Widower Wednesday: Redefining Relationships

Just a reminder that there are nine days left to submit your story for consideration in the forthcoming Dating a Widower book. Though I’ve asked for a list of specific stories, you’re free to submit any story that that you think will help women who are dating a widower.


One of the things I’ve learned over the years is the importance of relationships. In the writing and publishing world it’s amazing how far a good relationship with agents, publishers, editors, and other industry movers and shakers will take authors along the path of publication. It’s just as, if not more important, than being able to write and tell a good story. In the business world often business deals or hiring decisions made simply because of past relationships between two people. Whether the relationship is with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, or complete strangers, how we treat and interact with people defines who we are and, I believe, will make up a good portion of how we’ll be judged by God in the next life.

Relationships aren’t static. As we grow older and experience life events, we’re forced to make changes that redefine relationships. For example, when I got married the first time, my relationship with my single friends changed. I still maintained the friendships but I ended up spending less time with them (or sometimes taking the wife along) because Krista was the top priority in my life. I had to make similar adjustments to relationships with friends and family when I married Marathon Girl. I never ended or lost any friendships when I got married either time but simply redefined how much time I spent with them.

One of the adjustments widowers have a hard time making is redefining relationships with the in-laws after they become serious with a new woman. At least once a week I’ll get an email from a woman saying she feels like number two because the widower still spends a lot of time with LW’s family or is involved in some annual activities and traditions with that family when she wishes they would start some traditions of their own.

From the emails I receive it seems that widowers who have a hard time adjusting the relationship with the LW’s family are those who were already on good terms with the in-laws when the LW was alive and/or those who grew even closer to the in-laws after their wife died. Often these widowers are oblivious that the amount of time they spend with the LW’s family is problem until the new girlfriend or wife mentions it.

Redefining relationships after a life changing event is tricky and I don’t claim to have done it well in every instance (more on that in a minute). I’m also not going to say how much time a widower who’s remarried or is in a serious relations with someone else should or should not spend with the LW’s family. There are too many factors such as children (if any), geography, and how open the LW’s family is to the new woman that make it difficult to give a definitive answer. However, successfully adjusting relationships involves knowing one’s priorities and communicating with others who may find their relationship changed the most.  A widower needs to know which relationship (new wife or GF, or LW’s family) is most important than organize his life and priorities accordingly while being man enough to lovingly let family, friends, and others know how his new life could affect the relationships. The widower also needs to understand that no everyone may be happy with his new priorities so he’ll need to have the courage to stand by what he thinks is important while letting those who are offended know that he values their relationship. It’s a delicate balancing act but one that needs to be done to successfully start a new life with someone else.

All this is probably easier said than done. I know it was easier for me to adjust the relationship with Krista’s family then it is for other widowers. First, there were no living children from my marriage to Krista. Also, for a variety of reasons, I never got along good with Krista’s parents. After our daughter’s funeral, I never spoke to them again. I did maintain relationships with Krista’s brother, her grandmother, and a few other family members but even those have gone by the way side. And I have no one to blame for that other than myself. It been about 18 months since I last spoke (well, emailed actually) Krista’s brother. When I tried to get hold of him last month to invite him to my book party, my attempts (email, phone, etc.) were unsuccessful. He has a new email address and phone number and I don’t have them. (No, he’s not on Facebook or other social media sites.) Though I have no regrets about making Marathon Girl and our family numero uno, I never intended my relationship with Krista’s brother to wither and die.

So to those widowers who have a good relationship with your late wife’s family, please understand that making a new life with someone else is going to require adjusting relationships not only with the LW’s family but with friends and others too. However, if you value these relationships, please do a better balancing act than I did. You won’t be able to please everyone but at least let them know how much they mean to you.

To women who find themselves feeling like number two to the LW’s family, please talk to your widower about this and let him know how you feel while being understanding that these people were part of his previous life and it’s unrealistic to expect him to simply boot them out of his life just because you’re in it.

Finally, Scott, if you’re reading this, please take this post as an apology. If you happen to read this, please send me an email. It’s been a while since we talked. I’d like to catch up.