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Tips for a relationship with a widower

(46 Posts)
peppatax Wed 04-May-16 21:48:38

I'm in a relationship with a widower and looking for tips really on how to cope with inevitable comments/references/photos/possessions/occasions with relevance to his deceased wife. I know it's something he has to 'live with' rather than 'get over' but I want to be able to balance acknowledging this part of his past but focusing on our relationship and the future. Any help would be gratefully received! He's very pragmatic but I'm very insecure.

ladylouanne Wed 04-May-16 22:09:22

How long has he been widowed peppatax?

peppatax Wed 04-May-16 22:19:07

Thanks for responding. Almost three years, one gf prior to me which lasted about six months.

TheGoodEnoughWife Wed 04-May-16 22:24:49

Any children?

I am/was (not sure if I still am considering I have remarried!?) a widow. Also pragmatic, had a short relationship then met my dh three years and three months after my husband died.

Interesting that you say you feel insecure, I would normally say that you should feel completely unthreatened by his previous wife as it is not like they will get back together! But maybe she is on a pedestal?

Generally I would say let her come up in conversation, don't worry about photos around of her and understand birthdays and anniversaries could be difficult.

peppatax Wed 04-May-16 22:30:09

Thegoodenoughwife he has one primary school aged DD.

I guess the insecurity comes by there was no choice in the end of their relationship so I wonder if there is comparison/pedestal effect as you say.

Lunar1 Wed 04-May-16 22:33:45

If he has a daughter you need to take things very slowly. And accept that she will always be present. The pictures and talking about her will always happen for the benefit of his dd. You will also probably never get child free nights as there is no other parent.

TheGoodEnoughWife Wed 04-May-16 22:37:27

That is a good point and I see what you mean.
I do think there can be a 'rush' to fill the space but after three years I doubt that is how it is.
If he is pragmatic and doesn't seem to be staying in the past then just go with the flow and feel secure as you can with any new relationship.

peppatax Thu 05-May-16 10:19:26

Thank you. It's so hard because it's a head v. heart thing, head says knowing myself it will be too much to handle but at the same time we have a real connection and I've never had the intense feeling like this before. I worry it's circumstances but also worry I read too much into what is said/happens!

peppatax Thu 05-May-16 10:21:24

By his own admission he was very much 'stuck in a rut' before we met but has now moved house and I think this is a good sign?

Cabrinha Thu 05-May-16 10:36:18

Hello!
I'm engaged to a widower, his wife died 4 years ago, I'm his second girlfriend, we've been together for 7 months. I'm totally in love 😊
Let me have a think, and reply.

IWILLgiveupsugar Thu 05-May-16 10:37:16

I think that when you date someone who was in a happy marriage prior to being widowed, you have to think really, really carefully about whether you can live with the permanent background presence of their dead wife. He has a child and so his wife will always be an active part of his life and he will think of her every time there is a significant event in his child's life. It's not like a divorce, where they chose to split and where they are likely to see each other's faults.

Not everyone can live with it. I don't think I could. I am jealous by nature and not good with sharing.That said, if I was being logical about it I would say that if you can accept his feelings then I would say that continuing to love and think of his wife, doesn't take anything away from you in real terms. Love is not a finite resource.

That he is willing to move house is positive. You would have a real problem if you were going to move into the wife's house and the home was a shrine to her.

I think there have to be compromises and the best way imo is to move to a new home that is yours and not loaded with past memories.

peppatax Thu 05-May-16 10:46:22

Thanks Cabrinha, I would really appreciate that.

I too am jealous and not good at sharing but as time moves on I know that everyone has their baggage (I certainly do!). I guess that having previously been married myself that I know I comfortable with my relationship with my now XH. Obviously new partner finds that hard to understand and worries I could always get back with him but IMO we are not together for good reason! I guess I don't know how differently I would think of XH if he was taken from me rather than deciding to end it.

Cabrinha Thu 05-May-16 10:55:27

So, I'll start with how I cope with references, photos etc...

Basically, I just accept it! It really is that simple for me.

My fiancé loves his wife, and after 20 years and two kids together it is inevitable that she is intertwined in any talk we have about our lives and in his possessions. She comes up naturally all the time - last night, I said how much I loved all the cherry blossom trees out at the moment, and he laughed and said "Claire (name change!) chopped down ours! It blocked the light and one day I came home and it was gone!" Stuff like that gets said all the time. She gets mentioned maybe 1 in 3 times we see each other? Just day to day stuff. You don't have to feel insecure about that.

As for photos - there are a few of her. There's one of them as a family which I love! He looks so happy in it, quite the proud family man ❤️
He's moving in with me next year, the photos will come too.

I suppose not every widower had a happy marriage.

But you know, far from feeling insecure, I feel more secure because of her. I know that he can love, that he can make good choices, that he can make a marriage last. I know that he believes in love. I know that he has felt a good relationship - so I know he's not just going to settle for anything less. So when I see from the way he talks how much he loved her, I feel so happy that this must be how he feels about me!

I am not insecure that he still loves her - I see us both as part of his family. Nobody thinks you can't love two children. Or love your mum and your dad. Or a child and a grandparent. There is no reason why he can't love us both.

I'm sure there were things about her that were "better" and things about me that are. We never would talk about that! Although, it's still fine for him to say "Claire was a great cook" or whatever. What I mean is, we'd never have a conversation where I say "can I cook better than she did?"

What helps is that I feel Claire is only on the pedestal that she deserves. She's not been sainted after death. So if he says she was great - it's because she was great. But he also will say "I wish she hadn't cut down that tree!"

When I said we're both part of his family... when I see pictures of her of he talks about her, emotionally to me it's mostly like him talking about a grown up child or his mum or and aunt... just part of his family who isn't there day to day.

Can you explain more about your insecurity?
Have you been insecure like this with other men?
Does he make comparisons? (I'm happy to hear about her, but wouldn't find frequent comparisons healthy!)

Cabrinha Thu 05-May-16 11:17:30

I know it's a cliché but really the best tip I think is to talk talk talk to him about your feelings, any concerns.

We've just been through a birthday, first time. So I asked him the week before - do you prefer space, are you likely to be upset, down, nostalgic - what about the children?

Actually on the day he got lots of "thinking of you" texts and he said he doesn't like them, would rather be left to get in with it - but of course, he knows they come from a good place! But now I know... He doesn't need/want me to be additionally supportive on that day.

Of course your boyfriend will have his own way - but it's far better to just ask, than to worry about getting it right.

Don't lose your own self though - you have feelings too. So I would say, accept family photos around the house, but it's OK to ask if he could consider moving a wedding photo from right beside the bed if you stay over. (made up example!)

peppatax Thu 05-May-16 11:17:31

Thanks Cabrinha, I'll also PM you if that's okay?

I guess I've always been insecure about men, I struggled terribly with my XH, not when we first got together, but down the line where perhaps the initial rush of love wore off. He'd had a previous long term, live in girlfriend who we split with before me as he didn't want to marry. I always worried that I would make mistakes/be right and he wouldn't want me anymore. So I've got form for having low confidence/insecurity.

He doesn't compare but as I have anxiety issues I've taken things he's said as being a comparison, like the cooking example you mention. I feel like I don't understand why he feels the need to mention it IYSWIM? I wouldn't say 'XH was a great gardener' for example if new partner was cutting the lawn! So I suppose I get frustrated that it seems the circumstances allow him to bring her into a conversation when I feel it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss my XH, for example.

Lunar1 Thu 05-May-16 11:20:57

You can't really compare an ex to the wife and mother of his child who he lost. He will always talk about her to keep the memory alive for his dd.

peppatax Thu 05-May-16 11:25:28

I know but I guess that's my point - I'm talking about situations where it is not for the benefit of his DD. What's his purpose/intention of saying 'she was a great cook' if I'm cooking there for him alone? To use Cabrinha's example. I guess it would be useful for hints/tips to be able to deal with this in conversation and not take it personally as a comparison/drawn into competition.

Cabrinha Thu 05-May-16 11:25:49

It just feels like chat to me.

You're right, that generally when you split up with someone you don't talk about them. I think though that's usually because splits aren't that harmonious! I don't like to even think about my XH - but will happily say "oh a (previous) ex of mine had a camper can like that!"

I don't find him saying "Claire liked to have a striped lawn" (mine is a state!) as anything more than me saying "my XMIL's lawn looks like it's been clipped perfectly with scissors" (it does!)

I think what is key here though is your existing tendency for anxiety and insecurity.

I have never been bothered by previous GFs. I can't say why, I just haven't. My best friend made her boyfriend throw away the bed he had with his ex wife. As long as the sheets were washed, I wouldn't care! It's just how I am.

So I think maybe instead of you focusing on "how to be with a widower" you could focus on "how do I move on from insecurity"?

Because no matter what I tell you about how it doesn't matter to me, it will still matter to you until you address your core feelings.

Cabrinha Thu 05-May-16 11:32:30

You mustn't be martyred about his widower status and accept how he is if it is difficult for you though.
He needs to consider that too.
It is possible that he does talk about her more than someone who was secure would like to hear!

I actually like hearing about Claire (I'll stick with that fake name!) because they were together for so long, that I think she made him part of what he is, she's had an influence on him. I love him, so I'm interested in her, and them. Not obsessively so! In the same way I'm curious what kind of parents he has, I suppose!

But even though I like his comfort in mentioning her, and like to hear about her, I bloody well wouldn't want a running commentary!

On the cooking thing - I'm not a good cook! If he said she was, I'd laugh and say "better make a note for the choice of third wife if that matters to you". But I'm pretty secure - I'm not about everything, just am in relationships.

But it's OK to say to him "look, you mention her every time I do something and I'm not comfortable". It's OK to make him explore why he does it - if it's a lot.

Somerville Thu 05-May-16 13:51:54

I'm on the other side of this too, like TheGoodEnoughWife.

Like the cooking example you mention. I feel like I don't understand why he feels the need to mention it IYSWIM?
hints/tips to be able to deal with this

I don't know if I have any hints/tips but I do have some insight on why he might feel the need to mention his wife's cookery skills when you're cooking, or whatever.

Have you met his daughter yet? I say this because I've realised I was purposely mentioning DH more than usual to triple check my boyfriends reaction in the week or two before introducing him to my kids. I wasn't consciously doing so, it was more of an instinctive thing. And I think I was right to do this - my kids' first question when they were due to meet him was 'Is it okay to talk about Daddy in front of him?' I was able to assure them that not just in front of him, but to him. That he's interested in hearing about Daddy.

And that's another reason why I find myself opening up and talking about DH more even than I do usually, to my boyfriend. Because he and I are still getting to know each other, and marriage is a really important part of who I am. And he knows and appreciates that.

Another observation. I apologised one afternoon for having talked about my DH rather a lot. My boyfriend said he found it a compliment, pointing out that I discuss DH the most when I'm feeling happy. I'd never realised that before! Now I'm earlier on than your BF in dealing with the grief (18 months), and this might be a highly individual thing. But I suspect not. Before I met my boyfriend, I spent a lot of time thinking about the terrible times of when DH was diagnosed, undergoing treatment, visiting him in hospital, his funeral. (I made an effort to talk to my kids about the happy times, but it was an effort, not something that came naturally.) Now that I'm in love all over again, happy moments in my marriage, and things about DH before his long illness, spring into my mind all the time.

Now, about feeling insecure that this isn't a relationship he chose to end.

I understand that feeling. If she hadn't died, he wouldn't be available to be with you now. That is a bit of a headfuck.

Ultimately you need to work out if it's something you can make your peace with or not. I don't think everyone would be able to, and I don't think that means anything bad about an individual if they can't.

As I met my boyfriend through work, I've had vague guilt about what would have happened when I'd started working with him if my DH hadn't got ill and died beforehand. Our attraction to each other was so strong from the instant we met, and our personalities clicked so naturally - I would never have cheated on my DH who I was deeply in love with, but... would I?
Then, very recently, my boyfriend and I realised that we met 4 years ago, when we were both in our previous relationships!! We attended the same industry conference and were in the same break out group of 12 people - we don't remember noticing each other at all!
Who we are now - partly as a result of the shit that he was going through then and that I've been through since, is part of what makes us right for each other right now.

Widows and widowers get told a lot that there's no right way to date again after losing a spouse. You have to find what works for you, and your new partner, and crucially your kids. So if the balance at the moment isn't the right one for you, the only thing to do about that is to discuss it with him.

peppatax Thu 05-May-16 19:08:21

Thanks all for your time in replying. I think you're right - it's more about me and whether I can deal with his baggage with my own issues!

I have met his DD and ironically feel really comfortable talking about her mother as I don't feel like there is a threat/comparison. I know they talk about her at length privately and again, I understand that. So I guess my real issue is if I can talk with his DD about her, he can talk with his DD about her, why do I need to hear about how great she was?! Time will tell I suppose, I'm definitely needing to take steps to address my own anxieties.

peppatax Thu 05-May-16 19:11:09

Just out of interest, have you called your new partner by DH's name at all? How did they react? I wasn't impressed the couple of times XH did this but the timeframe here with DP has been longer since that relationship and I got very upset that he might have been thinking/comparing while we were together (once having dinner and once also at his old house)

Somerville Thu 05-May-16 19:46:57

Hanging my head in shame here. I've called new boyfriend DH's name. The first time I did it I was a bit distracted, and we were in my home. I was horrified with myself, he was slightly taken aback but then ended up reassuring me - he suggested it might be like when I call one of my children by their siblings name, and he's right, that's just what it feel like. (I've also been known to call a child my dog's name and vice versa hmm )

It doesn't mean I don't love him. I really do.
It doesn't mean I wish he were my DH - I don't.
And it definitely doesn't mean that I was comparing them.
I think it's just muscle memory - my tongue remembering the shape of a word.

Honestly? If I offended or upset him by doing that, or talking about my DH as memories occur to me, this relationship wouldn't be the right one for me right now.

ladylouanne Thu 05-May-16 20:16:31

Sorry peppatax, I asked you a question yesterday and then never came back with any response.

Anyway, I think there is some great advice on here already, but thought I'd offer my perspective. I am dating a widower (approx 3.5 years) and I am also a widow (4 years). Our circumstances are very different however and whilst his marriage was happy til the end, mine wasn't and if my husband had survived, I don't believe that we would still have been together.

The reason I say this is that because my own marriage had become very dysfunctional, I was also very insecure when I met my chap so I have some sense of how you might be feeling. I felt very similarly to you early on in that had his wife not died we would not be together etc. However, this improved considerably (mainly due to him being just a totally decent and lovable person). There's a few things I'd say based on my own experience:

Firstly, accept that if his wife had survived you would not be together. In my view, this is not that different to meeting a divorcee whose wife ran off with the milkman and left him broken hearted. Had she not left him, they would also still be together. At least in your situation you know his wife will not come back and you won't always be wondering 'what if' she does.

Secondly, if he appears comfortable talking to you about his wife, then that is a good thing. He is trusting you with a part of his life that is important to him and which he also needs to keep alive, partly for his DD but also because it is part of who he is. I wanted to tell my bf about life with my husband because I wanted him to know me properly.

Thirdly, what others have already said about key dates, anniversaries is very important. These affect anyone who has been widowed - whatever the circumstances - and you need to accept this. I agree the best thing to do is just ask what he need from you during these times. Accept that he and his DD will want to do things to mark these days and his wife's memory. Step back for. But if you need to.

I also agree that being a widow doesn't give you a right to be a thoughtless arse however. If he says things that feel like comparisons or that make you uncomfortable, it's perfectly OK just to say this. Personally I haven't done this, mainly because I've never felt that I'm being compared and I also don't want him feeling he can't talk to me about his late wife, but there there are limits!

Remember, he also has to do enough to keep you interested - it's a two way process from which widows are not given a free pass.

Finally, I also love my bf more because of what he has been through. I know that he had a successful marriage, can love and be loved and can cope with the most extreme circumstance life can throw at anyone. He honoured his wife in the way he cared for her til the end and the way he remembers her now.

AstrantiaMallow Thu 05-May-16 21:33:08

It's very early days but I've been dating a widower for 2 months (we were 'friends' for 7-8 months before that, due to my situation, not his) and I'm probably just reiterating what others said. I'm divorced, out of an awfully abusive relationship. The fact that he loved his wife and has happy memories with her is something that makes me feel more secure, not less, because I know he can love someone. That has contributed to reassure me and has worked for us so far. I feel no jealousy when he talks about his wife, it's just lovely they had a good marriage, that he was part of it. His marriage is a fact of the past and he is in the present now with the living, he's clear about that. He has pictures up and mentions her but it's normal, isn't it? The opposite would be weird I think. So for instance on a meal out once I picked something for dessert, and he sort of laughed, and said it was his wife's favourite, and told me the anecdote. I don't see anything wrong with things like that. He didn't talk about her otherwise on that day. He keeps in touch with her parents and other relatives her side who visit him. There's been times when he's told me more about her but it doesn't dominate more than anything else, neither do I feel like I'm tiptoeing around his situation at all.

But he has been widowed 5 years and says he has had time to work through the grief. He's also quite open and good at discussing things. And their only child is at uni. If he had a younger child at home things may be different and his late wife might be more 'present' in discussions, quite understandably. I also feel that he's very considerate of my circumstances (abusive ex/difficult divorce), for eg he made adjustments to his life so he could continue to see me more regularly so I feel very much this is something he wanted, not a default or make-do. I have insecurities but none come from the fact he was happily married, rather from the fact I was married to an abusive man.

Do you feel able to talk to him about it? I'm unsure whether you are from your posts.

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