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The Suspicious Widower

In the comments section of my article How Old Is Too Old? a reader wrote this:

“Lots of older men assume that women will pressure them to commit, and that it is up to them to set limits and to declare they are not interested in commitment. If a woman is not interested in commitment, is it necessary to disabuse a man of this belief or would it be OK just to continue the delusion?”

This comment made me think of an encounter I had some years ago with a man 12 years my senior. I liked him well enough, but I was not at all romantically interested in him. I thought he felt the same way, but he soon demonstrated rather clumsily that he wanted a physical relationship. When I pulled away, he was indignant. As I recall, he said something like this: “You’d better take what’s being offered, missy. There aren’t very many men like me out there, and a whole lot of women like you are looking for a husband.”

Mercifully, such blowhards are rare. Most widowers I know are generous of spirit and too emotionally healthy to behave so rudely, much less to regard man-woman relationships with such chauvinism. But we do have to take a stand against those who think a woman’s every interaction with a man is a sly attempt to lure him into marriage.

Older men do the math. They know that in our age group the man-woman ratio is less than 1 man to every 2 women. Too many of them are convinced that women in their age group are in a frenzy of recruitment, out to turn a commitment-phobic man into a contented spouse.

How to alter this aspect of the dating game? Here are some ways to educate a man who interprets your cordiality as the ploy of a wife-wannabee.

  • Offer evidence of your financial independence. Older men worry that women are looking for help footing the household bills. Sometimes that might be true, even if it’s unconscious on the part of a woman who depended on a man to handle finances and feels insecure about managing on her own. The emphasis here is not on fiscal management but on letting a new companion know you don’t need his money.
  • Emphasize the balance aspect of your relationship. You are not “only a woman,” a member of “the weaker sex”. Find ways to let him see that you are his emotional equal and that you find contentment in companionship without wanting to manage the outcome.
  • Limit future planning to questions like “Where shall we go on vacation?” Avoid the dreaded “Where is this relationship going?” When a man hears this he shuts down, and who can blame him?
  • Keep the relationship on an even keel. Avoid being passive-aggressive, giving your man the silent treatment when you don’t get the feedback you want. This doesn’t mean no disagreements. It means no whining.
  • Give him lots of slack. Allow some room for an involuntary sense of commitment to slowly overtake him. In a way that is not characteristic of young men, older men, especially those who have retired from active employment, become dependent on their companions. It’s a gradual process, and you’ll need a lot of patience, but one day – all things such as family, career, sex, and finances being equal — he won’t want to be without you.


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'The Suspicious Widower' have 8 comments

  1. May 9, 2016 @ 7:11 am Sienna

    Hallmark CG — Thanks for expressing such a positive outlook! Yep, it’s hard to adjust to a more casual setup after decades in committed relationships. But there are many benefits to being a FWB….as in old Indian lore, “eat when hungry, sleep when sleepy”. You can rarely enjoy that sort of freedom when you are being responsive and responsible to a full time partner. Love your last line – keep having fun!

  2. May 7, 2016 @ 11:32 pm Hallmark Channel Groupie

    Similar to the suspicious widower, my recent partner is determined not to make any future permanent commitments since his divorce from his high-school sweetheart after 34 years and his 10-year, long-distance partner which ended 2 years ago. He is content to enjoy his “alone time” and my friendship (with benefits) on a weekly schedule. Although comfortable for now, I am adjusting to the fact I may never have a lifetime commitment and may actually enjoy my independence. However, it is quite a different concept for me, since all I have ever know is marriage and long-term commitment. The romantic side of me still longs to be “wanted” permanently and part of his total life. I, too, appreciate and require my “alone time” so I don’t think that would be an issue. I don’t need to be anyone’s clone or devour their every waking moment. I am financially and emotionally independent, but still desire someone who “can’t live without me.” I was encouraged by your comment that time may create an involuntary sense of commitment. In the meantime, it is a lot of fun and satisfying during the wait.

  3. April 24, 2016 @ 1:12 pm Sienna

    Most women are expecting to share expenses in a late-in-life relationship, especially those who have or have had careers. And although I understand your wish that your wife could have been its beneficiary, I hope you will not hoard your wealth in the mistaken belief that not spending any of it at all on a new companion is somehow an act of loyalty to the woman you’ve lost.

  4. April 23, 2016 @ 11:36 am Henry

    Ladies, you should stop and think about yourselves. Most of you do want a protector because you were used to it whether or not you are a widow or divorced. so You can’t blame a man for being wary. I am looking for a woman who has her own money, my wife is the one who should have had mine but she died and the best I will do is share expenses with whoever I end up with.

  5. April 23, 2016 @ 10:03 am Lindsay

    I hate not being able to talk about the future and it’s true that men get turned off right away if you want to talk about it. I have a good relationship but we can’t plan ahead of more than what restuarant we’re going to. It’s frustrating as hell.

  6. April 23, 2016 @ 8:01 am Sienna

    HLP — Many life events go into a formula for dating after 60. It’s true that some men may worry about how they stack up against these events and relationships.

  7. April 22, 2016 @ 1:30 pm HLP

    I think men have to have something to hold over women because they are insecure.

  8. April 22, 2016 @ 1:10 pm Elishiva

    This is so true. I feel like I’m getting the fish eye from some of these guys and I’m a professional woman with an MBA. I don’t need anyone’s money. I think it’s maybe intimidating for them. which is the opposite of what you’re trying to generate.

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