Yesterday Marathon Girl and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. I share this news in part because I want readers to know it’s possible for a widower to remarry and have a second marriage that’s just as wonderful or even better than the first one. However, for widowers and the women who date them, it seems the journey from dating to exchanging vows is a long, arduous process when dating a widower because of all the unique issues that pop up.
Looking back on our early relationship with the perspective of time, I can pinpoint three things that we had either agree up or work towards in order for our relationship to progress from dating to husband and wife. Having read or listened to thousands of widower-related dating stories over the years, these are also issues that stop most widower relationships from progressing to marriage or a serious, long-term relationship. I share these three tips hopes that it can help readers pinpoint issues in their current relationship and, hopefully, lead to something stronger and better.
1. We both had the same long-term relationship goals
After three or four good dates, Marathon Girl had a serious conversation with me about what I wanted from the relationship. At first I thought the point of the talk was to see how serious I was about her and the relationship. However, as the talk progress I realized what she really wanted to know if we are on the same page when it came to what our long-term goals were. Marathon Girl wanted to date someone who was serious about marriage and having a family at some point in the future. No matter how nice or wonderful I treated her, she wasn’t going to waste her time dating someone who didn’t want those same thing. She also wasn’t going to waste her time hoping to convince me otherwise or hope that I’d change as our relationship grew more serious. (That rarely, if ever, happens.)
Though I wasn’t sure what to make of the talk at the time, looking back I see that having this conversation prevented both of us from getting into a serious relationship where we loved each other but couldn’t give each other what we ultimately wanted (in our case marriage and children). Realizing that we headed down the same endgame in mind, we could focus more on compatibility issues and decide if spending the rest of our lives together was something we really wanted to do.
2. We made each other our number one priority.
Once we agreed to date each other exclusively, we both agreed we were going to make each other the top priority. There wasn’t going to be a trial period where we were going to half-heartedly commit to each other and bail out at the first sign of trouble. The relationship was going to work out (read: lead to marriage) or it was going to end—most likely in few short weeks or months. That meant spending much time together as our schedules would allow. (For me that meant getting up before 5:00 a.m. every morning and running 4-12 miles with her. For Marathon Girl that meant fewer trips to her parents’ home on the weekends.)
Making each other number one meant integrating each other into every part of our lives including introducing each other to friends, co-workers, and family. It meant not hiding our relationship from anyone. It meant and not letting widower issues dictate or hinder our relationship. It eventually meant moving to a city 25 miles away right after we were married so we could have a fresh start in a new place and make new memories.
3. We both made peace with the past, agreed to live in the present, and work for a better future
Marathon Girl was 23 when we started dating. At that age, she never considered seriously dating someone who had been married before—let alone a widower. She struggled with the fact that very small part of my heart would belong to someone else. She had to accept this fact but at the same time know that from now on my heart was now hers and that she—not the deceased—was in the top of my mind and thoughts at all times.
My challenge was realizing it was okay to open my heart to someone else and that taking down photographs of the late and putting or giving away her things wasn’t a slight to her, our relationship, or the life we shared together. Instead of focusing on what I had lost, I learned to focus on Marathon Girl’s wants and needs and the future and family we could build together.
If any of those three things hadn’t happened, I don’t know if our marriage would have lasted a year or or if we would have even tied the knot in the first place. What I do know is that agreeing on the long-term goals of the relationship, putting each other first, and living in the present instead of the past made it easier to overcome all the unique widower issues that came up and still occasionally arise in our relationship. Bur 14 years in I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to move forward and build a new life with Marathon Girl. These last 14 years have been the fastest and best years of my life and I can’t fathom where my life would be without Marathon Girl in it. Marrying her was the best decision I ever made and I’m looking forward to spending the rest of this life and the eternities with her at my side.