Calling All Women Married to Widowers


Just-married

Just Married

Abel Keogh’s working on a follow-up to his Dating A Widower book and is looking for women who have actually married widowers and are willing to share their experiences. You can find out more information about the book and the criteria for the essays by following this link.

Rob follows Abel’s Wednesday Widower posts although mostly to read my comments and when he saw the call for submissions, he asked me if I planned to write an essay.

“I don’t think I have anything to add,” I said. “If I have anything to say about you and I, or how we ended up married or even how it went that first year, I should probably write my own book, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” he said. “Are you going to write that book – ever?”

Probably. But I am still working on the angle. Frankly, I think the whole “widowed find love again” thing is played to death despite the fact that when stories turn up in the media they elicit a great deal of cooing from the general public, which in my opinion treats the stories like freakish there but for the grace of God go I cautionary fairy tales.

I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and have been totally taken with his POV chapters. I wonder if I could write our story in a similar style? But, that would mean soliciting Edie, Mick and various other friends and relatives. Would I really want to hear their take on that first year? It’s better sometimes not to know what people were really thinking behind their party manners game faces. It’s an intriguing idea nevertheless. Or maybe it’s the dwarf.

At any rate, widowed stories are a dime a dozen and let’s face it, it’s only widowers who are “hot”. They are like unicorns below a certain age and capture the fancy and tug at heartstrings more than widows, who just another breed of single mom for the most part.*

I am still not convinced that Rob and I did anything particularly amazing despite feeling that we are amazing. My feelings are biased and they are the basis for a book anyone would read. I’ve read … tried to at any rate … other books by widowed. Mostly they focused on the first year and selling the idea that somehow grief is like learning to walk again on tree stumps. Something a person has to just learn to be okay with like any other permanent disability – only while being really brave and semi-cheerful so as not to frighten the non-grieving folk. I don’t think I could write a similar tale because being widowed is just a “shit happens” thing and moving on is what a rational person should want to do badly enough to actually choose to do it. Remarrying or not is another choice that is based partly on you, partly on luck and partly on someone else seeing things as you do.

But Rob says I am too practical a person to really see the wonder in it all, which might be true. I know I am too practical to view it as magic or destiny (outside the idea that we all have a destiny which needs are active participation to be realized here and there).

Anyway, if you are married to a widower and have words of wisdom or caution to share with other women considering or preparing to marry a widower, here’s your chance. Follow the link.

 

*No I haven’t forgotten that some widows are childless, but they seem to be an ever smaller sub-set of an already tiny percentage of the population and like single mom’s, they don’t inspire much enthusiasm in the general population. Everyone knows a single woman just like everyone knows a single mom. The whole extra x dooms us to known-ness and renders us uninteresting at best and stereotypical at worst.

Shower Together


A local radio station has a Facebook page where they post a daily topic and invite listeners to post their two cents. Today’s topic was a tired old retreading of the false divorce stats that conservatives and ultra religious types love to trot out to support their somewhat punitive ideas about relationships and marriage.

The gist of their query was soliciting relationship advice from the listeners.

What Do You Do To Keep Your Marriage From Ending Up a Divorce Statistic?

From the predictable to the not funny came the replies, but the red herring stats fired me up enough to go and google up something resembling actual numbers and here is what I found:

  • The percentage of marriages in a given year that will end in divorce before their 30th wedding anniversary has increased slightly from 36.1 per cent in 1998 to 37.9 per cent in 2004. [3]

 

  • In 2003, the risk of divorce decreased slowly the longer a couple stayed married beyond three years. [4]

 

  • The divorce rate for first marriages is likely lower; “first marriages have a 67% chance of lasting a lifetime.” [5]

 

So while Canadians marry at fairly low rates per capita (with Alberta’s number being the highest, which is a reflection of the economy here more than anything), getting hitched is not a death knell for a relationship. In fact, statistically, you have a greater chance of splitting up if you just live together than you do if you marry the object of your affection.

Rob and I have been discussing the “living together” versus “marriage” thing recently. Apparently one of his sisters-in-law suggested to him – a month before we married – that he and I simply try living together first to “make sure it will work out”.

The worst advice you can offer a young couple is “live together for a while” because “trial marriages” actually have the worst statistical survival rates. The only non-legal arrangements that fare worse are those of couples who move in together to “save money” on rent or other bills. The only really good reason to live with someone before marrying them is love. Going into a co-habitation without love, and a commitment to a future together, is just asking for the privilege to someday argue furiously over who gets the cat or the flat screen tv.

But marriage advice. I don’t know that I’ve spent enough of my adult life married to qualify as an expert but here goes:

Shower together.

Yes, that’s it. Shower. Together. Every night if at all possible.

Okay, sure, open communication. Putting the other’s needs at the top of your to do list daily. Common interests, value systems and goals. And being able to have discussions on a wider range than simply the grocery list and the children. All important. As is, according to new studies, just being consistently kind to each other.

Showering together? Key.

Why?

Good question because I certainly didn’t shower with the late husband. But with Rob, we discovered very early that the most surefire way to touch base, in a manner of speaking, every day without fail was to take our nightly shower together. You can’t avoid conversation, eye contact and a certainly amount of physicality in a shower – just ask anyone in prison, if you don’t believe me.

With a small child, the shower became the logical “get away” when we were on holiday and cramped together in a single hotel room, and it has always been a good way to reconnect at the end of long days when other contact was limited.

I’d like to add that it’s a good way to conserve water and soap, but that just hasn’t been a side benefit.

 

 

Another Chapter in the Life of the House’s Bitches


The kitchen of the "Althuus" (meanin...

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Rob finished updating and switching over the electrical to the new kitchen today. I marvel without end at that insanely unreal breadth of that man’s basic knowledge base. As of this evening, the kitchen will be operational minus plumbing with the goal of sink and dishwasher quite soon.

Mom arrives in 27 days, and Rob assures me that kitchen, living room and a rudimentary dining area will be waiting for her.

This is optimistic of him because where the renovation is concerned, we’ve been miles off-schedule since the demolition last November. Life in the forms of work and family have screwed with us from day one, and his insistence that my help just makes more work for him has meant that he’s mostly been the lone wolf handy-dandy guy on a project of such daunting scope that anyone who’s seen it, or heard about even, cannot believe we didn’t just sell the house as it was and buy a new one.

While Rob laboured like a dwarf in the semi-darkness on the electrical panel tucked away behind a furnace and water heater that also needed updating, I zealously attacked Dee’s room – again.

I’ve lost track of the number of hoarding interventions I’ve performed on that child’s room. Over lunch, I informed her I was cleaning in there and she immediately went upstairs and rearranged in that perverse way of territory marking she’s carried over from her toddler days. But my strategy is a simple one of steady attrition. If I move with caution and at a slow pace, eventually I will rid her space of all the pointless clutter, leaving behind only what is useful and what truly matters. So far, it’s been a great success.

A tedious, time-sucking on the magnitude of a black hole success, but I’ll take it.

My basic problem continues to be the lack of finished space which in turn clogs up the user accessible space with non-related items. And it limits the comfort of the accessible spaces too. For example, we have two very plush sofas that are currently humping each other under tarps in the corner of the living room that’s blocked off by the dishwasher that can’t be installed until the plumbing is in and by the fireplace, which can’t be installed because there isn’t enough workspace to do so because of the stacked up sofas.

Rob took off two afternoons and Friday last week in order to really book on the kitchen. He lost nearly one of those afternoon and all of that same evening on a child issue and half of Saturday in the city. Life competes and our kitchen loses.

It is just a kitchen, I remind myself when my patience wears thin enough that I am in danger of letting the sanguine veneer I project on the state of the house slip. I certainly don’t want to be one of those wives because the reality is that even living in a complete state of unfinished, my life rocks and rocks again by nearly any comparison that might be applied. But at ten months of total renovation and still counting, I will allow myself this heavy sigh and to express that I am tired of trodding on sub-floor and carting the dishes from the dishwasher and sink in the old kitchen to their new homes in cabinets in the new one. And I want to be able to sit on my sofa.

 

How Do You Know If a Widower Is In Love With You


Love Love Love

Image by Gregory Jordan via Flickr

A good number of Google searches bringing readers to this blog lately have been searching for proof that their widower boyfriend loves them. Why they are searching the Internet for the answer to a question that only their widower can provide, I hesitate to guess though I bet I could.

How do you know if any man loves you?

Cher would tell you it’s in his kiss, but it’s in his actions. Does he act like he loves you?

With men (and women too really, the whole “Venus and Mars” thing is mostly based on stereotypical crap), words will only take a person so far if there is nothing concrete to back them up. Concrete as in action.

What’s the guy doing. Or not doing. That leads you to question his “I love you” in word or deed?

Or are you engaging in the centuries old female pastime of reading between a man’s lines like they were leaves at the bottom of a tea-cup? And if you are doing that – quit it. Now. Step away from the high school cafeteria table where you once giggled and obsessed about boys. It was okay then. You were learning about the whole relationship boy/girl exchange, but as an adult woman, the only thing you are ever going to get from it is a big fat bruised ego.

My advice, and it’s hardly revolutionary, is simply ask.

“Do you love me?”

“Are we an exclusive couple?”

“Where is this relationship going?”

And no, it’s not pushy or stalkerish or demanding to ask some very basic questions of the guy you are in all probability getting naked with on a regular basis*. If it’s not too soon to have regular “sleep over” dates than it is not too soon to ask questions when you feel that love is in the air and he, for reasons unclear, doesn’t seem to be feeling it too. You’re a grown woman and this is your life. Speak up.

But, his wife is dead. He’s grieving.

He’s also involved with you. Having sex with you. Insinuating himself into your life and your affections. Although I have been told – by widowed folk – that sex just happens because of the loneliness and pain of loss. It doesn’t. Sex never accidentally happens. Show me a “sex accident” and I will recant, but until I am offered proof, I will maintain my disbelief.

A widowed man who comes a courting, regardless of where he is in the mythical grief process, is perfectly able to deal with the fallout, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Cut no man (or woman) slack because they’ve been widowed. It’s no different from the divorced guy whose “wife screwed him over” or the never married guy who’s “afraid of commitment because of that girl who dumped him once … a while ago”. It’s bullshit excuses. The ones that people use because they know they’ll work. The stereotypical guy whose been too hurt to open his heart again routine has rewarded many a man with the cake sans having to bake it for himself.

A widower loves you when his actions say so. He will not retreat or play “now you see/hear from me and now you don’t” games. Pictures of his dead wife are not adorning his nightstand and his home does not resemble Miss Havisham‘s ballroom. He doesn’t cower under the weight of disapproval from children, in-laws or friends. And even if he has moments where the past intersects with the present, chances are quite good that he will never let you know it.

You will be his priority, his joy and future. He’ll have told you so in a thousand different ways consistently and happily. And he will have taken steps – in the words of Captain Picard – to “make it so”.

But if you are here because you are still not sure – and you don’t believe me – then ask him how he feels and what’s going on. You owe that to yourself.

*And if you are helping out with his children, practically or actually living with him – you are well past the point of having the right to know for sure.

Dating Under the Influence of Age and Adult Children


ancient roman marriage

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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.

Mid-Life Crisis of the Rich and Famous


Modified version of Image:Arnold Schwarznegger...

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver , the former Mr. and Mrs State of California, announced their separation the other day. News of the split splashed the web with typical “omg! how can a famous couple walk away from a marriage that doesn’t have to be measured in dog years to be an impressive run?”

They have a point. 25 years of marriage and 34 total (they dated 11 years* prior) is considered laudable anymore because in a society where most never make it to the altar at all, it bestows an air of powerful voodoo relationship magic on them that seems to elude the majority.

Maria has a YouTube stream – she was a reporter once and is a writer so its existence can be attributed to more than the usual narcissism that drives people to babble on personal YT channels. A recent entry asks her viewers to share how they deal with transitions. What spurred them? How did you cope? What do you wish you’d known going in? All the angsty good stuff.

Apparently what bothers her most is the end of busyness in her life. She isn’t a reporter anymore. Her kids are grown or nearly so and presumably able to function without her hovering over them. Her husband has left office, which effectively puts her out of a job too. And though he has projects in the offing, she does not.

Some of the news reports speculated that she is resentful. After all, she didn’t want Arnold to run for governor and it derailed her professional and personally when he did. She threw herself into her role of First Lady of Cali but that’s over now too.

Like her marriage.

I’ve been thinking about transitions. Why not? It feels sometimes like I have been swirling down river, bounced through the rapids or languidly floating for a good eight or nine years now. Never really getting to close to the banks and pushing off again when I do.

My personal life has come together in a way I couldn’t have imagined and it pleases me to no end, but that “career” thing I am supposed to want desperately and apparently need in order to be personally fulfilled – according to my feminist sisters – dangles above me like the apples over Tantalus. Unlike him, I don’t reach up. I just lie on the tire tube and marvel at the shadows they cast.

One of the last comments on Maria’s stream reminded her that it’s perfectly okay to just “be”. A yogi, I suspect. Because it is okay to “be”. Be content. Be still. Be aware. Be grateful. Be with yourself. Be with those who matter most.

I wonder if it’s possible for some to just be happy with life as it is? Are we so programmed to search and conquer and begin the process again that we can’t dwell in the space we call “transition” without feeling guilty about it?

Taking a break from Care2 has reminded me that there are other options – neglected ones and those just occurring to me – to explore. Transition at its core is really about exploration. I don’t mind that. Research and planning have always been my strengths. Execution maybe not so much but when it counts, I stack up with the best.

My advice? Be. And be mindful. Don’t worry so much. Take it easy on yourself. Forget about perfection. Don’t fret if you fall short or the goal line shifts from time to time. They say that life is a race, but it isn’t. They say that what we do defines us, but it doesn’t. They say to follow your bliss and you will be successful, but that’s not true if your definition of success is grounded in the material or rooted in competition and comparison.

If you are lucky enough to even be able to ask yourself how to transition, you are in a far better place than 98% of the others on the planet.

* I am highly suspicious of marriage length daters. It speaks to issues and ambiguity.

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.