Before I get to today’s column, a few housecleaning items: if you’ve emailed me in the last 7-10 days, please be patient for a response. I took a break from email over the Christmas/New Year holiday and am slowing catching up. You should hear from me in the next few days.
Also, if you missed the announcement yesterday regarding some of my articles being published in an upcoming grief anthology, read it here.
Now on to today’s column.
A common question that finds its way into my email box is how long it takes for a widower to stop grieving and be fully willing to start a new life. Generally these questions come from women who love the widower they’re dating but feel like Number Two or a third wheel in the relationship. When they talk to the widower about the relationship, they widower tells them that he’s still having a hard time and needs some more time before he can fully commit. He also usually asks the woman to patiently wait awhile longer for him to sort out his feelings.
My answer has two parts.
First, everyone grieves at different speeds. Some people can move on from a tragedy much faster than others. However, keep in mind that most widowers generally start dating before they’re ready to commit to long term relationships. Of course, that usually doesn’t stop him from telling the woman how much he loves her and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Many widowers start relationships and say thing they don’t really mean. Then, say, a few months in, they realize they aren’t sure if the relationships is right for them. The woman picks up on their hesitation but thinks that he'll snap out of it and love her once he's had time to grieve.
Second, in order for someone to change – in this case, put feelings for the late wife aside and commit to a new partner and new life – they have to have a strong reason to make that change. With widowers, they’ll stop grieving and move on when the find someone that they want to start a new life with. Widowers who commit themselves to relationships before they’re emotionally ready to make that commitment often find themselves feeling stuck. They like the attention, sex, and other benefits that come with the relationship even if they aren’t sure the relationship is one they want to stick out long term. So they ask the woman to wait while they figure things out.
In the end, the questions these women need to ask is how long their willing to wait for the widower to make up his mind. A week? A month? A year?
I’m of the opinion that if the widower isn’t making you number one now, things aren’t going to change. They might, but odds are he started the relationship before he was emotionally ready.