Guest Post: The Importance of Communication and Support

Widower Wednesday

While I’m on vacation, I’m having some guest columnists fill in. Today’s Widower Wednesday column is written by Cindy Bale Tanner.

I started dating my former widower three years ago.  His late wife of many years with whom he has two children and several grandchildren had died six months earlier. Soon after she died, he dated a friend from a service club they belonged to. She broke it off after a few months. The widower and I have been married for two years now.

We dated for six months before he started to introduce me to his friends.  Over dinner the widower would tell his friend stories using “we” to start each story, as in “we went to a concert”, “we had a delicious dinner at such-and-such-a-restaurant”, and “we took a drive out to such-and-such a place.”  Each story gradually revealed itself to be about him and his deceased wife. In all of the stories the late wife was one-upping the widower, being a great mom to their kids, or otherwise being the ideal wife.

Initially I was hurt by his constant talking to everyone about their adventures.  Eventually I asked the widower that he use his wife’s name, as in “Sally and I”, instead of “we” when starting these stories, and over time he does remember not to start out those stories with "we."  Over time the widower thinks twice before telling these stories, and sometimes asks me first if it is okay for him to tell a particular story that I have already heard.

Fortunately, I never felt jealous of the late wife.  I didn't really feel compared to her either.  I knew instinctively that she was not a saint! That being said, the most valuable tip that I can give anyone who is dating a widower is to never say a negative word about the late wife.  I have never said a single negative word about her to anyone.  For that matter, I have never had any reason to think anything bad about her. Every once in a while, my husband mentions to me how much it means to him and his children that I have never said anything negative about the late wife.

After we started dating I learned that the woman he dated before me was still a part of his life as they often saw each other at the service club they belonged to. I was very jealous when I found out that they were still running into each other.  He told me that they were just friends and that their relationship was a "mistake." I called his bluff and asked to meet her. He introduced us the day after we were engaged.  Afterwards the two of us went for a two mile walk and had a good heart-to-heart talk.  We exchanged phone numbers and she ended up being a good resource when the widower did or said things that confused me.

For me the biggest challenge of dating a widower was trying to figure out why he does what he does.  Is he remembering his relationship with the late wife?  Is he trying to rekindle his relationship with this other woman?  Is he thinking about me or someone else? Is he comparing me to someone else?  Is he seeing me for who I am? Is he just being a guy?  Having a relationship with the other woman was invaluable to me when I needed the advice of a woman who knew the widower very well.  I cannot emphasize enough how worth it was to me to have that contact and ask things about the widower that no one else would know.

Early in our relationship I felt I didn't have the widower’s full attention. But as time went on, the stories about the decreased and I felt like the relationship became more and more about us. I've learned that learning how to communicate with the widower and having someone else I can talk to about widower-related issues has helped my relationship with the widower. I know I wouldn't be married to him if I felt like second place.