On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – February 2, 2018
by newspaper columnist Tom Blake
How long should a widowed person wait to date?
In 24 years of writing about senior relationships, I’ve been asked many times, “How long should a widowed person wait to date?”
The most recent person to ask, Champ Arlene, emailed, “What is a respectful time to wait to date after one’s spouse dies? A man I know is dating after six months of his wife’s passing. He’s in his mid-60s. I’ve asked many women what they think and they say, ‘It’s different for everyone.’ I say he could have waited a year out of respect for his deceased wife.”
The women that Arlene asked are correct: How long to wait to date is different for everyone.
I don’t think respect is the issue here. I don’t know any details about the man’s marriage. His wife could have been ill for years while he stood by her. If that were the case, he had already shown great respect for her.
Or, what if their marriage was unhappy and miserable? But out of respect for her and the institution of marriage, he hung in there. Waiting to date wouldn’t accomplish anything else.
A more important question: has he properly grieved and healed? If he hasn’t, he should not be dating. Widowers tend to date quicker than widows after the death of a spouse. What often happens, particularly with new widowers, they are so lonely, they start to date before they are ready. A nice woman comes along and falls in love with him.
A little later, he realizes he still misses his wife terribly and dumps the new girlfriend. So, in protecting his heart, he breaks hers. That’s not good.
What’s the proper period to wait for grief recovery? Impossible to say. Many times, I’ve asked widows and widowers how long they waited to date.
One widow wrote: “You’ll know you’re ready when you no longer find dwelling on the past comforting. Only you will know that.”
Another widow said: “After 21 years of marriage, it took me a good two years before I was emotionally ‘whole’ enough to consider another relationship. Up to that point, my incessant talk about my late husband would have made any man run in the opposite direction.”
What happens if a widow or widower is still grieving and he (or she) meets someone he thinks would be a great partner who becomes interested in him?
Here’s where honesty is critical
Out of respect for the new person, he should tell her he’s still grieving but feels they could become a loving couple, and, if she would be patient with him, it could work out. Then, as they go forward, they can openly and honestly discuss how things are progressing. In that way, no one gets blindsided, she’s aware of what she’s dealing with. The same honesty can apply to someone grieving from a divorce.
Somewhat along that line, a Champ whose mother saw a man she knew, whose wife had died just months before. My friend said, “Mom questioned me whether it was too soon after his wife had died for her to ask him for coffee. I told her you can’t control when opportunity knocks, and if you don’t answer the knock, it may not return.
“They had coffee. The next Sunday, the man took her to church. Six months later, they were married.”
Another Champ, Gale, told me years ago: “The man in my life had already done his grieving before his wife died, and no one has the right to dictate what that mourning period should be or for how long. That’s a right reserved exclusively for the partner left behind after a spouse dies.”
In other words, it’s no one’s business except the partner left behind on when he decides to date.
One thing is certain: As we enter our 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, we don’t have a lot of time to waste in deciding if we’re ready to date or not. If we are able to open our heart to a new person, go for it. Just don’t be selfish by rushing that decision when you know deep inside you can’t deliver love.
So perhaps Arlene will not judge too harshly the mid-60s widower who is dating six months after his wife passed away. Let’s hope he has adequately healed.
For more information on dating a widower, I have an eBook on Smashwords.com titled, “Widower Dating: Gold Mine or Mine Field” The cost to download the book is $3.93.
A similar article to this by Tom Blake also appeared in these three Picket Fence Media newspapers: