I put my preference for widowers prominently in my online dating profile. I later changed that, or at least softened it to "bonus points," just because it narrowed the possibilities too much. But it remains my preference. Here's why:
- When they are talking with animation and suddenly sink into silence and sadness, I understand.
- When they bring up anecdotes about their wives, I get it.
- When they slip into present tense talking about their spouse, then correct themselves, I remember how often I've done that.
- When they talk vulnerably about their grief, I know I can do that, too.
- When they laugh and talk about their future changes they want to make in their lives, I know what it took to get to that point.
How long does it take to be ready to date? I don't know. We're all different. Don't judge us if we think we're ready, then realize we're not. We’re not grieving for a time, then suddenly done with grief — it’s a spiral: we cycle in and out of grief. We can feel that we’re truly ready to date, and then we’re struck down by missing our beloved powerfully.
And if you date a widow or widower, please don't worry that you're in competition with his or her perfect spouse. You're not in competition with our memories. Understand that there will always be that layer of memories and love, and accept that part of us. It shows that we know how to love.
Recently, I've had a couple of dates with two different widowers. I love the conversation, how easily we slip in and out of past and present, how we acknowledge the fear and the reluctance to date again -- and how we realize that our growth depends on learning how to do that. Maybe we should just date each other.
What do you think? Your comments are welcome, especially if you are widowed or are dating a widow or widower.
[Thank you, Sienna Jai Fein, for the post "Widower: What If He’s Not Ready To Date?" on Dating Senior Men, which led me to ruminate on this topic.]