Dating and trying to find the right match feels like it becomes more difficult as you get older and gain life experiences. It seems that everyone you meet is weighed down by excess baggage that adds to the weight of your own. By a certain age, almost everyone has experienced love and loss in their lives.
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However, when you meet and date someone who’s been widowed, normal dating etiquette goes out the window. Everything you thought you knew about dating may not really apply here. Get ready to learn a whole new set of rules when it comes to dating and romancing a widow.
Tips for Dating Someone Whose Spouse Died
There may come a time when you fall head-over-heels in love with someone who has experienced the death of their spouse. When someone dies, you tend to focus mostly on all of their good qualities. All of a sudden, even the worst spouse suddenly becomes a saint in the widow’s eyes.
Some people feel that it’s too much pressure dating a widow because it’s hard to live up to that standard, and they fear being compared to their dead spouse. If you’re a widow, considering dating a widow, or want to know how to help your widowed friend, keep reading for some eye-opening truths and suggestions on dating a widow.
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1. Have patience
One of the hardest things for you to deal with as your relationship grows is the emotional ups and downs that your partner may be experiencing. Although your relationship may be flourishing, your partner may still be grieving the loss of their spouse. Expect for these shifts in mood to continue for many months into your relationship.
There may be lingering sadness that overcomes your partner during special occasions, birthdays, and holidays. Even if you don’t know how to console someone who’s lost their spouse, you can show your support through loving patience.
2. Be open to love
Whenever your partner experiences sorrow over the loss of their spouse, you may begin to feel as if they’re no longer in love with or interested in you. It’s common for a spouse to grieve the loss of their partner for many years after they’ve died. You might feel the opposite, but try not to take it personally.
Most people don’t know how to express their grief and sorrow. Your partner may shift away from you because they don’t know how to cope with their loss or how to communicate their grief.
It helps to learn the anniversary dates that were significant in your partner’s life with their spouse. You can give them their space on these dates, or gently offer ways in which you can make things better for them.
3. Have emotional understanding
Everyone experiences grief differently. There are different types of grief and ways in which people mourn the significant losses in their lives. It may be that for months you and your partner experience a close and loving relationship, and then suddenly they have an emotional outburst seemingly out of nowhere.
This will likely leave you feeling hurt and confused as it may be difficult for you to understand how your partner is processing their grief. Give them the space that they need to sort out their feelings and emotions. Depending on the severity and length of these outbursts, you may kindly suggest that they seek therapy or join a widow support group.
4. Realize they carry the weight of their loss
When you’re dealing with feelings of inadequacy and fear, your partner may be battling similar issues of their own. It may be hard to imagine that your partner also feels doubts and insecurities like you do.
They may think that their emotional ebbs and flows may be too much for you to handle. They may also fear losing to someone who’s “normal” and doesn’t have this added baggage.
These feelings and emotions are likely to surface at the most intimate moments in your relationship adding to your feelings of being the replacement. It will likely be difficult to work through these moments. Realize that your partner is battling their own issues as they try and learn how to move forward from their loss while maintaining a new and healthy relationship.
5. Know there’s room for you
Your partner may still love and also be in love with their spouse that died. It will take a while for them to process their grief and loss. Unlike a divorce, your partner didn’t choose to leave their spouse or the other way around. There’s no badmouthing or hatred between exes. What you’re left to deal with is the separation of two people by death that may have still been madly in love.
Instead of feeling resentment and insecurity about not being able to live up to their deceased spouse, learn to love yourself. Recognize that there's value in what you bring to the relationship, and above all remind yourself that your partner chose you as they move forward in life. Understand that it is possible for them to love two people at the same time. There's no competing with their spouse who's died.
Try to see yourself as a valuable addition to their life, and not as a replacement for the person whom they’d rather be with.
Tips for Dating a Widow With Children
Dating a widow with children may seem as if it’s challenging, but it might end up being the best thing that happens for all of you. When a child loses one of their parents, it’s natural for them to be resentful of the next person who comes into their lives.
When deciding whether to date a widow with minor children, understand that you’re likely getting a package deal. While it can be fun getting to know everyone, it can also be emotionally trying at times. Hopefully the following tips can help you to sort things out.
6. Know that children grieve differently
Your partner’s children will be suffering their loss as much as your partner but in very different ways. It helps to read up about how the grief process works in children, and what to expect at different stages.
An adult is usually more capable of handling the overwhelming grief that accompanies this type of loss, while a child may have extra difficulty processing it. Like with everyone, learn to have patience and understanding when it comes to the outward manifestations of their grief. It may be that the children resent your presence in their life, or that they aren’t ready to have someone step into their parent’s shoes.
In some cases, it might be the opposite and a grieving child might welcome you with open arms and have lots of love to offer you. Take each child as the individual that they are, and know that how one reacts to grief is not necessarily how the next will take to it.
7. Take things slow
Allow your new relationship to take its course without rushing into things. You may want to ensure that your relationship is heading in the right direction before bringing the children into the mix. Children at any age, may not be able to cope with additional losses after suffering the loss of one of their parents. A child can feel more vulnerable shortly after the death of a parent, so they may be extra sensitive if they feel the pain of rejection from any later losses.
Although it may seem like a lot of fun and a great idea to bring the children along on your dates, try and save these outings until your new relationship has had some time to develop and mature into something more solid.
8. Don’t force things
Your partner will let you know when they’re ready to move the relationship to the next level. For some, it may be sooner than you’d expect, especially if they had to deal with their spouse’s illness for many months before their death.
But before you go planning on what to do with the wedding ring their spouse gave your partner, take the time to make sure that everyone’s on board with your future plans. You may find that your partner isn’t yet ready for another long-term commitment so soon after the death of their spouse. Or, you may find that they want to get re-married as soon as possible because of the children.
You'll need to have a conversation to figure out where you fit in and what you both want out of the relationship.
9. Set boundaries
Dating a widow who has minor children at home may test your limits on what you’re willing to do for love. The best way of approaching a new relationship where there are children involved is to set boundaries from the moment it becomes apparent that you’re in it for the long haul.
Children learn from and appreciate the setting of rules and boundaries. This includes establishing how you’ll refer to one another, and how you’ll approach sensitive topics like staying the night.
10. Talk things out
Talking things through with the children is a sign of respect for them as much as it builds respect for you. You don’t need to couch these talks as seeking permission from the children to do things or move forward in your new relationship.
Allowing each person to speak and have an opinion is the respectful thing to do rather than expecting everyone to just go along with things.
Dating a Widow Who’s Grieving
Everyone’s timeline for grief and love will be different. A widow will know the right time for them to start dating. In many cases, it can be when their solitude gives way to loneliness, and they’re well on their way to adjusting to a new normal.