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!
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?ReplyDelete
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.)Delete
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 blog...so here I am. I am sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your journey. I hope you are feeling better.ReplyDelete
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.Delete
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.Delete
I know this is 2years ago, but I am in this situation , after 3 years... so many reasons , his in-laws would be upset, they told him they would hate to see him with someone else, 2 of his 4 children aren’t very happy about him moving on, Inhave asthma and they all smoke, I am close to giving up now, I hope your situations all improved xDelete
Dear Eric, If you are still monitoring this I would love your advise. 30 years ago I met a wonderful man. We had so much in common and were attracted to each other but the timing was totally wrong. We were both unhappily married. We wanted to make our marriages work so we remained distant friends only. In fact we were so distant that we did not know that we had both divorced. He was happily married to his 2nd wife for 23 years before she died after a long illness. He adored her. We saw each other for the first time in many years about 3 months after she died. We quickly reconnected and began seeing each other. We knew it was too soon but were both alone and unhappy. We have a great relationship in many ways. But understandably he is still grieving his loss. I Do respect that, but it is difficult. We have seen each other about 4 1/2 months and love each other but when he thinks about the ways that we fit together he feels guilty and pulls back. Also our intimate relationship is effected as he has difficulty with guilt feelings there also.ReplyDelete
Can we work through this in time?
Hi, and thanks for your comments. Far be it from me to offer advice to anyone, since I believe each and every relationship is unique. The only thing I might comment on is that he may need counseling. If there's one thing that I did wrong, it's that I never got professional counseling following the death of my wife. I still struggle occasionally, even after 13 years. I think anything is possible given time and patience, and your relationship with each other will weather this, but it will take work. Keep in mind, though, I'm just a blogger. I'm not a professional counselor by any stretch. Good luck, and God bless you.Delete
I know these posts are older, but is there a site out here that helps support GOW's when the widow has teenage daughters who want to have control over the widow's dating life?ReplyDelete
Hi. Thanks for the comment. I wish I had an answer for you, but I just don't know. I agree, though, that there SHOULD be one. I'm certainly not an authority on the subject, though.Delete
I've been dating my BF for 2 years now. His LW DOD is 5- 8-15 (also her birthday). They have 7 adult children. The daughters are horrible to me. They text their father calling me names that would make a sailor blush. My problem is that my BF doesn't stick up for me. I told him that just makes them think it's fine to do so. We've had multiple arguments on this subject and each time he says next time he will stick up for me. The next time is always worse than the last and still no standing up for me. Please helpReplyDelete
Hi, Sereena. I'm so sorry. It sounds like the daughters are just not open to accepting anyone who may replace their mother. I went through this with my daughter, who didn't like it when I dated anyone. Something to consider is that, if the BF doesn't stick up for you now, he may not ever, especially going on two years now. Please understand that I am just a blogger, though... I am no authority on any of this other than being a widower, and every situation is different. I have personally given up on dating because it's hard enough being a dad, and because my daughter was an infant when my wife died and it's just been the two of us her whole life. Your challenge is trying to win over his adult children. Good luck.Delete
Here is another late reply...hope there are people listening! Im both a widow AND a GOW...so I have both experiences. But my loss was over 20 yrs ago. I dated many men, but not until I'd taken down his photos (kids had their own) and made my home 'welcoming' to any new love interest, which wasn't often, while honoring the man I'd been married to. How? maybe a day out w my kids or visiting his family, etc...just being normal, not put that man on a high pedastyle. He was just a normal guy, not a SAINT! When I met the new man he was only 6 months out of the chute! Her ashes were still in his living room, so it was a NO GO for several months at my insistence. He hung in there and went through 'the process' though his kids never really accepted me and the late wife's photos still show up on FB and her death anniversaries are celebrated! She gets 'more' wonderful, in other words. *my bday goes unnoticed...5 yrs later. Why am I still in this relationship? He is a good companion when we are 'away' from all the reminders so I'm glad HE is allowed to have a lifestyle from grief and sadness his family insists upon. I know I'll always be #2 in their eyes. So SAD b/c I went through this and my friends and family were supportive of my healing and living a positive life. My focus is making me #1 in my own heart and life, b/c I'll never be that in this situation, for sure.ReplyDelete
I have been searching for those going thro the same as me, im so glad i came across this site. I've been dating my widower 6 months, so a fairly new relationship. I knew his wife and him before she passed away as our daughters were in the same class at school. She was a wonderful kind woman and i really liked her. I tried to be a friend and support to him, and our feelings just developed from there. He is an amazing man, his daughter is lovely to me and really likes me. He gets on well with my children and we go out together as a 'family'. I adore the fact that he loved his wife so much, and they had a wonderful marraige. Its made him who he is, the man i love, and it shows me how capable he is of loving and having healthy relationships. My problem is that other than his daughter, he has told no one else about us. Also, altho he has been in my home on countless occasions i have never been allowed to set foot in his. And my biggest problem, he wont open up to me. He expects me to tell him when i am struggling or having a bad day, as he loves me and wants to help......but he wont afford me the same opportunity . He doesnt talk to me about his late wife, even tho ive made it very clear he is free to do so and it doesnt bother me. If he is struggling, like on an anniversary or christmas or a birthday..... He just totally shuts down and shuts me out. I find this so hard as i have opened my heart to him, ive confided in him about my past and other things...... I feel as though he doesnt truly trust me, and what is love if there is no trust? I am feeling very confused, sad and upset at the moment as today is one of the days he is shutting me out. Thankyou if anyone read thro this all xReplyDelete
Hi. I am married 6 months to my former widower whose LW passed in March of 2018. We have a wonderful relationship but it is wrought with him having made a shrine in their/our home by his unwillingness to let me do much and her clothes and stuff are everywhere .He has only recently started to change her name from the utilities. I've yet to be added to his bank account.ReplyDelete
He constantly wants to talk about her and make comparisons. I was her best friend so I almost understand .But it is very painful to me. We are strong Christians and I know he honored his commitment to her, but upon her death, his marriage to her ended .His love, no, never .But when he married me, he began a commitment to me which is not being honored .I feel like the other woman and its very painful. I am walking with him through this so I experience his grief and have given so much grave and practiced patience, but it hurts me so deeply to hear him say these things and yesterday, I told him for the first time he hurt my feelings. He said it was on me since he's the one who lost his wife.
I have been praying and speaking scriptures and am doing my best but it crushes me. He refuses to get therapy so my only recourse is to pray. I find great comfort, sadly, in knowing that there are so many of us.
I wish that our men would see the pain isn't just theirs when they invite someone in to their life. I am deeply in love with my husband, but my heart hurts so much .
I think he will always love her, and I'm not jealous of that love .I simply want to be the priority in our home, his heart and his conversation .My solace is that God brought us together and I will continue to believe my God is working this out for our good.
I been in relationship with a widower going on 4 yrs.. Several weeks ago I told him that he was dispecting me by having his wife picture on fire place he has her ashes upstairs in a container he has pictures all over his house in bedroom where we sleep it's a summer home....im supposed to listen to his conversation when he talking to his family or friends about his former wife if I decide to leave the room when he speaks of her he feels that I'm leaving because of her name being mentioned ..im sorry the woman died I'm sorry he hurts I feel until you get some level griefing maybe wait until getting into relationship I understand you don't get over it and I'm willing to listen when he speaks of her..my feeling is why bring another woman into the relationship when you can't moved forward he feels he has to be loyal to her how about me where's my honor to me if she did not die I wouldn't be here I feel like a replacement..to top it off his children are boy and girl in 40 yrs they too feel I should get in the conversation that's they're memories..not mind I'm trying to make new ones..When we moved to our new home his kids claim the bedrooms upstairs and the grandchildren downstairs I was led to believe the upstairs was going to be a room where I was going to make a sewing room put my family and his family pictures decorated put a bed it's a large room.. the rooms are occupied by there belonging there mother's pictures I never go upstairs I feel the house is not mind they come often from the city it's about a 3hr hr drive in so many words I was told by his daughter in law and the rest of the kids it wasn't my house I told them I did not come for drama or stressed..I told them I will leave right now..thier did not hear the argument..i found out later they told him ..I was so upset when I found out he knew about the argument I said you knew but you did not bother to ask my side..Before we moved into the house the kids treating me with respect I was feeling great about them.that day we move in they're true colors come out I moved with their father because I love him ..Hes a wonderful person and man but there's certain things I can't handle his kids disrespecting me and coming over I don't feel comfortable with them knowing it could happen again..once you are allowed to do it their father should have put them in their place and honor me like he does his former wife..ReplyDelete