Marrying a widow and living in their original house can present some unique challenges that you may not have considered when you first got married. All the emotions that surround a new love, marriage, and starting a new life together might have overshadowed reality. You may not have considered what it was going to be like to move into a house that is not yours together.
However, there are ways to overcome the insecurity of moving into a house that was your spouse’s home before they met and married you. If you’re looking to address this feeling, these suggestions may help you make this house a home for both you and your spouse.
1. Give Them Time to Heal
Depending on how much time has passed since the death of their spouse before you, they may still have all of their photos and personal belongings in the house. This may make you feel uncomfortable as you move in, but your spouse may not be ready to even think about getting rid of their deceased spouse’s things.
You may feel as if you’re having to share your home with the deceased spouse. If it’s been a recent death, you may need to show some patience and understanding until your spouse is fully ready to move forward with their new life with you.
People experience different types of grief, and not everyone heals from their loss in the first year after the death of a spouse. Sometimes a widow or widower can grieve the loss of their spouse for years following their death even after they’ve remarried.
This isn’t a reflection on you or the love they have for you. It’s part of the complicated grief process that follows the loss of a spouse.
2. Have a Conversation
One of the easiest ways to avoid hurt feelings and resentment is to have an open and honest conversation that goes beyond what to do with your wedding ring. When feelings of insecurity are left unresolved, emotions can erupt over the simplest things later on. Your spouse may be caught off guard and have no idea what’s behind your emotional outburst.
Talking things through and setting boundaries is one way of resolving any issues you may be having. Consider wisely when choosing the appropriate time to have this conversation. Don’t try and talk about these things when you’re feeling emotional, angry, or upset.
Also, try and avoid talking about this sensitive subject on days like anniversaries, birthdays, or other occasions with special meaning tied to their deceased spouse.
3. Create Your Own Identity
Your home with your spouse is just that—your home. Moving into a house that belonged to your spouse with their deceased spouse before you doesn’t mean that you will have to live in their shadow forever.
Make it a point to talk about redecorating and purchasing new furniture and household items together. You'll need to consider finances and may need to come up with creative ways to add these purchases to your budget.
4. Create New Memories
When creating new memories, this isn’t about erasing memories of the deceased spouse. It’s about moving forward in your new life together. Try incorporating things into your home life that will increase the memories of the two of you together. For example, consider the following:
- DIY projects such as a bathroom or kitchen remodel
- Building a deck together
- Painting the house’s exterior or interior
- Creating a romantic dinner night each week
- Redecorating the bedroom
5. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries, especially with your step-children, if any, is important to successful integration into your new home. In cases of blended families, there can be a lot of resentment when a new spouse moves in. Not only will you be disrupting the children’s habits and routines, but you may be essentially filling the void left by their parent that has died.
You may likely feel out of place for the first few months, but these feelings will ease in time if you take affirmative and loving steps to carve out your place in the home. In a home where it's just you and your spouse, you'll need to be firm yet gentle with your spouse about your expectations.
6. Invite People Over
Try filling your home with joy and laughter whenever possible to help make your house a home. The sooner you start inviting people over, the sooner it’ll begin to feel like your home as well. Consider inviting your and your spouse’s friends and family over so they all get to know one another. This will get everyone used to the two of you as a couple, and of this being your home together.
Your spouse may feel guilty for bringing someone new into the home. Some men may have a more difficult time expressing their feelings. It may be that on the surface everything looks okay, but underneath there may be strong feelings of guilt, pain, and sorrow.
7. Live in Gratitude
Being thankful and living in gratitude for everything that you have in your life can make it easier to adjust to living in your widowed spouse’s home. You may find it difficult at first to adjust to all the changes in your life as any newlywed does. When you throw in moving into a house that belonged to your spouse and their spouse before you, emotions can sometimes get the best of you.
Taking stock or counting your blessings will help you see things from a different perspective especially in difficult times. This doesn’t mean that you have to yield every time or that you can’t voice your opinion. When you live in gratitude, you learn to see things in a more positive light. It helps you to accept things for what they are.
8. Acknowledge Your Feelings
To find success and happiness in your new marriage to a widow/widower, you will need to be true to yourself about what you’re feeling. It can be a huge disservice to you both when you try to hide any negative feelings about things as important as where you live. Realize that no one’s perfect and your spouse cannot always tell how you’re feeling.
When you’re true to yourself, you acknowledge your feelings and honor the emotions that stem from those feelings. The way you express yourself and how you feel will have a direct impact on the success of your new marriage.
Here are some ways in which you can approach your spouse about any negative feelings you may be experiencing:
- Invite your spouse to sit and talk about things
- Set an agreed-upon time and place to have this conversation
- Consider having it somewhere other than in the house
- Be straightforward about how you feel
- Use clear and direct language
- Don’t demand ultimatums
- Be reasonable in your requests
- Have a hashed out solution for your problem
- Offer choices
- Allow your spouse to have an input
9. Come to an Agreement
When all else fails, and you still feel like a stranger in your new home, try negotiating an agreement. This may entail something as simple as agreeing to store old photos or agreeing on how to refer to their deceased spouse.
Marriage is about compromise, but you shouldn't reach decisions without considering each other's feelings about important things that may impact your future happiness. Having a successful marriage depends, in part, on having a happy home life where everyone feels welcomed, loved, and respected.
10. Seek Couples Therapy
Certain things may be difficult to bring up in conversation without it turning into an argument or outright fight. Trying to reason with someone who may still be grieving the death of their spouse may be nearly impossible to do.
Grief tends to affect rational thinking to some extent. Consider seeking couples counseling or therapy with a professional who’s trained in grief counseling as well as marriage counseling. You’ll need to tackle your disagreements from both a marital and grief standpoint.
If you're interested in therapy, read honest opinions on some of the top online therapy platforms.
11. Join a Support Group
Joining a support group is beneficial for the two of you. You may want to consider finding your own tribe of similarly situated persons who are struggling with finding their place in their widowed spouse’s life.
And, your spouse will likely benefit from joining a widow support group to help them understand how their grief may be affecting both them and you. Together you can decide if you want to share with the other what you’ve learned to try and improve your relationship at home.
12. Consider Selling
Selling the house may be a good option if the two of you are serious about making your marriage work and moving away from the past. But buying and moving into a new house is not the only way to have a successful marriage.
The two of you can find happiness in your spouse’s home. There are challenges that you’ll need to overcome, but it can be done.
Successful Ways to Make a House Your Home
The love, care, and compassion that goes into fostering your relationship with one another will ultimately decide the success of living in your widowed spouse’s home.
You don’t need to erase memories of their past, purchase a new home, or spend a fortune redecorating to make their house your home. Love, patience, and compassion can help you succeed.