From the inbox comes the following holiday-related question:
My widower and I have been dating for about 9 months. This will be our first holiday season together. Part of our holiday plans include meeting the late wife’s family for the first time and spending several hours with them. While I’m okay with that, my boyfriend has suggested that I get them a small gift as that might help ease any tension or anxiety they or I might be feeling. (He’s already bought them something.) I feel weird about doing this because I don’t know these people. Do you think giving them a gift is a good idea?
Your boyfriend’s heart is in the right place but I think it should come from either your boyfriend or from both of you—not just you. Meeting the LW’s family can be an awkward experience by itself and I don’t see the point of adding any more pressure to it. Since he’s already bought them something, see how he feels about attaching your name to the gift too. Besides, if you consider your relationship to be serious most gifts (unless very personal and has special meaning to the reception) should be coming from both of you anyway. Good luck and I hope meeting the late wife’s family is an enjoyable experience.
If you’re like me and play football on Thanksgiving morning with family and neighbors, The Wall Street Journal Sports Writer Jason Gay has 32 rules you need to know before playing.
1. If you have a healthy relationship with your family and speak to them all the time, you’re playing touch. If you see your family only once a year, it’s tackle.
2. Find a nice patch of grass. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t need a regulation 100 yards. Half the people in your family, if they ran 100 yards, they’d wind up in the hospital for a month.
3. The game must be played before dinner. Nobody wants to play football after Thanksgiving. Nobody wants to wear pants after Thanksgiving.
4. All family on the field! Everyone plays. Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, Cousin Jake, and Regis the one-eyed Jack Russell terrier. Don’t laugh. Regis is the best receiver you’ve got.
24. Three-minute halftime. Don’t kill the momentum. Anything longer, and aging muscles seize up. Remember: if Daddy sits, Daddy is d-o-n-e.
25. If you’re playing on a city street, please don’t dent the blue Honda, or I will find you.
26. If you’re a random guest at Thanksgiving, it’s your job to be good at touch football. Lie and say you “played a little” at Alabama and pray you don’t completely embarrass yourself.
27. If you find yourself surrounded by middle-aged men in blue jeans and a quarterback who keeps getting picked off, you’re not with your family. You’ve accidentally walked into a Brett Favre Wrangler spot.
Here’s the first of my widower-related holiday issues. If you have a holiday subject you’d like me to address, drop me an email.
I took a leap of faith and married a widower with three teenage girls back in April. So far things have been great with only a handful of minor speed bumps along the way. With the holidays coming up, we’re hitting our first major problem: The children want to decorate the tree and house using the late wife’s decorations. While I’m not opposed to using some of her decorations, I’d like the holidays and the home to feel like we’re starting a new chapter in our lives and would like to put up some new decorations too. I talked to the widower about this and he says decorating the house was “her thing” and has left me to sort it out. I’ve talked to the daughters about it and I get the impression that they don’t want to change anything when it comes to decorating the house. I’m afraid that have only her decorations up for the holidays a living hell for me. Do you have any suggestions on how to make the holiday decorations in our home one that we all can enjoy?
I think you’re doing the right thing by wanting to mix some new decoration with the old. It seems like that’s a reasonable solution that will help everyone make your home a place where everyone can feel comfortable.
However, your husband is going to have to get a little more involved this year than normal. The holiday decorations may have been “her thing” in the past but he’s not married to her any more. Even if he wants to turn it over from you, his daughters will probably have an easier time with mixing things up a bit if he sits them down and lets them know that in addition to some of the traditional ornaments and lights, they’re going to add some new ones as well.
So here’s my two suggestions: 1) Sit the widower down and tell him that you need his help in order to make this holidays a smooth one. Emphasize how much you love him and the new family and want to make this a special time for everyone but this year he has to let the kids know that there will some new decorations thrown into the mix. In order to make this happen, he’s going to have to be a parent and lovingly talk to his kids about this subject.
2) Involve his daughters. This means letting them pick some ornaments or other decorations that they want up. While they do this make a rough list of new decorations to buy then all of you spend an afternoon shopping. Throw in lunch and a movie if that helps. Don’t make it about you but about all four of you having a good time and finding things to add holiday cheer to the house. It will give you guys a chance to bond and let the girls feel like they have a say in what kind of decorations are going up in the house.
Remember everyone is starting a new chapter this holiday season—not just you. The best way to keep everyone in the holiday spirit is to get everyone involved.
Having worked as a customer service rep during my college years, I know how frustrating it can sometimes be to get a problem or issue resolved with a company—especially a big one. Over the years I handled thousands of phone calls from people who had an issue with the company’s products or service. Though I couldn’t solve every problem, I did my best to resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction. Because of this background, I always appreciate it when a company goes above and beyond in helping their customers.
Two weeks ago I was in Las Vegas attending a user conference at the Bellagio. Several days after returning home, I realized my favorite pair of pants was missing. After searching the entire house I finally decided that I must have left the pants at the hotel room. I have absolutely no idea how I managed to do this as I always triple check the hotel rooms before checking out. I contacted the Bellagio and was told they’d see if a maid or a guest had turned them in. A couple days passed I didn’t hear anything back. I figured I didn’t leave the pants in the hotel room or the person who got the room after me happened to wear the same size pants as me and was now walking around Las Vegas in the most comfortable pair of pants on the planet.
Saturday morning a Fed-Ex box arrived at my door. In it are my favorite pair of pants and a pair of socks I apparently left in the room as well. For some reason that was the last thing I expected. And I’m so happy to be wearing my favorite pair of pants. (I’m wearing them even as I type this.)
So thank you, Bellagio, for going above and beyond. Your outstanding customer service will be noted next time business takes me to Las Vegas.
Also, my next book, “Marrying a Widower” is going to be released next year. More details here.
The other day a flyer was stuck in our door announcing a 5k run/walk. The purpose of the event was to raise money for breast cancer research and honor a local woman who recently lost the fight to that disease. That same evening I received an email from a woman whose widower BF was going to run in a similar event. The woman was worried that the event would suck him into the past and make him moody and hard to live with and wanted to know how she could talk him out of participating in it.
Personally I don’t have a problem with these types of events even though I’m not a big fan of them. If you want to raise money for charity or awareness in hopes that it can save some lives or make people more aware of a cause, more power to you. Organize one and have fun doing it. However, the relationship issue seems to be is whether or not these kinds of events stop a widower from moving forward or put him in a temporary holding pattern instead of moving on with his life.
Everyone had different ways of grieving and moving on. For some these events can be therapeutic and help them close out a certain chapter of their life. If the race or event is tied into a local charity it might even help them feel like they’re stopping others from going through the same pain that they experienced. For others, however, these events may indeed throw them into the past and be terribly unhelpful to their progress. They may become withdrawn or sad and pine after their dead spouse. It really depends on the person and how they tackled and managed the grief monster.
So if the widower you’re dating participates in similar events without getting sad or otherwise putting a serious relationship on the backburner, let him do it. As time goes he’ll stop participating in these events as he puts that chapter of his life behind him. If events are causing emotional or relationship issues, then sit him down and talk it out. He may not be aware of much the event is affecting his mood or your relationship. Unless you’ve got a serious concern, I would stop short of asking him not to participate. He needs to be the one to weigh your feelings and his goals decide whether or not to take part. The decision, the consequences thereof, are his to make.
I want to thank everyone for the support they’ve given my latest book, Dating a Widower. Sales have surpassed expectations and the reviews and feedback have been very positive. As a result of its success, I’m thrilled to announce that a follow-up book, Marrying a Widower, is in the works and will be released the first half of next year. Look for more details in January.
Like its predecessor, I’ll be asking for readers to contribute their stories. So if you’re engaged to, married to, or divorced from a widower, start thinking about a story you might want to share. A full list of topics will be posted in January.
And no, I haven’t stopped writing fiction. I expect to release a novel next year as well. Look for more details on that in early 2012.
Ten years ago today my late wife, Krista, took her own life. It’s a day that I haven’t publically acknowledged in years because life goes on and I enjoy my new life too much to be bogged down in sad memories and anniversaries. But the 10 year mark holds some significance for me because in the midst of my sorrow and misery I promised myself I would rebuild my life and be happy again. And I gave myself 10 years to do it.
In the months that followed Krista’s death I had no idea where life would take me. The emotional toll of her suicide left me floating from one day to the next. I found it hard to get up in the morning, focus on work, hang around with friends and family, or participate in activities that I previously enjoyed. My zest for living was vanquished. I didn’t want to live my life this way but I was unable to focus enough to think about what I wanted to do more than a day or two in the future.
Then one morning my alarm clock went on the fritz. As a result I missed my morning run and was late to work. It seemed like the beginning of another day where my life was spinning out of control. I hurried to work that morning wishing I had stayed in bed. On the way home from work, I bought a new alarm clock. And it was this new alarm clock that helped me put the future into focus.
Before I went to bed that night, I set the clock’s time and the alarm. This alarm clock also happened to have a date feature. I set the day and the month but stopped when I got to the year. Instead of setting it for the current year, I pushed a button and watched the years scroll by. As I watched the years pass by I started thinking what I wanted my life to be like one, five, and ten years down the road. I didn’t come up with a concrete direction that night but at least I was thinking about it.
Every night for several weeks I looked on the years of the clock. Eventually I had a fairly clear idea what I wanted my life to look like 10 years in the future. I won’t list everything I wanted to accomplish during that time with but the top three things on my list were:
Remarry and start a family
Become a published author
I had no idea how long it would take any of those three things to happen but I figured if they could all happen within10 years, I would have successfully rebuilt my life. That night I vowed to live my life in such a way that I could accomplish everything on my list within a decade.
Fast forward to today. I’m not only living the life that seemed like an impossible dream 10 years ago, it’s far exceeded any expectations. It only took a year to forgive Krista. I haven’t had any anger or animosity towards here since then. Three months after that I married Marathon Girl. This year we celebrated eight wonderful years together and have five(!) amazing kids. My first book was published six years after Krista died. I’ve had two more published since then and have many more on the way. All the other goals on my list have also been accomplished usually sooner than I originally thought possible.
Ten years ago if someone would have told that this is what my life would look like today, I wouldn’t have believed them. Back then I didn’t think it was possible to rebuild a life and become happy again so quickly. I never would have thought that wounds of loss could heal so soon. But they did. And it all happened because I figured out what I wanted to do with my life then worked my butt off make a dream become a reality. As a result, I’ve never been happier or more satisfied with my life. I wake up excited to take on the challenges that come with every new day. I can say without reservation that I love my life.
So if you find yourself in a place where you’re not happy with your life, take a long hard look about where you want it to be one, five, or even 10 years down the road. Then examine your life as it is and see if there are people, habits, or other things in your life that are stopping you from living the life you want to live. Don’t let the actions of others determine your happiness or where your life ends up. If there issues that need to be addressed, figure out what steps you need to take to solve those problems. It doesn’t matter if you’re a widow, widower, someone who’s dating a widow or widower, or someone who’s going through other hard times. Get off your butt, throw off the shackles that are hold you back and start making changes today.
My journey to reach this point in my life wasn’t smooth—I experienced plenty of bumps and setback along the way—but the rewards were well worth it. Life is too short to be sad and miserable. The future is a blank slate. Do what you need to do so that a decade from now you can look back and triumphantly declare that you’re living a life that seemed like an impossible dream today.
Today I’m going to jump into one holiday topic earlier than usual because it’s already popping up on discussion boards and in my email box. The issue is how much time the widower should spend with the late wife’s family during the holidays. The situations are a little complex but here are three typical situations I’ve been seeing a lot of lately.
Situation 1: The widower has no kids or all of his kids are grown and out of the house. The widower is heading to the in-laws for the majority of the holidays and doesn’t invite the girlfriend to accompany him. When the girlfriend asks about spending time alone or with her family, widower pushes her concerns to the side and says they’ll see each other after the holidays.
My thoughts: The widower isn’t ready for a serious relationship or doesn’t consider the relationship to be on the same level as the woman he’s dating. This is a good opportunity to have a heart-to-heart talk with the widower and how you both feel about the relationship and whether or not this going to be a long term or serious deal. If you’re not on the same page, it’s a good time as any to end the relationship and move on. If the widower claims he loves and wants to spend the rest of his life with you you but insists on spending the holidays without you by his side, don’t stand around waiting for him to return. It’s time to move on.
Situation 2: The widower has minor children living at home. When the late wife was alive, it was tradition to spend the holidays with her family. Girlfriend may or may not be invited to attend. When asked to alter plans to accompany her family or her holiday traditions, the widower is resistant or hesitant to change his plans because the kids need some amount of normalcy after losing their mother.
My thoughts: One of the problems I see in long-term widower relationships is that during the first year there are issues that the girlfriend gives a pass to because. With the situation above, often I’ve seen the girlfriend not try to get to upset the first year it happens only to have the situation repeat itself again and again year after year. Instead of getting upset, this is a perfect opportunity to have conversation about holiday traditions what are the holidays going to be like next year, the year after, or five years down the road? What will happen once you’re engaged or married? Is there a concrete reason the widower won’t compromise and split time with your or your family?
The “I’m still grieving” or “I’m doing it for the kids” excuse is a cop out and a sign the widower has no backbone. Don’t fall for it. You need to figure out the real reason. Also there’s nothing wrong with him wanting to spend part of the holidays with the late wife’s family—especially if minor children are involved. However, every relationship requires some degree of compromise and if you don’t work it out early in the relationship, odds are its going keep being an issue as long as the two of you are together.
Situation 3: The girlfriend is invited to accompany him and the kids with the late wife’s family. While she doesn’t mind spending part of her holidays with them, she feels uncomfortable spending the entire holiday season with them. She wants time to get to know him and his kids better and introduce them to her family too.
My thoughts: Starting a new life often means replacing old traditions with new ones. Letting go of practices that have gone on for years can be difficult. But part of starting a new life means figuring out which ones to hold on to and which ones to replace. When I was dating Marathon Girl and our first holiday season together was approaching, we sat down decided how we wanted to spend our time during the holidays and informed my family, her family, and the late wife’s family of our plans. No one complained. A few years ago because of our growing family we altered our plans again and told my family and her family how we were spending the holidays. Again, no one complained. The result, however, has always been an enjoyable holiday season for the two of us and our children.