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Relationship with a widower

(15 Posts)
NoraLouca Thu 13-Oct-16 09:35:32

I have been with my lovely boyfriend for a year or so, and everything is going fine. His previous partner died five years ago. She comes up in conversation from time to time when he is with friends who knew her, but he has never spoken to me about her and I have never asked questions because I don't want to upset him or appear nosy because after all it isn't really any of my business. The first time he spoke about her he apologised to me and I told him not to be sorry, talk about her if you like.

We are now thinking about moving in together, into the house he shared with her and I don't know quite how to feel. I wouldn't be there if she hadn't died and I keep wondering how I'd feel if I died and then someone else moved into my home with my bloke. I'm divorced so I'm aware about life not going how you planned it etc. but it's not the same because they'd still be together if they could.

Boyfriend often says how glad he is we met and how he hasn't been this happy for a long time (I feel the same btw).

I recently saw an old picture of them together on a mutual friend's fb and the only feeling I had was sorrow because they both look so very young and carefree and unaware of what the future held. For a couple of days I kept looking at that photo for some reason, I'd like to know more about her but is that creepy? I could never just bring her up in conversation when he doesn't. Is it the same as being nosy about his ex? It doesn't feel that way, but then she's not his ex. All I know is her name and that they wanted children one day. I don't know how she died, only that she was very young.

I guess I'm just confused and wonder if anyone else has experienced this and has any thoughts about it?

Cabrinha Thu 13-Oct-16 10:10:47

My fiancé is a widower, his wife died about 5 years ago sad

I find myself interested in her, but I don't feel it's nosy, curious about ex type stuff. For me, it's more like when you're close to someone you want to meet their parents, siblings, children... because that's part of who they are. My fiancé's wife and the experiences they shared are part of what made him the man he is now.

His wife comes up in conversation naturally all the time - they were married 20 years and had 2 children, so we couldn't chat about life without chatting about her. It's very natural for us. Just last night we were talking about kebabs and it went a bit:
- god when did I last have a kebab? Must have been when * was alive
- did she share? Was she a kebab kind of girl? I know she could sink a pint
- no! She always preferred pizza for a takeaway

She's just part of our chit chat, and there's no elephant in the room. I wonder if it would help you to ask him if you could hear about her, because it's playing on your mind? I don't think it's creepy at all.

I hear you on feeling sorrow. There are family photos of her in his house - they look so happy and I feel very sad sometimes for him. He's moving in with me next year and the photos will go up in mine. Because although they make me feel sad for him sometimes, mostly they make me smile that they were so happy. I suppose it's the same for him - they bring happy memories not sad.

As for how she'd feel about you moving in... wouldn't you want your boyfriend to find love again if you died? Sorry if that sounds a cliché! But I'm sure you would. I honestly believe that if my fiancé's wife could still have thoughts about it now, they would be:
- wish it was still me
- glad you're happy though
- I know you still love me

Good luck with the move - do talk to him about it, and her.

HandyWoman Thu 13-Oct-16 10:20:12

I haven't experienced this but it seems odd to me (and I don't mean this unkindly) that all you know is her name and that they wanted kids. I would have thought that discussing her would have been part and parcel of getting to know your bf. It sounds as though your relationship is otherwise good, and if this bothers you then you should mention her and see where it goes. Your boyfriend may be relieved? No point having 'no go areas' between you if you are considering moving in.

My dad and his girlfriend both lost spouses to cancer and they are totally open about the importance of their respective spouse, photos are up, anniversaries and birthdays honoured etc. It adds a real/authentic and appropriate flavour to their relationship and means that neither of them is a 'replacement' for anyone else. And that's how it is.

Hope you can open up the subject with him.

bonsgirl Thu 13-Oct-16 10:52:33

I lost my fiance 15 years ago to suicide, my current partner lost his girlfriend to cancer 5 years ago, they had a child together who is now 6. We've been friends for 11 years - although I didn't know his girlfriend. We've been a couple now for just over 2 years and really it was the loss we both experienced, and also my return to my home town that brought us together.

We've both discussed our partners with each other, it's something we encourage but I do get where you're coming from as I used to feel the same too. But then I'd have been married now for 13 years had my fiancé still been alive...

My partner only used to bring his girlfriend up in conversation after a few drinks as he felt awkward mentioning her, it's possible your partner feels the same way?

The past can't be changed, the dead can't be brought back to life so just enjoy what the two of you have now!

NoraLouca Thu 13-Oct-16 13:02:02

Thank you for your replies.

It does seem odd that I don't know anything about her, it's like there's a big part of his life that I know nothing about. I'm sure he does feel awkward mentioning her, and I don't want to force the subject, it's just that it does feel like an elephant in the room (to me. maybe not to him) and it would be good to get it out in the open. Maybe he doesn't want to talk about her but I'd like him to know he could if he wanted to.

We spend quite a lot of time with his friends, who were her friends too. They all seem happy that he's found someone and that he's happy - some of them have actually said so directly. They did lots of things, holidays etc. as a group and manage to talk about this without mentioning late partner even though she must have been with them - it would be more natural if she could be talked about. It does feel like she should be part of the chat but just isn't.

I've always been made to feel welcome by everyone - that says a lot about them as I'm quite shy and joining a long established group of friends isn't easy - but it does feel strange sometimes that I'm the only one in the room who doesn't know 'what happened'.

I'm going to have to find a way of bringing it up sensitively. I'd certainly feel better about moving in if there aren't any out of bounds subjects.

grobagsforever Thu 13-Oct-16 15:34:28

Hi OP. I was widowed at 33, have now been in a relationship for a year (am 36 now). I talk about my husband often to my boyfriend as part of normal life. E.g we went on holiday there, we planned to re-do bathroom etc. He handles these conversations well but I do wish he'd ask questions as I need him to understand such a large part of my past. Don't ever be afraid of mentioning your DP's late partner for fear of upsetting him - there isn't a moment in the day when you 'forget' such a loss,you simply learn to live with it and build a new life. I'd have the conversation with him if I were you.

AstrantiaMallow Thu 13-Oct-16 16:04:03

Do you think it's a bit of a vicious circle, you don't ask so he worries about talking about it, then you don't want to ask about it because he doesn't say anything?

I'm dating a widower and it's a bit like Cabrinha says. His wife's mentioned in conversation. In his house he has a small collection she kept, for instance. Nice objects, pretty niche. He has no interest in it, it was her thing, but we've talked about it and her interest in it because I was intrigued, I asked. That's just one small example. I don't think it's nosy or creepy, it's part of his life. It's a part that's gone but he still has the memories. Same with photos. He has a child so her memory might be more 'alive' for that reason too. I'd find it odd if all I knew was her name, and pretty much nothing else.

I said that before but the way he talked about her showed me he loved her and, having been in an abusive marriage previously, it reassured me to see him talk about her in that way. I saw it as him being capable of actually loving. If you think about moving in together you probably need to discuss it now.

Cabrinha Thu 13-Oct-16 16:10:15

I find it a bit odd that you don't even know how she died. Which means you've basically had zero conversation about an enormous event in his life.

NoraLouca Thu 13-Oct-16 16:58:53

Zero conversation is about right, Cabrinha, although we've talked about pretty much everything else - that's why it's starting to feel odd that we've never spoken about her. We met online and he told me fairly soon that he'd lost his partner, but that he 'had come to terms with it now'. I obviously didn't know him well then, so just said the usual I'm sorry to hear that, etc. and he didn't volunteer any more information and I wasn't sure if it was OK to ask at that point.

When we'd been together about six months he got an email from his late partner's parents saying that they'd heard he'd met someone and they were glad he was doing OK. I said it was nice of them to get in touch, and he could talk to me about anything if he wanted (sort of leaving it open for him to talk), and he said sometimes you just have to leave things in the past. After that I didn't feel comfortable asking any questions about her. I would like a conversation about her, and I think it is a vicious circle - it seems to be an off-limits subject to him and the longer we leave it the more difficult I'm finding it to mention her.

I lost my DM a few years ago, and she comes up in conversation with the boyfriend even though they never met. I suppose it would be natural for his late partner to be mentioned too sometimes, like everyone else has said.

I get the impression that he had a fairly difficult time after she died, although nobody's ever said that. I can imagine him going overboard on the drinking, maybe? He had one very brief relationship before we met, and he's talked about this girl more than his late partner!

NoraLouca Thu 13-Oct-16 17:01:14

Just want to add, it's helpful to be able to talk about this. I am early 30s as is my boyfriend, and nobody in RL has experienced losing a partner at this kind of age.

Somerville Fri 14-Oct-16 00:35:06

It's interesting that your partner's friends collude in not mentioning his late partner around you. Do you get any sense that they talk more about her with him when you aren't there? It could be that he doesn't cope well with talking about her with anyone. If that's the case then he might well get to a point where a decent grief counsellor can help a lot, when he's ready. Or it might be more that he got told by friends when he started dating again that he really shouldn't discuss her - other women wouldn't want to hear about her, etc. I'm widowed and when I got into a new relationship quite a few people around me who are usually sensible and thoughtful stopped mentioning my late DH when my boyfriend was there; one even shushed my 9yo when she mentioned Daddy. confused hmm
Really of course the opposite is true and sharing such a major part of my life with the second love of my life is absolutely crucial. We wouldn't be half as close if I had to stifle memories as they arise or couldn't cry on his shoulder on a bad day.

I think you'll be able to tell a lot by how he reacts when you start asking gentle questions. If he's bottling it all up then he might get upset or a bit cross. (And then you've got a desicion to make about whether he's really in the right place yet to be making big deductions like moving in with you.) Or if he's been told that you won't like her being discussed then he'll probably be rather grateful.

He is incredibly young to have lost a partner. There is a great group called WAY (widowed and young - but it doesn't matter if people weren't married) and if he starts feeling that meeting other people in a similar situation might help him to process everything then it would be a good place to direct him.

hoolahoola Fri 14-Oct-16 00:47:23

My OH is a widower but he had another long term relationship between his wife dying and our relationship beginning. He married his wife at 17 because she fell pregnant and she died when he was 20. He's 35 now but obviously he still talks about her with their son (now 17 himself) but not really at all apart from that. I've never asked, but I know all the details from when he has mentioned her. I suppose you'd be better hearing from his Ex's experience than mine. I believe it is normal though, to want to understand your partners experience.

NoraLouca Wed 19-Oct-16 10:10:56

Thank you for your replies. Somerville, WAY looks quite helpful, I will mention it if he doesn't know already.

I wanted to start a conversation over the weekend but didn't find the right time so mentioned it over the phone instead. He says we can talk about her if I want, next time we meet I suppose. He didn't seem upset or anything, perhaps he does want to talk about her.

I suspect his friends have advised him not to talk about her, a couple of them change the subject completely if his late partner comes up in conversation, perhaps they feel it's like talking about an ex in front of the new girlfriend.

The main thing is that my boyfriend knows he can talk to me about his late partner if he wants to.

SuperFlyHigh Wed 19-Oct-16 10:16:30

really interesting. I am in contact with a widower through Tinder. Have been texting etc for about 3 weeks now so very new.

On his profile it says he is a widower and he wants to start a new chapter of his life. His wife died this time last year and he has a 5 year old DD.

He has also met some women dating but has 'overshared' so feels a bit nervous in that respect.

I mentioned briefly in a text about him being a widower and let him say what he wanted to tell me.

I did search FB and found his profile (he hardly goes on FB) and it says how she died, pics etc.

I think wanting to know more about her is fine but don't compare yourself to her or think you can or can't replace her etc.

with this man I know he didn't want bereavement counselling but definitely wants to move forwards and he said her death had brought his family closer together (siblings etc).

Take it one day at a time and talk when he and you want to talk. Nothing wrong in wanting to know more.

SuperFlyHigh Wed 19-Oct-16 10:17:09

PS - my 'contact' is 45 and his wife was 35. It is tragically young.

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