Throughout my Widower Wednesday columns I’ve always suggested you tread carefully when talking about the late wife. For example, when talking about redecorating the widower’s home so it feels like yours instead of theirs, I strongly suggest you avoid criticizing the late wife’s taste in furniture, carpet, dishes, paint colors, or anything else when asking for changes. Rather, a better approach is to figure out what you can or can’t live with and work with the widower to update the things in the home you’d like changed. If the widower says something that makes you feel second best in comparison with the late wife, it’s better to simply remind the widower that you’re not the late wife instead of responding with something that puts the late wife down.
Recently a GOW send me an email and brought up a couple of situations that had recently come up with her W. She asked if there was a time when it was okay to say something less than positive about the late wife. The answer is NO. There’s never a good time to say something bad about the late wife. Ever. Criticizing her tastes, the way she kept house, raised her kids, or anything else about her is a battle you’ll never win. Even if your comments and observations are 100 percent accurate you run the risk of looking petty, jealous, and getting on the widower’s bad side. Widowers are well aware of his late wife’s faults but like any man doesn’t enjoy having a woman he loves criticized—even if the criticism comes from someone he loves just as much.
Refraining from criticism doesn’t mean you think the late wife was a saint or that you should only say nice things about her. Sometimes it’s better to simply bite your tongue and say nothing rather than say something that could damage your relationship with the widower. I can’t recall any time in our relationship that Marathon Girl has said anything bad about Krista even though she’s well aware of Krista’s failures and shortcomings. When Krista does come up in conversation instead of criticizing, she frames things in such a way that lets me make the call. For example, she might ask, “Didn’t Krista do __________?” or “What did Krista do when ________?” and let me make a comment on the subject for better or worse.
So when it comes talking bad about the late wife (or anyone else for that matter) keep your head above the muck and zip your lips. Life’s too short to tear others down. Instead work on strengthening your relationship with the widower and building each other up. Relationships grow when they move forward. Don’t intentionally say things that will set it back.