Friday, January 24, 2014

Girlfriends of Widowers

I was reading a blog this evening from a man who experienced the death of his wife, and was on the healing road and in a new relationship.  The blog entry centered on the "hostility" (in quotes because I don't think it's intentional hostility) that seems to exist from those women who decide to date and/or marry a widower (known colloquially as WOWs or GOWs -- Wives or Girlfriends of Widowers).  If you care to read the blog, here is the link.  I find the subject fascinating, since I am a widower, especially as I am trying to make that step from grieving husband to new relationship.  For me, it will be ten years in April since Teresa died suddenly due to a massive heart attack.  I've shared the story here on my own blog several times, which you can read all about here.

I hadn't realized just how difficult it might be for a woman to date me.  The "baggage" I've accumulated as a result of being married before is one thing, but to include the years of grief, the years of depression, a young daughter, a family of in-laws, and still living in the same house my wife and I purchased over 12 years ago, all of it must be completely overwhelming to someone who I just met and might like to date me.  How does one deal with all of that?  Is it fair for me to bring all of this to the table of a potential relationship?

That's where this "hostility" comes from.  The widower may find it difficult to to get past much of this stuff, or even if they do, or think they do, there's still the GOW who has to confront this same stuff and decide whether it's worth it to enter into a potential relationship with the widower.  There's a competition that exists, whether the widower sees it or not, between the GOW and the dead wife.  If the widower has any unresolved feelings for the dead wife, that's going to be an issue for the GOW.  Even pictures, or personal belongings that may be in the widower's home that belonged to the dead wife, are going to be issues.  The widower may not think anything of them, but I guarantee the GOW will.

I dated a wonderful young lady a few years ago.  The relationship was quite serious, and we were discussing marriage.  There are a number of factors involved in why the relationship didn't work out, in particular the fact she lived in Oklahoma and I lived here in Maryland, but early on, she had a very hard time with the fact that I had pictures of my dead wife still sitting out.  We had already started "pre-marriage" counseling, and the subject came up during one of our sessions.  I reasoned that the pictures were there for my daughter's benefit, not mine.  I believed it was important that my daughter know and be reminded of who her mother was.  The girlfriend said she understood, but she didn't like it.  She asked me to "sanitize" the house by getting rid of anything that had either belonged to my wife, or reminded us of her.  In fact, we planned to move to a new house upon getting married.  In addition, she wanted me to begin making lifestyle changes, such as changing churches, before we got married.  This was especially hard, since my daughter and I were fairly involved in our church.  I dragged my feet, and she got angry.  I figured it would better to just wait until she moved here and we could find a church together.  She disagreed, and it came up that she didn't like that we went to a church that my wife and I attended together, and she wanted me to immediately look for a different church for us to attend.  I just didn't understand why this was so important to her.  I still don't.  I mean, I do, but it just seemed like she was being insensitive.  My attending our church had more to do with me and my daughter, not with my dead wife.  But she wanted our relationship to be all about us, including where we attended church, and that meant eliminating everything having a connection to my wife.

I now realize that this is one of those things that WOWs and GOWs struggle with.  It may not have anything to do with me, the widower, but the GOW is going to want to feel special.  These changes are going to be important, and communication is going to have to be there.  It's going to be hard for me, as a widower, to shut off that part of my life.  And it will be hard.

I hope I will be able to find someone understanding of my previous life, just as I hope that I will be able to make that someone understand that they are special and our relationship is unique to us.  It's something I pray about regularly.  I believe God will help make the relationship work, if it's meant to be.

There is much more I can write about this subject, but I'm going to stop here.  Stay tuned.

Have a great evening, everyone!


  1. I know tis post is over a year old, but I can't help but ask this question. (I acknowledge that I am not a widower so I'm 'on the outside looking in'.) How is it different for Boyfriends and Husbands of Widows?

    1. I can't really speak for widows, since I'm not one and I have not dated a widow. I imagine there may be similarities, but I just don't know. (Sorry for the late response...I just now saw this comment.)

  2. I don't know if you will see this post, but as a GOW, struggling is such totally different ways, I feel I have to take a chance. I have been in this relationship for almsot a year now, very slowly. He lost his wife in an automobile accident three years ago. I am not sure that he is ready to date, but we did meet online, I loved your blog about online dating, so I thought he was, my struggle is not what you experienced with your girlfriend, in fact maybe just the opposite. I have accepted that I will share his love with his late wife, they were married for a long time, they have a child. I want him to have that love always, to share it, I want to be a part of it. When I went to his house the first time the one things that was so sad to me was she wasn't there. There were only a few pictures, and places that I feel like pictures maybe once had been, but for whatever reason had been removed. It was the house they shared together, and yet for whatever reason he had removed her from it, and it was sad to me. I know as you have shared that he has struggled with depression. I truly cannot imagine. Anyway, my struggle right now is that I feel like the "other woman". In the almost year that we have dated he has yet to introduce me to his family, or to hers and he is very close to them. I have not met any of his friends. There is a part of me that feels like I am so very different than his late wife that he is almost embarrased by me, I would never try to replace her, would never try to be her, I know that as much as he loves me, he will never love me like he loves her, nor should he and all of that is okay...but he has infused himself into my life, my family, my children, and yet I am all but a secret in his. I try not to let it bother me, I feel like I am being so very selfish. I'm sorry. I just don't know where to turn, actually I do, I have prayed, and prayed and prayed...and today I don't really know how but I found your here I am. I am sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your journey. I hope you are feeling better.

    1. Thank you for sharing your heart and soul in your comments. I really wish I had a good response or advice, or something to help you feel better. I will pray for you and for him. This is such a hard thing to deal with, on both sides, too, I imagine, and there's no easy solution. Every loss is personal, and how each of us deals with it is different. Every situation is unique. I think you've done all the right things, and you should feel good to have done so. But I think you'll just have to have that conversation with him, and ask him directly why he hasn't allowed you to enter into his life like you have brought him into yours. I hope it works out for you both. Again, I will pray. You're an awesome person to do what you're doing. Best wishes to you both.


    2. Also, I'm so sorry for my very late reply. I had to fly out of town for a lengthy period of time, just a few days before you posted your comments, and I just didn't see it before now.