family and friends who disapprove of dating/remarriage


Marriage

Updated July 28, 2014: If you have followed the link provided by a widower on the YWBB in response to the most recent dust-up in the Social Situations forum, you need to know that I am NOT referring to E in the following post. In fact, at the time I wrote this post, E hadn’t been posting at the YWBB as E or under any other aka for some time (that I am aware of).

This post chronicles one of the periodic flame-fests that breaks out in the YWBB forums. Such incidents date all the way back to its earliest days and though they can be unsettling to newbies (and irritating to old hands) like all things, they pass.

The widows behaving badly I was discussing here have, as far as I know, moved on to other venues because there are a lot more of them now than there were back when I was first widowed in 2006 or when E was widowed several years before that.

The old timer culprit I reference was someone who took a lot of joy in harassing my husband and I after other board members learned of our relationship and engagement. She was good at playing the contrition game and so managed to kick a lot of shit before her bouncing in 2012, but as far as I can tell, she no longer posts at the YWBB.

I believe that in the thread where this link to my blog is found, a few other old-timers – who were veterans when I was though not friends of mine – have explained E’s history and how she was stalked and bullied in her early days at the YWBB. However, I don’t think they noted that the culprits were never punished or banned, and that not one of them has ever really apologized (again to my knowledge) to E for what they did to her.

I knew E as Elysia when I roamed the forums at YWBB. I found her to be eccentric and pointed, but she was one of the few who ever had my back when I was being hounded and I still appreciate that.

So, long story short – E is not the widow you are looking for. Move along.

 

Someone’s google search term landed them here a couple of days ago as he (or more likely “she”) scoured the virtual world for a “support forum for remarried widows”.  For her sake, I wish I could post a few links to help out, but the sad truth is that nothing much exists.  There are widow boards here, there and near everywhereWidow blogs ad nauseum.  But if you were widowed and have moved on to a new relationship or even marriage, it’s s.o.l. for you.

Most of the boards I have seen really are loathe to set up special forums for the those who’ve moved on. Partly it’s because they want to discourage the popular notion that one can’t really say they’ve moved on until they’ve hooked up again, but the bigger reason is that many of those widowed, who either haven’t found a new mate or have no interest in doing so, are vicious to the point of bat shit crazy about remarried widows.  Despite lip service to the contrary, even widowed believe that falling in love again and remarrying is some sort of magical healing that erases the painful memories and renders a remarried widow immune to the occasional sad thought or longing.  In some ways, widowed can be just as clueless as those who have never been.

Some remarried widowed folk hide or downplay their new marital status so they can remain part of the online widowed communities.  More often they simply walk away and deal quietly and alone with issues as they come up.  And mostly it’s women.  We make up the majority of those widowed anyway but, regardless, I think it is harder for women to not have the outlet because we are socialized from an early age to seek out and share with those who are like us.  Single.  Married.  Widowed.  Mothers.  Etcetera.  Etcetera.  We do this for company but also to try to determine if we are “normal” or what we are feeling or experiencing falls within the boundaries of most other people’s experiences.

I argued myself blue with this and that board admin on the very real needs that widowed who have remarried have but to no avail.  It’s a small subset and in the interest of not stirring up the majorities who populate these online communities, the admins chose the path of least effort and headache*.

Still, I see a lot of searches for this type of support and wish I had more to offer in terms of information or advice.

Oh, surely, it can’t be that bad?

Recently, my search log lit up with hits for Ye Olde Widda Board, and after a couple of days of this I was curious enough to click over and check out the latest flaming shit storm.  I have to chuckle a bit when these wars erupt because older widowed members will drag out the same tired excuses and nearly all will lie through their keyboards with some variation on “Oh, these things come and go. No hurt/no foul.”  Which is total bullshit.  The YWBB is one of the foulest of the widow boards.  The nasty threads actually pale in comparison to the hateful private messages some members heap upon remarrieds, early daters and anyone who disagrees with the prevailing notions about grief being a catch-all get out of jail free card.  How anyone can defend the shit-slinging that goes on there still amazes me, but the chief reason it occurs is that the board itself has no moderator and the board admins lack the moral fiber to delete hateful threads or members.

Until this latest flare-up, I can’t recall anyone ever being chastised, much less banned, but two members were blocked after last week’s dust-up. Only one of them really deserved it.  A long time member who is a rabid dog about moving on and should have been punted years ago.  I have no doubt she will end up on another site.  She needs them in order to hang onto the turmoil and ache of early grief.  She’s a vampire really, using newly widowed’s to stoke her own hurt and rage.  I pity the community she lands in next.

But the YWBB’s expense lesson is just one of the examples of why widowed who remarry can’t really avail themselves of existing forums.  They just don’t quite fit in.

As you move on, it’s not grief in any way the books mention.  It’s nuanced and muted and separate from life as it’s being lived.

People who marry widowed like to believe that it’s still grief but just not as often and that it will eventually cease to be completely.  A nice fantasy, but ridiculous.  Widowed who’ve remarried even like to feed that delusion with nonsense that as you move on, you put your late spouse in a non-romantic love context that stems from mutual off-spring or just the general sadness we all feel from time to time about lost loved ones.

The reality is harder to explain.  My late husband holds a part of me that is lost forever – to me or to anyone else.  I seldom think of him only in terms of his sperm donation.  When he pops up, it’s always in a context that is his alone, and while I can’t say that what I feel is missing or longing, I can say that he will always be a part of me in a way that transcends the child we had together.  He doesn’t vanish.  He hasn’t given up his place as my husband**, and he will always be significant in a way that is his alone.

If you are a widowed who has remarried and finds yourself reading this, know that you are not alone.  Others have walked with dual life path and we’ve struggled with those who don’t get it or want to marginalize the effort that goes into blending families and dealing with the unexpected issues that come up.  Know that you’ll be okay.  It’s normal to move on.  It’s normal to want to love again.  It’s not abnormal to love again as fully and as deeply.  It’s not a betrayal to love two people.  It’s okay to insist that extended family, old friends and even children man up and accept your right to move on.  You don’t owe anyone but yourself.

*It’s ironic because many of these sites are run by remarried widowed, who certainly realize how fraught the widowsphere is with anti-remarried’s prejudice.

** Divorced people are very touchy about the terms “husband” and “wife” because they tend to lean toward the very artificial and legal contract side of what marriage is (they remind me a bit of the “marriage is one man/woman” crowd in their self-interested pov).  As if marriage is nothing more than a piece of paper. Marriage is far more than the words and the paper.  It transcends.  But the remarried widowed find themselves tilting at angry windmills when the whole “death ends a marriage just like divorce” arguments begin and that’s just one of many issues that we share as a group that those who haven’t remarried don’t get either.


Casket

The question comes up a lot among widowed and those who are interested in dating them – how soon after the death of a spouse is it considered appropriate to begin dating/or pursuing?

It depends on who you ask.

Other widowed people like to trot out the tired cliché – “If you have to ask, it’s too soon.” It’s such a circular and unhelpful answer that I’d like to ban the phrase from the grief lexicon because given the minefield of rules and expectations surrounding widowhood, asking is the only way to clarify whether the signals you are receiving from your peers, family and friends are about your welfare or their self-interest.

This isn’t Gone With the Wind times. Scarlett knew the rules on widowed decorum because society at that time spelled it out. Mourning lasted for one year. You wore black. Attempted to look resolute and somber, smiling wanly as you sat out your “black-shirted” year on the wallflower bench. It may have sucked, but everyone was clear on the time frame and waited (while perhaps discreetly lining up suitors for once the deadline had passed).

Today? Not so clear. Whereas the newly broken up or divorced are free to take the field again as soon as they like, the widowed must navigate religious, family and community rules on the subject, and they vary. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes simultaneously.

So how soon is too soon?

The best answer I ever heard was something along the lines of “taking a date to the funeral, or hooking up in the crying room of the funeral home, is probably a faux pas, but otherwise, it’s up to you.”

And it is. Up to you.

Stereotypes say that men date sooner and remarry more quickly than women do, and there is statistical validity in this. Average time frame for widowers who remarry is about two – three years while for widows, it’s three to five years. But, having children or not, being younger or older and your general state of resiliency in the face of tragedy plays into this as well.

Younger widowed date and remarry sooner, and at higher rates, than older ones. Once a widow hits 65, the odds for remarriage fall off sharply.

Widowed with children date and remarry with ease or not depending on the age of the children, and believe it or not – adult children can be the worst to deal with when it comes to dating and remarriage with teenagers coming in an unsurprising second.

But when? At what magical point in the days, weeks or month after a spouse dies is dating permitted?

I signed up for eHarmony at just shy of six months out from my husband’s death. eHarmony wasn’t a good format fit for me, and I abandoned the effort after a few weeks and only meeting a police officer who looked like Lurch with a bad comb-over. Next I tried to cultivate a dating minded relationship with an industrial tech teacher I’d met through my master’s program that summer. He suddenly wanted to “just be friends” when he found out I had a child. Then it was back to online with Cupid.com, which I found out after the fact is a well-known “hook up mostly” site. The majority of men I met through it were varying degrees of depressing in their hunt for on-call girlfriends.

It was while taking a break from dating that Rob appeared. Our relationship began online, and as friends, but when it was clear to us that this could be more, we deliberately took that step, kept moving forward and haven’t looked back.

So it’s always technically an option to date. More widowed than will admit to it try to date at some point within the first year. Some people even begin dating with weeks or a few months. But there are those who wait out the so-called year deadline of propriety too, and others who buy wholeheartedly into the notion that they must “work at their grieving” to get it all out of their system before trying to move on in any aspect of their lives, dating included.

You can date whenever you like. In my opinion, and experience, when thinking about it begins to more of a logistical “how will I do it” rather than a daydream to chase away sadness, you are probably ready to look into it at the very least.

A couple of cautions:

1) Your family and friends will be at different stages of “ready for you to date” than you are. Taking their feelings into account is good, but don’t forget that they have their own lives to mind and should leave the minding of yours to you. If you weren’t living your life by committee prior to your spouse’s death, don’t start now. You can’t please everyone, and what other people – even your kids – think about you isn’t your business anyway. Generally, if you have good, supportive relationships with kids, extended family and friends, this will all work out and they will be happy and supportive. Be patient. Don’t be a doormat.

2) You are dating. Your kids are not. Try to avoid a revolving door of dates where underage kids are concerned. Only introduce them to people you feel you have a future with, and when you do, expect them to behave like well-brought up humans. Disrespect shouldn’t be tolerated.

If problems arise with adult children, remind them that they should spend their time and energy minding their own lives. You don’t tell them how to live or who to love and they don’t have the right to tell you anything either. Once you hand the keys of your dating life over to your kids, they won’t give them back, and do you really want to be that old man or woman, whose adult children talk to them as though they were small fluffy purse puppies?

3) Be honest about what you want out of dating with yourself and the people you date. If it’s just fun and sex, say so. If you are in the market for more – act like you are.

4) Which brings me to this: if you are in the habit of using your widowhood to manipulate situations and people, you aren’t ready to date. And don’t look so innocent. You know what I am talking about – playing the “widow card”. Widowed who are truly ready to date do not use their widowhood to control the  pace of a relationship or coerce their girl/boyfriends into accepting unilateral terms of engagement. 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.

Finally, it’s okay not to date. Or even ever want to. Some widowed find contentment and even a lot of joy in being single and unattached. If the idea of dating makes you nauseous, or seems like something best put up on a shelf for the time being, there’s nothing wrong with that.

The point is that the days of donning mourning for public displays of grieving for specific periods of time are long over. Anyone who is spouting rules and timelines at you has an ulterior agenda, and you are within your rights to question them and it.

It’s your life and only you know what’s best. Even if you aren’t sure, meeting a guy or gal for coffee never hurt anybody, and enjoying the occasional Starbuck’s isn’t a commitment to anything.


ancient roman marriage

Image via Wikipedia

Two things inspired this post. The first was a comment or two from the Widower Wednesday series referencing the ire of in-laws and adult children whose widower was daring to date without their permission. The second was a news item concerning Sir Paul McCartney’s recent engagement to his soon to be third wife.

All I can really say is, “Huh?”

When I hit adulthood, it never crossed my mind to seek my parents approval of anyone – friends or potential partners. I was an adult. Free to companion as suited me, my life-style and needs. My parents certainly never concerned themselves with my opinions of their friends or even of the relationship they had with each other – the latter of the two clearly being none of my business.

But it seems there is a segment of the adult world – both parent, grown kids and even extended family – who feel that getting judgey and expressing it in all manner just-plain-juvenile-and-wrong is completely fine and normal.

McCartney sought the approval of his grown children before deciding to marry again. Perhaps he felt the need to verify his choice after the particularly disastrous 2nd marriage to a gold-digger a few years ago, or maybe the big kids informed him that all future step-mothers must be vetted by them. Who knows. But why? Why?

If my mother were to date or even marry again (and I would start preparing for the Second Coming in either case because it would surely follow on the heels of something so mind-bogglingly unlikely – you’d just have to know Mom in person, trust me), I would smile and say nothing – to her anyway.  DNOS and I would have plenty to roll our eyes about in private to be sure, but we were raised better than to presume on our parents’ intimate relations.

Rob’s mother recently remarried and he kept his mouth shut throughout the process that led her online to a Catholic dating site and through a whirlwind courtship that made ours look downright puritan and leisurely by comparison. She’s an adult and sound of mind and it’s her life.

FIL shaped up to be a good match but even if he hadn’t, it wasn’t the place of her children to wade in – unasked – and jump up on the nearest high horse to pontificate about it.*

Back in my message board days of new motherhood, I belonged to a group of women who were all first time mothers. We’d met at BabyCenter and took our cadre off to a private group once our kids arrived. Through the course of several years, we shared our lives and a couple of the women lost their mothers and had fathers who dated and remarried. Oh, the angst. Some of it was grief driven and I understood that, and none of them got up to any antics because they were too well brought up for such trailer park drama, but it’s not uncommon for adult children to over-think and have a hard time letting go of the idea that parents aren’t just Mom and Dad trapped forever in the context of our childhoods. They were grown ups long before us and continue to be long after we’ve cultivated big girl and boy lives of our own.

The “being raised properly” thing is likely the culprit. The past couple of decades have seen parents being less the adults and more the friends and allowing children too much input into how a family is governed. Recipe for entitled-to-meddle-in-your-lives-adult-kids, in my opinion. Heavy emphasis on the word “kids”. Some people never let go of the selfish impulses and world view that drove their parents to distraction when they were physically children and is now quite the lodestone now that they are only physically adult.

Edie and Mick were somewhere between taken aback and actively stunned when Rob announced our engagement to them. They knew about my existence, our dating and that was about it. They felt a little out of the loop, but that’s because technically they were. That’s what happens when you go out into the world and focus on your own life: you stop paying a lot of attention to what your parents are doing. In some ways it reminds me of my middle school students who were always incredulous when details of my life slipped into their line of vision. They couldn’t conceive of me outside the role of teacher. Kids have the same stilted vision of Mom and Dad. We are JUST Mom and Dad. So there was no reason for the older girls to know about Rob’s life and he was equally oblivious to their grown up lives too.

But Shelley and Rob raised their girls well and our new family formed and continues to evolve without any reality show drama.

The issue that extended family or friends may take with a new relationship or spouse though is different. Whereas children’s feelings should be taken into account – though not necessarily catered to because the idea that one’s children – especially those underage – have some mystical idiot savant ability to ferret out bad actors is one I wish would simply vanish. Children are not the equivalent of drug sniffing dogs when it comes to people’s character. They are far too self-interested for one and way too young and inexperienced for another.

One’s in-laws or friends, unless they are point-blank asked for an opinion, should just keep their opinions to themselves. And even when asked, they should remember that no one really wants opinions. When you are asked for an opinion what is really required is validation. So validate with a smile because no one gives even the tiniest fuck what you really think. Really.

I am continually astounded by people who put up with people who behave like the cast of Jersey Shore. I don’t have any tolerance for it. Neither my younger brother CB or my youngest sister Baby act out with impunity and when my older nephew got snotty with Rob on his first visit, he was squashed. It didn’t prevent further fires, but he knew I wasn’t putting up with it and I didn’t. We actually packed up and checked into a hotel during our 2008 visit when N1 unleashed one of his classic tantrums and I unceremoniously kicked CB out of the house the afternoon Dad died because he launched into his famous imitation of his substance addled teenaged self. Though I loathed Dr. Phil, the oaf got one thing right – you do teach people how to treat you. The choice to be a doormat in your own existence is entirely yours.

Rob has had to set both his SILs straight about what he will and will not indulge as far as their grief issues go, but by and large, our road has been baby butt smooth compared to the horror shows of some of the women I have encountered in the comment sections here and there.

Stalking, verbal harassment, poisoning the opinions of small grieving children. Not okay. If the party related to these people is not acting, that’s telling, and if you are not drawing hard lines in quick drying cement, telling as well.

We have this idea that drama and the “course of love never did run smooth” means that a relationship is meant to be because adversity is good for romance. That’s just sick twisted Hollywood garbage. As the credits roll, the actors are snug back in real lives and the people on the screen are make-believe.

*Rob’s youngest sister was a bit blistery when she first met him – after the engagement and slightly ahead of the wedding – but Rob didn’t back her up. We all sat, rather uncomfortably, around the table while she had her say. Gee handled the episode with more grace than I would have.