A study reveals that within 25 months of the death of their spouse, 61% of widowers are already in serious relationships. The desire to date, remarry, or build new significant relationships is even more common with older widowers. With over 3.7 million widowers in the U.S., according to population statistics, millions of women have faced and still face the unique challenge widower dating poses.
How to date a widower?
So, what makes a widower relationship different? In a word, grief. The effect of the grief that comes with dealing with the loss of a loved one is naturally profound. It is even more so when that loved one is someone with whom that person had built an amazing life. It’s important to remember that, most times, this grief doesn’t just disappear after a while. In fact, it is common for this grief to resurface from time to time.
Grief can make loving a widower challenging. If you or someone you know is dating a widower, it’s important to approach this slightly differently. Understanding that widowers are different from bachelors, and neither are they divorcees, is key. They did not decide to stop loving whoever they were with before, and that makes things different. So, here are some tips for dating a widower:
- Make Sure They Are Emotionally Available: Being in a relationship with any emotionally unavailable person is dangerous. Many times, widowers may be emotionally unavailable due to the loss they have suffered. Their emotional unavailability may arise from not fully processing their grief and wanting to move on too quickly. Some of them may not even realize this, but to protect yourself, you must detect it early on. If you are unsure whether a widower is emotionally available, you can check out this article for some signs to look out for.
- Prioritize Communication: Lack of communication is a common problem with dating widowers. Some widowers might often withdraw into themselves when grief resurfaces. When dating a widower for the first time, it is easy to interpret their withdrawal or any other sign as a lack of interest in the relationship. Whenever issues that make you doubt the commitment to the relationship arise, it is always better to communicate. Communication might solve problems a widower doesn’t even realize.
- Let Them Share With You: Widowers often reminisce about their dead spouses, especially if they were together for a long time. For a successful and healthy relationship, allowing them to feel comfortable talking about their ex-partner with you is important. This might be more difficult than it sounds. It is best not to probe for information but just provide a listening ear whenever they share. Listening consistently will require a lot of patience.
- Resist the Temptation to Compete: After your partner shares certain things about who they were previously with, it is natural to feel like you can be better at certain things than their ex. Whenever this feeling arises, it is important to resist the urge to act on it. Keep in mind that it is not a competition. Even if it were, it is beyond difficult to compete against the memory of a dead loved one.
- It is best not to Expect Too Much: This is probably the most important tip for dating a widower. Some may approach the relationship believing that since a widower was once married, he will be getting married again. That is not always the case. Widowers might embrace a serious relationship within a short time, but they may generally want to take things a bit slow. Remember that they are also just reentering the dating pool, so they may not meet your expectations.
- Watch Out for Yourself: Dating a widower might be exhilarating because it is different. However, it is also very easy to get sucked into his world, especially if he is the type of person to rely significantly on his partner. Helping him through his grief and caring for his family (if he has one) may take over your life. Eventually, you may end up forgetting what you wanted for yourself before getting into the relationship. Be sure to watch out for yourself and not get sucked into a relationship that does not help you achieve your own goals.
- Support Him As Much As You Can: It is always important for the widower to feel like he can count on you. This might seem contradictory to watching out for yourself. However, the key here is as much as you can, as you support him, do not lose your own life or your own friends.
Common relationship problems with a widower
It has been established that dating a widower is a unique situation. Naturally, some unique problems may also arise in these sorts of relationships. However, following the right advice, dating a widower should be relatively easy. Now, we want to highlight some of the most common problems you can expect in a widower relationship. They are:
- Dealing With Their Children: Loving a widower who already has kids from a previous relationship tends to be very common and very challenging, especially when the children are teenagers or adults. It is important to try building a relationship with the children once you are introduced to them. Help them understand that you do not intend to replace their dead mother. However, you are open to assisting them with whatever they might need a mother to do, and they should feel free to approach you.
- Occasional Feelings of Guilt: Widower relationships are often burdened with guilt from the widower. They may feel like they are somehow being unfaithful to their deceased spouse. This is more common when their spouse passed away not long ago. In this situation, understanding the reason behind their guilt and giving them a little space will prove to be the best solution.
- Occasional Relapse Into Grief: We’ve also established that with the loss of a loved one, feelings of grief never entirely dissipate. As time passes, the widower feels less grief; however, it can still come up. When the grief resurfaces, the widower may become withdrawn or display other unusual behaviors. Proper communication will help you know how to handle this when it occurs.
- They May Not Publicly Acknowledge You: Failure to publicly acknowledge you is another common problem while dating widowers. This may also manifest when they fail to introduce you to their family or other important people in their lives. The solution here is quite simple. Communicate your feelings on the subject to them. It is best to leave the relationship if they fail to change after that. This is a primary indicator that they are not ready for anything serious.
- Feelings of Insecurity: Feeling insecure is also very common in widower relationships. Since they were with someone else before you, it is normal to fear they may never love you as much as the previous person. We discuss how to approach this in the next section.
How to cope with feeling second best while dating a widower
Feeling insecure or second best while dating a widower happens often. They’ve been in a relationship and didn’t decide to leave, or they may not want to move on. It is common to feel like they idolize the image of their ex-spouse, and you’ll always be second.
Whenever you or someone you know feels insecure while dating a widower, there are two steps to take.
- Try to Consider the Scenario Objectively: Why is this important? Because two things may be happening when you feel this way. Either you are projecting feelings of internal insecurity onto the relationship, or the widower constantly makes you feel second best.
It may be a bit hard to tell which is which, but here are some things that might help you determine if the widower is consistently trying to make you feel second best:
- He constantly compares you to his late wife or is only in a relationship with you because you remind him of his late wife.
- You communicate your feelings, and he ignores them.
- He isn’t as committed to the relationship as you are.
When you are sure any of the above is the case or believe you are projecting internal insecurities onto your relationship, remember it is still only the first step. It is important to take the next step before reaching a decision.
- Discuss your Feelings With Someone Else (Not the Widower): It is best to talk to a friend with your best interest at heart or a therapist to get a second (objective) opinion on your feelings. At this stage, you should present them all you’ve observed from personal observations. They can help you further discern if your feelings are solely internal or if they result from your partner. This stage will require full honesty and disclosure from you.
Now that you’ve completed both steps, your course of action will depend on whatever you conclude. If you find that the widower intentionally makes you feel second best, you should seriously consider leaving the relationship. Whether his actions are conscious or unconscious, it indicates significant levels of unprocessed grief and general toxicity. Communicating with him about your discovery may not yield positive results, especially if he continuously ignores your feelings.
On the other hand, if you discover that the feeling of being second best originates from you, do not panic. There are solutions. Of course, it would be best to begin working on yourself as soon as possible to prevent insecurity from ruining a relationship you’d like to keep. Do not let this feeling affect your behavior towards your partner.
Another key step to take is reminding yourself that your partner is capable of loving you just as much as he loved his spouse or even more. You also want to consciously remind yourself that whatever the case may be, you are not in competition with whoever he was with before. You can find other tips for handling insecurity in a relationship here.
Benefits of dating a widower
Dating someone who was previously married can have so many advantages. These benefits may end up making your initial challenges worth it.
- Experience: This may sound surprising, but it’s a real upside associated with widower dating. A study shows that dissatisfaction is one of the most common reasons for relationship dissolution when it comes to women. With widowers, there’s a higher chance that they fully understand what it means to care for a woman, unlike bachelors with no experience or divorcees who may not be skilled in conflict resolution. The experience of widowers will most likely lead to lower dissatisfaction levels for the women they enter into a new relationship with, as long as they are ready for that relationship.
- Closely linked to experience is maturity. Most widowers are likely to be more physically and emotionally mature. Not only are they likely to be older in age, but the experience of losing someone they love and being able to work through that pain will no doubt improve them.
- Widowers understand the pain of losing someone they love and wanting to have spent more time with that person. Therefore, they will likely cherish every moment when they find someone they love.
- When a widower begins a relationship with you, you most likely won’t have to worry about their commitment to the relationship or that they might not understand you. They’ve most likely picked up vital communication skills from their previous marriage, and you won’t have to worry about them not understanding the unique needs of a woman.
As we’ve pointed out so many times in this article, dating a widower is unique. If you need something different from the dating world, you should seriously consider a widower relationship.