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How to Date After the Death of a Spouse

by Cate O'Reilly

It is wonderful to want to find love again after the death of your spouse. Dating after the loss of a spouse can help establish a new identity and can help remedy feelings of loneliness and vulnerability. Determine when you are ready to date. Decide if dating or a long-term relationship is best for you. Identify complicating factors that exist for dating. Finally, be both practical and romantic in your approach to dating.

Loving Again

In his March 2012 article for "Psychology Today," emotions expert Professor Aaron Ben-Zeév, cautions widows and widowers that as a survivor, your love did not die with the spouse. In fact, you may have idealized your relationship following the loss. Given this information, you must integrate the idea that it is possible to love your dead spouse and to enter into a fulfilling relationship with a new person. Psychologically, a new relationship may fill a void physically, but you must be prepared to love two people at the same time -- a dynamic that is unique to widows and widowers.

Dating or Relationship?

There is a difference between casually dating and seeking a long-term relationship. Deborah Carr, a sociology professor at Rutgers University, determined that widows tend to mourn the loss of their late husbands longer, where widowed men want to find replacements as helpers and confidantes faster than their female counterparts. Whether its gender or simply preference you need to determine where you are on the spectrum. You may want intermittent companionship or you may want to replace the permanent loss and have daily companionship.

Complications

Practicalities like children and money may weigh into your dating equation following the death of your spouse. Psychologically, your children will see you as more vulnerable and want to protect you. They may show disapproval or try to monitor your behavior regarding your dating. Be cognizant to respect the loss of their other parent but ascertain your strength in the situation. Practically, finances do affect our relationships, so be aware of what you have inherited and how that economically affects your lifestyle, both short-term and long-term

Starting Over

When seeking a compatible partner, look in places you usually frequent. Dr. Pepper Schwartz, AARP’s relationship expert for older people, encourages widows and widowers to be open to non-traditional forms of dating including, online forums and dating sites designed specifically for widows, widowers and seniors. Once you find someone to date you can address the emotions that come along with starting to date following the loss of a spouse. You may experience guilt as you enter into new relationships but with time, guilt will dissipate, because your spouse would want you to be happy.

About the Author

Cate O'Reilly, who holds a Masters degree in social work, has worked with HIV widows and orphans in Zambia, chronically ill children in Ireland and maternal/child health in America. She has contributed to newsletters, developed protocol manuals and curriculum for education and public health forums.

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