More than occasionally in my search terms the question of “dating widow/er who needs more time” comes up, and I cringe a little bit when it does. Because I know, more or less, why someone is trolling the Internet in a desperate quest for the definitive answer to this question.
Can a widowed person, who is still actively grieving, date? And fall in love again? And most important of all, move on?
And the answer is yes. Widowed people date all the time. An unsurprising number of them begin to date in the first year of widowhood even. They meet people. Feelings arise. Are acted upon.
It is very possible to date and be in love again while still mourning a dead spouse.
Here’s the caveat though – it’s not a good idea to use the “still grieving thing” to control the pace of a relationship. Getting into a relationship should be something one does when one is ready to go with the flow of it. Asking someone for “more time” is a quasi-controlling thing and it’s not emotionally fair.
I have said before and am saying again, dating is about two people’s needs and feelings. A widowed person is just one of the people in a new relationship and his/her – albeit quite sad and tragic state – doesn’t give him/her a leg up on the non-widowed person in terms of the pace or direction of the budding union. This has to be a united effort with all viewpoints and needs taken into consideration.*
So, if you are a widowed person who is dating and feel as if more time to emotionally ready yourself is in order – take it – but don’t ask someone to wait for you while you navel gaze. Even if you are fairly certain that the object of your maybe/maybe not affection will hang around, help with the lawn or child care and occasionally roll in the proverbial hay with you while you decide whether or not your heart is in it. Be a better person than that. Let him or her go. Your clinging could keep him/her from finding the unconditional love waiting for your selfishness to step out-of-the-way.
And if you are dating someone who asks for more time? My advice is the same. Let that widow go. You won’t, of course. You are too invested in the idea that a widowed person (and I am really talking to women dating widowers here) just needs patience, understanding and someone to love the grief away to listen to me tell you the truth that your Google search thinks you want, but anyone who is truly in love (whether or not they are still grieving a loss) will not let love lost stand in the way of a second chance.
Some people need a lot of time to recover from the death of a spouse. Some people decide to wait until their children are grown and gone before dating or remarrying again. Some are not looking for relationships but companionship with or without sex. Finally, there are those who only want the sex and a bit of companionship on the side. Regardless, anyone who asks you to “give me more time” is really saying “I am not sure”, and those four words coupled with conflicting actions or what appears to be deliberate drama – are more likely than not to cause more heartache than happiness.
There is that old chestnut “if you love someone, let them go. if they come back then they are yours and if they don’t, they never were”. As clichés go, it ranks right up there, but in all cliché there is a tiny bit of truth. And there is nothing awful about stepping back and thinking things through without the burden of someone else’s expectations.
You can date. love and remarry again while still grieving. Grief is something you do on your own. It’s not a couple thing and a new partner is not your therapist. If you can’t separate things, it’s best to not go there for all parties.
You can date, love and marry someone who is grieving a lost love, but it’s not your job to fix anything or to be understanding or even to make allowances for it. You can. You probably will, but I wouldn’t make it a habit because it’s more than likely to take the focus off building the new relationship.
In the end, most people follow their hormone-driven hearts rather than heeding advice. Sometimes that works too. But own it. Not being realistic or cognizant of how you colour your perceptions of a situation to suit your fantasies rather than your realities has broken more than one person’s heart. So remember, people who are ready to date again after being widowed are those who put actions behind their pretty words. And the words, “I need more time” should be followed by the action of taking it.
*Viewpoints and needs of the couple. I am not a fan of allowing children (of any age), friends, extended family or in-laws having a vote or even a voice. Coupledoms are a convention of two and any more is going to be a crowded mess.
- Dating While Widowed: New Relationships are NOT a Form of Grief Therapy (anniegirl1138.com)
- ‘I was ready to love again’: War widow says grieving women are treated worse than men if they move on (mirror.co.uk)
- A letter to … a widower I fell in love with (guardian.co.uk)
- Love After Death: The Widows’ Romantic Predicaments (psychologytoday.com)
- Dating While Widowed: That Picture Thing and Other Kobayishi Maru’s (anniegirl1138.com)