A Proposal: 10 Years Later

 Ten years ago today I knelt on the ground and proposed to Marathon Girl. Thankfully, she said “Yes!”

The best part, the moment I will remember for the rest of my life, is utter surprise then happiness on her face when I proposed. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a better reaction.

The other memory that stands out is driving home as the setting sun cast an orange haze over everything, happy beyond belief and wondering what the future would hold for the two of us.

Life, of course, never turns out the way you think it will. There are always things that crop up that you never image or expect. But overall, I think it’s turned out better I ever thought it would as we drove home that warm December day.

So thanks, Marathon Girl, for saying “Yes!” I know I wouldn’t be as happy, successful, or have a wonderful family to come home to each night if it wasn’t for you and your sweet influence.

Dad's New Wife

Frequent readers and commentator Karen M. liked to a great advice column in the comment section of my latest Widower Wednesday post.

Hi, Carolyn:

My mom passed away suddenly in November. My parents had been married for 40 years. My dad started dating two months after her passing and just got engaged. I have met his fiancee three times total, and they have been together for about six weeks.

Is it okay that I am not thrilled about this? To soften it, they told me they would not get married for a year but also said they are basically living together. I think they expected me to congratulate them. I feel like I need more time to get used to this. Am I being mean?

Anonymous

There is a bright and clear line between what you’re entitled to feel (anything) and entitled to do (very little). Since the way you react to your father’s relationship carries potentially lifelong consequences on your relationship with him, keep your response within these boundaries:

1. It’s Dad’s life, not yours.

2. You grieve your way, he grieves his. There’s no one “right” way.

***

4. Don’t criticize his fiancee; you don’t know her well enough. When you do know her well enough, don’t criticize her then, either. Identify troubling facts when necessary, without assigning blame.

Read the entire column at the Washington Post.

The only thing I have to say about it is that I agree with it 100%.

8 Years and Counting

Seven Years Together

Eight years ago, Marathon Girl and I took each other by the hand and become husband and wife. There is no one I’d rather have by my side through the ups and downs that is part of life. I’m looking forward to spending the rest of our lives and eternity together. I couldn't ask for a better companion.

Thanks for eight great years, sweetheart. Looking forward to the next eighty with you.

Dating and Marriage: No Regrets

Dating and Marriage

Writing in response to my Dating and Marriage: One Regret post David asks the following questions.

Abel,

I’m truly glad things worked out for you.

I don’t know your story, other than your late wife shot herself to death when she was pregnant. Personally, I could never marry someone in the kind of short time periods you talk about. And I wonder (and feel really uncomfortable saying this… but you have chosen to make your life public) how you maintain this opinion given what happened in your first relationship?

Doesn’t a long courtship give you the opportunity to see warning signs about how a person copes with challenges? I have been dating my girlfriend for a year and a half and I am learning what works and what doesn’t work with her, and then I have to think about whether I can cope with that effectively in the long term.

My response:

David,

Some background on my relationship with my late wife: we grew up in the same neighborhood. I knew her for years before we started dating.

During the time we dated and there was no indication whatsoever that she was suicidal or would emotionally change once she became pregnant.

When we decided to have a child after two years of marriage there was no indication she’d go off the deep end and take her own life. All of the warning signs occurred after she became pregnant—and even then the warning signs weren’t always crystal clear. Extending out our courtship another month or another year wouldn’t have given me some vital piece of information that would have made me change my mind about marrying her.

If anything losing her taught me that I shouldn’t waste time dating or courting someone once I know I’ve found the right person. That’s why when I realized I could spend the rest of my life happily married to Marathon Girl (and that she felt the same way), there was no point in dating anymore. We’ve been happily married now for seven years.

Like all couples we’ve had good and bad moments in our relationship but I can say that an extra month or even an extra year of courting wouldn’t have changed our minds about each other.

I’m not saying you should rush into marriage, but at some point all the dating in the world isn’t going to give you any further insight into that person. Then you have to ask yourself if you’d be willing to experience all of life’s good and bad moments with that person and no one else. If you are, then what’s the point in dating for another two months or two years?

In my experience and those of my friends, extended courtships (1 year or longer) aren’t any more successful than those who married within months after meeting each other. If anything, those in long courtships stand to lose the most if the relationship doesn’t end in marriage because they invested more time in it. I personally believe if you date someone for a year and you still don’t know whether or not that person’s right for you, then the answer is “no” and it’s time to quit wasting each other’s time.

There are no guarantees in this life, David. Whether married or single, we’ll go through periods of joy and heartache, riches and poverty. People we love will sometimes make stupid choices. If I could go back in time, I’d still marry my late wife even if I knew how things would end. Furthermore, I have no qualms about my whirlwind courtship with Marathon Girl. Even if she was to be taken from me tomorrow, I have absolutely no regrets about getting down on my knee and asking her to be my wife and spending seven wonderful years with her. I refuse to live in fear of things that are out of my control.

We all have the ability to discern and judge for ourselves whether or not the person we’re dating is the one person we hope to spend the rest of our lives with. It’s not just learning how someone reacts to challenges that’s important because I guarantee life’s going to throw you curveballs at you that neither of you will anticipate. It’s about whether we love someone enough to hold their hand and take a leap of faith and experience life together as husband and wife.

The question for you, David, is whether or not you love this woman enough to take that step.

Dating and Marriage: One Regret

Dating and Marriage

A discussion over on the Dating a Widower Facebook group got me thinking about the time people spend between dating and marrying. The conventional wisdom seems to be to date as long as possible to make sure you really know the person.

Having gone through a long courtship (the late wife) and a fast one (Marathon Girl) I've learned that the amount of time you date isn't as important as knowing what you want in a future spouse and not wasting time with someone who isn't compatible and doesn't meet your standards.

Though the late wife and I knew each other for years, we didn't start dating until we were both in college. (I was a junior; she a freshman.) After a year of steady dating, I decided to serve an LDS mission to Bulgaria. Had I not done that, we probably would have spent another year dating before we got married. When I returned home, our relationship picked up where it left off. I could have asked her to marry be a few months after returning home.

But I didn't.

It took over a year before we finally tied the knot because I was worried about being able to finish school, pay the bills and still find time to get to know each other better. Even though we were both crazy about each other, I thought it would be easier if we could save more money and get as much schooling out of the way first.

Looking back, the only regret I have about the marriage to my late wife is that we didn't get married six months sooner. All my fears were unfounded. After we married, we both worked two jobs and attended school full time—albeit only for a semester. Somehow, despite our busy lives, we still managed to find time for each other and build on our relationship. If anything, going through the pressure that came with our hectic lives actually brought us closer together in ways that waiting another six month or a year never could have done.

After the late wife died, I stumbled back in to the dating waters. I met Marathon Girl. Our courtship lasted a total of nine months. If it wasn't for a handful of widower-related issues, the total time from dating to marriage might have been two or three months sooner.

After the second time around I learned that the amount of time we were going to date wasn't nearly as important as making sure we were compatible in ways that were important to each other. After a month of serious dating, I realized she was perfect for me.

• I was physically attracted to her • We enjoyed a lot of the same activities • We shared similar views about money and finances • We had the same religious, moral, and philosophical values • We shared similar views about family and parenthood • She had the emotional qualities that were a good compliment to my own

Once I realized Marathon Girl matched up in all the important ways, I knew I could spend this life and the next with her. Dating was fun but having been married before, I realized we could build up our relationship more as husband and wife. I asked her to marry me six months after we started dating. She accepted and we set a date 11 weeks down the road. (Yes, friends and family on both sides of our family worried we were taking things too fast or that I wasn't ready to move on but the mostly bit their tongues, respected our decision, and wished us luck.)

February 28th will mark seven wonderful years together. Waiting a few more months or even another year to tie the knot wouldn't have strengthened our relationship or made ourselves any surer that we were meant for each other. All it would have done is dragged out the inevitable.

Once you meet that special person that meets your criteria for a future spouse, it's not going to matter if you date them for 2-3 years or 2-3 months before getting married. If the person is right for you, you'll find a way to work together and enjoy the good times and the bad. We all have one life to live. The question, then, is how we choose to live it.

As to my whirlwind courtship with Marathon Girl, I have no regrets.

Marathon Girl: The Best Wife in the World

When I mentioned that my novel, The Third, had found a home with a publisher last week, I failed to publicly thank Marathon Girl. Without her support, the book never would have found its way from my imagination to paper. I feel extremely lucky to have such a wonderful wife. Marathon Girl understands that writing for me is like running for her and that we both need to do it. I know a lot of relationships where one or both spouses aren’t supportive of the other person’s goals and I’m grateful for a wife that does what she can to support me.

Between a fulltime job, four cute but very active kids, church responsibilities, spending quality alone time together, and everything else that comes with life, somehow we find time for her to train and run marathons and me to put out the occasional book. (I chalk it up to her superior organizational skills.) It’s not always easy and sometimes a stressful process but I want everyone to know that I’d probably still be stuck in a first draft somewhere if it wasn’t for giving me the hour or two I needed several nights a week to finish it.

And I’m looking forward to giving Marathon Girl the time and support she needs to run a marathon this summer. I can’t wait to see her cross the finish line with a smile on her face.

Widowers: They’re Still Men!

Widowers: They're Still Men!

Sometimes I feel like a broken record when it comes to the issues involved with dating a widower. Widowers are men. That means they act and behave like men. And men aren’t that hard to understand. If you start viewing your widower as a man instead of a widower, you’ll be able to quickly identify whether or not they’re ready to date again and, more importantly, are serious about you.

In the hopes that women can better understand widowers, here are five things that will give you some insight into men so you know whether or not they’re ready for a serious, committed relationship.

1. Men can’t be forced into loving someone

For some reason women have this idea they can charm a man into loving them. It doesn’t matter if he’s a widower, divorced, or a bachelor. Women think that somehow they can open a man’s eyes and make them see what a great catch she is.

Here’s the truth: You can’t. When it comes to love, men will figure out rather quickly whether or you’re one they want to spend the rest of their life with. When it comes to widowers, there’s nothing special you can do or say that will make the widower snap out of his grief. If he thinks you’re worth keeping, he’ll do that all on his own.

What you can do is learn how to dress nice, flirt, and learn how to get a man’s attention so he’ll ask you out and get to know you better. Let it be known that Marathon Girl didn’t do anything to help me put the grief for the late wife aside. The first time I saw her I had put my eyes back in my head and pick my jaw off the floor because she was so damn sexy. Then, after I got to know her better, I realized that not only was she hot but she had everything else I wanted in a future spouse. I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I also realized the only way that was going to happen if I moved on with my life. It wasn’t a hard choice. I would have run 100 miles over shards of broken glass just to have her smile at me. After six years of marriage, she has the same affect on me.

And it’s not just me. Over the years I’ve been in touch with lots of widowers who have remarried and they all say the same thing: when the right person comes along, getting over grief is a cinch.

2. Men are, by nature, pursuers

When it comes to relationships, men do better when they’re the one pursing you. If you’re pursing them, you may get a few dates out of it but odds are you’re not going to get a committed relationship from your efforts.

When widowers decide to enter the dating waters after the death of their spouse, they’re often fighting feelings of whether or not they’re ready to date and if they can make room in their heart for another woman. This often makes widower hesitant to take the lead. Women can often sense this hesitancy and tend to take control of the relationship.

Don’t do this. Men need to decide for themselves if you’re worth it. Making this decision for them is only asking for heartache if you perceive the relationship as getting serious. With widowers, having to decide to ask you out or plan a date forces them to come to grips with their internal struggle of whether or not they’re ready to date again and whether or not you’re worth it. (See #1.)

Keep in mind that this applies to the early stages of a relationship where men need to decide if you’re worth it. As the relationship becomes more serious and you become more comfortable with each other, then you can step in. Once they feel like they’ve conquered the relationship and made you the center of their universe, they’ll do whatever you want.

3. Men can only actively love one person at a time

Would you date a man who was still angry over a recent divorce or getting over a breakup with his girlfriend? No? Then why on earth do you date a man who says he’s still grieving his late wife?

Men can only actively love one person at a time. If they still have strong feelings for another person—regardless of whether that person is alive or dead—you’re going to be the rebound relationship. Is that something you really want?

Widowers have to learn how to put their love for the late wife aside and actively love you. This doesn’t mean they stop loving the late wife but it means their utmost thoughts and feelings are for you. Playing second fiddle to an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend is bad enough. It’s even worse when the person is dead.

Avoid men who still clinging to the past. If you don’t, you’re not only in for a roller coaster ride but there’s a broken heart for you at the end.

4. Men’s actions speak louder than their words

Talk is not only cheap, it can be very seductive. Don’t listen to a man’s flattering words. It doesn’t matter how many times a man says he loves you or cares about you. When a guy really loves you, his actions and words will align. Not only will he say you’re the center of his universe, you’ll feel like it too.

Don’t start making excuses for a widower’s behavior because he’s still “grieving.” If he says he’s not giving you the attention, love, and dedication you want because he’s struggling to move on that means 1) he’s not ready for a serious relationship or 2) he’s simply using you for companionship, sex, to fill the hole in his heart, or a combination of the three.

Don’t settle of a second tier relationship. You deserve better. A lot better. Find someone who will treat you like a queen instead of giving you excuses why he can’t make you numero uno.

5. Men don’t equate sex with commitment

My inbox overfloweth with emails from women dating widowers who are dumped soon after sleeping with them. The women generally attribute the widowers’ behavior to some grief related issues and want to know what they can do about it. My answer: nothing.

With men, sex doesn't equal commitment. This goes for single and divorced men and widowers. If the man wasn’t a widower, most women would realized that they had just been used for their bodies. But because he’s a widower and “grieving” most women aren’t quick to what just happened.

You want a committed relationship, get the man to sacrifice for you. Have him prove his love. As Alisa Goodwin Snell, licensed therapist and author of “Dating Game Secrets for Marrying a Good Man” writes:

Sacrifice is deeply connected to love. If you are excessively available, eager to please, quick to meet his needs, and reluctant to express your feelings or needs, you will deny him the opportunity to sacrifice for you. This will turn him off to you and the relationship, due to your lack of faith and trust in him, while also preventing him from developing deep love for you.

If you’re looking for a serious, long term relationship with a guy, zip your legs and wait to see if it's you he wants or sex. If a guy’s looking to use you just for sex, he can only put a seductive façade for so long. Sooner or later the real him will appear. Better to be cautious and make sure the widower is serious about you then to end up with a one night stand and regretting it.

Remember, widowers are men. They act and behave like men. Most widower issues are really man issues. Never the term widower make you think otherwise. Understand men and 99% of any widower-related issues will be solved.

Other widower-related articles by Abel

  • Up with Grief NEW!
  • Dating and Marriage: One Regret NEW!
  • Widowers: They're Still Men! NEW!
  • 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers
  • Photos of the Dead Wife
  • 5 Signs a Widower is Serious About Your Relationship
  • How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief
  • Life with a Widower
  • Dating a Widower
  • The Grief Industry
  • Suicide Survivor
  • A Letter to Elizabeth
  • Sex and Intimacy with Widowers
  • The Widowerhood Excuse
  • How to Talk to a Widower
  • Red Flags to Watch for When Dating A Widower
  • Satisfaction

    Work, Home, Life

    Go_Go Yubari was recently approached by a large company that was interested in employing her. They whisked her off to a big city and wined and dined her in order to persuade her to come join their team. Despite their persuasive sales pitch, she decided to stay where she was at because, in part, the proposed employment reminded her of an old job and the long hours and stress that accompanied it.

    After parting ways with a well-paying but highly stressful job back in November, I applaud her choice. There’s so much more to a job than money, fancy titles, and the strings those usually accompany those two things. It’s not that I don’t find compensation or what I do for a living isn’t important. I do have a family support and life’s more enjoyable knowing you can make a mortgage payment and put food on the table. And writing makes me happy. I would perform much better at a job that required lots of writing as opposed to doing something else.

    In addition to the above, a good job has always had three other important elements: 1) One that allows me to come home in a relatively stress free 80 percent of the time, 2) one that allows me to spend time with Marathon Girl and the kids and 3) doesn’t deplete my (creative) energy so I can write books after the kids are in bed.

    When I set off on a job hunt back in November, I hoped that I could find a job that met all the criteria. Five weeks into my search, I ended up with three solid job offers. All paid very well and involved writing. So the determining factor was how well the job would allow me to accomplish the things I wanted to do after I came for from work. Like Go_Go Yubari, one of the offers reminded me too much of my old job in all the wrong ways. I turned it down. Two jobs left. My gut kept telling me which one to take. And since my gut feelings have never turned out to be wrong, I took the one I felt good about the first time I interviewed with the company.

    I’ve been at my new job about four months. The family is clothed, fed, and has a roof over their head. There’s no worries about finances. I’m doing more writing with this new company than I ever did with my previous employer and seeing more results from my efforts. I usually have a good two to three hours to spend with the kids after work. And despite all the writing I accomplish during business hours, I’ve managed to make tons of progress on my second book after I kiss the kids goodnight. In the last two weeks, I’ve complete four chapters – about the same amount I was able to accomplish in a previous year with at my old job. Last night I went on a writing tear and wrote two thirds of another chapter in just under two hours.

    Yeah, I made the right choice.

    Five Years – Two Weeks Early

    marriage

    I know. I know.

    I told the world I was going to write about last week’s LOST episode this weekend. I didn’t do it. And because I didn’t, my inbox was flooded with thousands of emails (well, two, actually) asking me to opine on why Sayid is now Ben’s assassin (I have no idea) and who is he trying to kill (I think it’s the same people that sent the boat people to the island – a.k.a. The Dharma Initiative).

    Before someone sends another email, let me explain. The weekend didn’t turn out the way I planned it.

    After work Friday I was driving home and thinking about the rest of my day: playing with the kids, eating dinner, and watching a movie with Marathon Girl after they went to bed. If I had enough energy, I was going to make some popcorn for the movie.

    I came home and instead of kids eating at the table or seeing Marathon Girl working on dinner, the house was eerily quiet. Too quiet. I double-checked to make sure the van was in the garage. (It was.) Then I thought that Marathon Girl and the kids were playing in the family room and we’d be ordering pizza or something for dinner.

    I went to the bedroom to hang up my coat and put away my laptop. Much to my surprise Marathon Girl was sitting on the bed and looking rather sexy.

    My first thought was: You look great!

    My second thought was: Maybe you should put some real clothes on before the kids see you.

    My third thought was: I don’t hear the kids. Where are they?

    I must have been completely stunned because Marathon Girl got of the bed and put her arms around me and explained that we were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary two weeks early because this was the only weekend she could get someone to watch the kids overnight.

    Did I mention I knew nothing about this and it was a complete surprise?

    So instead of writing about LOST or anything else, I spend most of the weekend alone with Marathon Girl celebrating five wonderful years together.

    I wouldn't have had it any other way.

    And, yes, you can look for a post about the latest episode of LOST tomorrow.

    Unless, of course, Marathon Girl has another surprise for me when I get home tonight.

    Getting to Know You

    It was five years ago this month that Marathon Girl and I began dating seriously. One of my fondest memories of that time is sitting on her kitchen floor after a long morning run and talking about things like our favorite movies, books, and food.

    Even though our opinions differed on a lot of things, I remember looking at her and thinking how comfortable I felt talking with her and sharing my thoughts and views. There was no worry between the two of us whether or not we even liked the same things. It was a chance to get to know the other person better and see how comfortable and compatible we could be even though in some ways we were very different from each other.

    Even if you spend every day with someone, your tastes and opinions grow, develop, and change. Successful relationships are the ones where the husband and wife can still be in love with each other even as they slowly change over time.

    Occasionally Marathon Girl and I have that conversation we had on her kitchen floor. We go over our list of favorite movies, actors, actresses, books, authors, athletes, sports teams, restaurants, main dishes, and hobbies. There are 35 items on our list and it's always fun to see where our opinions and tastes have changed since we first fell in love with each other.

    Last night Marathon Girl and I had that conversation again. We brought out our list and asked the other person what some of their favorite things were. No, we don't guess what each other is going to say. We let the other person answer and then if the answer surprises us or has changed for some reason, we talk about why their tastes have changed.

    Out of the 35 items on the list, there were six things I found out about Marathon Girl that I didn't know about. Marathon Girl found out seven new things about me. We thought it would just take 30 minutes to run through the lists. Instead we ended up talking late into the night and had a lot of fun doing it. In a way I felt like we were sitting on her kitchen floor again. Just the two of us and me falling head over heals for her.

    It's easy become so accustomed to a person being part of your everyday life that you don't notice how they change in little ways. Sometimes if these changes go unnoticed for a long period of time, you wake up one day and realize that you're married to a complete stranger.

    I'm glad I had the chance to get to know Marathon Girl all over again and realize how fortunate I am to be married to such a wonderful woman.