I recently found myself pulled into a discussion that focused on the challenges faced by women who become romantically involved with or marry widowers. You can read it in its raw glory here.

My widow friends on Facebook were extremely supportive, in private and in public, and praised my writing and declared their support for my point of view. Regular readers of the blog in question generally supported the blog author and each other, but many were also kind and supportive to me, even though many were not.

In and of itself, it’s not really a big deal. We all take our lumps out here on the interwebs, and if we don’t want to risk a run-in with someone who thinks we’re full of shit, it’s easy enough to avoid.

But after my last post on that blog, I was curious: what else were people saying about widowERs (I noted the gender-specificity right away) and their relationships? What I found frankly blew my mind.

I have lived a fairly sheltered life as a widower in cyberspace. Until a few months ago, the only way you could read any of my words on the subject was if we were friends on Facebook, and the only way that would happen is if I either knew you already (cyber-friends included—I hate the expression IRL—“in real life”) or if we had a number of widow-friends in common. The widow and widower blogs I read are almost all written by people I know through Facebook. At one point (I wrote about it here), I added lots and lots of widow friends, but after seeing some scary stuff in my stream, I pulled back, unfriending the hard-core Republicans who thought Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter were just ducky.

But it turns out, there’s a whole ‘nother world out there, and the blog post I stumbled into commenting on was just the tip of the iceberg.

(Hold on to your hats, take a Dramamine or whatever—this is pretty strong stuff. Griever discretion is advised.)

This is a world that revolves around women who love widowers. In this world the WOW (Wife of Widower) or GOW (Girlfriend of Widower) are often shocked, hurt and dismayed to find themselves on a complex and confusing journey. (Fortunately, they will find many books, blogs and forums run by their “sisters”—and at least one “brother”—to help them understand and deal with the situation in which they find themselves.)

In this world, there are widowers and (got that Dramamine?) former widowers. (No, I’m not making this up.) Women who date widowers who are still grieving their late wives (LWs) do so at their own peril. A widower can only be truly available as a potential partner once they have successfully grieved. In this world, WOWs are tormented by the few remaining pictures of the LW. (He of course got rid of most of them early on or even before the relationship with the GOW/WOW started.)

We tire of his grief triggers, thinking. “He should be over this already!!!”

In this world, women agonize over questions like, “Will I ever be his #1?” and the widower is scolded that he should never think he is ready for a romantic relationship until he is “done” grieving, truly “moved on” and has “let go of his past and his LW and made her (the GOW) his life’s priority.”

Dramamine or not, if you’re still with me, I expect you’re needing one of these right about now:

air sickness bag

(Photo by Parvati: http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxine/)

The burden of a GOW or WOW is a heavy one. After all,

Even the most understanding woman can start to run out of tolerance when she feels she is sharing her man with another woman – even if she is not physically there.

(I totally get what they mean. It’s just like when my 7 year old daughter tells me not to sit on her invisible friend. HATE that!)

It’s a grim life, where “he hangs onto her memory” and even when he has put her photos away, he may have the insensitivity to put them in, of all places, a closet, “five feet from our bed!”

Lord knows, “it’s not an easy journey,” and “The woman who dates a widower… is a strong woman indeed.” If only the widower could stop “living in the past” and “completely heal.” THAT would fix EVERYTHING. Really.

But there is hope, dear WOWs and GOWs! For example, check out this handy list of “five things” to help you figure out whether or not your favorite widower is “ready to date:” (Oh, and the title of the post—“Widowers: They’re Still Men!”—I guess could count as a sixth. I mean, who knew?)

  1. Men can’t be forced into loving someone [No shit, really? Learn something every day!]
  2. Men are, by nature, pursuers [So, if my new GF’s chasing me around the bedroom, does that mean she’s really a man? Damn!]
  3. Men can only actively love one person at a time [But the upper limit of how many we can INactively love at one time has yet to be established, thank GOD!]
  4. Men’s actions speak louder than their words [That’s true, except for guys who know our way around a concert PA system. We can make our words REALLY loud.]
  5. Men don’t equate sex with commitment [But pick up after us and we’re yours for LIFE. Srlsy.]

There’s also hope for all of us poor, hapless Ws, if we are willing to see the error of our ways, give up our past and put our new wife or girlfriend “first” in our hearts, minds and home decorating decisions. In fact, there’s even a test we can take, to see if we’ve got what it takes. In only 26 questions, we can add up the points and see if we’re “ready to date.” (Keep in mind every question is worth at least one point and many are worth several points per “item”—photo left in your house, things you don’t use “regularly” that belonged to your LW, etc.):

0 points: Yes, you have moved on. Feel free to date and start a relationship.
1-2 points : You may have some things to take care of, but you may date.
3-10 points: The points are meaningless. You just took this stupid test to PROVE to others that you had moved on, but knowing full well you haven’t.
11-49 points: Give it a rest. Mourn your LW and heal before dating. Do not inflict your grieving self on some poor woman expecting her to be your grief counselor. It isn’t romantic–it is selfish.
50-200 points: Get real. You should be wearing a black arm band.
***Over 200 points: You shouldn’t even be thinking about dating! Was the funeral last week? If you are such a pig that you are going to date this soon, try to have a little respect for the poor dead woman that put up with you and all the women out there that have, so far, had the good luck to avoid you.

Pretty harsh, I know, pigs—er, uh, guys—but hey, don’t worry. If you “want regular sex but don’t want” (or have too many “points” to “even think about” entering) “a committed relationship,” you can always “hire a prostitute.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need a bigger barf bag.



Yeah, OK, so that was the easy part. They make it easy. Making fun of stupid, ignorant, simplistic ideas and the people who mindlessly spout them is often easy. (Think John Stewart and the GOP.) The scary thing is, just like the Tea Party, these people aren’t joking. They’re dead serious. (Widow(er) humor. Ha ha.)

I tried talking to them, I really did. Some of them were kind; they “appreciated” my “perspective.” But even when I told them of my experience, and those of my widow and widower friends, it didn’t seem to change their world view. And when I questioned their presumptions, things got nasty. Not unlike the debates I get into on political blogs, I suppose. Turns out that trying to convince someone that a widower isn’t to blame for everything is not that different from trying to convince someone that government isn’t to blame for everything. God, guts, guns, gay-bashing and “getting over” grief—now we know what really made America great!

There’s honestly so much wrong with what I’ve read in this “world” I don’t even know where to start. Grief is not a disease one can or needs to “recover” from. It’s not a journey with a destination or a step-by-step process that’s “complete” when all the boxes have been filled in. It’s not something we succeed or fail at. Our late spouses (children, parents, siblings, friends, lovers, pets, whatever) are not something “in the past” that we need to “move beyond.” Our grief for them is not something that those who love us should need to “tolerate,” only so long as we don’t do it “too much” or “too long.” Our love for them is not something that prevents us from loving others or relegates a new love to an inferior status.

I’m fully aware that loving a widower or widow has its challenges, just as being a widow or widower in a new relationship or marriage does. (My LW and I gave each other plenty of challenges, just the way we were!) I don’t think I put her or our marriage on a pedestal. (But if I did I’d want anyone who noticed—significant other or otherwise—to set me straight!) It wasn’t perfect and neither were we. Many of my dear widow friends have remarried, but still grieve and identify themselves as widows. I would really appreciate your perspectives on this. You in many ways have been role models for me. You have made new lives with new spouses, yet retain strong connections with other widows and your own widowhood, and you allow yourselves to feel feelings of grief openly and honestly. THAT’S the kind of widow(er) I want to be. That’s the kind of widowed father I want to be for my kids. But that kind of widow(er) doesn’t seem to exist is this other world. It makes me sad, angry and frustrated that I can’t seem to help them see it.

The best words for what’s in my heart aren’t even mine, but those of a beautiful widow friend of mine, Simone, who herself came under fire for coming to my aid in the blogosphere:

When you marry someone you marry all of them. You marry their past, and their future. You marry their kids, their triumphs, their mistakes, their times of joy, their times of grief, their extended family, sickness, health, better, or worse. You negotiate these things, and if you’re not up to the task maybe it has something to do with you, as much as it has something to do with your widowed partner.

39 Responses to “Grief is Not a Disease”

  1. WAHOO, WOOT WOOT, YEAHHHHH.

    Ok, I’ll stop. But seriously, this, I love. It’s not a disease. It’s not something we get over. Not something we move forward from. It’s something that gets in our blood, and every now and then “acts up” – sometimes more than others.

    THANK YOU for writing this!

  2. eatingganesh says:

    “… to convince someone that a widower isn’t to blame for everything …”

    I recognize a lot of the quotes you have pulled and the sources they come from. I’ve been dating a widower for some time now and I found those sites you disparage and the books you put down to be very helpful. NOT ONE of the sources you lifted though BLAMES the widower for the problems in a GOW/WOW relationship. In fact, they encourage the women to explore their feelings and express them to their widower so that their relationship can be of one of mutual support and consideration. Yes, it bothers some GOW/WOWs that there are pictures of the late wife around. Yes, sometimes widowers have a hard time letting go (not that there is anything wrong with that). But just as often, the girlfriends/wives have valid concerns. Sometimes those concerns stem from our own insecurities … some feel that they are in a relationship where they are competing with a dead woman for the affection and attention of the man they love. In those cases, the support groups and books help us to examine ourselves and deal with these issues so we can be better girlfriends/wives to our partners. Sometimes those concerns are very real — for example the widower who after a decade still has not moved a single picture or article of clothing in his home OR the man who runs and hides at every anniversary, leaving the woman they supposedly love incommunicado for weeks at a time. In those cases, the support groups help us examine the issue, come to terms with it, and determine if action (in the form of communication) needs to be taken. Sometimes the issue is our own (fear of abandonment and what not) and we are counseled to examine ourselves; sometimes to issue is his, and we counseled to examine the relationship and speak candidly about our feelings to him. Either way, I fail to see how this is as insidious as you make it out to be. We are simply women trying to understand and love a man who have suffered a grave loss.

    I am a member of a site run by a grief counselor and psychologist. Without her help, I would not be nearly as wise nor as sensitive as I am to my boyfriend. While you may not recognize it, widowers have specific and unique issues that most women have never encountered in a relationship before. These uncommon circumstances bring out a good deal of situational angst in a woman who finds herself in the unfamiliar emotional territory of grief. If getting help and support in a genuine endeavor to understand a widower’s feelings is somehow WRONG to you (as you imply), then I feel sorry for you.

    • Jay says:

      First, I want to thank you so much for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. I welcome open dialog and the free exchange of ideas—if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this.

      That said, I do have to say I feel somewhat at a disadvantage, when it comes to the “open” part. My pals at Google tell me I’ve had a huge spike in traffic on my blog today, almost all of it from this site, titled, “Julie Donner Andersen The Official WOW/GOW Message Board.” But since the threads on that site require membership, they are not viewable by me. I can only assume that my post has been the topic of conversation on this board, but since that conversation isn’t public, I don’t know what’s been said about me or my post. The thread that inspired my post, on Able Keogh’s blog, was public, as is this post. While you are certainly free to say anything you want about me or my writing, publicly or privately, I must admit to a certain curiosity about what’s being said behind your firewall—are you “the appointed representative,” or can I expect others to show their face(s)?

      Second, I made no effort to conceal any sources—I linked to all of them! And, as with all things, your mileage may vary. If you find these sites, authors and groups to be helpful to you in your life, that’s great.

      However, while we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts. You said:

      NOT ONE of the sources you lifted though BLAMES the widower for the problems in a GOW/WOW relationship.

      That’s funny, because I found three, without breaking a sweat:

      According to this site, if I wear my wedding ring (even on a chain or on a finger other than my left ring finger) and have ONE photo of my late wife ANYWHERE in my house, I should “Give it a rest. Mourn your LW and heal before dating. Do not inflict your grieving self on some poor woman expecting her to be your grief counselor. It isn’t romantic–it is selfish.” That’s fine, but please, tell us how you really feel!

      Able says, “The widower may think he’s moving on just fine but not realize his behavior says otherwise. Before you decide to share your life with a widower make sure he is taking little steps in the right direction.” By all means. “Make sure.” Is there a blood test for that?

      According to Ms. Andersen herself, women have asked her “ ‘But how in the world can a man be so unaware of – and so blind to – such insensitivity?’ Most men wouldn’t be, but Ws are exceptions.” Exceptionally blind to our own insensitivity, it seems.

      You also said:

      I fail to see how this is as insidious as you make it out to be. We are simply women trying to understand and love a man who have suffered a grave loss.

      Understand? Great. I think I can safely speak for most widows and widowers I know in saying that WE want to understand both ourselves and our potential partners, too. In fact, in my experience, we are some of the most introspective and self-aware folks you might happen to meet.

      But what really rubs me (and a lot of us) the wrong way, is not the attempts to “understand” us, but what feels like a very strong effort to proscribe—to TELL us, what we “need” to do, and how fast, how much, etc. And that if we don’t agree with the author’s notion of what is “enough” or “the right direction,” then we are selfish boors who have no business getting involved with anyone. “Get the to a monastery!” would have been shouted to the widowed Hamlet if he were not deemed to have sufficiently “moved on.”

      While you may not recognize it, widowers have specific and unique issues that most women have never encountered in a relationship before.

      What I “recognize” is the tendency to scapegoat, to suggest “one size fits all” assessments and solutions, and to single out widowER status as if someone were an ex-felon—someone to watch extra closely, as they are more likely than “normal” people (whatever the bleep THAT’S supposed to be) to do bad things to those who are “brave” enough to love them.

      And that’s the thing, I guess. It’s patronizing. “Oh, the poor, only semi-functioning widower. We feel sorry for him, we try to understand him, but we need to be strong and not put up with any of his s**t.” Barf. I don’t need your pity, and I sure don’t think I need to be “understood” any more than anyone else. (Don’t we all? Seriously!) I was in 8+ years of couples and individual therapy. When it comes to knowing my own s**t, I sure as heck ain’t anywhere close to “done,” but I expect I could more than hold my own in the self-awareness department with some of these poor, confused GOW/WOWs who just can’t figure out why their “man” won’t/can’t/doesn’t “move on.”

      What you describe as “a genuine endeavor to understand a widower’s feelings” comes across to me and a lot of others as an effort to tell people how to grieve, how long they should take, and so on. And, frankly, most widows and widowers get more than enough of that already.

      I have no illusions about being an “easy” person to be partnered with—my late wife made sure of that! But I also know that I have a lot to offer, and I don’t feel the need to hide, apologize for, or sweep aside my 19 year marriage, or my kids, or anything else. I’m me, the whole package—widower, dad, crackpot, lots of stuff. I’m not twisting anyone’s arm to be in a relationship with me. If I act badly, I’m not looking for any special dispensation. I grieve in the way and time that feels right for me. At the same time, my relationship partner is going to be and do and feel all kinds of things—if I don’t like any of that, I hope that we can try and work it out through communication and understanding. But I also hope I don’t feel the need to focus all my attention on the fact that she’s divorced, or widowed, or Irish, or anything else.

      Then again, my father was born in New Jersey, and as anyone can tell you, THAT explains a LOT.

  3. Kim Go says:

    Speak your truth.

    I had absolutely no idea that this type of conversation was transpiring. I thought I hit a time warp.

    “God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites, so that you will have two wings to fly, not one.” – Rumi

  4. TigereyesSal says:

    Depending on my audience, and what connection I am trying to build, I might say, “I was widowed once. It was difficult. It’s a very lonely, debilitating process.” If I am talking to someone who is widowed, and not remarried, I might leave it there, especially if they are still very raw.

    If my “audience” is some distance out, I might add, “After a few months, I met a single dad, and we started a relationship. Life is good.”

    My LH is a part of the fabric of my life and my children’s lives, and so is my current husband, as are his children. There is no competition. We are all part of this family. Most likely, at some level, so are we all.

    Those of us who are parents to more than one child know that the addition of a subsequent child neither eliminates nor diminishes our love for the first child. The heart has a funny way of expanding as we love more people. There is room in my heart for all sorts of people- pretty much every one I have ever loved has a spot in there. I don’t need to dispose of people in order to make room for another love- I just open my heart a little more.

    Grief comes and goes, love is pretty constant. Admittedly, before I was widowed, to was harder to live that way. I often chose to hang onto to petty hurts and slights and jealousies. One of the gifts I learned from widowhood is to be grateful for the positives, and let the negatives go, as much as I truly can. Mostly, I do a pretty good job of that. I wish I could help others learn that without them having to go through the trauma of grief.

    Peace and Love…

  5. Trish says:

    Hello Jay,

    Tis rare I make a negative comment on websites but I am afraid your apparent ignorance on the following is breathtaking..
    To a lady referring to herself as Ganesh, you reply

    “What you describe as “a genuine endeavor to understand a widower’s feelings” comes across to me and a lot of others as an effort to tell people how to grieve, how long they should take, and so on. And, frankly, most widows and widowers get more than enough of that already.

    Gosh, there is a well balanced man..a chip on both shoulders..!!
    How little you appear to have researched your subject Jay…If you had done your homework properly, you would have known that “Ganeshs” words were spot on..the postive impact a girlfriend or partner of a widower can have on a widower as a direct result of her talking, learning and doing her level best to understand his feelings and acknowledge them,can make all the difference to him (the widower) moving away from sadness and learning to focus on the joys his future could bring..We love our widowers, we respect them, we give them space and time, we get it, we fall in love with the man, not the fact that he has lost a spouse ..Please do not insult us or our emotional intelligence

    I note that you have drawn attention to 2 “experts” in this field, a gentleman called Abel Keogh and a lady,Julie Anderson.. As a long standing partner of a widower I have sought the support of both in the last 3 years.Initially I found Abel. In your defence you are right that Abel Keogh does furnish his readers with garbage as you describe ” he told me in early 2009 to dump my widower boyfriend because he still had photos of his late wife on his laptop”, on the other hand Mrs Anderson was wholly understanding of my widower, respecting and educating me that no time line at all be put on the widower to make changes he was not comfortable making.I could go on and on giving you examples of advice given by the lady Julie that I hope would make you rethink and counteract your statement..buy her book “past perfect, present tense”, it is brilliant and may help you… I have saved myself hundreds of British Pounds in relationship counselling as a result of having read her book along with her blogs..Make no mistake Jay, Julie Donner Anderson whether she is discussing your post or not (and good for her if she is) .. is on the side of the widower and kicks her members (yes I am one of the lucky ones and a member of her site) in to touch if, in the rare event that she feels the ws are getting an unfair press or pressure from their partners…so as I said, best you do your homework! and hey do yourself a favour don’t be quoting Abel Keogh, have you checked out his Mickey Mouse site..its awful..the content is even worse so quoting him in a supportive manner is probably not complimenting your image!

    Finally I note your paragraph above as follows…
    “Oh, the poor, only semi-functioning widower. We feel sorry for him, we try to understand him, but we need to be strong and not put up with any of his s**t.” Barf. I don’t need your pity, and I sure don’t think I need to be “understood” any more than anyone else. (Don’t we all? Seriously!) I was in 8+ years of couples and individual therapy. When it comes to knowing my own s**t, I sure as heck ain’t anywhere close to “done,” but I expect I could more than hold my own in the self-awareness department with some of these poor, confused GOW/WOWs who just can’t figure out why their “man” won’t/can’t/doesn’t “move on.”

    If I may be forgiven, the above paragraph is written by an angry man, 8 years of therapy or not, so may I politely suggest you take a step back,re educate yourself, start all over again and ask for a refund..and accept that sometimes, just sometimes, our men/ws, like you, experience frustration through latent grief, which manifests itself as self absorbed, single mindedness.and that is not always easy to manage..
    Wishing you well on your journey
    Trish

    • Jay says:

      Hi Trish,

      Thanks for writing. I am at least glad that I can inspire so much passion!

      Speaking of breathtaking, as you did, few things have been that for me as much as being told that I am “ignorant” on the subject of widowers and grieving.

      For someone who claims to love and respect “our widowers,” it is almost as breathtaking to hear you accuse me of having “a chip on both shoulders” because I assert that most widows and widowers have had more than their fill of people telling them how to grieve. How about you research THAT subject and tell me what you find? The (mostly) widow and widower blogs in my blog roll would make an excellent starting point. That is, of course, assuming you are interested in what widows and widows themselves have to say on the subject. Your next comment makes me wonder if you do.

      You fault ability to do my “homework properly,” but you then state, “the postive [sic] impact a girlfriend or partner… can make all the difference to him (the widower) moving away from sadness and learning to focus on the joys his future could bring.” If you had done any homework yourself in what we know about grief and grieving, you would know that (a) Grief and sadness are not the same thing, (b) “Moving away from sadness” (especially when done at the request of or to please another or to prevent the end of a romantic relationship) is simply denial, and denial is simply not a successful way to effect change, and (c) “learning to focus on the joys his future could bring” is in fact exactly the kind of prospective “this is how you should grieve/live your life” that not only supports the impression I have of the GOW/WOW community, but also flies in the face of client-directed counseling, coaching and psychotherapy. (In other words, I get to decide how I define “joy”—or even if “joy” describes my personal growth objective. Not my partner, my therapist, my parent, my mentor or anyone else. And unless I can find in myself the motivation to make a particular change, a motivation that does not depend on encouraging or preventing some external event or behavior, my effort to change is probably doomed to failure. See any 12-step program if you wonder about that one.)

      But, somehow, I am the one insulting your “emotional intelligence.” Really.

      You are welcome to your negative opinion of Mr. Keogh, but he remains quite popular in the GOW/WOW world. As far as Julie Anderson is concerned, the pitch for her book states, “The author also empathetically describes the heart of a widower…” I’m sorry, but the widows and widowers I know are a pretty chatty bunch, and given the hundreds of widow and widower blogs out there, plus the dozens of books they’ve written, public speaking engagements, etc., I frankly think we are quite capable of “describing” our own hearts. Think about it this way: my late wife died of metastatic breast cancer, and so I got a very, very close look at her experience. But I would never in a million years presume to state that I could “describe the heart of a cancer sufferer.” Yuck! I want to go shower for just having typed that!

      Finally, you suggest that I am “an angry man, 8 years of therapy or not.” Funny, I wasn’t aware that I should expect to never be angry after 8 years of therapy, but no matter.

      Trish, you’re right. I am angry. I am angry that my wife died of cancer at the age of 50. I’m angry that we have to fight an uphill battle in this country (and, increasingly it seems, in yours) on behalf of the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the young, the old, the brown, the female and even our Earth itself.

      But the anger you are (correctly) reading in my words here is not about any of that. In these words, I am expressing my anger at those who would presume to tell me what is in my heart, how I should feel, what I should do so that I can feel what they think I should feel, and who otherwise want to treat me and every other person who has experienced great loss as a problem to be fixed, a disease to be treated, a past to be “gotten over,” a sinner to be saved.

      I am not ashamed of that anger. It comes from being a survivor. It comes from living, because I didn’t die. From trusting my gut. From knowing I’m certainly not perfect, that I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I will make plenty more, but that they are my mistakes, and no one else’s. From having the self-esteem (yes, thank you, therapy) to know that I need not fear the consequences of saying, “No. I will not twist myself into a pretzel for you.” That line comes from a song written by my late wife, which is appropriate because her passion for leading an authentic, honest and self-aware life is something I will always aspire to. I’d like to think she would be proud of me. But what really matters is whether, on most days, I can honestly say I feel proud of myself. And in that regard, I think I’m doing OK.

  6. Linette says:

    Hey Jay! I am a remarried widow. It should come as no surprise to us that those who have not been through it really don’t get it. I am sure they mean well, but I too get irritated when people try to tell me how to grieve.

    Ironically, the person in my life who really DOES get it is my husband! I do not know if he is just an exception to the rule, but he understands my continuing relationship with my late husband. As the saying goes, death ends a life, not a relationship. Granted, the relationship is pretty one-sided right now, but my late husband is intertwined into who I am now. You really can’t tease out the bits that are “me” alone. Just like the weft and weave of a fabric, if you start pulling out threads, it completely unravels.

    My James never feels threatened by the grief that rears its ugly head, even now, over four years later. He does not feel threatened by the tokens I hold onto. God forbid, *gasp* I keep my late husband’s wallet, with his ID, and his passport in my bedside table. Inches from our marital bed! When I feel sad about losing Tim, James holds me close and comforts me. He understands that my heart has more than enough room for both of them, and that Tim will always be a part of my life.

    I am happy with my new husband beyond my wildest dreams. I love James every bit as much as I loved–and continue to love–my first love. As a wise widow friend once wrote, I found my soulmate for who I once was, and now I have found my soulmate for who I have become.

  7. Andrea Renee says:

    I’ve said that after Matt’s death, nothing should surprise me, but every once in a while in this 2 and 1/2 years so far, I’m a little taken back by something. This is one of those somethings…. These people have NO business getting involved with a widower or widow if they think that they can be “cured” of their grief. Unfortunately, nothing cures it, but eventually, they’ll learn how to make more room in their heart to let someone in, and hopefully it’s someone who has a bit more understanding than these poor, ignorant souls. I LOVE your sense of humor in all this, Jay – and GO SIMONE! (Haven’t even read all the nitty gritty details -I do that when I’ve got a bit more time, and I’ll make sure to have popcorn in hand!) xoxo

  8. Trish says:

    Hi all,

    Firstly I would like to say to all those widowers and widows reading this blog, that you have my upmost respect. What a painful, sad, confusing journey you are on or have been on,I cannot begin to imagine how I would walk in your shoes should the man I love die, leaving me with just memories
    Back to the heated discussion LOL!!

    Sorry I am a little confused…I completely understand that it is almost impossible for one to empathise with a widower or widow unless they have walked in their shoes…and please do not assume that gows/wows havent! In any event, could it therefore be fair to say that it is also impossible for a widower to empathise with a wife or partner of a widower when he too has not worn those particular boots or indeed had any partner in his life since the loss of his wife,to gain some kind of perspective?
    I am a cancer patient.Unless you have had cancer you wouldnt understand how that feels, perhaps your sweetheart lost his or her life to the disgusting disease, leaving you very well informed (and heartbroken) but naturally still unable to fully understand what it really feels like. the same applies to relationships with widowers, how would you know?

    Secondly, I have never suggested to the reader that I was under the misconception that grief was a disease or worse, had a cure? Furthermore I would like to contribute by saying that in my experience and based on what I have witnessed first hand,I do consider grief can manifest itself as sadness..Sadness. guilt, helplessness, confusion and yes anger too..

    I am afraid I do not agree with your view Jay and think in terms of girlfriends and partners it is ill informed and has no basis of fact. How could it have, you are not a woman in love with or in a relationship with a widower nor have you been in a relationship since becoming a widower, so whilst you of course are entitled to a view, an ill informed one is unhelpful.
    “the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves”

    I shan’t post again as I have said that which I needed to be say.

    Wishing you all a happy heart x

  9. Beth says:

    Haha, no….I had a rather lengthy post drafted and then when I typed in the “captcha” code, it re-directed me and I lost the entire thing. Dang! Just wanted to see if I could post or not….

  10. NYCGirl says:

    I am a woman in her late 20s who has been dating a young widower for over a year now. I agree with you that no one should tell a widowed person how to grieve, or to “get over it,” or “move on.” Like I told my boyfriend, I would understand if a widowed person cries every single day for the rest of his or her life because s/he misses their late spouse. On the other hand, society should not judge if a widowed person meets someone wonderful 2 months after the late spouse passed away and decides to enter into a relationship and falls in love with that person.

    I think everyone is too quick to judge and stereotype, but what people don’t realize is that grief, while a word universally shared, is, like every other strong emotion, a unique journey for every person (for instance, falling in love is a different journey depending on who you are). For everyone who has lost someone, they should be allowed to work out whatever they need to work out in peace, without any judgments from anyone, and they should take however long they need to take.

    However, once a widowed person decides to begin dating again and brings in another person into his or her life, then this widowed person as well as the new significant other must, at some point, come to the realization that there will be challenges in this unique relationship that would not have existed in other relationships. My boyfriend and I, for instance, have never been in a relationship as/with a widowed person before, therefore, we were like the “blind guiding the blind.” To give a very simple example, Christmas came around this past year and he was sad, which is completely understandable; however, this particular sadness would not have existed had he not been a widower and had I not been dating a widower. Obviously, the sadness affected him and me. This is not to say that I wish I wasn’t in a relationship with him or that I wished him to have gotten over it already, but this is only to say that the sadness had an effect on me and on him. When we love someone, whatever they feel and how they manifest those feelings affect us and I think it would be a very rare person who say that their partner’s feeling and actions don’t affect them.

    Just as grief and its manifestations and length are different for every widowed person, so, too, are the feelings of a person who is married to or in a relationship with a widowed person. Everyone is different and everyone has a different level of comfort that they are willing to compromise. Just as no one should tell a widowed person how to or how long to grieve, no one should tell the significant other of a widowed person that she or he is crazy for his or her feelings about the unique challenges of dating a widower.

    I agree with you, Jay, that the point system you have set forth above from some web site is odd. However, I am also a firm believer that everyone must come to terms with their past, whatever that past may be and they must not let their past interfere negatively with their presence and future. Personally, for me, I would never date anyone who doesn’t acknowledge our relationship, i.e. a non-widowed person who is still hung up on his old girlfriend or a widower who holds himself out to be as such and refuses to recognize my role in his life. Maybe others will disagree with me and they are entitled to as this is only my comfort level in a relationship and the only person who should understand and compromise with in terms of my comfort level is my boyfriend.

    I am also a firm believer that a part of coming to terms with the past means letting go of physical possessions associated with the past. There are 3 things that I would never be comfortable with if my boyfriend were still doing it: 1) if he wears his wedding bad on his finger or in a necklace around his neck; 2) if there are pictures of the late spouse everywhere, especially in the bedroom where I can see them when we make love (obviously there are exceptions if there are children involved); and 3) if clothes of the late spouse is still hanging all over the place. Now, I am not saying that I want the living room table the late wife picked out or the magnets on the refrigerators belonging to her to be thrown away. However, I do believe that those 3 things I have listed above, if they were present in my relationship with my boyfriend (and luckily they aren’t), would hurt me. I am unique, he is unique and these are our compromises. I never made him take down pictures or put away things, but he did them himself when he was comfortable. However, if he had not done those things, I know I would not be in this relationship with him today, but that’s, again, just my comfort level.

    His late wife was a part of his past. Her memories should be cherished and I am not telling him to stop loving her nor do I expect him to. I understand that she played a role into making him into the person I fell in love with today and I am grateful to her for it. However, I am a part of his present and possibly his future (if he plays his cards right) and my feelings and what I am comfortable with should be taken into account (just like I should take his grief into account and understand that there may be times when he may feel sadness) and if he is unable or unwilling to do so, then that goes a long way to tell me the kind of person he is, regardless of whether or not he is a widower.

  11. Kim Go says:

    I FINALLY figured out what bothers me about this, it took me a long time to identify the source of discomfort.

    It seems as if these people are flattening their understanding of their challenges to one working assumption – their partner’s un…resolved grief.

    While there may be an aspect of unresolved grief present (who is to say – it is their life that they are self-reporting) it seems to me that the larger view is really that of complex blended lives.

    These are more mature people who have a more complicated existence, a history, a strong source from which they come from, with strong commitments. They are no longer in their 20’s, they have a strong history quite apart from one another and they are struggling to knit those separate existences into a coherent narrative.

    It feels as if these women are expecting these men to drop all sense of their personal history – “leave and cleave” like they are giddy 20 year olds.

    I had my own experience with this as being in a union of divorced persons in mid-life. Both Brian and I had strong commitments from our past that we brought into our present union, Brian in particular with a complicated relationship to his three children that he was incredibly in love with.

    There were moments that I felt insecure about our commitment level to one another, but as time passed I came to see that the relationship was not well served by being threatened by any competing commitments but looking to flow with the demands and stay steadily fixed on one foundation – that we loved one another.

    That took us through many vexing moments… none of the moments that these women describe are any more demanding than anything I faced as a remarried person. Only, I did not have a faux opponent of “unresolved grief” to blame. It just was complex. Period.

    I think the deal is, if you blame your fears on the unresolved grief of your partner, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Your fears are your fears. It is better to own them. Another person in your shoes might not feel afraid. They may be grateful.

  12. NYCGirl says:

    It’s really easy for us to make snap judgments when we haven’t walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. Just like no one can make generalizations and tell a widowed person what to do or how to grieve or how long to grieve, no one should invalidate the feelings of the partner of a widowed person. Feelings are feelings, there are no RIGHT OR WRONG feelings and whatever feelings one partner has in a relationship should be discussed and addressed with the other partner. That’s how a relationship works successfully! Period. Outsiders who haven’t walked a mile in their shoes should not judge. It’s not their place.

    Personally, I’ve never viewed my boyfriend’s widower status as a handicap or a disease. I agreed to go on a date with him because when he walked into the room, he took my breath away. I fell in love with him because he is a caring man, a man of great character and depth. Our relationship is not defined by the fact that he’s a widower and to me, he is simply, my “boyfriend.” That is his one and only title in my life. However, his past does affect our present, i.e. holidays and anniversaries, and during those times, for me, it’s really hard to see someone I love sad, especially when there is really nothing I can do to lessen or take away his pain. Unless you’re a person whose heart is made out of stone, it is going to affect you to see your partner hurting. Period.

    It takes a lot maturity, self-reflection, and self-confidence to be in a relationship with a widowed person because in no other relationship will you have your partner loving someone else of the opposite sex while s/he also loves you. This is not to say it’s a bad thing, but that’s a fact, and dating a widowed person is not for everyone (just like dating a divorced person or a non-blonde, etc.). That’s why there are billions of people on this Earth – there is always someone for you and it’s up to you to find the person who will be comfortable with who you are, but it’s unrealistic to think that if you make your past an ACTIVE part of your present that it will not bring up issues. However, the right partner will work through those issues and will compromise with you.

    Finally, I just want to say that there are women who have problems regardless of whether they are dating widowers AND there are men who have problems regardless of whether they are widowers. Maybe they are just using the widower status as an excuse for their issues. I have read blogs where women are told by their widower husbands or boyfriends, almost on a daily basis, that their late wives were much better at x, y, z. To me, that has nothing to do with that man’s widower status. That has more to do with his insensitivity. It’s inexcusable to tell the present love in your life, almost on a daily basis, that someone else, dead or alive, is so much better than her/him at something. That’s unkind. Conversely, there are women out there who will go crazy at the mention of the late wife’s name and will never be there when their boyfriends/husbands are sad or need someone to hold his hands – that is also insensitive.

  13. tescaveenesti says:

    I did find the web sites you have degraded on your blog to be helpful, especially Mrs Andersen’s. She did help me with the problems I had encountered with my boyfriend. These were issues that I had never encountered with previous, non-widowed men.So yes, some issues do have to do with his status.For instance, how to deal with his late wife’s family. It was also a great place to share with other women who were going through the same sort of thing. We had a great relationship,we were even going to get married, and when the anniversary of her death came, he freaked out and he left me. Mrs Andersen helped me through this situation and to help me understand what was probably going through his head. You are taking her words way out of context. If you don’t like these sites, don’t read them, move on. It is as simple as that.

  14. Jay says:

    Hi tescaveenesti and thanks for your comment.

    Normally, I would be quite content in a situation like this to say, “If this helps you, great.” But there are a couple of problems I have with doing that in this case.

    The simplest is that I could just as easily say to you, if you don’t like MY site, move on. If you don’t find my point of view persuasive or interesting, you are free to spend your internet time somewhere else.

    But to me, it’s more than that. If someone is espousing a point of view which I strongly disagree with, that I think can be damaging, and that casts people I value (widows and widowers) in what I think is an unfair or inaccurate light, why shouldn’t I speak out? I mean, if there was a website that said it was OK to beat your children, would you say, “don’t read them, move on”? There are a lot of people who are paid a lot of money to tell lies designed to create doubt about human-caused climate change–I’m not going to ignore those people, because if they can create enough doubt, the welfare of the entire planet will be threatened even more than it already is. In an extreme example, an African-American objecting to segregation in the South might simply be told, “If you don’t like it, don’t go there. It’s as simple as that.”

    You think your approach is right and good and beneficial. I get that. I also happen to disagree. If you want to take on what I have said on the merits, great. (For example, you assert I have taken Ms. Andersen “way out of context”–how, exactly?) But to basically tell me to butt out of your little world because I disagree? Sorry, no can do.

    I’ve got some skin in this game. My own. And that of every other widow and widower who deserves to be treated as an individual; not pre-judged as a set of problems awaiting a “cure” from some self-described expert.

  15. NYCGirl says:

    I could be wrong, but, I don’t think that these web sites/blogs/”experts” are meant to discuss “cures” for widowed people. Maybe some discussions on these sites turn into that useless vein, but I believe that the core of these web sites is to help those who are involved in relationships with widowed people understand grief better and to understand the emotions that may arise when dating a widowed person (i.e. imagine the first time you went on a real date or were in a relationship, you probably sought assistance and asked questions because you’ve never been on a real date or in a relationship before).

    Personally, for myself and being as young as I am, I didn’t understand what grief entails (and being as young as he is, my boyfriend did not either). Researching on the Internet and buying books really helped me to get a handle on what it means. I remember when my boyfriend got sad and withdrew for the first time, I thought he was upset with me about something and I went through every interaction I had with him trying to figure out what he was upset with me about. However, it turned out that he wasn’t upset with me, but that the anniversary of his late wife’s death was coming up.

    I think those of us who date widowed people, especially women, have been through some really tough times with our significant others due to grief. For instance, one of the more common problems I have found in reading blogs by women (which, fortunately, I don’t have in my relationship with my boyfriend) is that their widower boyfriends/husbands talk about the late wife ad nauseum. Now any reasonable, loving, caring woman understands that when we date someone, we take them for who they are, including whatever past they have. In getting to know someone, part of it is obviously to get to know their past, which will, in the case of a widower, may mean getting to know things about his marriage and his late wife. However, we date people, whether widowed or not, to get to know THAT PERSON. We don’t date them to hear them talk ad nauseum about another person, whether dead or alive (and literally, I have read things where if the new love in the widower’s life talks about cooking something, she’d hear him tell a whole story about how his late wife used to make that particular dish, and so on, so forth).

    One of the other common problems I’ve seen is that the widowed person has pictures of the late spouse and/or their clothes hanging everywhere. If you late spouse’s clothes are hanging everywhere, literally, where is there room in your closet for the new love in your life? Or, how can a woman feel good if she’s making love to her boyfriend and there is a picture of the late spouse hanging prominently at the top of the bed?

    That is why, if these web sites are run correctly, they are meant to address these issues. A girlfriend should be understanding, compassionate, loving, and kind to her boyfriend at all times, whether or not he is a widower; however, in doing so, her needs should not be swept to the side and if she is not comfortable with her significant other talking ad nauseum about the late spouse or anything else in the relationship, she should address it with her significant other so they can come to a compromise.

    Dating a widowed person is unique in the sense that in no other relationship will you love someone who also loves another person of the opposite sex while s/he loves you. This situation will, at the very least, brings up questions/insecurities for most people, which should be addressed if the relationship is going to work well.

    Finally, I am a firm believer that before you can say hello to a new love, you have to be able to say good-bye to the old love. Saying good-bye doesn’t mean you forget the person or you stop loving the person or cherishing their memories, it means you come to terms with the fact that the person (whether s/he is dead or alive) is no longer in your present and will not be in your future. It means you do not let your past with that person interfere negatively with the love you have now or the possible future you may have with your newfound love. It means being ready and able to put the needs of your new partner and your new relationship above all else. Everyone who enters in a relationship, whether men or women, widowed or not, wants to feel special and loved by their significant other. We enter into a relationship to be happy, to learn about the other person, and to perhaps think about building a future with that person, and, no matter what the person’s history is, those should always be the goal of every relationship.

    • Jay says:

      Hi NYCGirl,

      I could be wrong, but, I don’t think that these web sites/blogs/“experts” are meant to discuss “cures” for widowed people.

      Well, if not “cures,” there sure is a lot of stuff telling widowers how to act, or grieve, or not grieve, if they want to be considered “ready” for a relationship:

      the purpose of this post (and all widower related posts) is to help women dating widowers ID widowers who aren’t ready to move on

      his incomplete grieving process caused a lot of problems

      widowers… clinging to vestiges of their past rather than fully embracing the present and future

      men tend to rush into another intimate relationship right away with unresolved grief

      letting LW go is paramount to W’s grief recovery… stop the LW chatter and put those pictures away

      respect the past but gently put it in the past, while we make room to focus on the present and future

      Widowers have to learn how to put their love for the late wife aside and actively love you.

      I suggest you do not date anyone for a while. Please finish your grieving and let go of LW before you ever ask out another woman. Again, I know you think you have finished, but can you pass this test? If you can, you are ready to date.

      You then said…

      I believe that the core of these web sites is to help those who are involved in relationships with widowed people understand grief better…

      If that’s the case, then why are there almost no links to widow and widower blogs, or any number of websites created by and for widows and widowers. Certainly the GOW/WOW perspective on grief is going to be different, but, really, if you want to know about grief, shouldn’t you at least start by asking people who have been through it?

      …we date people, whether widowed or not, to get to know THAT PERSON. We don’t date them to hear them talk ad nauseum about another person, whether dead or alive.

      In that case, I’d recommend you not date anyone who has been married for a long time, or in a long-term relationship or who has kids. In my only post-widowerhood relationship, I easily heard as much (probably more) about “Ted” (not his real name) than she heard about Julie. After all, “Ted” was the father of their child, and an active co-parent. If you can’t handle that, you’re going to have problems with a lot of people, not just widowers.

      Or, how can a woman feel good if she’s making love to her boyfriend and there is a picture of the late spouse hanging prominently at the top of the bed?

      Uh, I’m not sure I could feel good under those circumstances. But honestly, shouldn’t couples deal with things like this the same way they deal with other serious differences or concerns? Any time you share a life with someone, there are going to be all kinds of adjustments that each person needs to make. That’s a feature of all relationships, not only relationships with widowers.

      A girlfriend[’s] needs should not be swept to the side and if she is not comfortable with her significant other talking ad nauseum about the late spouse or anything else in the relationship, she should address it with her significant other so they can come to a compromise.

      I’ve never heard a widower or widow suggest otherwise. Which is why I don’t understand all the focusing on widowers. Seems like Healthy Relationships 101 to me, and I have never heard anyone say that they think widows or widowers should be exempt.

      Finally, I am a firm believer that before you can say hello to a new love, you have to be able to say good-bye to the old love.

      When a new child is born, the parents do not need to say “good-bye” to the children who are already there. I can welcome new friend into my life without casting aside my old friends. I think most widows and widowers (including many I know who have successful relationships after becoming widowed) look at the love they feel for their late spouse, and the impact of their late spouse’s love for them, to be something that adds to both their own lives and their life with their new partner. It is simply NOT an either/or proposition for most of us. If it needs to be for you, than widowers (and I’d imagine many divorced people as well) are I think going to be tough partners for you.

      And for me that’s a big part of my problem with these sites: don’t like the special challenges that come with a relationship with a widower? Don’t have one! Honestly, I think a lot of people (Most? All?) have “special needs” when it comes to a relationship: the person who’s opposite- (or same-) sex parent died when they were a child, or who was abusive or hyper-critical or whatever; the person who’s last serious relationship was traumatic or abusive or dysfunctional in some way; people who had nasty divorces or psycho ex-spouses; people with kids; people with religious or cultural differences; people with serious medical issues, or who have kids with special needs. It’s ALL messy! Life is almost never as simple as, “We enter into a relationship to be happy, to learn about the other person, and to perhaps think about building a future with that person…” Sure, we all want that, but the reality is a lot more complicated and nuanced and has a lot more twists and turns and bumps and detours on the road to “happiness.”

      Which most of us who’ve been whacked upside the head enough times tend to see as the road itself, not any particular destination.

      Ultimately, I’m not sure I’ve added anything that my widow-friend Simone’s quote, at the end of my original post, doesn’t say better, so to save us all a bunch of scrolling, I’ll repeat it:

      When you marry someone you marry all of them. You marry their past, and their future. You marry their kids, their triumphs, their mistakes, their times of joy, their times of grief, their extended family, sickness, health, better, or worse. You negotiate these things, and if you’re not up to the task maybe it has something to do with you, as much as it has something to do with your widowed partner.

  16. NYCGirl says:

    Jay,

    I see the logic in all that you are saying. I myself have only taken a cursory look at most of those sites that you linked to, therefore, I cannot speak on behalf of what’s on those sites. The only thing that I can speak on behalf of is my own experience and stories I have heard from other women who date widowers.

    For myself, I have certainly been on a lot of web sites devoted to widows and widowers and I have bought books relating to grief so that I can understand it better and the women whose posts I have read have done the same. Personally, I don’t think it’s helpful to seek advice or join discussion boards and blogs devoted to widows and widowers because I am not one (i.e. it would be a tad bit odd for me to seek career advice from firefighters if I am a doctor). I think the person that I should speak to about grief and the issues that may arise as a result of it (or any other issues in our relationship for that matter) is my boyfriend.

    However, as the girlfriend who is dating a widower, it is nice to seek advice from other women who are in similar situations because they can understand me better. To give a simple example, this past holiday season, most of my friends who were in committed, serious relationships were sending and posting pictures of putting up the tree, decorating, and enjoying other holiday activities with their significant others. My boyfriend, on the other hand, did not want to put up a tree, did not want to decorate, was sad, etc., and he admitted these feelings were attributed to his grief. My friends who were not in relationships with a widowed person would not understand that. They all thought he was a jerk for making me sad during the holidays (clearly, his feelings affected me and the holiday spirit). Just like you find solace in talking with other widowed people, so, I, too, find solace in talking with other women who experience the same things I am going through. That’s all it is . . . just to know that you are not utterly and completely alone in your experience is enough.

    With respect to the ad nauseum talks, I must disagree with you and we can agree to disagree. I think you misunderstand what I say. When I mean ad nauseum, I mean I have read postings where women say that their boyfriends or husbands talk about their late wives literally EVERY CHANCE they get. If that’s all he talks about, where is there time for him to get to know her or for her to get to know him? For instance, if she mentions going for a run, he’d talk, in details, about when his late wife would go running and the routes she’d take; if she mentioned doing something his late wife didn’t do, he’d talk about that too; etc. I am not saying talks of the past are prohibited because that’s ridiculous! Everyone has a past and everyone should discuss and talk about it, but, if talk of the past, whatever that past may be, takes precedent over living in the present and planning for the future, I don’t see how that’s healthy for a relationship. At the very least, it should be 33.3% past, 33.3% present, and 33.3% future. But, that’s just my feeling on this and you can disagree if you’d like. It’s a country with the First Amendment after all!

    When I talk about saying good-bye to the past, Jay, I am not talking about forgetting about it, not loving it and the people who were in it anymore, or using the past to enhance the present and the future. I think my previous posts made that clear. However, what I meant to say is that you must come to terms whatever your past is and you must not let it interfere with the present and the future. That’s all that I meant. Of course I understand that there is room in people’s hearts to love the present significant other/spouse and the former spouse. That much is obvious and my previous posts I believe make that clear.

    I think every relationship is unique and every relationship brings with it challenges, but I think the difference that I’ve found (at least from my own experience in my relationship with my boyfriend) is that in every other relationship where there are challenges, we can always count on our partner to be there for us and shoulder half of the burden. In relationships with widowed people, when there are challenges, whether grief or non-grief related, sometimes we are left figuring those challenges and shouldering the burden all by ourselves because our significant others can only deal with their grief. Again, you are more than welcome to disagree with me, but, you have never been in my shoes. The only shoes you have been in with respect to this particular situation are the shoes of a widower. I have never been in the widower’s shoes either, but, I have done what I can to learn as much as I can so I can be there for my boyfriend. What is troubling to me about some of the things I read in your blog (and in responses to your blog) is that people are too quick to judge the significant other of a widowed person when they have not walked a single step in that person’s shoes. Don’t judge until you have sat down and have an open-minded discussion with someone who has been through it. I don’t judge widows and widowers. I may never understand what you are going through, but I feel that you are entitled to your feelings and opinions, so, too, I expect that you don’t judge me and let me feel what I feel.

  17. Beth says:

    Ok…I’m going to chime in here. Jay, I’ve got to take issue with two of the points you made above responding to NYCgirl. I’m not going to go piece by piece on everything on which we may disagree, because this is, after all, your blog (thanks for hosting!) and you are most certainly entitled to your perspective and viewpoints. (Which before I get into my two “beefs”, I will say that NYCgirl is spot on when she talks about it being a matter of which side of the door you’re standing on, so to speak). No, most GOW/WOW do not necessarily know what it’s like to be widowed, although some do, and like she said, just knowing there are others out there in the same boat, can be very comforting. It is most certainly a *unique* relationship in many aspects.

    OK, my first point, which I made to you on the other blog that led me here to you–was that you emphasize the fact that there is unfair emphasis on the male gender–the widowERs as opposed to widows–that move into new relationships. Statistics will most certainly back me up here: widowers are FAR more likely to become involved with a new woman/women relatively soon following their LW’s death than widows are. Look at remarriage statistics for the widowed contrasted between the sexes. The way men are built–physically and emotionally and socially–makes it far more likely for them to seek out another romantic relationship, in many cases, before they are healed enough to do so properly. Widows are more likely to lean on their social network in time of tragedy–family and friends. Many men’s primary social network IS his wife, so if she passes away, he is truly lost. I can tell you right now that in my current marriage, my sweetie would be lost without me–and as much as he tells me he wouldn’t, he’d almost certainly rush into a dating relationship again before really being ready. (For the record, I pray that he never has to experience that pain a second time) If he were to pass away, I wouldn’t even be able to think of another man for a long time, if ever, and I have a very strong group of girlfriends who I could lean on. He’s got me–not really any close friends that he’s maintained over the years. But this is a key issue in why you’ll find far more in the way of support groups, etc. for women in love with widowers than for men in love with widows. That, and well, we’re women. That’s what we do–seek out others for support and companionship and networking–far more frequently than men do.

    Secondly, I think your analogy of having subsequent children is a little off. I have three beautiful children–each of which I love completely and wholly, despite their being three unique creatures. You are absolutely correct in that a second, third, etc. child does not diminish the love you have for the firstborn. But a parent/child relationship is a very different one than that of a romantic life partner. It is an exclusive, private one. It is also conditional whereas a parent/child one is unconditional. A spouse can certainly do something so egregious (or perhaps just be neglectful to a point) that one can stop loving him/her. A child–not at all. Yes, there can certainly be horrible behavior that can cause a parent to disown or grow to despise/resent their child, but this is certainly not the norm. Which is why parents of children who have committed horrible crimes suffer quietly and in shame; because even though they know their kid is a monster in the eyes of society, to them he’s still that little boy that they’ve loved so deeply since he was an innocent little one.

    Lastly, I am sorry for your loss. It is a pain that I have not yet known and pray I will not–although I fear that I will, and frankly, I’d rather go through it then have my dear husband have to know that kind of pain again.

    • Ted says:

      Beth, you wrote: “Statistics will most certainly back me up here: widowers are FAR more likely to become involved with a new woman/women relatively soon following their LW’s death than widows….”

      Well yes, of course statistics will back you up on that because statistics also state that widowers are 100% likely to be men. Men are wired to mate, pursue, ‘complete’ themselves by linking to that missing rib held by women. Is that a bad thing? We have been imbued by God with a wonderful dichotomy: we are instilled with strength and drive and sexual fervor to track and hunt down ‘the woman’ and then once we have found her and are wrapped in her arms, we become weak as lambs without her (as you aptly point out that your sweeties would be lost without you, and I don’t doubt that).

      I am not saying you specifically Beth would be one to impose a widow’s timetable on a widower, but I think in general that is the problem out there in society. The widow goes to her knitting circle or visits the grandkids or heads up a key church commitee (or whatever) and may find herself occupied and not even thinking of venturing out in a relationship for years. The widower goes to eHarmony within six months. To impose or even suggest an imposition of a time line for a widower to be that of a widow is just against nature. Almost as ludicrous as asking a man to breastfeed. Sure, some Ws make mistakes. Sometimes terrible ones. But in my opinion it’s not the timeline that’s the problem, but the individual man.

      This is all anecdotal, but I have met several widows on line and in person who have moved on quite nicely into a serious relationship within a year of LW’s death and some married not much longer after that. And they’ve done it withouth sending the poor woman screaming to the therapist. In fact, I just went to the funeral of one such fellow yesterday, God rest his soul and comfort his former GOW-now widow. And all such people doing happily as pigs in mud both man and wife as far as I can tell.

      Had I waited for say two years or more before even venturing out for a relationship rather than the 6 to 7 months post-LW time frame that was mine, I doubt that when I finally reached her my wonderul S.O. would have found me all that interesting. Really. I am serious. I just got off the phone with her and posited this to her, and she agreed. She would probably not have found me to be the kind of man she needed and fell in love with. I’m not some he-man, knuckle-dragger and I’m certainly no control freak (the maleability I learned from LW’s caregiving, if nothing else, has prevented that character flaw). But she appreciates the take-charge way I approached our relationship from the get-go and continue to do so even while she is, as I stated on this same page, no pushover, no wilting violet.

      My point is that I bristle at a widow’s template being laid over me, a widower. And even further bristle because I know why it may be suggested to use upon me—that being that such discussion boards as Abel’s or Julie’s or more are not there for happy women to search out and extol the virtues of their widowers or former widowers who have strongly and lovingly moved on with them. No, such places are for women with issues with their men, and my heart goes out to them in spirit and in supportive posts I have made over the past two years. Still, I like to think those guys are the exception, not the norm. But these posted issues becomes the squeaky wheels of some widowers stuck in grief, and therefore the accepted norm for us all. And that is not only unfair, it’s sad.

  18. DD says:

    My first ever post on a blogg.
    Jay, funny guy, angry…. yes,understandably so. NGCGirl, what a wonderful, level headed, mature, grounded approach you have, your boyfriend is a lucky guy.

    Funny, I was searching the Internet for support, advice…..I am dating a widower for the past year and a half, he is only 39, he lost his wife three and a half years ago. I too have read both of the support groups you talk about, but like so many others I am indeed faced with challenges that I don’t always know how to deal with. Recently I was called by LW name by my boyfriends Mum, the other day my boyfriend woke and called me by her name also. Her friends post photos of her in her wedding dress on social websites, knowing that I will see them and I am now in a relationship with him. Jay, I love him, I want to love him, but it is not always easy as NYCGirl tries to point out to you. I too have read every book I can on the stages of grief, to try and understand and support him, but there is very little understanding of what it is like for the girlfriend. It took nearly a year for my boyfriend to take his wedding ring off,, he has a tatoo on his arm in another language that people enquire about, he gets uncomfortable, therefore I get uncomfortable. We went away on holiday, when I come back there I was faced with a photo of them both looking at me. It plays with your mind Jay, confuses you, questions you, challenges you. I see him as my boyfriend, the man I adore, it’s hard to see him or think about him being with someone else. I totally except we all have past that shapes us, and by his own admission he is not the person he was when his wife was alive. He has found loving me easy, what he has found hard is other people’s reactions and comments. He understands how difficult it is for me and is very protective and supportive, that doesn’t make it easy for me to be with him or walk away because I find it hard when people are mean or when he is sad on Xmas day ( her birthday). Your view is a very one sided view as NGCGirl has tried to point out. Life is difficult we all have our crosses to bare, no one should judge how something should or shouldn’t feel. I find it very interesting and helpful to read both points of view, but what is obvious is that Jay, everyone is trying to understand yours but you are not able to open your mind to see the other side of the coin so to speak. I don’t want my boyfriend walking on eggshells, we talk about his late wife because we find it’s the best way for us to deal with the challenges we both face going forward. He has spoken to his parents and asked them to move photos of them both, as he wants to move forward with me, he is not forgetting his late wife, he is cementing his love and commitment for me. He says to me ‘your the here and now, your what’s important’ but it doesn’t stop me wobbling at times, wondering if how I feel is normal, wondering if I can cope with the challenges, hence looking for advice and support.
    To finish I would try to remember that people are different, it doesn’t make you right and the other person wrong. Bloggs, support sites are normal people with differences of opinions, respect that, take it with a pinch of salt and take from it the bits that help you grow and feel stronger. Poor me….doesn’t gain respect, opening your mind does.

    I may have missed it, but do you have girl friend now Jay? I hope when you fall in love again you will understand our points of view and the insight to ‘the other side of the coin’ helps.

    • Jay says:

      Thank you for writing. I do think I see the other side of the coin, and frankly I think it is the GOW/WOW “community” that has a more “my way or the highway,” “one size fits all” approach. The quotes of theirs which I have cited I think back that up. But you of course are free to see things differently, as many people do. (It is worth noting that Abel blocked my comments on his site, while approving comments that contained personal attacks about me, but I have never disapproved a single comment here.)

      I agree, things can be very hard, for both parties. I think it is interesting you inquiry into my relationship status, almost as if my being single would validate your point of view? (Able, when I asserted that I would expect a partner to handle my complexity, as I would theirs, scoffed something to the effect of, “Let us know how that goes.”) I do not need a relationship to validate my approach to grieving; neither do the hundreds of widows and widowers I know, many of whom have remarried, yet who continue to identify themselves as widows. I have and would always take the concerns of my date/partner/spouse very seriously, just as I did the concerns of my late spouse, and just as she took mine. It’s a partnership–we have to work together. But partnership takes respect, and, frankly, I don’t sense a lot of respect for widows and widowers coming from the GOW/WOW community.

      But, DD, I do appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings here, and I hope you feel like I have treated them with the respect you deserve.

      All the best,

      Jay

      • DD says:

        Morning Jay,

        A heartfelt reply, very much appreciated.

        I agree with your points to an extent, there are some negative remarks on the sites that almost bully you into thinking you should act a certain way….for example, do this, he shouldn’t do that dump him if he wears his ring, so on and so forth!
        I have read with interest the advice. Sadly there isn’t a rule book or a magic wand, a right way or a wrong way….but Jay, my oh my is it hard to know what is the best why to be. My boyfriend loved his wife dearly, they were together ten years but only married for eight weeks before she died of a blood clot. I had a blood clot the same time and nearly didn’t pull through, ironically this is how we got taking. I think it gives me an insight and understanding of how precious life is.
        I don’t find his behaviour strange, I do however suffer at the hands of his family and friends, imlike to think I am a strong individual but gosh how it has worn me down.
        I wasn’t wishing to pry into your relationship status, just merely pointing out, one day you might realise first hand the maddness, the complexity, the difficulties we girlfriends are faced with.

        Your humour will serve you well, I like your blogg, I hope my comments help you realise we are not all so blinkered, selfish, bitter…..just trying to love a very special man 😉

        Take care DD

  19. Caitlin says:

    The quotes and excerpts you have specifically chosen, quoted and linked do not by any stretch of the imagination capture, or even accurately reflect, the beliefs or purpises or attitudes of the “GOW/WOW community.” As you yourself pointed out, access to JDA’s message board is private. Abel’s 300 member message board is private. The GOW/WOW message board that I am moderator of is private. This is not because we are plotting to turn our widowers into Stepford Husbands or Boyfriends. It is because the things we discuss there are often our most private and deepest feelings, and being able to say them in a discreet and understanding setting is important to us.

    You have argued/discussed/quoted this subject with, apparently, maybe a half dozen of the people from the “GOW/WOW Community,” and have decided that based on that, you can authoritatively state the collective “agenda” or “beliefs” of several thousand women? Really? It seems to me that you are engaging in the same lumping and assumptions as you are accusing us of, and giving us no more credit for being thinking, intelligent, self-controlled individuals than you demand widowers be treated as.

    Julie Donner Andersen is one woman. Abel Keough is one man. I have read a great deal from both of them, and I agree on some things with each of them, and disagree with each on others. I am three years into my relationship, happily married with seven children betweeen us, and I have found the sisterhood of GOW/WOWs invaluable in my journey. And I can tell you that no one has EVER tried to tell me, or suggested that I tell my husband, how or when to “grieve correctly.”

    If you want to take such a tiny section of our community, and such a specifically and narrowly selected group of quotes, and from there convince yourself that you have all the necessary information to make pronouncements and judgments, then yes, that is sad, and indicates a lot of anger and frankly arrogance on your part. The forums are not going to be opened up to public view so you can satisfy yourself that we are not over there brainwashing or trying to control people; it is not necessary for us to prove our validity to you. But since you seem so concerned, I would pose this question:

    You apparently had no idea, until relatively recently, that support forums for GOW/WOWs existed. Yet you have stated repeatedly that you have friends and acquaintences and contacts without number in the widow/widower community. If those of us on the GOW/WOW side are trying to control or change or put limits and restrictions on the men we date/marry, and are doing so much damage as the result of our participation in these forums and our reading of these authors, then why have you never heard of any of this before from any of your widower friends? Why has not one man previously come to you and said, “holy crap, my girlfriend has been participating in this stupid GOW nessage board, and now she is telling me that my photos have to be taken down and I have to finish grieving by September or she is leaving me.” I mean, what, do you think we swear everyone to silence like some kind of cult, so we can proceed unimpeded with our crafty and evil agenda?

    In closing I will just say that my formerly widowed husband knows all about the forums I participate in. We discuss topics from them frequently and openly. He has commented many times that he is glad for them, because my understanding of him and our relationship in general have only gotten better as a result. So I would say that maybe it would be a good idea to keep a more open mind on the subject, unless/until you actually have any kind of evidence at all that they are doing any harm, or not doing good.

  20. Jay says:

    Hi Caitlin,

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I’m sorry if it seems as if I have attempted to characterize the viewpoint of every girlfriend or wife of a widower, or even that of the subset of those who identify themselves with the GOW/WOW community. All I have done is present the words of others, and then state my opinions and feelings about those statements. I would never presume that those individuals speak for others, though it does seem that my questioning of them has certainly aroused a great deal of passion on behalf of some of their readers.

    If you feel these quotes “do not by any stretch of the imagination capture, or even accurately reflect, the beliefs or purpises[sic] or attitudes of the ‘GOW/WOW community’,” then it seems to me the burden is on those whom I have quoted (or their defenders) to either explain how I have misunderstood their meaning or demonstrate how I have misrepresented it. As it is, I see you using phrases like “my formerly widowed husband,” so it would seem that at least some of what I have quoted reflects your views. But I can only guess, since you did not enlighten us as to which quotes you agree with and which you don’t, but instead chose only to attack my presentation of the words of others as somehow misleading, without citing any specifics.

    As far as my “pronouncements and judgments” are concerned, I have never presumed nor asserted to “state the collective ‘agenda’ or ‘beliefs’ of several thousand women.” I do feel perfectly qualified to present my opinions on the statements of others which I have quoted. I point out that there are apparently discussions about what I have written going on “behind closed doors” only to note the contrast between those forums and this one. If no one has presumed to tell your husband how he should grieve, then, that’s good, as far as I am concerned! But the writers I have quoted sound to me as if they are coming far too close for my comfort.

    I admit quite openly that I was ignorant of the GOW/WOW community until shortly before writing this post. Upon my discovery, I did ask several members of the widow/widower community about it, and several have even been brave enough to comment here and on Abel’s blog. Privately, many widows and widowers have in fact expressed their shock, horror and disbelief about many of the views and statements I cited in this post. Not a single widow or widower has ever said to me that they agree with ANY of the statements quoted here, except those whom made them in the first place. If you read blogs by widows and widowers, you will see a very different picture of grief and grieving than that painted by the sites I have quoted.

    Honestly, this is a blog. A blog filled with my opinions, written by me. What does and does not offend me is not really up for debate, though I appreciate people pointing out times where I may have misunderstood something. Unfortunately, you have not cited any examples of even a single quote which I have misconstrued or misrepresented, so there’s honestly nothing I can learn about how I’ve gotten it wrong, if, in fact, I have. I do not need “evidence” to state my opinions about the assertions made by others. Frankly, there is a lot of evidence that some of the views about grief and grieving which I have quoted are in fact harmful, but since I am not a research scientist and this is not a scholarly journal, I will leave that task for others. Suffice to say that I have read enough to feel strongly that much of what I have quoted could lead grievers and their loved ones down a path which I simply don’t think is a good one, and I have explained why I think that. If the experience that you and your husband have had has been a good one, that’s great, but it doesn’t exactly prove the invalidity of my point of view.

  21. Caitlin says:

    The statements and views you have quoted were not mine, so they are not mine to explain or correct. There are so many thousands of posts on these forums, from as many different viewpoints, that I would be as incapable of presenting “our” views or beliefs as a whole as you are. I cannot break the confidence of the posters there by copying and pasting their statements in an effort to prove that these communities are very much pro-widower and intended to help these relationships as much as possible.

    I did find you blog post here to be very sarcastic and demeaning as a whole, towards the entire concept of support groups for GOW/WOWs. Perhaps I took as too literal or broad, your issues with just those specific few people. But again, I hope you will be able to keep an open enough mind in future to believe that these forums are generally a good thing, and that overall they have a positive effect on widowers, as the women who love them learn how to understand and love them better.

  22. Mary says:

    May I ask if you are in a relationship now? I am for years now… with a lovely widowed man. We both work very hard at it.

    I have been on many of the sites you mentioned and befriended some of the women there. Most of the women I have met are there because they DON’T want to be mean or hurtful to someone they love after he has already gone through hell. However, they are also there because they find it difficult to be intimate with a man who touches them with a wedding band that was a symbol of his commitment to another, or because they find it difficult to kiss the man they love while a picture of his late wife stares down at them. They are uncomfortable and even hurt but don’t know what to do, so they look for help.

    My wonderful widowed boyfriend has also visited those sites. One of his first comments was, “I never thought of how things are for you”. Up until that moment I don’t think he had. We had mostly talked about how to integrate me with HIS family and HIS children and HIS in-laws, etc. He also visits some of the widower sites, and so have I in an effort to understand. We both agree that there are extreme comments and opinions on both sides of the fence. We both agree that we love each other and communication is the key (same as in any other relationship). We agree that both of us came to the relationship with baggage (me included) and that it takes a lot of love and understanding on both sides. We both agree to be open minded and see all sides. I don’t think that was true in your blog.

    I am familiar with some of the comments and websites that appear in your post. The one with the point system is highly selective about their membership. I don’t consider their members to be in the majority. Some of the other comments you wrote about are extreme too, but I don’t think they represent how we all feel and behave. Otherwise I don’t think our widowers would be in a relationship with us… mine included. I am grateful that he has taken the time to understand how being widowed impacts me and our successful relationship, but he is no idiot or pushover. I don’t think I could dictate his life in the way you have depicted, nor would I be able to respect him if I could.

    So I am wondering if you are in a relationship now. There are many wonderful women out there who are in relationships with widowers, and many of them are members of these websites.

    Jay, I wish you well. I wish you grace and understanding if you are in fact looking for a relationship, and peace and as much happiness as you can find if you are not. Best of luck.

  23. Jay says:

    In case anyone who’s commented on this post is following comments, I thought this might be a good place to pass on a link to a blog I just found out about:

    Friends of Widows

    In their own words:

    This site is dedicated to bridging the gap of ‘understanding’ between widows and their non-widowed friends. Those of us who are friends of widows often find ourselves clueless as to how to be a friend. This is a safe place to ask questions and share experiences that can help others. <3 a friend

  24. Jay says:

    I was looking over my Google Analytics for this site (so web-geeky of me, I know), and I happened upon this:

    http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Widows_Widowers/advice/4546942-pls-help-dating-widower

    THIS is what I’m talking about!!! Great advice, compassion for ALL people involved, beautiful. Nice to know I am not crazy!

  25. Mary says:

    Hi Jay, Thanks for these 2 links. I will definitely share them with my boyfriend. I will also share them with 2 special women friends who have experienced loss. One is widowed and has waited 8 years to date for various reasons, one of which is because she did not want to enter into a relationship with a man until she was absolutely sure she could do so without hurting her new partner. The other is a younger woman who lost her fiancé suddenly. She waited about 2 years, is in a relationship now, but is also concerned about hurting her boyfriend unnecessarily. Both of them have come to ME for advice about dealing with folks on the other side of the fence. I appreciate that they have looked outside of their own pain and loss to understand that everyone has feelings that should be respected and acknowledged in a relationship, no matter what came before. I also wanted to let you know that many of us who are divorced are not in bad relationships with our ex-husbands. I have a fairly good one as a matter of fact. We still have family dinners. My children brag to their friends about how well we get along. We did not make our friends choose sides. We attend events as a family when invited and our behavior is much appreciated by folks who wanted to continue knowing both of us. I am prepared for a lecture about the sanctity of marriage, but there are many smart people who make the choice to save their relationship, family, and children instead of staying in a bad marriage. I have witnessed that too, and it’s no picnic for the adults OR the children…some of whom have said they would have preferred that their parents had gotten a divorce rather. I could go on and on, but suffice to say that my ex-husband and I also had a great love at one time. He will always be the first man I said “I love you” to and he will always be the father of my children. However, I would never dream of asking my boyfriend to make love to me while looking at a picture of him or to do any of the other things I have read about. My ex-husband and I spent a lot of time in therapy, as you did with your late wife. My ex-husband was superior at arguing, documenting, and proving a point…as I see you are. Winning was very important, and it came at all cost. Your posts remind me of him. My boyfriend and his LW never went for counseling. I don’t think everything was perfect…marriage never is. But his goal was and still is to work hard at the relationship itself instead of winning arguments. He is very good at making his partner feel loved unconditionally and he sees that as winning. I often tell people we are together because of him and how hard he works for us. My ex-husband, however, is very much alone and will probably end his days that way. I feel sorry for him and people like him. Bottom line, and the smartest comment I have read on any of the websites whether they are geared towards widows and widowers, friends of widows and widowers, or people dating or married to widows and widowers…is that communication is the key. Some of the women are able to be in a relationship with tons of pictures of the late wife all over the house, but some are not. That does not make them crazy or bad and they are entitled to voice their opinion and pain. Some of the widowers understand their partner’s feelings immediately (or were totally unaware) and take action, some do not. Some of the relationships work out and some do not. Some women are already in marriages with widowers while he continues to wear his old wedding ring. Some are unable to do that, which again does not make them crazy or bad. Same routine…they voice their opinion, their partner either takes action or does not, they might negotiate and come to an agreement or the relationship might end, etc. Again, I could go on and on (and I already have). There is no right or wrong, just like in any other relationship. It’s a give and take and requires lots of love, patience, and communication… just like in any other relationship. Both partners are entitled to their feelings and opinions, just like in any other relationship. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it does not, just like in any other relationship. If you choose to remain alone that is your prerogative, same as my ex-husband has chosen to do. There is nothing wrong with that. You do not have to be in a relationship to be happy, but it takes a lot of work from both sides if you do. Winning all the arguments is nice, but winning a loving life’s partner is nice too. I wish you peace in whatever you choose, and thanks again for sharing those websites. It helps to see all sides. Best of luck, Jay

  26. Ted says:

    I’m a widower who has had two serious relationships since LWs death four years ago.

    In the first, I started out with a fresh attitude. I felt ready to move on. It was just ‘right’ for me. I removed my wedding ring for that first date. It just didn’t seem right to embark on a relationship with a new woman (especially one that held romantic possibilities for reasons I will skip for the sake of brevity) with the ring still their plain as day (or night). Why was I so quick to remove the ring and try to focus on the present? Was I through with grief? I don’t know. I think I would describe my venturing out as more an injured athlete had to sit sidelined. The injury is still sore but not enough to prevent getting back on the field. It was good to take a deep breath of new air and be out with a lovely lady. But also, I considered a type of decorum and a consideration of just plain ‘manners’. It didn’t seemed to be fairly good odds that a woman on a date with me would be taken aback by the presence of a wedding ring on my finger. Maybe Emily Post or Miss Manners ought to be consulted by a re-launched widow or widower as much as these fore-mentioned sites as a lot of this stuff really gets down to basically making someone as comfortable as possible (on both sides of the relationship) in a social situation that may lead to an ongoing relationship.

    I put myself in the shoes of my date and took the darned ring off. I could have put it back on when I got home. That was my choice. But I didn’t. My journey continued without that icon. (just one of many I dealt with or disposed of for the benefit of moving on as much as for my own sake as to a date or future partner).

    But as that particular relationship matured, for lack of a better term, it became apparent that this particular woman was really troubled by widower issues that had yet to even surface. I honestly saw myself as focused on us at the time in the here and now. Yet no matter how much ‘moving on’ I exhibited (even to be noticed in a somewhat negative way by two of my older children as somewhat soon) this particular lovely woman had things about my widowerhood that had to be ‘fixed’. For example, she brought up where would we both be buried if we got married. Where would she be put? She was divorced so she certainly wouldn’t be laid next to ex hubby, but the question was a valid one. But in my opinion, way too soon. But we hadn’t even figured out how to get to live in the same state at the time for goodness’ sake. I came to the firm belief that there is a certain set of women who should not be involved with a widower. This dear friend and former future fiance was one.

    Contrast that to my next serious and ongoing relationship that is destined for marriage. This woman is no pushover by any stretch. And maybe that’s the key. She wouldn’t put up with any LW memorabilia issues (for one example) without speaking up about, discussing with me and allowing us to come to some mutual agreement. Yet on the other hand, she feels no threat from late wife as far as I can tell because I have made her number one and more often than not, because of that position she holds in my esteem, SHE is the one who brings up certain appropriate memory events or properly handled issues for the sake of both us as a couple and my children. It all flows and the difference in attitude between two otherwise similar women is undeniable. I have examined myself and my current and previous actions with these two women and find, to the best of my ability and recollection, I treated them both well as to my being a widower and things related to my late wife. The latter relationship has flourished because the difference was the woman, not the man.

    I can’t speak as a widower who presented a woman with a laundry list of transgressions or misdeeds)..like calling LW by ‘wife’ as opposed to late wife, etc etc. I can’t say I have visited the grave site frequently. Not by a long shot. And so forth.

    The difference is that one woman expected me to change what little I had not already changed (like firming up who goes into what cemetery plot) and to accommodate her foibles (bless her heart, she really is a special person). The other woman, my wonderful S.O., accepted me for what I was (widowed and a single parent) as I did her (divorced and a dual-parenting role with an ex-husband). And all those things that they entail on both sides. It works without a template. And for those women who present experiences and issues (or lack thereof) that lie somewhere between that of my first relationship and my current one, I think the boards serve a very useful purpose. I can’t for the life of me imagine my dear S.O. seeking out one. She would come to me first. I am very lucky to have her in this regard and in many others.

  27. Jay says:

    Ted, thank you for such a wonderful, real-life story! Your SO is ALSO very lucky as are your kids. Very inspiring, thoughtful and humble. There really is no template. Thank you for sharing!

  28. Ted says:

    Thanks Jay. Clarification. I meant to write : “It SEEMED to be fairly good odds that a woman on a date with me would be taken aback by the presence of a wedding ring on my finger.” Not that “It didn’t seem to me….”. Sorry. Need to edit in Word first then post.

    I have found that the occasional times in which I do get teary-eyed about LW’s absence it is for grieving for my children for loss of their mother, not for my loss of a mate. Not that I did not grieve the loss of my wife, but it was diminishing and fading to make room for a new relationship long before I felt better about my children’s condition in all this. Perhaps if more Ws with children could separate those two things…grieving for one’s own loss vs. grieving for the sake of children…then more Ws could do better at moving along with a woman or even just dating. We men are supposed to be able to compartmentalize as opposed to women who connect their emotions and relationships in more complicated ways. But it doesn’t always work that way I suppose.

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