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I need some advice. I am a widower, who fell in love with a widow. Now, we are still in love but not dating... OMG this is so confusing!

So I am here hoping to get input from others who may have been in this place.

I lost my wife of 24 years in 2014 and have dated quite a bit since then.  No one has been able to make the spark that she gave me since I lost her.  I was starting to think I had issues.  However, right before giving up, I met a wonderful lady that I know she would approve of.  She is smart, caring, beautiful, and best of all, the day we met we just connected.  She lost her husband of about 19 years, just 2 months before I lost my wife so we understand everything the other has gone through.  It has been a wonderful relationship.

The only flaw in the whole thing was that I was the first person she dated since he passed.  While she did a lot of dating in her younger years, I didn't.  So we are kind of opposites on that thing.  I was a little apprehensive at the beginning because of this, and I told her I did not want to rush into anything and she assured me we were OK with where we were at.  We became close and had a great relationship.

A little over a month ago, she pulled back suddenly.  Since this happened, we have not been affectionate in any way together, more than kissing each other a little (such as goodbye) and hugging.  We have discussed the issue and she has told me that I have done absolutely nothing wrong.  It is all her feelings that is causing this.  We have been making attempts at working on things and nothing has helped.

This past week we got together and she told me that she couldn't go on.  In essence, she gave me reasons, that literally made no sense to me.  An example of the one that stood out the most is how my wife and I made decisions together, and her and her husband did their own decision making with the exception of building their house.  To me they were all non-issues, easy to resolve, but in her mind they were not.

So now, this is where I stand.  She told me that she still loves me.  She still wants me to be a part of her life as well as her kids lives (they love me), she wants to give it a couple of weeks but still go out and do things, she still wants me to go with her to neighborhood parties.  She wants me to still text and call her from time to time.  She does not want to date anyone else (but it's OK if I do... which I don't want to), which to me sounds like we are dating, but in essence we are not dating anymore. 

Since that night, we have had much more meaningful communications, she is acting like her old self again with me.  Today I went over to drop off something and we talked for a good 30 minutes and she is hurting and misses me, and gave an indication that at some point we will possibly be OK.  She wanted to know if I was doing OK also.  

So, here is where I need the input.  I think that she is feeling guilt about dating and falling in love with someone other than her husband and is confused by that and other issues.  And I truly understand that, as I went through it also early on in dating.

I am wanting to know from others who have lost a partner and started dating again, am I doing the right thing by being patient and giving her space, even though she said that she can not continue dating me?  If I were to go out with anyone else as she suggested, it would eventually end our friendship as anyone new would not understand.  And honestly, she is my best friend, she knows more about me than even my own family does. Even though we are not "dating" she is still a part of my life which is huge.  But, I also want her to be able to move on from this episode.  I know that some people would tell me to let it go and move on myself, but I just am not ready to do that yet, as I believe in us.  

Also, just so it is out there, marriage has been discussed, but neither of us want that until after our kids are out of the house which is at least 5 years down the road.

I just want to find out how others would see this situation if they were in my shoes and how they might address it, having gone through a loss.

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I’m not dating or having the desire to date at this point (want to be upfront here) but from what you’ve written, I can offer an opinion. Might not be worth much but maybe food for thought anyway.

It’s been only four years for both of you so here’s what I think might be happening. She may feel the relationship is moving a little faster than she is comfortable with and she is trying to slow things down a little. Take time and get to know each other well—have those long conversations and really listen to one another. She may be more of an independent soul and is afraid of losing herself in your relationship. 

Give things more time! You mention you’ve discussed marriage already—is this something you would both want? I think for now, those discussions need to be on the back burner. So, give her space when she needs it if you are serious about her. If I am wrong here, it will come out in time. But the fact she still wants to see you and spend time with you tells me she cares but not quite ready for this full-blown relationship. She may also have other fears or insecurities.

I hope I am not being too blunt. I could be WAY off, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Try to resist any type of pressure or expressions of disappointment. It won’t help. Be patient. Good luck!

This is a great reply.  You and I are thinking alike.  I appreciate the input.

The marriage discussion has been only a couple of times and in each case was started by a question each of us had.  But in both cases we made sure it remained a light topic with no intention of any time soon and was a what if.

No pressure is easy, although I am not giving up.  The disappointment is a little harder as we both hurt right now.  But I know giving her space is the best thing right now.

Again, you did have great feedback!  Thank you!

Has she considered counseling?  This is a legitimate issue- she's torn between her feelings for you and her feelings about being with someone other than her late husband.  As with everything in the grieving process, we're all different. Two days ago I had lunch with a man whose wife died a MONTH ago. She was sick for 9 months, he was her caregiver, and she told him she wanted him to go on enjoying life.  They were HS sweethearts and he spoke very warmly of her and of their marriage.  One of my concerns is that he might do what your friend is doing- forge ahead and then pull back because of unresolved feelings about having a new partner. 

This is typical male behavior as I went through this same exact scenario early on.  I did date early on.  But then I took a break as I had to resolve my feelings.  You didn't indicate whether you connected with this guy, but he does need a friend right now.  Someone to be with and help him find his way, much like I was and in some ways still do.  Maybe that is your role if you did connect.  Who knows, that friendship could eventually turn into someone new for both of you, whether it is with each other or through each other.  Just having someone who understands is big! 

For me, I am hoping my relationship, will come back after we strengthen our friendship.

I agree on the counseling, it is going to be a hard sell though as she took one of her kids and he had a terrible experience with a counselor.  As with anything, there are good and there are bad.  Unfortunately her son had a bad one and it turned them off on the whole experience as it was at a time they really needed one.

I think you're right, bt660.  Right now I'm in the airport, headed to Scotland later today, and the guy from Match is off on a long motorcycle trip.  The way I thought about it, I needed some breathing space to figure out what I want the rest of my life to look like.  I think I've had that.  He hasn't.  He mentioned that he was dating again because his wife had encouraged him to go on and he "didn't want to be alone".  The latter, IMO, isn't a god reason to date.  Fortunately, I'm in no hurry- don't want to get married again, open to a physical relationship but not on the 3rd date (rumored to be the norm in the 60+ age group!).  I do hope I hear from him again but will leave it to him to make the next move.

You have relieved her of pressure by continuing this relationship on her terms instead of trying to change it into a serious commitment. What she did learn is you care enough about her to keep visiting as well as not date other women. This new way of dating does not involve more than she is ready for in being free to grieve as she chooses behind closed doors as well as her children. Grieving children can be very moody w/other children in their space. Putting them through another major life changing event such as marriage by combining them into one family may not be what she wants to do especially since it is a relatively short time since their father's death. It could be the right questions have not been asked or privately considered or should just be left alone if everything is going well now. She can now relax to enjoy your company now that the pressure of significant decision making has been relieved & semi-ground rules have been established. I think you did the right thing in backing off. She is, afterall, still grieving at barely 4 years out. Remember her late husband was not a pet or goldfish, he was her life ...

1.) INCOME - Both of you will permanently lose widow's benefits from Social Security when marrying, but not the kids survivor's benefits. The loss of financial freedom for a woman is a major issue not be taken lightly. It requires either becoming fully or semi- dependent once again as well as having to discuss expenditures. Will their benefits be combined into the entire household finances? There could be a discrepancy in benefits allowing one parent to spend more than the other on their children or used to make up for the lowest by dividing it equally amongst them all ...

2.) STEP-PARENTING - How many kids in total will be in the combined family? Will you expect her to stay home to care for all of the children? The additional laundry, cooking, shopping, teacher parent conferences, etc. Will discipline be done jointly or separately (yours & mine exclusively)? Mothers can be Mama Bears w/their own making it easy to raise their haunches in disapproval by letting out a roar or purse the lips, spiral the pupils & display claws even w/the natural father. Many widows have divorced from conflict of discipline - some have given chances to change, some have not - lots of silent treatment. Next, is whose grandparents/family will be allowed to stay over? What about # of B-day/Christmas/no special occassion gifts? Or if say the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins come w/a carload while your children get to unwrap them or be the ones to watch as well as have no have family relations visit?

3.) WIDOWED TWICE - What if she does want to take a chance at being widowed twice. It can happen. I knew of 4 widows who I started out with who remarried & widowed a 2nd time within 5 years same as my mother ...

4.) GRIEF - Will grief be accommodated for? Will family pictures w/their deceased parent be allowed to be displayed or only in private spaces. Will discussions of the deceased parent be allowed at the dinner table? How many times can either of you be called mistakenly by the late spouse's name or allowed to enjoy a private smile/memory without feeling guilty or harrassed? What if one of you has completed grief while the other has not? What if you or she just want to lay in bed all day undisturbed? Irritable or cry for many days? The #1 question asked is, "I've done everything I can to make him/her happy, why can't s/he just stop grieving? I'm tired of it." All these & more have been issues the remarried widowed have posted even though concessions had been made prior to nuptuals, the wrong questions were asked. Once the honeymoon was over daily life set in, unfortunately, causing too many divorces. 

Its so much easier to have days to prepare for a date/be courted w/someone you care about. The continued anticipation could very well be part of the fun & excitement ...

Melissa-

you don't lose Widow's Benefits if you remarry after age 60.  (I believe they changed that because many older couples were just living together!).  Also, a widow/widower who was the primary wage earner is just collecting what he/she is entitled to based on his/her own work record and won't lose that.  SS is complicated, though, and definitely an issue in second marriages.  My devoutly religious grandfather wanted the priest to perform the marriage ceremony for him and his lady friend but not report it to the state because their total SS would decrease.  This was 40 years ago and I assume whatever she was getting on her late husband's record would change to half of Grandpa's benefit, which was probably smaller.  The priest said that would be illegal.  They married anyway and took the hit.

I certainly "get" all the other factors you listed.  I'm not sure I want to watch someone I love die again.  The very nice guy from Match.com last weekend mentioned high cholesterol and high blood sugar and he was a bit more than teddy-bear shaped.  Not sure I want to go there. 

Sorry, I used an incorrect term, I meant "survivor's benefits" - this is completely different from retirement benefits ...

A parent qualifies for survivor's benefits w/children under the age of 18 as do each of the kids. Their money reverts to them name at age 16. The parent's benefit ends when the last or only child turns18. There was absolutely no way I was going to give up my $4000/mo ...

My child turns 18 next year, I have never received any benefits although he has.

It appears your deceased wife did not earn more than you. In any case, if your friend is receiving survivor's benefits, she might be like myself in not wanting to give it up. 

Off Topic - The change in widow's benefits was never based on a moral issue of the retired living together. Social Security widow's benefits were changed as part of a socioeconomic restructure. Socioeconomics involves issues of racism, ageism & gender discrimination, etcetera ...

Susan and I had a friend who lived just a "short hike down the road" from us and she lost her husband 2-3 years before Susan passed.  She got hooked up with a guy in KS and they became quite serious.   They discussed marriage, but she found out that if she remarried she would loose his Rail Road retirement.  That's been alluded to in a couple of other posts here.   So, I asked her what she was gonna do?  With a twinkle in her eye, she said...

"If you can't be with the one you love... Love the one you are with."  "Be naughty."

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