Widower Wednesday: How to Talk to a Widower

Book Update: Got the second round of edits back from the editor. Later tonight I’ll send it off to two different proofreaders. Final title and back cover copy has been sent to the graphic artist for layout. I should have a cover to share next week. The book is still on track for publication end of February or first week of March assuming that I get the three remaining Contributor’s Agreements back.

Now on to today’s Widower Wednesday column.


Dear Abel,

You often suggest that when discussing relationship issues with a widower that one should keep the conversation focused on one’s current relationship with a widower and a possible future together instead of the widower’s past marriage and the late wife. Are you saying that the late wife shouldn’t be brought up in conversation at all? Could you give me some examples of how someone who is dating a widower might do this? There are many issues I want to discuss with my widower but don’t know the best way to approach him or bring up the subject. Any advice or suggestions you might have would be very helpful.

What a great question.

Before I give specific examples, let me clarify something: There’s nothing wrong with talking about the late wife. She’s not a taboo subject. You just need to be careful how you talk about her. No, she’s not some goddess that must only be spoken of in a reverent tone. However, if you come across as jealous of her or their marriage, the conversation is not going to go anywhere. Even though she’s passed on, a widower will still have strong feelings for his late wife will defend her as if he’s still married.

So how do you talk about her in a non-threatening way?

Last week I answered an email from a woman who was invited by her for a romantic weekend in the same hotel he and the late wife used to frequent when they were married. The woman wanted to go on this trip but didn’t want to stay in the same hotel or make the trip a repeat of a romantic getaway that the widower and the late wife shared. Instead she wanted to make new memories with the widower somewhere that could be special to them.

There are two ways she could have brought up the subject with the widower. The first way goes something like this: "I don't want to stay in the same hotel that you and the late wife stayed at! I’m not her! I want to stay at a different place or I’m not going!"

Another way to broach the subject goes something like this: "I'm glad that you and the late wife had a place where you could make meaningful memories. I want to create the same kind of memories with you too but would prefer to create them in a new place that can have special meaning to just the two of us. Here are some other places I thought we could consider for our weekend together."

See the difference?

The first one comes across as petty, insecure, and jealous. It’s easy to interpret those words as a direct attack on the late wife and any feelings the widower may still have for her. Odds are that conversation would be the beginning of a nasty fight. The second one, however, comes from someone who’s gracefully acknowledging the widower’s past while focusing on what he has now and the bright future the two of you have together. It invites a discussion around the current relationship and moving forward instead of the past. It tells the widower you still want to be with him and gives him other options to think about.

So if there’s an important matter you need to discuss with your widower, think of different ways to focus the discussion around moving forward and creating a stronger relationship. It will do more to start a conversation and create a positive environment than complaining about things.

If you have suggestions on ways to better communicate with the widower, leave them in the comments below.