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.

The Second Wives Club


Laughing couple.

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Left a comment on a post about remarriage that prompted the author to come back – gloating a tiny bit at what she perceived was “striking a nerve” – to “explain” that she really meant no offense and was writing from her own perspective.

What perspective? Longing and need. Not atypical when one is alone again after having been contentedly cocooned in a relationship. But she made the mistake of comparing her missteps with those who venture back in a more relationship oriented mind and who, unsurprisingly, find someone.

I have written it before but it bears repeating  – most people find what they are looking for when they date. The trouble is that most people look for the wrong things.

But the observations that prompted me to comment were directed at folks who remarry. In the author’s opinion, moving into marriage again after a short interval is based on the longing only. There couldn’t be any possible way that real love is the motive.

And in the absence of the one we truly want, I am sure that occasionally the “stand-in” can fall into a small space made where the huge void developed. And maybe that is love. A new love.

Stand-ins. Second wives are “stand-ins”. How could we hope to be more when we are not what is actually wanted?

And one wonders why dating goes wrong or new relationships don’t lead anyway? As if anything good could come from using people? Or thinking of them as second best or pale imitations?

This particular blog is multi-authored, but more than a few have a decidedly poor opinion of the men and women who dare to be second. Surprising given that a couple of the others are in relationships or remarried themselves.

But I’ve observed this elsewhere. At Widower Wednesday, a widow left a comment in the middle of a conversation taking place between mostly non-widowed second wives and girlfriends that upbraided them for their desire to come first in their relationships.

“Seconds should know their place,” and I am paraphrasing except for the “seconds” term. “They cannot expect to supplant the late wife, who by rights earned her spot eternal as first and foremost.”

Heavens to sisterwives! Seriously?

I left a response to the explanation of the blogger who has such a low opinion of the idea that love can be love on the same level as one lost, but it wasn’t approved. Which did not surprise me. I was pointed and called her out for mixing her metaphors. Basically, one can’t fall back on “it’s just based on my experience” when citing an example of that is based on the life of someone you heard about via a friend.

She’d started her post with the tale of a widower who’d remarried in the first year after his wife’s death. She implies that he was simply filling that void. Not that she was judging or anything.

So why bring it up?

There is no corner market on longing and loneliness and the need to be held and make love. It’s not exclusive to any particular relationship aftermath or more keenly felt by widowed as opposed to divorced or someone whose broken up with a boyfriend. Hurt is hurt. Pining is pining. The degree of attachment and the owie it leaves when severed is dependent on the person and will vary.

But no one is a stand-in. No one should be viewed in that light or allow herself to be cast in that role. And if you are prowling for a warm body only have the balls to say so upfront so the object of your carnal desire has the right to choose to be used or not.

Using someone for sex and dating with an eye to a permanent relationship are not the same things at all. Perhaps that post should have been a two part’r.

 

 

Romantic Realism


"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...

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New, and yet not particularly new at all, research on sex and its many tentacles wrapped around America is snaking through the Internet in various forms. One section of the report in particular garners a predictable amount of attention in our “endangered” man era, and that is the “revelation” that young men aren’t faring well academically or career-wise when compared to young women.

That the sky is falling on masculinity is not new. As early as a decade ago, the plight of boys struggling to cope with a female dominated and driven public education system was already causing much wringing of hands and dire predictions for the future. But what is causing angst now is that despite being poor catches overall, young men still set the romantic and sexual agenda and women play ball or buy a vibrator.

And I am left wondering, how this is different from when I was a twenty-something? Men were not “endangered” and yet still got to make the rules where dating and relationships were concerned. Men decide “where, when, and what type of commitment” now and always from my perspective. So nothing new to see here, people, move along.

That the problem is men has never been a real issue. This male “crisis” is just another distraction from the real problem, which is that women – to a large degree – take a long time getting over the idea that they have to bend over to have a relationship at all. We are schooled in tactical compromise from birth and foolishly never really learn to set our boundaries and walk away when they are violated.

Our training begins with each other. It’s in the feral packs that make up the mined land of girlish friendship where indoctrination begins. We can’t blame men for this. We are vicious and conniving and manipulative from near go when boys don’t matter one iota, and the prize is the “best friend” or the highest ranking social clique. Training ground zero that sets us up neatly for the games that boys and men play to maximize their “innate”* need to sow as many fertile fields as possible with the least amount of encumbrance.

I posted a link to my Facebook page from Slate’s DoubleX, summarizing the continuing state of affairs – that being that men are still encouraged by society to be schmucks, and women are expected to contort themselves in flanking maneuvers – and ended up in a discussion with a writer friend who is decidedly anti-marriage at the least and anti-monogamy at the most. Her contention – as tired and worn as feminism itself –  is that marriage is a trap. Women should strive to be militant in their abhorrence of it, and that the fact that marriage is on the downward slope (although – statistically, relationships dominate in terms of society. More of us couple exclusively than don’t) is proof that women have “come a long way, baby”.

Marriage or civil unions, in my opinion, protect both partners when the aim is a long-term – possibly life long – relationship. There is no other option that better ensures the safety of each than a certificate of binding and entwining. People who live together without any sort of legal sanction, even if they are proactive enough to change all the beneficiaries on insurance and studiously set up the joint this and that will still find themselves a signature or legal protection short at the end of that terrible day when something unthinkable happens. And something unthinkable is not just what happens to other people. Though the cohabitation crowd thinks not and begs the question, who is really the romantic with unrealistic expectations here?

But my friend, not really knowing me at all, thought my belief in marriage, and my ire at the way young people today blithely ignore reality because it gets in the way of spontaneity or is so “yesterday in a grandparent kind of way”, is based on my sweetly romantic notions about relationships.

What?

I am not sweet nor  particularly romantic. I am the women who nagged her husband of just a month to make an appointment with the lawyer so we could draw up wills, get POA’s and such settled before our marriage certificate was even inked and in the post. I am the one who point-blank told her late husband that “I don’t play house so when spring rolls around if we are not planning a wedding, I will consider myself free to pursue other options”. Knowing what you want, stating it, and acting is  – in my opinion – what “independence” means.

My marriage is quite cuddly, and I am of the opinion that married is a far preferable state to single, but that is because Rob and I work at the cuddly, fan those flames and because out of the nearly 30 years I have been legally an adult, I have spent 2/3rds of the time single. I am not easily fooled by the feminist nostalgia about “having it all” nor I am dumb enough to fall for the notion that independence is something one can only have when one is alone. Independence is an internal mindset that should not be confused with one’s physical state of being – ever.

Being single is lonely and it can be scary when push comes to shove. It’s doable. I did it. But I am not naive enough to prefer it. I am also not so unschooled in the ways of survival that I don’t know that there is a definite advantage to being properly matched and mated. I don’t advocate pairing up with just anyone. And that’s brings me back to the problem of young men and young women. The latter still believes that men can be molded and the former know this well enough to use the knowledge to get sex without deserving it.

You should like the person you live with. Respect him and be respected in turn. There should be fun and love and a willingness to throw in together come what may. There should also be a healthy realistic perspective because no relationship is perfect and bumps and ebb/flow is normal. My perception is that too few people go into relationships with any idea of where they want to ultimately be years down the road. They are suckered by the ridiculous free love notions of the 70’s and the Me/Me/Me mentality of the Boomers that is the root of a lot more than relationship issues in our society today.

I love being married, but only because I love Rob. He is my match. My lobster. There is just as much to lose as there is to gain when troths are plighted, and one must put priority on the intangibles first. Love is more important than physical independence, but it’s not attainable until you are truly independent. Only those who have the courage to state their needs and see that they are met and who listen and give in the same vein are going to find contentment in marriage. It’s only when you peel away the juvenile view of romance that you find the real thing.

*Which is just so much bullshit. Men and women are not bonobos. We are not slaves to our Jungian archetypes. The human species is the least endangered in terms of population, so the idea that men are “seed sowers” and can’t help themselves is just one more baseless argument put forth by people who are just too selfish and lazy and own – out loud – that they are selfish and lazy where relationships are concerned.