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Dating the bereaved

(99 Posts)
LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 11:44:22

I recently posted about this guy I've met, who's wife died 2 years ago from cancer. He is still really struggling with grief. He had counselling at the time and nothing since. He keeps saying he will but doesn't.
We have been dating since last December. Apart from a blip, and a time 3 months in when he said he couldn't move forward, things have been great.
At the weekend we had a lovely time and he said such things as he was beginning to enjoy life again and we were planning holidays, etc.
The following day was a complete flip. He called me in tears saying he couldn't invest in our relationship as he wanted so dearly to keep his wife's memory alive in his head. He spent the day at her graveside.
My DP and I separated last year due to his behaviour, cheating and I felt rejected. I just want a loving relationship. I thought I had this with this guy but his feelings are so erratic, I don't know what to do,

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 11:47:29

I want to add I am very supportive and he is very clear that he appreciates my listening ear regards his grief. He has before done this and then a day later changed his mind. I really care for him and want to be there but I feel at the moment I'm getting nothing back.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 21-Jul-14 12:02:11

It sounds as though he simply isn't ready for a relationship yet. However nice he may be and however understandable his feelings, the 'hot/cold' thing is not fair on you at all. You're not his counsellor but that's how he's treating you. Walk away, drop contact, let him deal with his grief and maybe you can be friends at some point in the future.

Cernabbas Mon 21-Jul-14 12:04:33

I've been in the opposite situation having been the one widowed. I was young and DH died very suddenly.
When I started dating again I met a man through a friend so he knew I was a widow. Early days it was very weird for me. Lots of feeling of guilt. My new bf was amazing. He encouraged me to go and visit the grave, talk about our life together, keep the wedding photos and photos of DH up as we got more serious.
We have been married now for 3 years and have 2 children together. Now I feel guilty that I wouldn't have this life if 1st DH hadn't died.
Being in a relationship after bereavement fills you with so many, often conflicting emotions. Please don't give up on this relationship too quickly.

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 12:11:43

I have been like a counsellor to him but I think he needs expert help. I have always been happy to talk to him about his wife and I have always encouraged him to be open and honest with me.
He told me he was ready for moving forward and we I've noticed he was beginning to enjoy doing things with me. However, yesterday he called me from town crying saying he couldn't have a relationship with me, only friendship. He was buying me a gift at the time in a shop he had bought his wife a gift before and he felt guilty. He was standing in the street and called me very upset.

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 12:48:14

Carnabaas. Can I ask advice? He wants to chat tonight. Is there any advice you can give me that I can say to encourage him to move forward. At the moment he doesn't seem ready as Cogito suggested. However, he so desperately wants to be.

VanessaShanesa Mon 21-Jul-14 12:52:57

Walk away. He might sort himself out, he might not but this just isn't acceptable. Talking about the future one day, then ringing you up in tears the next? Pfft. Not his fault, but you shouldn't have to put up with it. You'll never know where you are!

Tell him kindly but firmly that you won't be doing with it. Potentially losing you might concentrate his thoughts somewhat.

pinkfrocks Mon 21-Jul-14 12:56:42

Poor you sad

I have no advice really but just some general suggestions.
I've known a few men who were divorced ( friends) and the first women they dated were not the ones they ended up with in the end; they 'used' the women to get back onto the dating scene and have a listening ear.I have a platonic male friend who dated someone after his wife had left him and he said' I liked X, but I really used her to get over my ex. I didn't want to commit to her as much as she wanted me to.' And she was evidently the kindest and nicest person ever. He just wasn't ready for that kind of commitment.

You will know all of this anyway. The point is, you are in danger of being used as his counsellor even if he doesn't see it that way now.

It's hard as you have made a big emotional investment. If you can bear to, I think you have to give him space. This might mean a period of no contact or just not being exclusive any more.

Or the other option is to accept that his grief will overwhelm him when he and you least expect it. His part of the bargain should be that he will not burden you with that - all it needs is a phone call and 'I need some space today' rather than using you as his counsellor.

Does any of this sound workable?

VanessaShanesa Mon 21-Jul-14 12:57:11

I don't see how a chat will help tbh.

He's either ready or he isn't. Whether or not he wants to be is irrelevant. Anything you say is irrelevant.

I'd tell him that much as you sympathise, you're worth more. If/when he's truly ready to move on, he can give you a call. You might be available, you might not.

AppleAndMelon Mon 21-Jul-14 12:58:30

How very sad. Could you be friends until he is ready to move forward?

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 13:05:26

Thanks ladies.
Pink...he has dated 2 others before me since his wife's death. He claimed they helped him but he knew it was a rebound thing. When we met, he said he was ready for meeting someone for long term.
However, it is very erratic behaviour. He doesn't want to let me go but I'm struggling with his mixed emotions.
I will struggle to walk away as I was beginning to feel a real close connection. I reckon I need to be frank and honest with him tonight and pull back if things are not looking like moving forward.

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 13:07:44

Pinks.... I like both your suggestions thanks. Will ponder today.

pinkfrocks Mon 21-Jul-14 13:15:15

A friend of mine who was bereaved- her father- found that her grief came back at odd times. She told me that she would be fine for days and weeks then suddenly when, for example, she was driving along in her car she'd burst into tears. Then she'd be fine for a few more weeks....

I've heard this too from other people.

I'd agree that you may be able to 'manage' his times when he is upset, but he has to start understanding how they impact on you - you are not there as his counsellor. maybe when he has these dark moments he could talk to other people- forums for the bereaved or even the Samaritans? I think he needs to create distance between these emotions and what he feels for you. He needs to learn to manage his grief at these times without it impacting on those he cares for.

Stalinssister Mon 21-Jul-14 13:30:18

Two years is not a very long time in bereavement terms.

I am a widow and I lost my husband six years ago.

As time goes on the feelings of guilt are less strong but they do come back at times. At first they can be quite overwhelming.

The way people cope is individual - there aren't any rules for grieving or any time limits really.

You need to think of yourself and what you need from a relationship, rather than just worrying about your partner and whether or not he will "move on" (I am putting that in quotes because you learn to live with your loss rather than suddenly putting it all behind you, as moving on implies).

Divorce and death are very different - both big life events, but not comparable.

Your partner may not be ready for a relationship, whatever he thinks he wants. You need to work that out between you.
For those saying he needs to do X, Y or Z, people go at their own pace, and shouldn't be "made" to do anything.

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 13:30:22

Yes, I think he needs an outlet for his grief other than me. It seems like friends and family have 'given up' on him and expect he should have moved forward. He spends a lot of time looking at photos, visiting her grave and her parents. It's like he's trying to keep her alive.
I've looked through messages he's sent me over the months and there have been periods of grief and others where he talks of finding joy in life again.
He has called the Samaritans recently when I wasn't available ( I was at work) so maybe I will encourage more of this.
He said he wants my friendship and doesn't want to hurt me. He says he doesn't want to be responsible For my sadness. I think to protect myself I shall offer friendship and step back a little...although I fill find having no intimacy difficult.

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 13:34:56

Thanks stalinsister. I think the key, which you have said, we need to work things out between us. I need a loving relationship but I worry that he will crumble if I cut contact. I need to chat to him face to face.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 21-Jul-14 13:54:31

You're not responsible for his mental wellbeing. You never were but he's placed you in that awkward position where you are his de facto counsellor cum Samaritans volunteer. He most likely will not crumble if you cut contact but the fear of it is keeping you in this longer than is healthy for you.

Cernabbas Mon 21-Jul-14 13:57:49

Sorry! I was having lunch!
I think for me, moving on was all about the fact that I was young (30) and wanted to have children some day. If I had already had a family, maybe I would have been less willing to "let go".
Ask him what he wants in his future. If he is just dating in order to try and move forward, he is not being fair on you. There are support groups which could be good for him. I found WAY (widowed and young) useful for me.
Are there certain times of the year which are going to be a struggle for him (anniversary, wife's birthday etc) as that was when I was particularly wobbly.
I'm not sure how helpful I am being. I just know that it a possible to be happy again after something so dreadful happening. And you sound like you really care about this man. Feel free to PM me if you want.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 21-Jul-14 14:11:41

BTW OP... your title asks about dating 'the bereaved'. I think you have to judge this on the grounds that you are dating 'an individual' who is messing you around. He also happens to be bereaved. If he was treating you this way and he wasn't bereaved would you tolerate it?

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 14:16:18

Cogito... Funny, my friend said the same. I wouldn't tolerate it. I have come such a long way since my ex DP left me last year...packed up and left leaving only a note. I've had counselling and I need to think about myself. Perhaps be a little more selfish.

3littlefrogs Mon 21-Jul-14 14:21:01

2 years is no time at all.
He must be feeling so guilty and confused.
It is a sad situation for both of you.
I have two good friends (male) whose wives have died.

One is 7 years on now and is still not ready for another relationship.
The other is 2 years on and still deep in grief.

Bereavement is not like separation.

BuiltByRoberts Mon 21-Jul-14 16:14:07

Dating a widower is not easy, especially one who is still grieving. I know this, because I am one. You end up having a parallel life with your wife and your new partner and the hard things to do is learn to balance the two.

Some days you are happy and then, without any rhyme or reason you dip into the depths of despair. Just this morning I was cleaning the kitchen cupboards and I saw something in there to clean my wife's jewellery - and yes, seeing that was enough to make me stop a moment to wipe a tear away.

I have no doubt that there will be many days like this for him - your call is to decide if you can handle the emotion and grief that comes from him. My new partner and me, well, we had some frank and direct conversations about boundaries and at times there are things I just have to keep to myself and handle alone. It has not been easy and even now, two years later, it's still a work in progress and doubts, uncertainty and insecurities from both sides still show.

Do you want to be with this man? I mean really, do you?

Be careful which advice you give weight to and what I mean by this is,

It's very easy to sit on the outside looking in and then say 'well, you wouldn't accept this 'treatment' from anyone else, so why accept it from him?'. Statements like this are not helpful. In fact, if anything they demonstrate that those saying it have no idea of the dynamics involved in getting life back on track after loss. Instead of going down that comparison route, instead, take a step back, have a think about how you see your future and that's you, him and you as a couple.

It's not easy, for either of you. Only you know if you can or want to do this and also, if he wants to make the same. If he does and you do, then what in itself becomes a step forwards and you can make a strategy for going forwards from there.

What ever you do, don't feel guilty. Stay because you want to, or go because you need to. Either way, be clear of your reasons.

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 16:36:26

Thank you 3LF and BBR. I'm sorry for your loss.
He is feeling very guilty and confused. I was hoping some counselling might rationalise his thoughts a bit. However, I don't want to push him into something until he's ready.
I really do want to be with this man...I admire everything about him...his morals/principles, his caring nature and his ability to love. I want to be with him but right now I am feeling emotionally drained. I like that you BBR, had a candid discussion about boundaries. I would be interested to hear how you went about that as that is something we have never done.
Thank you everyone who has replied and your continued support.

pinkfrocks Mon 21-Jul-14 17:13:34

Just to say everyone deals with this differently. The sister of a good friend of mine has just moved into a house- jointly bought- with her fiance. Wedding is planned, he has 2 teenage DCs , she has 2 but older though not yet living away from home full time.
The man's wife died around 2 years ago and they started dating quite soon afterwards.

Not holding this up as the way to go, but just an example of how some widows(ers) move on more quickly.

LittleLadyFooFoo Mon 21-Jul-14 18:52:57

I was wondering if having no children is adding to his grief. He mentioned that 'at least I have children to love'. Maybe widowers without children struggle more as they don't have to stay strong for anyone. I realise that's a broad generalisation, but something I've considered. I know my children were a focus for me when both my parents died and my ltr with their father broke down.
My DP has not met my 2 young children yet and I was going to introduce them soon. I think I will hold off.

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