Thursday, June 13, 2013

Widows and Widowers: Should we just date each other?

"I think I could only date a widower -- only someone who has gone through this could understand," I told a buddy when I thought I might be ready to start dating after losing my beloved Robert.

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.]


  1. Thanks so much for the link to my website, Joan. I'm honored to be in your company for discussion of this topic. And - we seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to the empathy widows and widowers may share.

    The man I call PASHA and were both widowed when we met - he for seven years, I for five. Many things have conspired to make us feel fulfilled and bonded, one being the way we can speak freely, and with warmth, about our spouses. We view them not as impediments, but rather as inspiration. The happy marriages we experienced have helped us find joy in each other without having to compromise our private memories.

    I'm not sure contentment on such a scale would be possible if one of us was divorced - that is, if an ex's stressful phone calls and money squabbles were to regularly intrude on our relationship.

    1. This is beautiful: "...the way we can speak freely, and with warmth, about our spouses. We view them not as impediments, but rather as inspiration."

      That's how I'd like a relationship to be, going forward.

  2. Dan, 65, Santa Cruz MountainsJune 14, 2013

    Joan, I've strong feelings here, date tested feelings. Gut and heart feelings road tested over five years age 54 to 59 when I found my now partner and married. I'm 65 mow, in a great marriage now 6yrs.

    Back then, I would only date: Divorced with kids. OK, I broke the kids rule w/ my wife now. But I lived with death for ten years; that of a three decade very much death throes marriage. Terminal illness of a soul dying spouse replete with bitterness, hate, unforgiveness and banishment is as bad as cancer any day I would argue. So I get the date only fellow widows/widowers deal. But it doesn't address the issue head on.

    Experience: I fell in love my 1st yr dating with a widow, who still had her last husband's ashes in the closet 5yrs out. Her friends pushed her to date. Neither of us were ready. Yet those 3 delightful months--full of poetry and tears--was VERY healing and dear and soul profiting for both of us. Especially the sex. One cannot underestimate the mystery of healing, honest, soul deep sex.

    This whole thing for me is about the skill of letting go yet feeling the pain and tears along the way. My brother--bless him--has not changed my mom's phone number (he inherited her Tuscon home) or her voice msg on that ans. machine at her old place FOR ELEVEN YRS NOW! I love mom and still talk to her and pray for her. BUT I still think her voice at her old house when I call for my brother there is creepy. Creepy!

    Blessed are those who mourn and let go and feel it. For they shall be comforted. No mourning? No comfort. I wanted to connect deeply with a woman who had experienced grief, found her tears, and made progress healing. Bottom line for me was "ashes in the ground". Didn't matter if they were divorce ashes or the dust of real bones. I actually thought I should date a widow, to connect with similar, deep felt grief. Anyway, who is ever ready enough to date, right?

    1. Thank you for such detailed comment full of wisdom, Dan. I love this part, especially:

      "Neither of us were ready. Yet those 3 delightful months--full of poetry and tears--was VERY healing and dear and soul profiting for both of us. Especially the sex. One cannot underestimate the mystery of healing, honest, soul deep sex."

    2. Dan, 65, Santa Cruz MountainsJune 14, 2013

      Oh, and now my fuzzy mind remembers another widow I dated those 5 yrs. Husband in the ground 9 years and $1M in the bank from his life ins. No tears. No grief. No problem. All was very comfortable. Too comfortable. No place to fall or to be held from falling. No deal. No love. No dice.

      Three dates and we were both done. Untouched. Unsexed. Unhealed.

      Grief is an amazing aphrodisiac and salve which can lead to deep wounds closing, healing. Didn't happen here. I had no time to dally in case it might show up with her. Next.

  3. I was widowed 8 years ago. I spent a year in deep grief, not knowing how I was ever going to be able to love again. I surprised myself by falling in love with someone new just a year later.

    He wasn't widowed. It didn't matter. He had plenty of space in him to absorb my unexpected grief attacks. Like the time he arrived on my porch to go to an art museum by bus just as I melted down about all the times my husband and I took the bus for fun day trips.

    My new love listened to my story, held me, and normalized the whole experience. I was more self-conscious about my meltdown than he was. He said I clearly had space for him in my heart, so he didn't mind and even welcomed hearing about the life I had with my husband. It was incredibly healing to be witnessed and loved through the last of my grief process.

    1. Oh, Miriam, your new love is a treasure. How lucky you are to have found each other. Thank you for sharing this with us.


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