Google Analytics Alternative
Grieving widower

Widower: What If He’s Not Ready To Date?

If you are a 60-plus widow and you’re ready to start dating, I urge you to seek out widowed men. Divorced men are too often burdened with the heavy baggage of bitterness and regret.

Widowers, on the other hand, have memories that are mostly uplifting. A widower’s past experience as someone’s soul mate compliments your own. Your history, like his, pays tribute to the comfort of companionship.

That being said, it’s important to note that for some widowers, the loss of a wife is so overwhelming that the act of searching for someone new is incomprehensible. And of those widowers who think they are ready for a new partner, many are not ready at all. Here are some signs to look for.


I once met a man for a first-date coffee and in less than two minutes a wallet photo of his wife appeared on the table between us. His opening remark was not, “it’s nice that we could get together,” or even a jaunty “wow, you look really nice,” but “my wife was the center of my world, and I’m having a hard time getting over her death.” I know this sounds insensitive, but I hadn’t crossed town in terrible traffic to meet someone who needed immediate and extensive counseling. I listened to about a half-hour of grieving and reminiscence before politely suggesting that he wasn’t quite ready for dating. He agreed. We shook hands and went our seperate ways.


A widower understandably wants to spend time with his offspring, the people who most profoundly share his sense of loss. Most of the time this is healthy, but when his kids and their families perceive that constant visits with grandpa are a must to keep his mental anguish at bay, there may be no room for you in the equation. All of us cherish our bonds with our children, but you want a man who also enjoys theater, travel, sports, reading, gardening – or other things that are achieved apart and away from family ties.  Today’s young families, pressured by overlapping career, school, and social demands, have little time to succor their aging parents on more than a part time basis. The likelihood is that too much dependency will lead to frustration and resentment, which could actually be a good thing if he can see what’s happening and accept the wisdom of moving on.


I hope you aren’t looking for a man who’ll pay for all things all the time. At our age, we should have a nest egg, and sharing expenses is the right thing to do. But we’re women, after all; we crave some romance. Not for you is the man who never picks up a restaurant tab, who buys his own groceries and theater tickets, who can’t spring for two iced coffees on a hot summer day. This can be a function of guilt – the unseemliness of spending on you what was meant to be spent on her (“All this money was for our dream home in Fort Lauderdale,” he may be saying). Money management is difficult enough at our age, and making drama of each purchase is unpleasant. If he too rigidly keeps expenditures even, it will be only a matter of time before the 50-50 balance will unbalance you.


Two people who have come to care for each other will want to have sex, but guilt can impede desire. The first sexual encounter after losing his wife can be a disaster if a man can’t achieve an erection. This can happen even when his brain says yes, his sexual equipment is in working order, and he feels strongly attracted to his partner. If this is a temporary condition, as it usually is, your patience and understanding will eventually pay off. If he cannot function in the long term, he’s probably not ready for a serious relationship. Let him go and make a note to call him in a few months. He won’t call you – he’s too embarrassed.


While you’re working hard to keep her out of the equation, he’s admiring your preference for the things she too loved – belted jeans, La Traviata, leather throw pillows, tossed salad with lemon dressing. Without telling you why — and maybe not knowing why himself — he’s even gifted you with a bottle of Shalimar, her signature scent.

It’s hard to accept that you’re valued not for yourself but for mirroring someone else’s characteristics, be they generosity, frugality, nurturing, stylishness, or effervescence. And the flip side, in which he compares you unfavorably (“my wife would never have done that”), is worse. Once invidious comparison begins it will never stop. If an honest look inward suggests that you’re being required to turn into her avatar, you may want to have a heart-to-heart about whether such a relationship is what either of you really wants.

If a widow and a widower want to build a successful relationship, both parties must be willing to let go many of the habits and expectations that sustained them in the past and be open to those that may provide new delight in the future.

Like the Article? Share It!Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

'Widower: What If He’s Not Ready To Date?' have 71 comments

  1. March 12, 2017 @ 8:27 am Joyce

    Lots of good advice.

  2. March 11, 2017 @ 9:49 pm Coulson

    Good to always remember that widowers over 50 / 60 have quite a bit of baggage.

  3. February 15, 2017 @ 11:50 am Sienna

    John — Thank you so much for leaving your comment. I wish you peace, and fond memories of your wife. Now that you are ready to venture into the dating world, I thought to address your conviction that age matters. I have learned much through the years from senior people who are looking for companionship. Their tales suggest that it’s not wise to narrow your search right away to finding a permanent partner. Be open to friendly contact with women of all ages, enjoy these friendships for what they are – friendships. Chemistry will tell you if you want to move closer. Should you find compatibility with a woman 20 years your junior, for example, it would be up to you both to discuss the concerns you mention, namely, the likelihood that at some point in the future she may be left alone. Beyond that, it’s important to remember how far from predictable life is (as you have learned), and sickness and health may not follow patterns that coincide with aging.

  4. January 29, 2017 @ 8:21 pm John Earley

    Hi, Thank you so much for the invitation t o share my comments here. I read through the prior entries from others who seem to be, for the most part, in my sage group (77). I just lost my wife and the main feeling that I have concerning her is that she left peacefully in the night. We did everything together no matter whether it was something that we both enjoyed or not. As I read the previous letters, I can’t help but placing myself in their shoes because, in fact, I am in the same boat.. I don’t get out much and have been shopping on the internet for someone near to my age to get acquainted with however it has not been ver successful as most that I see are in the 40’s and 50’s group. I find it impossible to imagine myself going out with someone 20 – 30 years younger than I am. I wouldn’t dare burden anyone with the reality t hat she would have to face losing someone close because of me being older. Years past I lost a wife because of me being 15 years younger, I had a difficult time with losing her. So now, this time I was mentally prepared to accept the loss of my spouse. Now, I’d really love to meet someone near buy age to possibly build a relationship with; I am a loving and affectionate person who believes that being in love is the grandest feeling in t he world. So, whee and how do I go about meeting someone near my age who might have the same desires that I have and I have feelings compatible with her? My final thought here is that as we reach this time in our life, It is so hard to deal with the loneliness not to mention the sadness; in our case they are one and the same I think.

  5. November 28, 2016 @ 9:03 am mary claire

    I was cleaning up my computer and saw this. I think I posted in 2015. Oh, what I let the love of my life, that widower do to me. At 55, I fell in love w/a widower who went on match at 3 months, started pursuing me at 3.5 months, we went on 1st date at 4 months and told me I was the love of his life a couple months after we started dating. In the end, I don’t think it was so much the widower thing, as the sick, generations of alcoholism-type family I was trying to navigate. And I guess I wasn’t desperate enough to put up with it. We dated for a year, then took a breather, because I got soooo mad at him when he ditched me 1 weekend out of the blue to attend a friend of the family wedding (the move of a 17 yr old.). In trying to find him that day & night, I texted w/a son, & in doing so, saw the full extent of the hatred his kids had for me. Widower made ton of $ as a trader in Chicago, he’s absolutely adorable and a blast and his kids ADORE him. We took a breather, but were going to re-unite after he went on golf trips to Ireland& england but then, there was another family crisis – his youngest son (age 28 and a huge alcoholic), was in the hospital off & on for months with kidney problems, blood pressure the highest hosp ever saw, & also some resulting permanent blindness. Anyway, we started seeing each other again a few months later, but just for meals, small adventures, no intimacy (I think he would’ve felt he was betraying his kids). Really, he was just using me for companionship, and after 6 months of that, I said no more. He didn’t take much time, found a REALLY desperate woman ( his friends told me how they were a bit shocked by her – she looks kinda like the cleaning lady, seems to have no real life of her own). Anyway, I guess I opened the jar, though. He got his adult daughter’s family to move out, where he had caved when I was the girlfriend, and now the new gf’s FB page, is full exclusively of her & the W, & she’s taken up his sports – curling & golf. I’ve done SOOOOOO much work to get him out of my heart, but we are all more vulnerable late in life. He really did do a horrid, horrid thing, though. A couple months after he started dating her, he starts a whole 10 days of heavy texting to me, & not a soul who saw the texts would’ve imagined he wasn’t trying to get back together w/me – I was so foolish to have put my hand in that fire again. it sent me into a horrid place. So, sorry for this rant – your comments helped me. Obviously I have other issues which led to this lack of strength at keeping him away when he so clearly didn’t have my best interests at heart. Someone else has him now, and is desperate and doing everything she can to mold herself to be his choice. After his wife struggled w/7 years of breast cancer, his view is forget everything in the past, live each day as if its your last. I am trying. But when a woman opens her body and soul to a man, its different than when a man does it. It just is. So its going to take me more time. I also read that men in their older years, just want simple – they won’t make the accommodations for women that younger men did. I’m accustomed to being treated very well. Anyway, I wish you all the best!!!!!

  6. October 2, 2016 @ 9:41 am Char

    Hi, I emailed you on Sept 24th thank you for your response. My widower friend who isn’t sure, if he wants to continue our relationship is taking me to the airport on Monday and picking me up a week later.
    After much thought I called him yesterday, (I know the no contact rule) but at our ages and circumstances I decided what do I have to lose now. I had bought a small token to give to him for inviting me to his place for the summer and the ride back home and wanted to give it to him. I asked if I could bring it over, he said “sure!”
    He invited me in, gave me a big hug & kiss. We sat down and talked for almost 2 hours to catch up on the last two weeks. Eventually I brought up our problem and what happened. He said I lied to him about a few things (which I didn’t) etc. All trival to me but I guess to him big issues. I have been fighting a hip issue since April. At first I thought it was minor but after several months of shots etc finding out the other day I will need a hip replacement. How did this happen? I am too active.
    I guess I was hoping this would go away and told him things were fine, and didn’t want to burden him with my medical problem. He had gone through so much with his wife’s cancer. Consequently when I went to his place for the summer I had to limit myself to a few water activities, horse back riding etc that he enjoys and not do it. He says now I lied and can’t swim etc. I was afraid of the pain increasing. My fault, I guess I should of told him. How do I amend this? What can I say?
    I know he has feelings for me still. I don’t want to bring anymore up until I get back from my trip.
    Do I suggest we start all over dating, can I invite him out for supper after I get back for taking me to the airport? I really want him in my life. Is there hope, I know it’s worth the saving. I take all the blame. I was wrong and have told him. I should of been upfront about my hip.
    Also he said he has a hard time trying to have a relationship. I asked if he was scared and he didn’t answer me. I guess I thought we were in one the last year.


  7. September 24, 2016 @ 2:34 pm Sienna

    Char — This is a tough one. Not sure what “you’re not in my world” could mean when spoken by a man who clearly loves being with you and sharing varied experiences. One small hint – the airport trip. He seems to want to hold on to you when you’re at your most independent….in this case, going to a wedding – an event in which he’s not included. He also may be afraid of caring for you too much….”betraying” his partner of 58 years. You seem to know the consequences of hanging in there, so I’d say stick with the relationship if you’re able to maintain it on a friendship basis. He may be worth waiting for.

  8. September 24, 2016 @ 1:53 pm Char

    I have been dating my widower friend for 10 months, exclusively. His wife passed away two & half years ago, married 58 years, age 79 now. My husband passed away 2 years ago & we were married 54 years, I’m 73. We met dancing last year and have been dating non stop almost everyday of the week. He is a snowbird here and left in May to his home. We talked every night on the phone two to three hours. In June, I spent a week with him at his cabin, we had a wonderful time. After my returning home, for two more months we spent two and three hours on the phone and finally he asked me to come visit again and drive back with him here in September. The duration would be 7 weeks. When he asked me to come back he said he was ready for a committed relationship which actually we were already in but don’t think he thought of it that way…After 3 weeks in his home state,one evening he asked me to leave he just couldn’t do it anymore… I was heartbroken! He said I just wasn’t in his “world.” We have so much fun, laugh, dance, cry and remembering our past lives, what happened? I have met all of his family and friends. We had a fantastic time.. It ended up I stayed until he was ready to come back. Last minute air fare etc was way too much and then he said NO big deal just stay. During the remaining 4 weeks and the ride back home he was still very affectionate, loving and making sure I was okay. We continued to laugh, cry and have a good time! We had a few discussions about what was happening but I just don’t understand. How can he be so loving etc and want to possibly end the relationship? His he afraid of getting hurt since his wife had been the love of his life? His he just making up excuses? He isn’t a player and I am only the second woman he has gone out with since his wife died. He called me last night, we have been back only four days and no contact until then. I felt the conversation was strained but I want him in my life, I can’t keep from crying and don’t know what to do? He said we may still go out. I am leaving in a week for a wedding and he is taking me to the airport…and picking me up when I return. Does that sound like someone who really wants to part ways? I am getting mixed signals..
    Do I call him or what? I know they say NO CONTACT but at our age and the circumstances of lengthy marriages between the two of us sometimes I just feel maybe that shouldn’t apply?
    I care so much for him, he brought life back to me and I feel I did the same for him!

  9. September 2, 2016 @ 2:39 pm susan

    I have been dating a widowor whose wife died just over two years ago. He has shared personal info about their relationship and very often mentions her during many conversations to a point where I an reluctant to speak because his response will likely include her name or memory of her. I am uncomfortable in his house because pictures are everywhere. When we went on vacation he said it was the anniversary of her death posted a Facebook and showed me her photo. Other event posts include anniversary and how his wedding day was the happiest of his life and he missed her everyday. He says he ready to move on but I think he is looking for a replacement to fill a void. I think he has any great qualities but do not know what to do . I am very unhappy and someone how I will not get the 100 percent that I need and deserve. Should I muster more patience or cut my losses and run

  10. March 31, 2016 @ 9:25 pm Lauren

    You were right. I had made up my mind not to take his next call if he didn’t call me on Wednesday night – but he did and we talked for nearly an hour. I don’t think he had realised that his hot and cold behavior was hurting me, but I explained how much I loved and waited for his calls and how hard it was to go from being called every night for a week – and then not called for a week! We then chatted as if nothing had happened. He called me back again last night and this time we had a wonderful conversation. He told me how much he enjoyed our recent night away and also apologised that he’d missed my birthday (2 months ago – not sure what made him think of that now!). I told him I didn’t want to go to places where he was if I couldn’t be seen with him and he agreed that he didn’t enjoy this either. He does know though that he’s always welcome to come over and see me no matter what time it is and also that he can call me any hour of the day or night. Although we sometimes discuss his wife our conversations are overwhelmingly upbeat and happy (we spend a lot of time teasing each other!) and I think he enjoys them as much as I do. It’s lovely to have someone you care for so much be the last person you speak to at night. Even though I want so much more I know I have to be patient. I think he’s starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m glad I didn’t take any negative action.

  11. March 31, 2016 @ 6:47 pm Sienna

    Lauren – Don’t forget that he is not actually treating you shabbily; his fault / weakness is inability to resist the guilt-inducement coming from his kids. It might not be a bad idea for you to be a little bit harder to reach, but you’d want to strike a proper balance between loving support and a dignified distance.

  12. March 29, 2016 @ 8:43 am Lauren

    Although it will kill me to do it, I am also considering not taking his call next time he tries to ring me. I have made myself so available any time of the day or night – he knows I’d drop anything for him and that I have loved him all my life. I have absolutely no doubt that he has always cared for me too but maybe there comes a time when he needs to think about things. The fact that he calls me night after night and then stops is hurting me so much that I cry myself to sleep most nights. He knows where to find me so maybe if I make things a little more difficult he’ll have to put in a bit more effort and decide for himself whether I’m worth it.

  13. March 29, 2016 @ 7:04 am Sienna

    Lauren — The family pressures he is facing can be devastating, even insurmountable, without the help of an outside party. Talking to the minister you mention could pave the way for a solution. Such a conversation should be low-risk, as she will be bound by any amount of confidentiality you request.

    “Kind, caring” people are perfect targets for the guilt and the threats of estrangement that are part of the pressuring tactics to which you allude. Your love and empathy may eventually win out, but only after he learns to embrace his right to mourn on his own terms, not theirs. Thank you so much for sharing your poignant and very powerful story….

  14. March 27, 2016 @ 12:19 pm Lauren

    My widower and I spent a wonderful night together a week ago. We went away on an overnight trip, he took me to dinner and we spent the night in a motel – the most beautiful night I can remember – but what I enjoyed most was just travelling with him, the normalcy of our conversation and just how comfortable we were with each other. I cried when he dropped me off and he was so sweet and caring. He called me that night to make sure I was OK and called me the next three nights but for the last three it has gone quiet again. I know now that the problem is his family and particularly one sister-in-law. He describes their relationship as almost stronger than that between her and her husband. They are extremely close (although absolutely not in a romantic way he assures me and I believe him). He is such a kind, caring man and I’m sure she knows that. Since his wife’s death over 18 months ago he has found comfort in his faith (which he hadn’t really acknowledged previously). He has a burial plot next to his wife’s and visits her grave weekly. I asked him whether he thought his family could ever accept someone else – even in 5 or 10 years’ time – and he said “I’ll be with S…… by then”. This makes me so sad. I told him that he would have an eternity with her but only so many years left on earth with ME and surely she wouldn’t mind this…..
    but he’s so worried about his sister-in-law and adult sons. The night we were away he received a call from one son and his sister-in-law tried ringing a few times. They won’t leave him alone. He has also become close to the (female) minister who buried his wife. I wonder whether there would be any merit in having a conversation with her (once my divorce is finalised, of course)? I’m sure she would keep it confidential but she might just see how much I love him unconditionally and that all I want to do is be there for him. I know he cares – he’s told me he has – but this whole family thing is overwhelming him.

  15. February 11, 2016 @ 8:06 am Sienna

    Lauren – Thank you for revealing the depth of your feelings in this sensitive comment. You are to be much admired for your support of your widower’s grieving process, which will take as long as it must — everyone mourns differently, as you seem to know. Certainly with a 40 year history the two of you will eventually find the happiness you hope for.

  16. February 11, 2016 @ 5:12 am Lauren

    My widower has visited me three times since we resumed contact three months ago and we have been intimate on each occasion (and believe me, he had absolutely no problem at all). He has also called me reasonably often, most recently two nights ago. I finally decided to tell him that I had loved him for 40 years, because at this stage of our lives I can’t see the point in not expressing how you feel. I think he already knew but thank goodness it hasn’t frightened him away, which was my main concern. He’s a LONG way off being able to do anything other than see me privately but I’m willing to settle for anything because I do love him. I even said to him that I was doing everything I knew I shouldn’t be doing, but I don’t feel he’s using me; we couldn’t have remained as close as we have for 40 years without having feelings for each other. I asked him why he stopped contacting me last year (before I broke the ice and called him again on his birthday) and he said he felt guilty, particularly given our history.
    I am prepared to wait for as long as it takes but it really frustrates me that we’re not getting any younger. Still, I know I can’t push him. He said he doesn’t want me to feel sorry for him (but he knows his situation has nothing to do with how I feel as I loved him just as much when his wife was alive). What does make me sad is that he says things like “I’ve had my time”, etc – it’s like he’s giving up and can’t see a future. He called me two nights ago and told me that he was driving home from the cemetery and that he goes there each week (which I think is beautiful, 18 months on, and shows to me the lovely, carong man that he is). It was actually his wedding anniversary that day, so I guess the fact that he could still call me was a positive step. Unlike things I’ve read in other posts, I don’t think it would ever bother me to see photos and mementos of his wife all over his house – if I ever get there! I so want him to know that I expect nothing from him except to be able to love him openly one day. I tell him a little more each time and hope beyond hope that one day he’ll want someone to share his life with again – and that that someone will be me. I’ve never loved anyone so unconditionally before that if I could bring his wife back I would, just so he coukd be happy again. Likewise if it’s not me he wants to end up with but someone else, I would prefer that than for him to be alone. I just wish I could express the depth of my feelings to him.

  17. February 1, 2016 @ 8:53 am Sienna

    Dee – Your comment is valuable because it addresses the frustration of so many of our readers. The fact that your widower lost his wife less than 2 years ago must surely be a factor in his insistence on old habits and perhaps even his ED problem. He seems to care a lot about you and to respect your opinions, notably with regard to your suggestion that he see a doctor about his ED — also he is trying to drive more carefully (!).

    In the “pick your battles” department, you might rethink your decision about Friday night; it may be that it’s not about HER but about HABIT. Old guys are just SO habit-bound…as you are acknowledging when you say he’s hard-headed.

  18. January 30, 2016 @ 7:47 pm Dee

    I’ve read thru all the posts and can really relate to this.. I’m 70 yrs. old, dating a widowed man since July 2015, whose wife passed away 1.5 yrs. ago (May 2014)… He takes me out to dinner a lot or I have him over for dinners… We were not intimate until 6 weeks after we started dating..He was begging me for ”sex” early on, telling me he had NO PROBLEMS with an erection (He’s 77 yrs. old) …Not so! He had started taking ”male enhancement” pills, thinking he might have a problem, just before we had our first sexual experience..Now, as of Nov., we have no sex life…He has ”ED”, which I finally convinced him to see his Dr. about ..We continued to go out for dinners, etc, however I am continually hearing about ‘all the places THEY went to” on a daily basis.. I feel like the ‘Other Woman” I told him how I was feeling, now I am the one who is ”withdrawing” from this relationship…He does NOT want to get out of his ”Friday Ritual” of going out to dinner every Friday like he did with his Wife.. We’re both retired, so I feel we can go out anytime when the traffic isn’t as bad… I’m trying to ”wean” him from this ritual, telling him we’ll go out ”during the week”… His driving is disastrous, ”speeding” everywhere we go, to the point I told him if he continues speeding down the roads, I would not get in the car with him anymore…he abided by my wish…. I feel he’s NOT READY to date.. I’m sure it’s hard to break the ”habits” after many years of marriage, but I’m not going to continue feeling like I do, it’s not healthy… It’s been 7 months now & you learn a LOT more as time goes by… He’s a very kind, caring Man, but a bit ”hard-headed” at times… Anyone else have the same feelings?

  19. January 29, 2016 @ 1:45 pm Sienna

    Jean — You seem to be with a man who is sensitive and caring, but at the same time terribly conflicted. You’re in a difficult place when it comes to the photos and fond-memory stories. You may need to initiate the “Are you really ready to move on?” conversation. You can be gentle but firm. If he values your relationship (and it appears that he does), he may welcome your perspective and be ready to confront whatever it is that is keeping him locked in the past for an unusually long period.

  20. January 26, 2016 @ 11:16 am Jean

    I have been with my wonderful widower for 3 years, his wife passed almost 5 years ago. I was ok with the stories and pictures until about 6 months ago, then it started to irritate me. He tries to stay away from the past, but seems to find it hard. I have found more pictures of LW in new frames in the closet, I feel he wants to put them out but doesn’t want to hurt me.I feel I am keeping him from not doing what he wants and this will come in between our otherwise good relationship. Should I tell him to tell the stories and put out the pictures. He seems to be getting stressed out lately.

  21. December 27, 2015 @ 2:57 pm Sienna

    Lauren, I so admire you for graciously supporting him without pressure or demands during his grieving process. It has taken him a while to acknowledge your importance in his life, but that may make his positive feelings for you more grounded and trustworthy. I’m very happy for you — and I hope you will let us know how it goes!

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.