Widower Wednesday: Long Distance Relationships


Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone who’s having a long distance relationship with a widower. Generally these relationships start off well with both parties communicating via email, texts, phone, Facebook, etc. for hours at a time. After three or four months the communication from the widower levels off and I get an email asking if the widower is still interested.

The problem with long distance relationships is that phone and other forms of communication only go so far. It’s hard to really get to know someone or remember why they set your heart aflutter in the first place when all you’re doing is talking or texting each other. Knowing whether or not someone is worth a serious, committed relationship, you need to spend a lot of time in with them—something that’s hard to do when you live hundreds or thousands of miles away from each other. The widower status of the man adds an additional layer of complexity since you’re seeing someone who may not be emotionally ready to start a new life with you.

For those who have read Room for Two, you know that my first serious relationship after my late wife’s death was a long distance one. Even though we talked on the phone for an hour or two ever day, sent copious amounts of email to each other, and each took turns flying to the other’s state every other month, I kept feeling that something was wrong with the relationship. At first I thought my misgivings were because we spend so little time together. But as the relationship progressed, I realized that the spark that I was looking for wasn’t there. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to end the relationship. I liked having someone to talk to and someone who would spend time with me. It added a much needed layer of normalcy to my life. Instead, I started cutting back on the amount of time we talked on the phone and the numbers of email I sent.  The amount of contact plunged even further when I started dating Marathon Girl—something that may not have even happened if the first girl I was dating didn’t live over 600 miles away.

What it comes down to is this: widowers who aren’t ready to move on can fake interest in someone for an hour over the phone for months or years but have a harder time doing this over extended face-to-face encounters. When you’re dating a widower and aren’t able to see his non-verbal actions, if the house is full of shrines to the late wife, etc. it’s hard to tell if he’s really loves you or is simply using you to pass the time until someone better comes along. Eventually he’ll get bored and contact will slow down or stop completely but in the meantime you’ll end up wasting countless hours and mouths (or years) of your life.

My advice is to avoid long distance relationships with a widower unless you can find a way to spend lots of face-to-face time with each other. Dating a widower already comes with plenty of unique challenges; adding the complexity that comes with a long distance relationship is simply asking for more trouble.