First, thanks to everyone who is giving ideas and feedback for a series of columns on dating a widower when children (his or yours) are involved. I'm still taking ideas and feedback for the next week. If you'd like to share your story, leave a comment here or on the DAW Facebook group, or send me an email.
My column two weeks ago on wills and prenuptial agreements started an interesting side discussion in the comment section on inheritances and what, if anything should go to the widower’s children or his second wife’s children. Though I’m not going to dive into the subject of inheritances today, frequent visitor and commentator Annie has written a great column on it that I encourage you to read.
But the side discussion got me thinking about becoming one with your (future) spouse. A lot of the emails that reach my inbox there’s a tendency for at least one person in the relationship to become extremely possessive about their “stuff”. Whatever possessions they bring to the marriage divided up between his and hers. Fights ensue whether or not to put his couch or her couch in the living room. The couple has separate checking accounts, cars, and other things. One woman recently wrote about the frustration she felt when she and her husband went on vacation and split all the expenses of the trip 50/50. After they got back, her husband started complaining that she hadn't paid her fair share of the trip.
If you want a long, successful marriage, there shouldn't be any idea that there are his things and your things. Everything belongs to both of you—and yes that includes things that may have belonged to the late wife.
Both Marathon Girl and I didn't have much in terms of material possessions when we got married though I probably had a few more things simply because of my previous marriage. In the weeks before the wedding we decided which things of hers and mine would be moving with us to our new apartment. The things we decided not to take were either given to family members or thrift stores. There was no discussion about whose stuff this was going to be after we were married because we both felt that whatever we brought into the relationship would become ours.
The kitchen table that my late wife bought for a steal a year into my first marriage was never thought of as “Krista’s table.” It was our table and served us well for the first seven or eight years of our marriage until we needed and bought a new one. Same went for our cars, pots and pans, books, and the small amount of money I made from selling my house right a few weeks before we tied the knot.
If there are things from the late wife that the widower wants to leave his children, or family heirlooms you want to leave yours, then give it to them now (if the kids or adults) or find a safe place to store them until the kids are old enough to decide if they’re even something they want. But don’t let those items fill up your home and become a source of contention. It’s simply not worth it.
Sometimes becoming one it means re-evaluating and re-prioritizing relationships with others. Maybe becoming means less time with the late wife’s family or less time with friends or with coworkers in order to spend more time with your spouse. Marathon Girl and I moved about 30 miles away after we were married in part because we thought it would be easier to spend more time with each other and rely on each other more if we lived in a city where we didn't know anyone and had to make a fresh start.
The more things come between spouses and divide them the weaker their marriage becomes and the easier it becomes to fall apart. However, you should both have the desire to become one and make each other a stronger and better person. Whether that means combine the checking accounts, material possessions, or moving to another city, your marriage and your spouse should come first. Period.
If you can’t see yourself giving up some possessions, re-prioritizing other relationships, or starting over in a new home or city in order to make your marriage work, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship and decide if the person you’re dating is someone you really want to spend the rest of your life with.