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Whittling Down The Widowers

THE COMPLEXITY OF GRIEF

Widowers have confronted terrible sadness, but they are more than the sum of 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 relationship is a lively exchange of ideas but your conversations keep finding their way back to the subject of his departed partner, you may want to face facts — sooner rather than later. Some men sign up for the dating game prematurely — without having fully accepted 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. Here are some mind sets to look for.

      •   His marriage was a strain and he knows it

This man is a stranger to endearment, nurturing, unequivocal support. He does not recall his marriage as true partnership. If you are patient and kind and you show him how true companionship works, you will take him to new heights. He will be be surprised at first. He may be suspicious. He will be grateful. Eventually he will be more than grateful.

  • His marriage was a miasma of anger and resentment but he recalls it as a joy

His mind’s marriage-memory chip has been changed out for one in which shrewish, selfish behavior is remembered as a passion for life. He’s defensive about it because somewhere deep down he’s relieved — certainly not about her death, but about not having to endure the strain of trying to stay ahead of her displeasure and unhappiness.  What does this mean to you? If you can be a warm and unselfish companion, one who avoids criticism and smug comparison, you will put him at ease and make way for the start of a satisfying relationship.

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

A friend of mine is partnered with 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 more patience than I do. She should take him home and wash his mouth out with soap….well, okay, maybe politely explain that he needs to get on with his life. Occasionally a man like this doesn’t realize what he’s doing.  More often he does, and he can’t stop. He’s comfortable and you’re entrenched. It’s okay to let compassion expire, or at least decrease as a percentage of your time together.

  • 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.

Perhaps you are widowed as well, and so you are positioned to share a mutual understanding of loss. Your best relationship with a widower – the one you should strive for — is one in which there is mutual comfort with sharing memories of your spouses. When they can be spoken about freely and without self-consciousness they can be inspiration, not impediment.  If you’ve been widowed, too, and your marriage also was a good one, you and your new man can continue to feel fullfilled because, thanks to the warm and supportive marriages you experienced, you are in the habit of feeling so.

A word of caution: Love after 60 is not, as it was decades ago, only about the two people involved. You most likely have children, as does he. No matter how joyous your proposed union, you will want the approval of your kids; at the very least you will not want their disapproval. A happy senior couple will stay happier if they take slow, careful, incremental steps when it’s time to tell the kids. Responsibility rests on the kids as well. Ideally, their “approval” will be matched by courtesy, and eventually with caring.

 

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'Whittling Down The Widowers' have 26 comments

  1. September 18, 2017 @ 1:47 am Over50dating

    When single people who are at the age of 50, or even older, I think they’d like to find another like-minded person and dating again.

  2. October 10, 2016 @ 10:22 am Pat Semple

    I got tired of the man grieving for his lost wife. I was sympathetic for two years and then I began to get that “tea and sympathy” was all that was wanted. I’ve been dating a divorced man and it’s better because I’m divorced too and we have no one to grieve for but a couple of losers who are still alive.

  3. June 18, 2016 @ 11:04 am Kind Lady

    I think you’re right on the money with the man who was suffering for decades and didn’t know it. A man I once dated was amazed that a woman would actually bring him beer and noshes and watch the game with him. He was amazed that he didnt have to dry the dishes! He was amazed that a woman would be responsive in bed although he wasn’t a very good lover and I had to fake it.

  4. December 24, 2015 @ 9:16 am Sienna

    Goodie Twoshoes — Kids often fear the replacement of a mother. It is up to their father to explain that a later-in-life relationship fulfills a normal human need for companionship. And even if it involves affection or even love (and sex) it is not replacement of a life partner.

  5. December 22, 2015 @ 11:07 am Goodie Twoshoes

    I have had some trouble with a widower’s kids. He was okay but the kids were upset because they thought a new woman was a replacement for their mother. Divorced men have ex-wives and if they were not the one to leave the kids seem to be more okay with new relationships.

  6. December 21, 2015 @ 11:00 am Teri Mae

    I’m fed up with widowers. They can’t get past talking about their dead wives and it happens all the time.

  7. April 22, 2015 @ 1:31 pm Nick

    I guess I fall into the had a good marriage catagory, and I have to say that although you have some good points here I have to point out that women are just as guilty of talking too much about their husbands. Some of them make you believe you will never measure up so why try.

  8. February 7, 2015 @ 12:11 pm Glory B.

    This is elegantly written and shows deep understanding of what one might go through with when dating a widower. I’m strongly against a widow or widower referring to a lost spouse in the middle of an otherwise lighthearted conversation, and I sympathize with your friend. I agree that it’s rude. It’s one thing to have conversations in private, but public tributes are out of place when you are accompanied by a new companion.

  9. July 9, 2014 @ 12:28 pm betsy kirkpatrick

    i am 72 years old and i would like to find a good man. its hard to find someone to share with.

  10. December 2, 2012 @ 6:37 pm Gayle

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

  11. March 4, 2012 @ 8:03 pm PCaryl

    Thanks for your answer, Sienna.

  12. March 4, 2012 @ 7:52 pm Sienna

    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.

  13. March 3, 2012 @ 9:01 pm PCaryl

    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?

  14. January 27, 2012 @ 1:57 pm Walt

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

  15. November 4, 2011 @ 8:13 am Mary Gold

    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.

  16. September 3, 2011 @ 7:55 am Teri

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

  17. May 6, 2011 @ 9:59 am Charlotte M

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

  18. April 14, 2011 @ 6:21 pm Sienna

    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.

  19. April 14, 2011 @ 6:08 pm Patsy R.

    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.

  20. April 9, 2011 @ 5:44 pm Joan Price

    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.

  21. March 5, 2011 @ 3:31 pm Sienna

    Whew! You’re right! Thanks.

  22. March 1, 2011 @ 8:00 am Mary Gold

    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.

  23. February 23, 2011 @ 12:06 pm H

    The word is “whittle”, or in this case “whittling”. 🙂

  24. February 23, 2011 @ 8:07 am Rachel

    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.

  25. February 12, 2011 @ 11:53 am Tweets that mention Widows and Widowers Find Each Other | Dating Senior Men -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jesse Mendes, Sepha. Sepha said: RT @datingseniormen /Today's (Feb 11) blogpost: Whittling Down The Widowers http://bit.ly/exxJiR […]

  26. February 11, 2011 @ 4:57 am Daisy Mae

    I’ll take one from Column Four. LOL


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