy relationships progress at a mutually satisfactory rate that is tears and drama free.”

    Good article!

    1. And this is not a widowed thing. It’s a relationship thing that so, so many people – sadly a lot of them our fellow females – don’t get at all. Love is not supposed to be a fixer upper project. It’s not supposed to be a torturous Romeo/Juliet or Sid and Nancy kind of thing. We romanticize dysfunction and teach our kids that this is love?

      A man or woman who is dragging his/her feet and putting you through hoops like a hound at a kennel club show DOESN’T LOVE YOU! The same with emotional and physical abuse. People who love you don’t hurt you. When they realize that they are doing or saying something that damages you and in turn the relationship, they stop and they make amends. They don’t justify or ask for more time and patience. Time and patience? That’s for potty training toddlers and puppies.

  4. Hi,
    I love the way you have put this together, well done. 🙂
    I also find some of the searchers funny/strange, it always amazes me what some people search for.

    1. Thanks! I do a search term post every once in a while and you are right about searching. Sometimes it seems as though these searches are almost like people sending out prayers in hopes of answers.

  5. Very nicely put. Nothing really new, but seeing the pieces pulled together in this way has quite an impact. I’ll miss reading the assorted reactions on Fb. Thanks.

    1. I don’t normally get many reactions on FB – that I am privy to at any rate. Ppl who have comments, objecting or otherwise, employ that old “talk amongst ourselves” thing.

      One of the things that widowed frequently complain about is the lack of a “handbook” and what passes for a user’s guide on the web via blogs and message boards tends to err on the side of “there is no wrong way to grieve or be a widowed person”, which is ridiculous. There are plenty of ways to misstep and the consequences of can hurt one’s children, friends, extended family and people we chose to date and be intimate with again. And I am not saying that this happens in all cases because it doesn’t, but when widowed people are encouraged to look at their situation as having some kind of endangered species protection that allows them to shrug off mistakes made while under the influence of grief (which imo is a finite period anyway), it has a tendency to change the culture. Thanks in a large part to the push to validate the “grief process”, a stereotype has been created that is probably just as harmful as the ideas about grief that it replaced.

      My biggest issue with dating/remarriage and widows is that widowed are being encouraged to believe that dead spouses have equal space with new love interests in a way that is tangible and that anything else is not acceptable and non-negotiable. The person with the dead spouse always wins. You can’t have a good relationship when one person controls the board by making the rules to suit him/herself.

      However, most of the problems with dating after widowhood are personality/maturity based ones. Widowhood doesn’t change the core personality. A widow who is always in a state of drama – was like that before too. A man whose children ran him down has always been their doormat. Drinking problems. Drug issues. Hypochondria. Depression or anxiety tendencies. All existed previously although probably to a lesser extent. Even in-law issues or the seeds of them have roots that predate the death of the spouse.

      And, of course, the basic issues that plague male/female interaction are still in play. Widowhood changes nothing about that either.

      What widowhood does is provide a handy excuse. And if it weren’t widowhood, it would be something else.

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