My last Widower Wednesday post about Facebook photos of the late wife generated a lot of discussion both in the comment section and the Dating a Widower Facebook group. There was enough conversation and debate that I decided to write a follow-up post.
As a quick reminder, a widower asked what he should do when his new girlfriend asked that he delete all past Facebook photos of the late wife. My advice was that as long as the photos weren’t stopping him back from moving forward, I didn’t see a problem with keeping them.
The two main criticisms of my suggestion were 1) Marathon Girl and I dated before social media so we never had to deal with this issue and 2) Facebook is such an immersive part of some people’s lives that it’s not fair for them to have random images of the widower and his late wife pop up at unexpected times.
I think the first critique is valid. Marathon Girl and I became a couple before social media became such a big part of everyone’s daily lives and as a result there are no pictures of the late wife on any of my social media accounts. So I asked Marathon Girl what she would want me to do if we were dating today and there were lots of photos of the late wife on my Facebook.
Marathon Girl didn’t have an immediate answer and needed time to mull it over. After some thought she said she’d be okay with me keeping the photos up so long as I met the following four conditions.
- I had previously announced my late wife’s death on Facebook.
- My relationship status was changed to In a Relationship with her as opposed to Widowed, Single, or Married to the late wife.
- I wasn’t spending time looking at or commenting on past photos, or sharing memories of the past on my timeline.
- I was being proactive in letting torchbearers know that tagging me in photos of the late wife or posting memorials and other things related to my past marriage were unacceptable now that I was in a serious relationship with someone else.
I find nothing unreasonable about those requirements and would suggest that those in a relationship with a widower use them as a starting point in creating their own social media boundaries.
As for the second criticism, part of using social media is doing so responsibly. If there are people, subjects, or other things on social media that make the experience miserable, take control of your account to the best of your abilities. Unfollow or unfriend those who can’t get over the past. Update your Facebook settings. Take control of your Facebook newsfeed. Spend less time in the virtual world and more time in the real one.
And, yes, even with your best efforts a random picture or some other reminder of the widower’s past is going to appear when you least expect it—online or off. But that’s part of life. Since you can’t control these events, what’s important is how you deal with these random moments when they happen. You can let it ruin your day or you can shrug it off and move forward. Focus on how the widower’s treating you. Do his actions show that he loves you? Is he working on strengthening your relationship and building a new life together? Is he respecting your boundaries? That, more than a random photo on your Facebook feed, will determine whether the relationship with your widower will last.