Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

All you lovely people who've commented on recent widow dating/dating a widower threads lately - come and give me a slap as I'm having a wobble!

(30 Posts)
ladylouanne Thu 19-May-16 20:53:59

Quick summary - I'm a widow who has been dating a widower for approx 9 months. Difference being that my marriage was in a very bad place and I now realise I was being emotionally abused for some time. My widower, on the other hand seems to have had a pretty idyllic relationship.

I've posted on a couple of their threads in relation to widow/widower dating and I've generally felt that I am in a pretty good place about the challenges it brings. However, I've just had a major wobble this week and I know I'm being silly but just need to let it out.

We had a lovely weekend and I was feeling very happy all through Monday. Then on Monday night, I took some stuff out of a supermarket carrier bag he'd left behind (things he's lending me), and there was a receipt in the bag. I glanced at it, and saw that amongst the few food items, he'd bought some flowers. Now, I know these would have been to take to the cemetery - the supermarket is very close by. This was a day or two before he saw me.

Now, I know he visits her grave regularly and I totally understand this. I also totally understand that he wants to go regularly and keep flowers looking nice etc. If he did anything less then I wouldn't love him like I do. Also, he doesn't hide the fact he goes - equally, he doesn't tell me every time, but will drop it into the conversation if he's telling me about his day etc.

The thing is, this time, I just feel really thrown. I've experienced this overwhelming feeling of sadness and what I can only describe as pain. I've suddenly felt really upset at the thought he will never bring me flowers - they will always be reserved for his late wife. It'll be something he does for her that won't apply to me. There will always be this person that he loves and will stay in his heart, and even though I am also widowed, I don't have that same experience or feeling. I'm embarrassed even writing this down tbh, as it's totally a heart versus head thing.

I'm not even a flowers and grand gestures type of person. I had too much of that from my late husband who used then as a cover up for other things. It's just that feeling of that part of him that will always be about the 'two of them' which all seems to be so perfect that tears me up sometimes.

I just need to give myself a good talking to, don't I?

merville Thu 19-May-16 21:56:14

Hi Lady, I didn't comment on that thread but have dated a widower in the past.
First of all, sorry you've had to go through what you have, even in a bad relationship, it still must've been very hard.

Re. your widower partner, why does him buying flowers for his late wife's grave have to mean that he will never bring you flowers; the two aren't mutually exclusive.

It does seem that you are having a bit of a downer; could it be low mood/depression/PMS? I wouldn't be surprised if you were depressed after an emotionally abusive relationship and a bereavement.

merville Thu 19-May-16 22:02:22

Also meant to ask how long your partner has been widowed.
While I fully accepted that my ex's late wife would always be part of his life, I didn't see or hear him doing many things like this, perhaps mainly because he'd been widowed 11 years. You may find that you partner's behaviour changes in the longer run as well.

ladylouanne Thu 19-May-16 22:31:03

Thanks Merville. He's been widowed for about 3 and a half years, I'm 5 years.

I think you're possibly right in that I'm feeling a bit hormonal at the moment and work is stressful so I might be being over sensitive. I think it's just that every now and then I get these reminders of how bad things were in my marriage and how different our circumstances actually are. I've told him some of what happened but by no means all of it.

It's daft though, me wittering on about flowers. I'd be mortified if he even knew I was upset about it as I know - with my rational head on - that I have no right to be. Like I said, I'd think it disrespectful if he just 'abandoned' her grave. I don't have a similar situation though as my husband was cremated.

Cabrinha Thu 19-May-16 23:44:43

My fiancé is a widower of 4 years.
Every week he takes flowers to his wife's grave and brings her up to speed on his news, what her children are up to, generally chit chat really (it's one of the things he misses most about her, the chit chat).

When we started dating, I commented that I wasn't the kind of woman men bought flowers for - not self pitying, not hinting - just fact. Of course, he bought me flowers! And now... we regularly buy each other flowers. Even though he never bought them for his wife when she was alive, and I always experienced them as something showy men did instead of just behave decently (looking at you, XH!)

Thing is... we've both redefined giving and receiving flowers. Life does move on ladylouanne - you can reclaim flowers! (from your own negative experience, not from her I mean)

I don't think it's about flowers though, and I don't think it's even about his wife having a place in his heart that impacts his love for you. My fiancé loves both of us, just as he can love both his parents and both his children.

He definitely has a special placd in his heart for her (your boyfriend and mine) but that doesn't exclude him from loving again.

I suspect it's more about you working through your feelings about your husband. It sounds quite recent that you've really identified that he was emotionally abusive. That surely brings such conflict to you? Anger about it maybe but then maybe guilt that you 'mustn't think ill of the dead'?

Everything loving about your boyfriend's marriage might amplify those feelings, your anger that you didn't have that? I know I feel jealous about my boyfriend and his wife - not jealous of her and the place she'll always have - just jealous that he/she had love whilst I made done bad choices and also not my fault got a cheating arsehole.

I wonder if you focus on working through your feelings about your husband, it might help?

I am sure that your boyfriend can love you both, and I'm sure that if you both want to give each other flowers, you can.

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 00:32:01

Hi again ladylouanne. Flowers are such a strangely emotive thing. I can totally understand you having that wobble over the receipt. And I don't think you need a slap!

My boyfriend sent me flowers after a few weeks, and when I phoned to thank him, realised he'd been waiting nervously, worried that flowers might have taken on purely funereal/cemetery associations, and that he'd upset me. He could have asked... but he thought I'd take the opportunity to ban him from buying me flowers on the basis that I'd been rather strict about taking it in turns with restaurant bills hmm grin

Actually, I only go to the cemetery when my DC want to, it's not helpful to me. And they take an, umm, interesting assortment of vegetation from our garden. And whilst elegant white stems have funereal associations now, the bright bunches that my bf thoughtfully sends, don't.

This is a long winded way of wondering whether your widower thinks you might not like getting flowers? Or might himself now associate them much more with grief than with romance? Have you talked about it?

That thing of suddenly getting hit with emotion over something that had never bothered you before is familiar to me as well. In fact, I can't sleep because of something totally minor today, that has suddenly hit me now I've turned the lights out. I don't really have an answer to dealing with those things. Apart from that talking does help.

Have you seen a grief counsellor? If not, someone good might be able to help you to work through your many feelings (which must be very mixed and quite confusing) about your husband?

ladylouanne Fri 20-May-16 07:38:20

Hi Cabrinha / Somer

Such wise words from both of you!

I think he probably goes to the cemetery very week or so two and it has never bothered me.

Cabrinha, I think you're spot on in that this is more about my relationship with my husband. I'm a bit anxious about outing myself here, but he basically changed out of all recognition in his last few years, fuelled by alcohol and I suspect some fairly complex but undiagnosed mental health issues. We did have some good times as we were together for over 20 years, but even looking back there were things not right. It's only as I've worked things through over the years that I've realised how behaviours such as the silent treatment for days etc were designed to control/punish me.

The penny really dropped like a stone when I met my widower and I actually went back and see a previous consellor for a few sessions at that time as I was struggling so much. She pretty much confirmed my thinking. I remember being so scared to even ask for the most trivial things in relation to my new relationship and just being a bit stunned when my bf would just say 'yeah, sure, that's fine' and not sulk for 3 days.

It makes me feel very conflicted though, mainly because I want my DD to not have memories of her dad rubbished. I also had the 'don't think ill of the dead' thought yesterday.

Thank you also for acknowledging that you feel jealous - that's how I feel here but it's a difficult thing to admit. I'm also not jealous of his late wife. She sounds like a lovely person who made him very happy, it is just that contrast between what he had and what I did. I even feel bad about writing that down.

Somer, I've had bits and pieces of counselling over the years. Some has helped a bit but I feel like a bit of a 'complex case' with them and they struggle a bit with the type of grief I've experienced.

Do you know, I've actually no idea if he bought flowers for his wife when she was alive. I suspect he would do now and then but I just can't imagine him turning up with them for me. It makes me smile just thinking about it. Maybe I'll buy them more often to have in the house and he'll think of me as a 'flowers kind of person' smile

ladylouanne Fri 20-May-16 07:42:41

Oh, and I meant to say Somer, I hope you're feeling better this morning. These 'out of nowhere' things can be so powerful and just throw you off course when you've been doing fine.

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 09:09:32

Being in a new relationship after losing a spouse is already tough emotionally; doing so with the new relationship revealing abuse in your first must be incredibly hard. I'm really sorry.

About your DD. I really respect you not wanting to rubbish her memories. My experience so far is that it is so easy for kids to idealise their parent that this needs to be balanced with reminding them of the times when he wasn't perfect. I worry about the pressure on their relationships in the future if they remember him as perfect in every way. And more selfishly, on the pressure that puts on my parenting to be perfect! But if there were actual abusive incidents it would be harder to address than 'remember the time the puppy pooed in Daddy's shoe and he swore when he put it on' type things.

YY to filling your house with flowers to give a hint!

I just re-read your OP and it made me smile. He takes supermarket flowers to his wife's grave. <grin> That the kind of thing DH would do. It took me years to help him learn that florists do much nicer and fresher arrangements. I can just imagine him shrugging and thinking 'she's dead, she won't know the difference' and going back to buying them from the supermarket.

And I'm fine again now thanks. I'm often much sadder at night. By the morning I realise I can cope again. smile

ladylouanne Fri 20-May-16 09:27:03

Haha Somer - funnily enough I had a similar thought about the flowers. To be fair, I think he does take florists flowers on special occasions, but probably sticks to the supermarket stuff for more 'regular' visits. However, whilst I don't think for a minute he'd have another woman on the go, i knew they weren't expensive enough for use in that scenario!

DD is 18 now so is old enough to remember some awful behaviour of her dad's but was young enough at the time for her not necessarily realise it was abusive if that makes sense. Not surprising as I didn't either when I was living with it, but I suspect the penny will drop with her too.

I've been reflecting on all this this morning and - sorry if I'm drip feeding a bit - I think part of what feeds my insecurity here is that he is not the most romantic chap generally. So, that really good side of him that means he's not all showy chat, but actually just treats me well and behaves decently has a down side in that when we are apart during most of the week, I'm not exactly overwhelmed with romantic communications. He's good at keeping in regular touch but all the texts and phone calls tend to be either quite jokey or chats about what we've been doing at work etc. There's no 'I love you', or 'I miss you' (once in a blue moon for that one maybe), although he is different when we're actually together. It just sort of gave the flowers thing an added significance as that still feels like a romantic thing to be doing, even in these awful circumstances.

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 10:13:24

So he doesn't dick you about - fantastic. Treating you well and behaving decently is very... basic, though, right? (Might not seem so from the relationship you've been in before, I get that.) But now that you've got it established that he's a good 'un, it's okay to think about what else you want from a relationship at this point in your life, and to see if he can offer that. In fact, it's not just okay, it's kind of the point of this whole dating thing. What are his emotional needs? Can you meet them? What are yours? Can he meet those?

And it sounds like yours perhaps include more romance. Or more emotional intimacy between seeing each other in person. Or more verbal expressions of your feelings for each other. Of course, no-one will be perfect and able to meet 100% of our emotional needs, 100% of the time. But most of them, most of the time is something I want from a relationship. And that I hope to be able to offer, in turn.

Does this make sense? Maybe I'm a mile off the mark, and if so, ignore me! But it feels like you might want to think about what you really want from a relationship, beyond the very basics of being treated with respect, and then see whether the current chap is going to be up for offering those things?

ladylouanne Fri 20-May-16 11:24:22

Somer, you aren't way off the mark, you're spot on in fact. There is a risk that I take the elements of basic decency that actually, we are all entitled to expect, and regard them as enough in themselves. That's probably where I am actually, having partly recognised that he is 'good un' and clarified some of the real issues that existed in my marriage.

So maybe I need to start thinking about what I need over and above the basics? I think I've just felt so excited as it's dawned on me that he is actually a really good person and not a manipulative game player that I've maybe stopped there. When I have started thinking about what I need over that, I almost convince myself I'm being too needy, and that I'll put him off.

It's also reasonable to ask if I'm meeting his emotional needs. I actually can't answer that question as I'm quite reserved myself so he may well be sitting there thinking 'bloody hell, I wish lady would be a bit more open about how she feels'.

Thank you all for taking the time to reply, i can't tell you how much it helps as just don't see the wood for the trees sometimes.

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 13:25:35

It's not needy at all to think about what else you want from a relationship. Especially alongside asking him what he wants, and then seeing if you're on the same page.

And you definitely deserve a relationship that is more than just being treated with basic human kindness. Which you may well be able to get with this chap, but yes you're right, it probably will involve a bit of opening up. I know that can be hard. (Would writing emails help? We do that a lot.)

Cabrinha Fri 20-May-16 13:37:24

Somerville I'm laughing about the idea he might not dare to give you flowers, that's how men feel about me 😂
But fiancé and I have broken down that barrier now and we give each other flowers a lot.
And both of you, prepare for the shock - from the supermarket 😂 (often cut price ones too!) But I do agree a florist bouquet is lovely!

I think, going back to the jealousy, you have to be grateful for what you have. Sorry that that sounds both obvious and priggish! But when I get sad that he was involved with his kids and my XH wasn't, and that he loved his wife and my XH didn't love me... well, I feel jealous but then say to myself "so then, aren't you lucky to have him / this now?" And I am - and it does help.

It must be so hard to recognise the bad things about your marriage but have his death get in the way of your natural feelings. Honestly, I would find a safe space: here, a therapist, a friend, even just a darkened room on your own and go a bit primal scream therapy over it! Forget not speaking ill of the dead! Scream, shout, cry - and swear, a LOT! All the bad words and emotions that I (as a divorcée) am allowed to get out. If you need to shout "I fucking hate you, you bastard" - well, do it. He died - he didn't get sainted. Let it all out.

You may have underestimated til now just how bad things are like sulking for days. You need to let yourself work through that.

I sort of have the opposite situation re downplaying the bad stuff. I actually find that I downplay the good stuff. In the middle of a rant about my XH ruining my 30s my BFF actually said "stop being so melodramatic, it won't help you - I remember you being all loved up too".

You have to remember everything, good and bad, to be able to deal with it and move forward.

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 14:25:32

Cab grin
I took flowers from a train station; even worse than a supermarket the first time I went to his place and he had no idea what to do with them... didn't even own a vase. hmm

I've taken him wine since, but he really wouldn't dare buy me wine. I'm too fussy. grin

God, I agree with it being okay to get angry with them. I'm very pissed off with my husband lately, and that's only for leaving me with the teen years to handle on my own. I have a good rant at him frequently. Usually in my back garden in the middle of the night, so the kids don't hear.

But you've got an 18 year old, ladylouanne, so it must be possible to survive parenting a teenage daughter??!

Cabrinha Fri 20-May-16 14:54:49

I had some lovely flowers, but was going away for work and wouldn't be there to enjoy them and they'd have lost their bloom by the time I got back. I've given my fiancé flowers from my house in that situation before. My fiancé was on the way to chat to his wife. I only just stopped myself saying "oooooh, these are beautiful, take these for her". blush it just seemed a natural thing to suggest - not to save money but because they were lovely. As I say - I did catch myself in time. I think he would have drawn the line at that! I'm too practical for my own good sometimes.

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 15:33:45

That sounds natural to me too, but then again I let DD2 take flowers that my boyfriend had given me, and were a day past their best but still respectable, to the cemetery. To save time, so I didn't have to wait for her to go picking weeds colourful things in our garden. blush I had a pang of guilt, but DD2 was pleased, and that's all DH would have cared about.

I later confessed to my boyfriend and he just laughed. It led to a good conversation about the some of the bizarre things in our situation. He's found the weirdest thing so far when my friends get him aside and wish aloud that he and DH could have met, as they'd have got on so well. hmm I told him to say in future 'I don't - he'd punch me for shagging his wife' but he's too polite. grin

Black humour goes a long way to help with all these head-fuck situations.

Cabrinha Fri 20-May-16 16:16:01

Oh, friends...
I have my first "complaining about his friends" thing actually (sorry to hijack!)
I met some of them recently and they were talking about old times together so of course it was "wife this, wife that".
No problem at all - we talk about her all the time too.
But one woman, every single fucking time she said "<wife name>..." would tap me on the hand and say "sorry".
She wasn't the sensitive type from what I could tell - she was just... being annoying!

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 17:47:43

I get that it's hard for people to know how to act sometimes. But that sounds patronising. And infuriating.

And hard to deal with, because a response in a forthright manner might then make it look like you have an issue with his wife being discussed at all.

My SIL kept texting me, when she knew I had a child-free weekend and was seeing my boyfriend, with losing-your-virginity-sex-tips. From my own sister it would have made me laugh, and calmed by nerves, which I knew was what she was going for. But her husband is the older brother of my husband, who I was trying really hard to fucking not think about, so after the third text I blocked her. As a temporary measure, only of course I bloody forgot to unblock her, and missed a lot of important messages about other stuff over the following few weeks. It looked like I'd met someone and dumped DH's family. sad We've made up again now, and hopefully I'm forgiven, but I could hear throughout my apology that I sounded like a complete loon who had majorly overreacted.

I've wandered quite far from romance and flowers, and also apologise for the hijack, ladylouanne. Hope you're doing okay.

Cabrinha Fri 20-May-16 18:04:07

That's quite comical from the outside, the accidental blocking! Glad you worked it out!

I didn't want to draw attention to it, with irritating friend. So I ignored her doing it maybe 3x. Then quietly but brightly said "it's quite all right - no need to apologise!"
Then she kept doing it! Grrrrr! Seriously - 10x, maybe?

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 19:18:12

If you think that's funny... Same evening, I told my boyfriend: "Can we stop talking and just get the sex over with now."

And got told firmly that that didn't really sound like enthusiasm... so, no.

(It's funny now that some time has passed. And makes me like him even more.)

ladylouanne Fri 20-May-16 19:24:43

I've just come back to this thread after a tedious day at work and the hijack has cheered me up no end!

Cabrinha - the 'sorry' woman would drive me mad! Maybe next time, just hold onto her hand when she pats yours, and say 'why, what have you done?!'

Somerville, I think it's so sweet that your DD takes random things from the garden to the cemetery. It's so personal somehow. I can imagine feeling similar if I got those messages from my SiL (who is fab by the way) - it's just a step too far!

Anyway, I am going to do two things this weekend. Firstly, I'm buying myself some gorgeous flowers, just because I want some. Secondly, I'm going to attempt to open up a conversation with him about the nature of our chats in the week. He has a (slightly frustrating) tendency to give me hug and say things like 'I've really missed you'. Well, I think I'll gently suggest that I'd like to know that at the time, not after the event as it were.

The thing is, this lack of 'romantic chat' is only an issue because for various reasons (on both sides) we can only really meet at weekends for the time being. He's so lovely when we meet that if I saw him ever three or four days there wouldn't be an issue.

Somerville Fri 20-May-16 19:49:07

Good plan. And enjoy the flowers.

It's frustrating when you can't see each other another to talk. We're long distance too, and mostly weekends but manage a mid-week lunchtime or two, which has helped a lot.

ladylouanne Sun 22-May-16 21:54:36

Well, a bit of an update.

In short, I didn't say anything today. We were having such a lovely time and I didn't want to change the mood to be honest. However, I did want to come back to say thank you to you all, because if you hadn't commented on my thread I don't think I'd have really understood what was bothering me. I'd have gone to see him feeling tense, ended up in one of those 'honestly, I'm fine' situations before getting upset and blurting out a load of nonsense about flowers. He'd then have sat there looking panic stricken and bewildered and I'd have ended up feeling crap.

It's true that long distance stuff can make it difficult to talk, however we'll hopefully have a night away in the next week or two, or failing that, we've a week's holiday together next month. Hopefully, the conversation can then happen in a more relaxed way.

In the meantime, I'm going to be a bit braver about opening up the kind of communication I want. If I want to say I miss him when we text, then I will. Maybe then he'll feel more relaxed about doing similar. I'm also going to do some reading about emotionally abusive relationships to understand the impact it has had on me.

I'm also going to keep buying my own flowers (and dropping huge hints smile).

Thank you all so much.

Somerville Mon 23-May-16 20:06:46

Oh I'm glad you had a lovely weekend.

I agree that a holiday, when you're together for longer, sounds like a good time for a relaxed chat about all this, if it doesn't come up naturally in the meantime.

I need to take my own advice and talk to my guy about some stuff. Talking's not usually our problem, but I want to talk about money stuff, which is just so excruciating to raise!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now