By choice or by chance -- you have found yourself dating a man who is grieving the loss of his wife. The success of your relationship will depend largely on the emotional stability of the man you are dating -- and whether he is truly ready to move on. What do you need to know as the partner of a widower? Take things slow, have personal boundaries, realize that grief is an individual process, and prepare for the cold shoulder from friends and family. Relationships with widowers can be tempestuous, but if he is truly ready for a new relationship, you may find that the widower can be the partner that you need -- and more.
Taking it Slow
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Widowed men are prone to jumping into new relationships too quickly, says widower Abel Keogh, in the first chapter of his book "Dating a Widower." Widowers may be seeking companionship, sex or a feeling of normalcy after the death of a spouse -- and will be less discriminating in who they choose to spend time with. Keogh recommends taking things slow with a widower, especially during the first few months of a relationship. Even if your guy tells you that he is in love and ready to start a new life, he may not be ready to move on. Watch to see if his actions match his words.
Letting Him Lead
You may feel the urge to take control and be the one who makes all the plans in your relationship, when dating a widower. Resist the urge, says Keogh, and let the man take the initiative to contact you and arrange dates. If he is truly interested in a long-term commitment, he will make an effort to be with you. If on the other hand, he is just looking for a warm body -- it will soon become too much work for him to keep up the romantic aspect of the relationship. Try not to give too much of yourself, as tempting as it can be when dating a grieving widower. Ensuring that you have boundaries will help both you and him decide if you have a future together.
Grief is Individual
In the "Psychology Today" article "Stages of Grief - Time for a New Model," licensed professional counselor Worth Kilcrease notes that the process of grief differs for every individual. Don't expect a grieving widower to go through a specific list of "stages" of grief, or to follow a particular time-line in his grieving. There is no right or wrong way to grieve -- it is not as simple as checking off a series of steps on a list. The widower must eventually develop a new relationship with his late wife -- which could take months or years depending on his unique situation.
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In the "Third Age" article "Top Five Issues to Consider When Dating a Widow or Widower," John Gray, author of the book "Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" notes that children may be jealous of a new romantic partner in the life of a parent. Similarly, you may be given the cold shoulder by friends and family of the widower. Although it is natural for those closest to the widower to wish to honor the memory of his late wife, you also deserve respect and a warm reception. If the widower is not willing to stand up for you -- he may not yet be ready to move on past his grief.
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Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.