Because I didn’t have any living children when I dated Marathon Girl, I’m always a bit hesitant to give advice to women who are dating widowers with minor children still living at home. (I define a minor child as anyone 17 and under. For suggestions on dealing with adult children, read this Widower Wednesday column.) Still I receive lots of email on the subject I’m going to give out some general guidelines that might help.
- Beware of widowers who are just looking for someone to help out with the kids. I’m amazed at the number of emails from women who have turned into fulltime, unpaid nannies whose main job is to take care of the kids and have sex with the widower at night. Unless you marry the guy, never forget that his kids are his responsibility—not yours. That doesn’t mean you can’t help out on occasion but it shouldn’t dedicate your life to raising them unless you become their stepmother. Never become an unpaid nanny with benefits. If you do, odd are the relationship won’t work out.
- Don’t expect the widower to take down all the photos off the late wife. Generally I prefer widowers to remove photos/shrines/memorials to the late wife and replace them with photos of the new love. However, I generally make exceptions to this rule when minor children are home. The kids are probably having a hard enough time seeing dad with someone else. They last thing they need is all the photos of their mom removed from the living room.
- Realize that widowers with minor children living at home might not be able to spend as much “alone time” with as you both may want. Widowers who work to support their kids often find themselves with limited time to be a dad. This means wants to spend time with you, your dates may involve going to his children’s soccer games or other activities. One-on-one time is important in any relationship but it’s harder to come by when kids are at home. Besides if you marry the guy, odds are you’re going to spending most of your time with him and his kids. Better get used to it.
- Don’t be jealous of the time and attention the widower pays to the kids. As far as I’m concerned, his kids (minor children living at home) should be his number one priority. If he’s managed to find time for a relationship, that’s great but the wants and needs of his kids should come first. If the relationship is meant to be, you and the widower will find a way to make it work.
- If the kids hate or resent you, treat them kindly. You can’t control what others think of you. And seeing their dad with someone other than mom is probably hard on most kids. If they say unkind things toward you or try to push your buttons, respond with love and kindness. This is the same advice I give when dealing with others who may not approve of the relationship. It may not be easy to turn the other cheek, but, in the end, you’ll win more people over this way.
- If you don’t like the way the widower disciplines (or refuses to discipline) his kids, don’t expect anything to change once you’re in a committed relationship, engaged, or married. Odds are the discipline (or lack thereof) will continue even after you’re the stepmom. If you can’t live with it, bail out before it’s too late.
And remember, Everything will go a lot easier if you’re able to talk to the widower about his kids and your relationship. Do your best to have open lines of communication. It will go a long way to solving problems that arise.
Dating a widower? Having issues? Send me an email and it might be addressed in a future Widower Wednesday column. At the very least, you’ll get a personal reply. :-)