remarriage of widowed people


The latest post at Abel Keogh’s Running Forward Widower Wednesday talks about pre-nups, wills and adult kids who can’t wrap their minds around the idea that their parents’ “wealth” belongs to their parents and not them.

I ran across this a lot at Ye Olde Widow board. People who were fine with idea of remarriage but adamant that their late spouse’s hard-earned this or that would never, ever, ever benefit in any way, shape or form the next spouse or, goddess in heaven forbid, his/her worthless children. A whole lot of assumption but basically stemming from the odd notion that what your late spouse might have left you in the form of life insurance, marital home or other valuables is somehow still his or hers.

When you die, you don’t take it with you. Not even in spirit. What happens, or is accumulated on earth, stays on earth. Furthermore, it becomes the property of someone else, who is now free to do whatever the hell they want with it. And trust me, they will. I have seldom witnessed someone inherit from a parent or grandparent and not piss the money away like trailer trash with a PowerBall jackpot.

As my late husband lay in the intensive care before being moved to hospice, his mother sent her best friend to query me about life insurance. How much? I was asked. And because I was completely stunned that anyone would ask such a question at such a time, I told her. Absolutely nothing.

It wasn’t until much later – after mother-in-law absconded with money from the memorial that was meant to help cover the expense of it – that I realized the inquiry about life insurance was about calculating her cut.

You would be amazed – or maybe not – by the people who truly believe that inheritance is a given and have their hands out sometimes way in advance of your death.

A sizable proportion of adult children are like this. They see their parents and grandparents as some sort of long-range saving plan. A way to pay off the mortgage, plump up retirement plans or just have a wad of cash to fritter away on vacations and material crap.

Second marriages make these kinds of people – nervous. They have visions of “their” inheritances being used frivolously by step-parents for outrageous things like … eating or paying the property tax and keeping a roof over their elderly heads.

So, the topic today is when you remarry, do you have a financial plan in place to make sure that in the event of your death your new spouse doesn’t end up homeless while your kids vacation in Tahiti?

Yeah, yeah. Their mommy or daddy would have wanted you to put your new spouse at the mercy of your greedy kids because after all, she or he worked themselves to death for the money that was left to you.

Except that they didn’t.

They took out that life insurance or built up the retirement plan to take care of you. You. Not your grown up kids, who you should have been taught well enough to be able to pay their own bills, save for their own retirement and goodies. You.

Money we inherit is no longer anyone’s money but ours.

Yes, we have an obligation to use it for the benefit of our minor children and to see that our very young adult children find a good footing in life, but at some point our kids get old. Really old. Sometimes as old as we were when we were widowed in the first place. They are adults who mostly ignore our advice in favor of what works best for them, and they build their own adult lives with their own spouses and their own kids. And if we did a good job raising them, they really shouldn’t be running to us with their hands out – ever.

But there are emergencies, you cry.

Yes, I would agree, but inheritance doesn’t fall into that category. Inheritance is a form of expectation based upon nothing more than the notion that because you sired or birthed them, they are entitled to some sort of monetary reward triggered by your death.

It’s wonderful when we can leave our kids, or grandkids, a little something, or even a lot of something, but we should shy far away from leading them to expect this from us. Or from giving them the impression that it is their due. It’s not owed to them because they merely exist.

Plenty of perfectly wonderful parents spend every last dime before they die. On themselves even! And sometimes they need that money because they get sick or have other pressing expenses.

Some parents and grandparents even leave their “fortunes” to charity or endowments or to people that aren’t even blood relations!

NOTHING good comes from adult children who’ve been led to believe that the money daddy left you is also theirs. Zero good. Refrain mightily from going there because even if you don’t remarry, it’s going to be a big ugly thorn in your side when you hit a certain age, and they start counting chickens they think you are overspending. You don’t ever want your 50 year old child questioning your need to take a trip or buy a new pair of boots or go out to lunch every Tuesday with your friends because it’s eating up the money you should be saving to leave him/her.

I am not exaggerating. Countless seniors live with harpy adult children who view all things mom/dad as eventually their things.

The best way to avoid tantrums from adult kids if you should decide to remarry is to not have even given your children cause to believe they have the right to question you on the subject of remarriage and to never have intimated that they are somehow entitled to an inheritance.

But if you haven’t done either, there is still hope. You can tell them now.

You should also make sure that you and your future spouse have thoroughly discussed all matters money. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you want your wills to look like in terms of what goes to whom and how you each plan to care for the other in the event of incapacitating illness and death. If there are assets or minor children that need special considerations, discuss and plan for that too.

Communication, as I have said before, is key. KEY.

Don’t be that elderly woman who is living in a house owned by her step-children who are just waiting for her to die so they can sell it.

Conversely, don’t be that old man whose late wife’s jewelry ended up in the hands of his second wife’s daughter-in-law because it wasn’t specified in the will that it should go to his granddaughter.

If it ‘s important then it is important enough to discuss and plan for IN WRITING and preferably with the assistance of a lawyer.

But just in case you can’t let go of the idea that procreation has saddled you with the task of scrimping, saving and leaving something to your grown up kids so they can enjoy a better retirement than you will, there are options like life insurance policies and trusts.

However, if you remarry, your primary concern should be your spouse. Leaving him or her to simply fend for themselves in their advancing years is so cold and harsh that it amazes me that people who would do this even find someone to marry again at all. What self-respecting person signs willingly to be accused of being a gold-digger and ends up on cat food and public assistance so their step-children can one day  indulge themselves on eBay?

Let’s sum up.

Money matters. Children do have the right to heirlooms. Second wives and husbands shouldn’t be at the financial mercy of step-kids when you are gone.

Talk, talk and talk some more about this before remarrying. Don’t include your kids! It’s not their business. Better yet, avoid raising your kids to feel entitled to enrich themselves via your death.

And finally. consult a financial planner or estate planner or lawyer or anyone who can walk you through the realities of what your new spouse will need by way of assets when you die. You might be surprised to find out that what you thought about money and second marriages and death isn’t at all what reality is.


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.


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.


goddess.

Image by neur0tica via Flickr

Some women in relationships with widowers feel that the late wife could only be more perfect if she were perched atop a Gothic cathedral surrounded by a soft ethereal glow, skin glistening as the light catches the tiny sparkling points of light on her iridescent skin while cooling light breezes tousle her hair on its most perfect day.

It’s probably fair to say that the percentage of women on the planet who haven’t felt threatened or marginalized by their partner’s last wife is fairly small. Comparing ourselves – usually unfavorably – is what the female species does and does well, and we are encouraged in this by magazines, movies, television and the self-proclaimed relationship experts. The wife or girlfriend of a widower, however, can feel that a late wife is a rival of unassailable proportions because she is often only portrayed in her Sunday best. Death improves us all, or so it seems.

As I have stated in the past, I would have known that Rob’s late wife, Shelley, was a wonderful person even if I’d never heard a single story about her from him, the older girls, extended family or friends. And it was intimidating for a while. How do you follow wonderful? But, from the beginning, I endeavoured only to be me and not focus on the differences between us that sometimes made me feel like the ugly step-sister. She was her. I am me. For reasons known only to Rob, we both suited him just fine. And that’s where it begins and ends – or should – in any relationship. Worrying about how you do or don’t “stack up” leads to insecurity, anxiety, and misplaced jealousy.

Perhaps the problem is the idea that a man (or woman) can move on but still love a deceased spouse. I’ve heard some poor to bad analogies as to how this can be. There’s the 3 hearts. You. Your spouse. His Late Wife. My issue with this is that hinges on the fact that in our case, it would be four hearts and if three can be a crowd, four is bad porn. There are no extra hearts. There are memories, and everyone has memories of previous love, but the key word is “previous”. You take what you have learned and apply it now and archive the rest and if a person doesn’t or can’t – they aren’t really prime dating real estate.

In talking to Rob, I clarified again for myself a few things about men and how they think. They don’t really care about the guy who came before them. He had his opportunity, and now it’s their turn. They are really not prone to comparing because they feel that if you are with them now, then now is what counts most – which is why it is the rare man who will listen to stories about this or that past relationship without getting annoyed.

And that latter thing is important to note – annoyance – because women are schooled in listening and empathizing. We will listen to a guy go on and on about the woman who came before us because we think that raises us in our man’s estimation of our worth. We are so nice. So understanding. We don’t get annoyed – unless it’s to spout off to girlfriends and rain disdain down on the late wife instead of just telling our men “enough already” – and so a man might get the idea that talking out his last relationship while he is in one with us is perfectly okay.

Grief is different though.

No. Okay, maybe a little. But if your cage is being rattled to the point where insecurity and jealousy are becoming close intimate companions, then does it really matter?

Rob talks about Shelley. She is his reference point in the past. When he uses the term “we” and it’s not he and I, I know it’s Shelley. And so what? She was there. Rob spent all of his adult life before me with her. It’s not an “I” thing for him. And it’s not a big deal. She isn’t part of his past as a personal insult to me or as an obstacle in my relationship with Rob.

Here’s the thing. When you marry a man who’s widowed, you are accepting the fact that you didn’t come first. Yours is not the first proposal, wedding, child. You’re walking on ground that’s been traveled and possibly sleeping in a bed that’s been occupied before you. Deal with it. Because it’s reality and it’s your issue. You can let it eat you, or you can put it in perspective and work on building the life you want.

But there are shrines! Yearly memorial tributes! In-laws who constantly compare me to her! And he does nothing about it!

It’s still your issue. You still have to decide whether or not these things are going to control you or diminish you or even if you can live with them in spite of your Widower’s “awesome potential to some distant day being Mr. Everything”. It’s still your life, and people need your permission to make you feel less than entitled to it.

Which brings me to this point – your sparkly sister-wife isn’t the problem.  She’s not really there. Other people might be using her for purposes of their own and in doing so they make themselves problems, which you can choose to take on or not. And you use her to when you compare yourself, act on jealous impulses or whine like a high school girl because the fairy tale isn’t as Disney as society told you it should be. There’s always a root for an issue to be sure, but she’s dead, so she can’t be it.

If it’s your Widower, you speak up, initiate a conversation and come to an understanding. And just a fyi, doing whatever he wants because he’s played the grief card or you are worried about appearing “strident” or “shrewish” or “bitchy” or whatever other pejorative our culture has for women who won’t stuff their needs and shut up and take it – is not an understanding. Understanding is mutual.

If it’s family. And if you can’t talk to them – he has to.

It’s friends. Same deal.

But it’s not her and she isn’t ever going to be gone. If you are waiting for that day, you’re going to wait forever.

I like Shelley. I am in awe of the fact that her sparkliness lingers on.  She helped Rob raise two of the most fantastic young women I’ve ever known, who I love and for whom want nothing but sunshiny fields with filled unicorns.  Her influence is some of what makes Rob the amazing guy I love and who loves me. Who am I to begrudge her the place that she earned before I got here, and why would I do that unless I wasn’t sure of my own place?

Are you sure of your place? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you want, and do you ask for and expect to get it? You have control over precisely you. You can’t coax, empathize, sympathize, enable or nice girl anyone into being the kind of partner you expect for yourself. And it’s not your job to fix things for him but it is his job to be a 50/50 partner.

Oh, and you don’t get 100% from 50+50+50. Just saying.

Title courtesy of Norah


That’s my daughter’s favorite phrase. Everything is “awkward” from her nearly eight year old perspective.

We shop at the Safeway and like many chains, they have a discount card that lures people in and promotes loyalty by tossing bones here and there in the form of special member promotions and discounts at the gas bar. Rob gave me Shelley’s card to use after we moved in with the assurance that we’d get it replaced later as it had her name on it.

It was a hectic time. Moving from Iowa to Alberta. Getting married. Unpacking and packing and enrolling Dee in school and applying for residency and now it’s nearly three years later and I am still shopping with Shelley’s card at the Safeway.

And I don’t think about it very often. Oh, sometimes when a clerk makes a scrunchy bunny face at the card and my credit card but thinks better of asking why the names don’t match before handing it back. On those occasions I think “oh yeah, the names don’t match” or “whew, dodge that awkward conversation”. Well, not so much “conversation” as painful monologue because there is no conversation after the words “yeah, that’s my husband’s late wife’s card”. Although there probably is quite the conversation after I’ve left.

Today there a woman was being trained on the register by a clerk I am familiar with who smiled her recognition as she bagged the groceries.

“Are you a new club member?” the trainee asked.

“Excuse me?” I replied. Because I forgot about the name thing.

“Your club card has a different name on it.”

And instead of saying oh … nothing … or agreeing or anything else than what I did, I said,

“Oh, that. It’s my husband’s late wife’s card. We just haven’t gotten around to changing it.”

Silence.

She hands the card back and looks at the other employee, the one I sorta know but who probably didn’t know this, and she is looking wide-eyed back.

Awkward.

Very, very awkward.


The wives of polygamists refer to themselves as “sister-wives”. I think this is meant to impose a familial feel to circumstances that could easily dissolve into something competitive and downright ugly were it not for the veneer of a pseudo-relationship that the term implies. Despite my own negative views on the subject of plural marriage, I wonder if the term doesn’t more aptly describe my relationship with Shelley than any other.

Shelley was my husband Rob’s wife. She died of melanoma eight months after my first husband, Will, back in 2006. She would be 47 years old now had she lived. Just a few months older than Rob is, and he never let her forget it. Now he must contend with being older then I am by a couple of years, and I am not sure why I think this, but I’ll bet Shelley is enjoying that particular turn of the table. Read Full Article