I read it time and time again: articles touting the benefits of widows dating widowers. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that only someone who has lost a spouse could possibly understand the intricacies that come with dating post-loss; therefore, widows should not date a man who isn’t widowed.
I get it. Dating someone who may forever grieve her spouse is tough. It can be a minefield navigating our emotions and triggers. There are anniversaries, deathversaries, birthdays and holidays to contend with; days when we’re likely to be more emotional or pained.
There’s the fine line to walk between being a father-figure to young children while working with a widowed parent to help preserve memories of their father. There are pictures around the house, a snapshot of their happy times together. And, of course, the social media posts. The sharing of widowed-related articles along with her commentary of missing her spouse…the Facebook reminders of her late-husband with their son which she happily shares with a smiley face emoji.
Dating a widow can be challenging, no qualms about it.
It’s because of all these nuances that I get why we’re told to only date someone who “gets it”. I understand. But a word of advice to widows and widowers: Jerks, Gold-diggers, Liars, Cheaters and Master-manipulators lose their spouses too. Just because someone is widowed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed cautiously when beginning a new relationship.
I’ve seen far too many widows get caught up in the “but he’s widowed” line of thinking, assuming being with a widowed partner means riding off into the proverbial sunset together. It doesn’t always end up that way. The same precautions you’d take with a non-widower are the same ones you should take with a man who lost his wife.
In no way am I bashing widowers as I’ve seen my fair share of “Snapped” episodes to know some widows play games too with already fragile hearts.
I only want to warn us that although meeting someone who is widowed should mean we get to be with a person who understands what it feels like to have your heart ripped out, it doesn’t. Widowhood doesn’t mean you get a conscience. It doesn’t mean you get a new moral compass. It doesn’t mean you aren’t who you’ve always been.
We want so badly to feel connected to someone who has experienced a devastating loss. Someone who knows why the tears flow on graduation day and on Father’s Day but I urge you to look beyond his/her widowed status.
And for the widows/widowers who gently pick up a mended heart only to callously break it into even more pieces: SHAME ON YOU!
I’d like to think that you know how much losing a partner hurts. How we struggled to get through the days, months and years following the death. How we wondered if we’d ever be able to love again. How we questioned our love for our partners when we decided we were ready to reopen our heart. You should know the pain, the guilt, the uncertainty. The agony we faced coming to grips that our spouses were never coming back. The fear of judgment from others who questioned our “moving on”. You should know this!
Instead, you left a trail of hurt and sadness in your wake. You triggered a tsunami in our grief process that took us back to the day we lost our spouse. You’ve compounded our loss. Made us doubt the progress we’ve made. You’ve shaken our faith in the opposite sex and ultimately in ourselves.
Breakups happen all the time. Yes, we hurt like everyone else does when a relationship dissolves. But for someone reason, we hold the widowed community to a higher standard. We expect our fellow widowers to be gentle with our hearts, even as the relationship comes to a close. We know you’re certainly not obligated to stay in an unhappy situation. We know how short life is. However, there is a right and a wrong way. You’d think two people who share such a tragic set of circumstances would be able to end on an amicable note but sadly that’s just not always the case.
I wish everyone who wants to experience love again, all the happiness their heart desires. I only hope you’ll know that while dating a widower sounds ideal in theory, it’s not always synonymous with “…and they lived happily ever after”.
Mom to a feisty preschooler, Kerry Phillips became widowed at age 32. She runs an online support group for young widows and widowers venturing back into the world of dating and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.