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Questions from a Widower; requesting a female perspective please

(98 Posts)
BuiltByRoberts Thu 10-Jul-14 09:44:11


this is not my first use of Mumsnet - I had a user-id a long time ago but it's been lost to the mists of a fuzzy brain. This is a long post so bear with me please as really I really need to read some words from a female perspective.

I was with my wife for over two decades and she died a few years back. She meant the world to me and her passing left the most enormous void. Some time ago I started a new relationship and it has been at times a very difficult and challenging thing for both of us.

I try and see things from my new partner's perspective in terms of 'moving forwards', but at times I feel that my past life with my wife is being pushed away from me - that though life needs to be lived in the present and the future planned for, I feel at times that I am being asked to choose between her and my wife.

For example, the anniversary of my wife's birthday means a great deal to me, as does our wedding anniversary and most obviously the anniversary of her death causes me great pain and sadness. I find myself mourning alone - that I cannot express my feelings and thoughts out loud. My new partner is well aware of my moods and thoughts around these times, but it has very much become the elephant in the room.

I am curious to know the views of others in terms of loss. I have never once compared my new partner with my wife - that would be ridiculous and cruel, but my wife will always be a huge and defining part of my life.

So, within the balance of what might be considered to be a 'healthy relationship' where does my 'past life' fit. I will not, cannot and would never dream of 'forgetting about her', yet at times I feel that I am being asked to do just that.

I appreciate a different perspective on this.

BBR >40 <50

MyFavouriteWordIsDazzle Thu 10-Jul-14 09:52:07

My dad is a widower and I've seen him wrestle with the same issues as you.

The thing is, unlike a divorce or relationship breakdown, when a marriage ends because one spouse dies, the love doesn't die with them. You still love your wife and that is very hard to square within a new relationship.

Does your new partner actively discourage you from talking about your wife and mourning for her (not that I imagine you want to do it excessively so that it impinges on the relationship). But is she respectful and mindful of your feelings?

A big part if how you manage this situation will depend in how supportive and understanding your new partner is.

pinkfrocks Thu 10-Jul-14 09:52:20

First, sorry for your loss.

At the risk of being blunt, I wonder if your new partner is really the one for you?

You see, ideally, they ought to understand that key significant dates are going to mean something to you, emotionally.

If you find that you hold back your emotions, unable to share, then that implies this woman lacks empathy or at best any understanding and sympathy.

If you cannot be your true self with her, which means showing that you still think of your wife now and then, I can't see how this relationship can move forward.

It's your new partner who needs to change their attitude, not you learning to forget your wife.

Can you talk to her about this openly and explain how you feel?

If she can't or won't understand, my advice is she is not the right woman for you.

Hassled Thu 10-Jul-14 09:54:20

I really feel for both you and your partner.

If I were her, I think I'd find it very hard. I know this is illogical and unfair and all the rest of it, but I think part of me would be thinking "I'll never compare, I'll never be as important and special as the wife was". And every time she sees you feeling sad, that irrational jealousy will be back. She wants to be the most important person in your life - and that's understandable. But you've already had the most important person in your life, who you clearly still miss enormously - that's got to be hard for her.

Are you absolutely sure you're ready for a new relationship? You say she died "a few years back" - is that time enough? No-one should ever expect you to let go and push the past away completely, but I don't get the sense you're there yet in terms of embracing a new future - and you can't put a timescale on that. I hope you get to that point, but I wonder if the grief is still too raw.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 10-Jul-14 10:10:18

I think a mature, caring new partner would be compassionate, understanding and help you observe the anniversaries and talk about your late wife occasionally. There's a balance to be struck, obviously. It would be unhealthy to live entirely in the past - and that doesn't appear to be what you're suggesting - but it is unreasonable to expect you to forget all about it and/or mourn alone.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 10-Jul-14 10:10:20

You were together a long time. Your history was a good one, and I can understand why you're marking certain dates. Special dates can bring sorrow.

Your new partner should grasp that your late wife is not coming back. Memories will fade and there'll be new memories made, stories of you with her. I would go as far as to say I don't know if a person with low self esteem will be happy to date a widow or widower. You are right not to make comparisons, it's not a competition.

This takes time and if the woman you're seeing now can't handle that it is not going to work out between you.

Spickle Thu 10-Jul-14 10:15:18

I was widowed 5.5 years ago after a 24 year old very happy marriage with children.

Take note of what pinkfrocks has said, that pretty much nails it.

I have a new partner and we are getting married next year. He has dealt with my sadness and moods at important dates throughout the two years we have known each other. He comes with me to the crematorium and holds me when I have a cry. I have never compared him to my husband and my husband's family have welcomed him into their lives too.

I look back at my previous life and think about all the good times and the love we shared. I won't ever forget that and I still talk about him frequently to keep his memory alive. He was my children's father and they need to be reassured that I haven't forgotten their dad. I still have a few photos around the house as well as photos of my new partner. My partner has been so understanding and supportive, but also he is my new rock and my children adore him. It is a new chapter in our lives for all of us and I think we are all embracing that together and moving forwards but that doesn't mean forgetting how I got here. If my partner had a problem with that, then he wouldn't be my partner.

notapizzaeater Thu 10-Jul-14 10:19:25

My sister lost her husband and her (now ex) new partner just couldn't handle the key dates, he wanted her to forget them and wipe them out. He was insanely jealous of a dead man. All the ink naks they had bought together where distributed In the family as he couldn't cope with them in the house.

Fast forward, she's with a new DH and all the nick nacks are back in their house, they talk about him together and everyone is much happier.

It's hard when a partner dies because you haven't fallen out of love with them, under normal circumstances you'd still be with them.

pinkfrocks Thu 10-Jul-14 10:20:23

Spickle- I wish you all the best- that is a lovely and heartwarming account and brought tears to my eyes.

Spickle Thu 10-Jul-14 10:30:03

Pinkfrocks, thank you thanks

Oliver111 Thu 10-Jul-14 10:33:42

I'm so sorry for your loss and sadness. Being so much in love with your wife will not mean that you cannot love others very much too.

Thinking of your wife can make you feel happy and stronger too, not only sad. For your happiness, I really suggest treating yourself to some sessions in grief counseling, even at this stage, and of course reading helpful books around mourning and loss.

I am not certain that your current partner is sufficiently emotionally mature or the right one for you going forward. You already know that life is short, there is more life and love out there for you and you have a lot of love still to give.

IrianofWay Thu 10-Jul-14 11:08:05

Sorry to hear about your loss.

I question whether your new partner is right for you. It takes a lot of maturity to accept the situation but that is what she needs to have if this is going to work. Everyone wants to think they are their partner's one and only but that is never going to be entirely the case when there has been a significant other that has been a part of your life for a long long time. I don't think it's easy even when the marriage ended in divorce but 100 times harder when it ends because of a death.

I have a good friend who married someone, who lost 'the love of his life' to leukaemia, just a few years after she had died. She loves him very much and witnessed a lot of grieving from him and his children. She was patient, gentle and understanding. She has so much emotional maturity and generosity of spirit it literally oozes out of her but...... 12 years later I firmly beleive (as does she) that their marriage is heading for the end. She has already had a brief fling (I don't condone but I do understand I think) There have been many many other problems too but the foundations were not strong enough. She never felt quite enough for him, that she could never compete. It's a hard role to fill.

I don't wish to disparage your new partner but if she is already making waves I can't see how this will work out. Sorry x

HenI5 Thu 10-Jul-14 11:27:18

Hello OP.

While I think on what you've said and any comments that may help you, tell us a little about your partner. How old is she and what's her past relationship history?

We have an older relative who was married to a lady on our side of the family, he was almost apologetic when he wrote to tell us that he'd found a partner after some years of being widowed. They're now married and his wife was half of a couple they'd been friendly with before she also lost her husband. No one begrudged them their happiness together but of course they have their own memories as well as memories of when they were two couples. I don't know how it works from the inside of this relationship but they seem happy and everyone's pleased that they're not lonely. I think in their case though the marriages had probably been forty years or so.

I think it depends very much on the individuals and how happy and secure they are and how the dynamics work to forge a new couple.

downunderdolly Thu 10-Jul-14 12:42:57


Sorry for your loss.

Not as long a time period but one of my close friends died in an accident (now 11 years ago) having been married with on children for around 10 years.

Her husband met someone else a few years later and had two children and is now married.

I don't know his wife that well (as I now live overseas) but she came to my wedding and has been amazingly supportive of him. For example on the 10th year anniversary of his wife's death (when I happened to be back in the UK) myself and husband went out and drank champagne at my friend's memorial tree (she is buried overseas too) and then generally went out and got drunk in what we call a celebermiseration).

I know my friend's husband is very happy with his wife and has to live along side the strange reality that his children would not exist if his first wife had lived (IYSWIM) but I DO know that his now wife has helped make the journey better for him with her gentle support and overwhelming love and her acceptance and embrace of his former in-laws (my friend's brother for example is godfather to their first born son and they regularly holiday together).

I hope things work out for you - I guess I'm trying to say as hard as it is for the incoming partner, its should not be too hard....

Best wishes

Gettingmeback Thu 10-Jul-14 13:06:52

BuiltByRoberts you sound lovely and I am sorry for your loss. IME it takes a unique person to be in a relationship where the love is still so strong, and you would still be in that relationship if you could. Most people want to feel Hollywood style like they are the love of your life. It's hard to know the person you are with has had that great love, even though she probably knows you love her too, just not at the same depth. Don't start hiding how you feel or secretly grieving and remembering anniversaries, this will lead to unhappiness for you and ultimately an end to the relationship anyway. Like other posters have said, if she can't allow you the space to feel what you feel and support you, she's not a keeper.

pinkfrocks Thu 10-Jul-14 13:39:41

I just want to add that there is no 'one size fits all' answer to this.

I've known older friends and relatives - an aunt for instance- who married quite soon after being widowed in her 50s. By soon I mean within 3-4 years. That marriage ended in divorce after 10 years.

I also know of someone who is marrying again after his wife died only 2 years ago from cancer- he's 40s with 2 teenage DCs. What no one knows is the strength of his feelings for his former wife. Some marriages are not made in heaven and it's not always the case that a widow or widower is unable to move on quickly, because their marriage may not have been that great anyway.

Yours was which is why you need to reconsider the situation you have now.

I second the idea of grief counselling if you think it could help.

ravenmum Thu 10-Jul-14 13:50:09

It doesn't sound like your new partner knows what to do. Maybe she's afraid to talk about it as she doesn't know how to deal with such a big loss. I found it quite hard when my husband lost his mother, as we simply did not do big emotions in my home when I was growing up; they were swept under the carpet. As a result, the whole idea of trying to support someone is scary foreign territory to me. Does your partner have trouble dealing with emotions?

heyday Thu 10-Jul-14 13:56:44

I think hassled has spoken some words of true wisdom.
I guess we all have feelings of jealousy and insecurity at times of differing degrees and your new partner sounds very insecure at the moment.
I think your wife was the absolute love of your life and your new partner feels that she will always be second best.
All you can do is to sit down and have a heart to heart conversation about this. Your grief will lessen over the years but I think you will always want to remember the special anniversaries and that is totally justified.
Perhaps this woman is not the right person for you or perhaps you are not really ready for a new relationship.
I wish you well.

Stalinssister Thu 10-Jul-14 15:28:12

My husband died six years ago. I have two DCs. I have had a couple relationships in that time but they haven't lasted.

The reason is not because of my bereavement but other things (commitment phobia, being a twat, not being properly available etc. Sigh). My love for my husband will always be there, but it is separate from my feelings for anyone I am with, and no threat to them. If I want to go to his grave, or remember him, or feel sad about it at a particular time, I have just gone with my feelings and it hasn't been an issue.

As time goes by you always miss them but gradually it becomes less painful and you are just glad you were with them and had that relationship. For example, I was on holiday with my kids recently and went into a beautiful cathedral and lit a candle for him (not religious, it feel like the right thing to do).

I would also say as others have done, perhaps this relationship is not right for you? And it might also be a reason to think about some grief counselling if you are really struggling. Any loss brings back the loss you suffered so endings can be very difficult, but don't stay in a relationship that is making you unhappy.

nobodysawmedoit Thu 10-Jul-14 19:41:40

If the relationship is serioue perhaps you should get some couple therapy to deal with this. Although I'm insanely jealous and can understand why new partner might be uncomfortable with it, i also know that the rational, mature and loving thing for her to do is to support you in your grief. For what it's worth, a friend of mine lost her partner suddenly and very young. She met and married a new man about a year later and thry have photographs of the deceased boyfriend on the living room mantelpiece. It's whatever you are both comfortable with.

Stampingmyfeet Thu 10-Jul-14 21:39:34


I am sorry for your loss.

I am in a relationship with a widower. His wife died some years ago after a long illness.

I have read and reread your OP and nowhere can I see you saying that your new partner won't 'allow' you to mark these important days. Is that what you feel she's doing, or do you feel awkward marking them because of how you think she might feel?

My DP's default mode is not to talk about his wife. He doesn't mark any anniversary. To begin with I thought this was strange and felt I needed to understand why. Now I realise this is how he chooses to be. He feels he has grieved and he doesn't need/want to mark these days and I believe him.

I do get the feeling that you are still feeling very bereft. I wonder if you are 'ready' for a serious relationship? Do you feel your future lies with this woman?

Being with a widower is difficult. Even the most emotionally mature amongst us can experience jealousy of previous partners, but the knowledge that your marriage only ended because your wife died will be difficult for your new partner I imagine.

I have experienced an embarrassing amount of jealousy towards my partners wife (which even if I knew it was ridiculous/childish/selfish, I still felt very intensely).

Brutally honest communication between the two of you is the only thing which can get your two through this, in my opinion.

cerealqueen Thu 10-Jul-14 21:48:57

So sorry for your loss.

You say
I will not, cannot and would never dream of 'forgetting about her', yet at times I feel that I am being asked to do just that.

Is this coming from you, in order to have a new relationship, or from your new partner?

FolkGirl Fri 11-Jul-14 06:56:30

I am also sorry for your loss.

I wonder whether you really do love this woman.

I wouldn't expect a widowed partner to 'forget' his wife, of course not, and I would hope that I could support them through difficult anniversaries, etc. but I would be upset if I thought that they felt they were having to 'choose' between me and someone who had died. Surely, you should be 'choosing' your partner by virtue of the fact you are in a relationship with her - you're not together by accident.

If not, then should you really be together?

skyeskyeskye Fri 11-Jul-14 10:32:45

BBR, sorry for your loss and I am glad that you have found somebody to share your life with.

I can understand that your new DP probably feels jealous at times, cannot compete with a ghost etc, but she does need to acknowledge that your DW was a huge part of your life and respect any anniversaries.

At the same time, you need to make sure that she is aware that you love her and want a future with her.

You probably feel an element of guilt at being with somebody new and that is only natural. Have you had any counselling since meeting your new DP?

My XH didn't die, he left me, but it was such a shock at the time that it took a very long time to come to terms with and I still have moments now where I am upset and angry, that the future that I thought I was going to have, has been taken away from me and my DD. It is difficult for my new P to deal with sometimes. I struggled for a long time to let go of what had been.

But I know from my own experience that it is very difficult to move on if you are holding on to the past.

You need to remember your DW of course you do, but you also need to make a new life for yourself and allow yourself to be happy with somebody else, who understands that your DW will always be part of your history.

BuiltByRoberts Fri 11-Jul-14 14:29:33

Thank you all for your replies. I have been reading them with great interest and my apologies for not acknowledging your responses sooner - i've been mentally 'standing back' to have a good think.

And it's not been easy.

The truth of it is when my wife died (cancer) we were never closer. If truth be said, in the last few months I fell in love with her even more than I had been for all the years we had been together. We had a deep intimacy as I took a lot of her care. It was physically, emotionally and mentally the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and afterwards it left me completely empty.

My new partner came about almost two years later as I realised that I was become a) a recluse b) becoming more emotionally disconnected from life and the connections to intimacy and c) I missed close human touch connection (not sex per se, but the emotional and psychological bond of having someone one close to me).

The first few months were very difficult. Sex was actually very difficult in ever sense (from becoming comfortable physically with someone new to the deeper sense of emotional 'infidelity').

As I write this now I get a deeper sense of the mourning I hold for my wife. In fact. It's something that for the greater part I have not fully recognised and processed. I am still grieving - not on the surface, but at a level deep behind the eyes and within the part of my heart that broke when I kissed her for the last time. I loved her so much.

But now I have a new partner. It's different in every way and that in part is a good thing. For if there were echoes of the same again, of parts being goundhog day, it would be too painful.

But here's the question and it's one that I sit here wondering about. Is it cruel or 'wrong' or 'unfair' to be with someone new and still to a part be sad at the loss of another? I care about my new partner a great deal, but I to am different. I am not the same as I was before - I lack patience and at times I feel far from her (she is not demonstrative in the way I am and in truth in the way I need - I need that sense of emotional and physical touch connection otherwise I feel disconnected - like being outside the shop window looking in).

I'm not sure if this makes any sense at all and I know i'm rambling but it is very hard to disentangle the mass of thoughts, feelings and emotions of one person from another, one life from another and the love now gone from the feelings I have for someone new.

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