Whittling Down The Widowers

THE COMPLEXITY OF GRIEF

Widowers are men who have confronted the unimaginable, but they are more than the sum of their loss and their coping mechanisms. Grief is complex, and being a patient, compassionate listener is part of building a relationship with a senior widowed man. If you, too, have been widowed, you know how comforting it is to share your feelings of loss with an empathetic someone.

Sharing has its limits, of course. If your idea of a first date is a lively exchange of ideas but the conversation stays permanently grounded in a paean to his departed spouse, you may want to make for the door. Some men cannot accept that their wives have disappeared utterly from their lives. They imagine they are looking for someone new, but they’re really looking — surely unwittingly – for a ghostly ménage a trois.  

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

To paraphrase Tolstoy, each widower is unhappy in his own way. Each has a different way of coping with the fact that he’s still here and she’s not:   

      •   His marriage was an extended train wreck and he knows it

This man has no experience with the kind of compasion of which you are capable. His standards are not high. You will take him to new heights because you are much more loving, understanding, and indulgent than his wife was.

 

  • His marriage was Hell but he recalls it as the Garden of Eden

His mind’s marriage-memory chip has been changed out for one in which shrewish, selfish behavior is remembered as a passion for life. What does this mean to you? Again, just being a warm and unselfish companion, one who avoids criticism and smug comparison, will work nicely.

  • His marriage was flawless and he can’t let it go.

A friend of mine is seeing a man whose wife died twelve years ago. Even in a room full of her friends, he can’t formulate a sentence that doesn’t begin with “my wife and I” or “my wife used to say.”  This is not nostalgia, loyalty, or extended grief. It’s rudeness. Twelve years of pleading with him to lighten up on this compulsion have failed. My friend has far more patience than I. She should take this guy home and wash his mouth out with soap.  

  • His marriage was vibrant and fulfilling and he wants more of the same

Some widowers grieve deeply, but without the fear that loving again may be disloyal or ill-mannered. If you evoke for this sort of man the traits he admires and is accustomed to, you and he can find happiness together without episodes of maudlin recall. Notice I said “if you can evoke traits he admires,” not “if you are a clone of the departed.” A well-adjusted widower is not trying to replace his lost love, but to build on his earned knowledge of what good relationships can be.

One of the best things about my budding relationship with PASHA is our mutual comfort with sharing memories of our spouses. We can talk about them freely and without self-consciousness. They remain in our hearts but we think of them as inspiration, not impediment.  We feel fullfilled because, thanks to the warm and supportive marriages we experienced, we were in the habit of feeling so.

» Filed Under How To Find A Good Man, What Senior Men Want

Comments

17 Responses to “Whittling Down The Widowers”

  1. Daisy Mae on February 11th, 2011 4:57 am

    I’ll take one from Column Four. LOL

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  3. Rachel on February 23rd, 2011 8:07 am

    I don’t think I can date divorced men. They have too much baggage. As you say, widowed men who have had a good marriage are more understanding and more able to function in new relationships because they have finer expectations.

  4. H on February 23rd, 2011 12:06 pm

    The word is “whittle”, or in this case “whittling”. :-)

  5. Mary Gold on March 1st, 2011 8:00 am

    They say people who have had good marriages make the best companions and the best second marriages because they expect happiness with another human being and they know how to work for it. Another good post, Sienna. Thanks.

  6. Sienna on March 5th, 2011 3:31 pm

    Whew! You’re right! Thanks.

  7. Joan Price on April 9th, 2011 5:44 pm

    I thought about your post a long while before responding. As a widow, I don’t see myself in one of these categories.

    I’m closest to camp #4: My relationship was vibrant and fulfilling. But I can’t say I’m looking for “more of the same,” because it feels (after 2.5 years of losing Robert) that there can be no “same”!

    Yet I’m not stuck in camp #3 because I’m well aware of how to temper the amount I talk about him (following the lead of questions) with a new acquaintance.

    By the way, I think that rather of washing the grieving widower’s mouth out, I’d suggest saying something like, “I understand that you are still grieving deeply and need to talk about your spouse — are you sure you’re ready to date?”

    I think widows and widowers should probably date each other. It’s an experience that others can’t fully understand, especially if the love was great.

    Joan Price

    Author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty and the upcoming Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex.

  8. Patsy R. on April 14th, 2011 6:08 pm

    I think I too would be impatient with a guy who after 12 years couldn’t stop comparing everything on earth to his wife. If he’s not ready to date now, after 12 years, he never will be. I agree that it’s rude.

  9. Sienna on April 14th, 2011 6:21 pm

    Joan, I so agree with you that widows dating widowers is best for both parties who have had deeply felt relationships. The bitterness of a divorce and the poignancy of deep and abiding love are largely incompatible – if not in the short run, certainly over time. BTW, I recently learned of a dating site that deals with the need for widowed people to be with others who understand their experience. Here it is — http://www.widowsorwidowers.com. I don’t endorse it because I haven’t used the service, but it’s there and it seems well intentioned.

  10. Charlotte M on May 6th, 2011 9:59 am

    I would much rather date a widower. Divorced men have so much baggage! Widowers don’t get emails from whining ex wives demanding things.

  11. Teri on September 3rd, 2011 7:55 am

    Who is Pasha? You sound as if you are already in a relationship. Are you still dating other men?

  12. Mary Gold on November 4th, 2011 8:13 am

    I dated a widowed man who was married for 25 years to someone he ended up hating. I thought he would be glad to have someone who really tried to meet his needs. He was sexually cold and very demanding, and after trying hard to please him after six months I gave up. I am now dating a divorced man but his wife is remarried and there aren’t any kids at home so things are easier. So it isn’t always true that widowed men are better.

  13. Walt on January 27th, 2012 1:57 pm

    A guy who’s had a bad marriage is not going to get married again, period. No matter how desirable you think you are.

  14. PCaryl on March 3rd, 2012 9:01 pm

    Question: Is he a widower or a divorced man if he and deceased wife were divorced 6 years before she died, but he moved back in with her to help with their children during her illness?

  15. Sienna on March 4th, 2012 7:52 pm

    Interesting question, PCaryl! From a legal standpoint, a divorced man is no less divorced for having returned to his former home temporarily to aid his ex-wife. The real issue is how he views himself. The few men and women I know who helped to care for a dying ex-spouse all think of themselves as widowed. This is because they’ve been re-introduced to intimacy with someone they once cared about, and also because in our society widowhood can be perceived as more tragic — and more elegant — than divorce. I imagine, however, that a man who disliked his ex-wife intensely enough to distance himself completely from her throughout her illness, dealing only with his children, might continue after her death to regard himself as divorced, not widowed.

  16. PCaryl on March 4th, 2012 8:03 pm

    Thanks for your answer, Sienna.

  17. Gayle on December 2nd, 2012 6:37 pm

    You are wise, Sienna. I admire your answers on this post.

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