Everything You Need To Know If You’re Dating A Widower

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One of the most intriguing, fun, and stimulating aspects of any new relationship is putting together the jigsaw puzzle that has shaped your new partner into who they are today.

But what if the target of your affections has had to negotiate his way along a great arc of grief in the wake of the death of his best-beloved?

How do you measure up against his deceased wife? Is he really ready for new romance in his life?

Sure, the fact that he’s out testing the water on the dating scene is a sign that he feels ready to open his heart to another. But he may not be as ready as he thinks.

It may just be loneliness and the need to fill the huge void in his life that has driven him to start dating again. In reality, he may still be working his way through the stages of the grieving process and be far from ready to enter into any meaningful relationship.

If you have embarked on a relationship with a widower, it’s likely that you have already foreseen that all may not run smoothly on the path to true love.

He has, after all, ridden an emotional rollercoaster, perhaps over a number of years, with an ultimately devastating outcome.

Your chosen guy has been through a profoundly stressful life-changing experience, with inevitable psychological and physical upsets following in its wake. There’s no quick fix for that kind of trauma.

To help you along, so that you may avoid some of the potential pitfalls, let’s take a look at the good and the bad and the things you need to keep in mind when you’re dating a widower.

With these in mind, you’ll be better prepared to handle the inevitable ups and downs that are part and parcel of dating someone who has endured the death of his spouse.

They may also help you to protect yourself from being hurt if your potential Mr Right turns out to be exploring new romance way too soon.

The Positives Of Dating A Widower

If you’re well and truly through with commitment-phobes, then a widower could be just what you’ve been looking for!

They have, after all, said their marriage vows before and committed themselves to a permanent, loving, exclusive relationship.

That relationship was terminated by Fate, not by choice, but they have demonstrated a clear ability to commit.

Don’t be surprised if his wife passed away only a matter of months ago. This is more normal than you might suppose. Most widowers enjoyed their married life. They are often keen to settle down again into another committed relationship and, statistically, often marry again within twelve months or so.

It’s not the time that’s elapsed since the tragic event of his wife’s death that is important here. What is key is how far he has come to terms with losing her and how well he has adjusted emotionally and psychologically to that loss.

How long that takes differs for everyone, but the old adage ‘time heals all wounds’ is very apt. He will get there in the end.

The Potential Problems Of Dating A Widower

With all that in mind, it’s clear that rushing anything when you are dating a widower is unwise. You need to be sure that he has worked through the grieving and healing process and is truly ready to love again.

You may be in a better position to be the judge of this than he is.

Being aware of the potential red flags in such a relationship will help you to look more objectively at your blossoming relationship and maybe protect your own tender heart from harm.

The following warning signs indicate that your widower is still grieving and needs more time to accept and adapt to the loss of his wife before he is able to move on.

Maybe you are prepared to give him that time and space, and to work through the issues with him if he’ll let you. Maybe not.

His late wife looms large in every conversation.

While it’s understandable that he has a need to keep fading memories alive, if his dead wife is his favorite topic, he’s not yet ready to commit to another relationship.

Maybe he manages to bring the subject round to his wife, no matter what the current topic is.

He may want to take you to the same places they visited on vacations. His idea of the perfect date night may be to take you to a restaurant that was a favorite of theirs. Or a piece of music or a film may prompt him to share a memory featuring his late wife.

If this is the case, it could be helpful to say something like, “I know your marriage was good, but talking about your late wife all the time makes me feel you’re still looking back instead of forwards.”

He keeps you a secret from his family.

It’s easy enough to understand why a widower might be reluctant to introduce you to his kids in the early days. They are grieving for the loss of their mother, after all.

When a few generally positive months have passed by and things are headed in the right romantic direction and he still refuses to tell them about you, let alone meet you, that’s a different matter.

Such secrecy screams that he’s not ready to fully open his heart up to another committed relationship.

That’s not to say it’s going to be an easy conversation to have with his grieving children, and it’s only natural that he would want to shield them from the reality of his need to find a new romantic partner.

It needs to be handled with great sensitivity. But he does need to be honest and open enough to do it.

Once you’ve been going out for, say, six months, and you still haven’t met his kids, it’s time to start negotiating with him on this. You can gently insist that the time has come for this big step to be taken.

His continued resistance would indicate that the time isn’t really right for him to be dating again. It’s up to you to judge whether you’re willing to wait for this important introduction and for how long.

His home is a shrine to her memory.

It’s inevitable that there will be evidence of his late wife around the home they shared for so long. Family photos dotted around the place make perfect sense, especially of them both with their children (if they had any).

But if every available surface is covered with photographic memories and every room has become a kind of shrine to his dear departed, then you’re faced with a difficult situation.

Sometimes widowers are unable to face changing furniture or room layouts or décor after losing their wife, preserving precious memories by keeping everything the same as it was when she was alive.

It’s a no-brainer to conclude that such a man is not yet ready to move on emotionally.

Of course, if you’re at the stage of moving in, any suggestions you have for changes to home decoration should be made with sensitivity. You can’t expect to just barge in and make wholesale changes, erasing everything related to his late wife.

But resistance to change in your shared home and refusal to remove excess memorabilia is a definite warning sign of someone stuck firmly in the past, as yet unable to embrace a different future with an alternative life partner.  

He is a lost soul.

Starting a relationship with a man who is still grieving deeply is going to put maximum strain on your empathic nature and kind heart.

But if his heart is still bleeding, he’s not ready to be your rock and your best friend.

What he needs is a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on; hardly the basis for a promising romantic relationship.

Indeed, it’s quite possible that once you’ve served your purpose as a free therapist, he will want to move on to pastures new, in search of a more exciting, romantic partner.

He’ll associate you with the pain he was suffering and his vulnerability, something he won’t want to be reminded of when he’s feeling stronger emotionally.

While it sounds harsh, with self-preservation in mind, a man who is using you to work through his pain is not relationship-ready by a long chalk.

6 Things To Keep In Mind When Dating A Widower

1. His late wife was a saint.

This is inevitable, no matter how well they actually got on during their years together.

You need to accept the fact that your predecessor was a veritable angel. It’s important to respect your new man’s right to idealize his deceased wife.

This may be tricky sometimes and you may have to zip your lip. But always remember that she is not a competitor and you should not regard her as such.

It’s important not to try to diminish her in his eyes in order to make yourself appear superior, no matter how insecure her presence makes you feel.  

Even if you’re sure that the reality of their marriage differed from his nostalgic recollections, don’t compare yourself and your current relationship negatively with the hallowed former one.

You may be tempted to burst his unrealistic bubble, but that will, unsurprisingly, do you no favors.

Instead, be open and honest about how the issues that arise from his previous sainted marriage make you feel.

Of course, this must be done with sensitivity, without trampling on the fond nostalgia which he is fully entitled to feel.

2. Never try to imitate his late wife.

When his late wife is held up as such a shining example in his sentimental eyes, you may feel the need to up your game and emulate her. Just don’t.

Any attempt to resemble his lost lover or to replicate aspects of their relationship is doomed to failure.

Similarly, of course, should he encourage you to do either of those things himself, that is an absolute no-no, taking you both down an unhealthy slippery slope.

3. He will feel blue from time to time.

This is another inevitability. Put yourself in his shoes and consider how you might feel had you suffered a similar loss as birthdays and anniversaries come around.

Holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving are also bound to be laden with memories shared with his late wife.

At these times, emotions are likely to run high, so the best thing you can do is allow him to grieve. Maybe he’ll need space, maybe he’ll need to lean on you – it’s up to you to ask what will help him most.

The fact that he still needs to grieve does not mean he loves you less. It’s just that he’s lost a large part of his former life and such a deep wound takes time to heal.

And there will always be the scars, never more visible than at these evocative times. 

4. Keep communication channels open.

In any relationship, but especially when you’re sharing your life with a widower, it’s vital to communicate as opposed to ruminate.

And it’s important to remember communication isn’t just a one-way street. The emotional battering your man has suffered means that you’ll need to be a patient and willing listener, but you also need to share your feelings too.

The more openly and honestly you can both do this, the stronger your relationship will become.

5. Don’t be in a rush.

The old song has it that ‘you can’t hurry love’ and this is never truer than when you’re dating someone who is dealing with the loss of a spouse.

Each individual handles grief in their own way, and there’s no standard time limit for the grieving process.

Allow your partner time and space to grieve and to be truly ready to open his heart and mind to your new relationship.

That said, always be aware of the warning signs listed above, and pay heed to them to protect yourself from hurt if your man is still a long way from being relationship-ready.

6. Cut him some slack.

Remember, he’s new to this dating game and had never imagined he’d be treading this potentially tricky path again.

You may be fully aware of 21st century dating protocols. Your widower, on the other hand, will have been in an exclusive relationship for years, decades even.

He may not play the game according to contemporary rules, but don’t judge him for that. Make allowances for his shortcomings as a modern day Romeo and give him a chance.

Still not sure what to do about a specific element of dating a widower? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Working as a freelance copywriter, Juliana is following a path well-trodden by her family, who seem to have 'wordsmithing' in their DNA. She'll turn her quill to anything from lifestyle and wellness articles to blog posts and SEO articles. All this is underpinned by a lifetime of travel, cultural exchange and her love of the richly expressive medium of the English language.