Widower Wednesday: How to Talk to a GOW

Marrying a Widower Update: I finished the second round of edits to Marrying a Widower on Monday. The book is now in the hands of a grammar guru/proofreader. Once the proofreading is complete it will be typeset and formatted for eReaders. If things go as scheduled, it should be released in approximately two weeks. The book will be available in paperback and all major eReaders (Kindle, Nook, etc.). Personalized copies will also be available for purchase at my store for those who want them.


Every so often I get an email from a friend or family member of a GOW who’s worried about their friend/sister/daughter’s relationship with a widower. They claim to know the widower isn’t ready to move on and is just using their friend or family member for his own selfish purposes. They’ve tried talking and reasoning with their loved one but no matter what they say to the GOW, she refuses to heed their advice and seems oblivious to the red flags that everyone else sees. They want to know what the best way is for them to get this person to listen to them and out of the relationship before she gets her heart broken.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that the concerned party is correct and the GOW is in a relationship with a widower who doesn’t really love her. How do you get someone like that to see the light?

Even though there is no one-size-fits-all solution to how to talk to someone, it’s been my experience that approaching these situations is with love, kindness, and understanding that the person is free to make their own decisions goes a lot farther than a direct confrontation. We’re all different and respond to criticism and suggestions differently. Some people may respond to direct criticism well, but most don’t.

For example, I think most of you know that my late wife, Krista, killed herself. Though no one knows the exact reason she did it, the best answer I have was is that it was from an undiagnosed mental illness. About a month before Krista died, her brother realized that something was seriously wrong with her. At least once a day I’d get a call from him updating me on Krista’s latest antics and trying to tell me she needed help. Even though he was right about Krista’s behavior, he was usually condescending when talking to me and treated me like an idiot for not seeing the same thing he did. As a result, I hated talking to him and refused to take his input as seriously as I should have. In my mind he was over analyzing things. Krista was pregnant after all, why couldn't he see that this was just a hormonal change instead of a mental issue? If her brother would have approached the situation differently, I might have taken his concerns more seriously.

It’s impossible to say whether or not Krista’s death could have been prevented or even postponed had I headed his words. However, I do know that if her brother had simply calmed down and approach the situation differently, I might have listened to what he was saying. Instead, he was so sure that he was right, it was easy for me to tune him out and dismiss his concerns.

I’ve learned over the years of responding to emails from GOWs and WOWs that they tend to listen to what I have to say if I guide them to the answer about their situation instead of just telling them that he’s not ready to move on. One thing that Marathon Girl does extremely well knowing how to talk about things with me about important issues in our marriage. She’s very good at making me think through the problem instead of telling me what she thinks I should do or what she wants me to do. As a result, 95% of the time we arrive at the same conclusion without any hurt feelings or fights.

So consider how you’re approaching the situation with the GOW. Are you doing it in such a way that they’ll listen or tune you out? Are you constantly giving them unsolicited advice or beating them over the head with it so they don’t want to talk to you anymore or tune you out like I tuned out Krista’s brother?

Even if you approach the situation the right way and with nothing but love and kindness in your heart when you talk to them, the GOW may not listen. Ultimately you have to accept fact that people are free to make their own decisions—even if that eventually bring them unhappiness and misery. For some people, making bad choices and learning the hard way via personal experience is the only way they’re going to learn. As a parent I’ve seen that many times with my own kids who lose privileges and because they refuse to do their chores or homework and lose privileges. My own parents could probably tell countless stories about dumb decisions I made both as a kid, a teen, and an adult despite their best attempts to warn me about the path I was walking.

If someone refuses to listen, don’t give up. Just realize that at some point you have to drop it and let the relationship work itself out for better or worse. But if it does end badly and everything you told them would happen comes to pass, don’t tell them “I told you so!” when they come crying to you for support. Give them a hug and let them know you still love them and will always be there for them. That way if another tricky situation comes up they’ll listen to what you have to say or even go out of their way to seek your advice.