10 Tips for dating a widowed mom/dad

Not that I ever wanted to become an expert in the world of dating widows, but I feel like I have now had enough dating experience to be able to impart a certain wisdom to those lucky enough to discover the joys of dating a widow/widower. We have been to hell and back and have great gifts to share if you are willing to venture down the road with us. I suspect many more dating tips will come to light in the comments of this post, as there is a great deal of wisdom to be found amongst my readers.

1. Don’t ask how our spouse died. You might not be ready for the answer. If we want to tell you, we will when the time is right.
2. Be interested in our kids. Bonus points if you ask to see pictures
3. Keep the sad puppy face short when you find out we’re widowed. Just say something like “I’m sorry” and then let us set the tone for what follows.
4. If you don’t think you will be able to handle the widowed/kid thing, then end it early.
5. If you do end it, don’t use our dead spouse as your excuse (ie. “I think you are still in love with your husband/wife”)
6. Allow us to talk about our husband/wife, and don’t feel threatened. He/she is dead after all. It’s no different than you talking about your ex.
7. Don’t get all sympathetic about our widowhood and use it as an excuse to hold hands on the first date. (caveat: A widower may like this)
8. Make us laugh. We will love you for it. We are tired of crying.
9. Be yourself and let us be ourselves.
10. Most of us know what a great marriage looks and feels like. If you are willing that is what we have to offer you.

9 Comments

  1. anniegirl1138 May 28, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Good list.

    Number is problematic for both sides. No right or wrong but a case by case thing.

    I agree with 3. I loathe pity. And I got blindsided with 4 once. 6 is very true. It’s apples to oranges though. * is one of the goals my husband Rob set for himself with me and he continues to succeed admirably. And I totally hear you on 10 and I think that it is what makes dating divorced people so challenging because often they don’t know what a great marriage is at all.

    Really good tips.

  2. Roads May 28, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I think number 6 is actually a hugely much bigger ask than at first appears.

    That’s another way of saying that number 6 could well be a date-breaker in the short-term and has the potential to be a relationship-killer later on.

    Sure, we can say that when you find the right person, they’ll be happy to hear us talk about our lost partner and they won’t feel threatened by it.

    But they don’t have due recourse. The dead are unattackable, and saintly.

    Just in stepping back to listen to ourselves saying, ‘But when I was married to Y,’ I think we can see straight away where that conversation is going. It’s a no-win for a new partner because they just can’t compete.

    It might be better just to state the facts plainly and simply. And then to let the subject drop. We have to resist the (entirely natural) temptation to let ourselves be defined in this new person’s eyes by what has happened, however massive that really is.

    It sounds brutal, since we have years of our lives invested in all that went before, and it really is a part of us and who we are today.

    But I do believe in setting out along this path we have to hold out the vision of a fresh new start in mind. In that sense, moving forwards might feel just a little like letting go — which we never ever want to do. But really, we’re just enabling ourselves to take that next step which we so desperately want and need to make.

    Sorry if that seems controversial. All kind regards from London, and spirits up.

  3. Abigail May 28, 2009 at 10:59 am

    OK, #6 is definitely the bugaboo. So widow(er)s are going to say saintly things about their deceased spouses while divorcees are going to maybe say not the greatest things about their exes. I agree its harder to live up to a saint than it is to live down to a schmo, so I guess my point is that both should get equal billing. Should I talk less about my dead husband, because what I have to say about him is good? I like to think that I am honest about his human foibles, just I would expect a divorcee to sometimes remember the pleasant sides of their spouses.
    I guess it really comes down to how much we let our past define us, and our ability to carve a new path. I think that applies equally to widow(er)s and divorcees.

    And yes Roads, moving forward does imply letting go, which is so very loaded for the widow(er). But I have learned that letting go isn’t the same as forgetting.

  4. anniegirl1138 May 28, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I wasn’t thinking that one would talk incessantly, or much at all about one’s past spouse, but I found with some of the divorced men I encountered that they painted women and their expectations of relationships with a wide ex-wife stained brush, and that I got no points at all for having been, more or less, successfully married.

    For the record, I never compared anyone I dated to my late husband and rarely brought him up. Even now that I am married, we don’t talk dead spouse or how things were done in our old marriages and our spouses are not semi-divine. I am always a bit suspicious of the perfect dead spouse stories I hear. To me, they are red flags.

    My past only defined me in terms of what I knew I wanted and needed out of another relationship.

    Interesting conversation.

  5. Daniel Mount May 30, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Abby , I am always impressed with your honesty and insight. You are obviously a widow who has done her work, nothing to be afraid of, actually quite a catch. People are afraid of people who are self aware, it means they’ll have to stay awake and not just sit back and watch TV.

  6. Anonymous June 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Roads; not controversial. In fact you make the MOST sense to me out of all the posters. As a woman dating a widower I agree. You are setting your new partner up for a "no recourse" because the dead are indeed saintly whether they were or not in life. And good marriages become glorified after death of a spouse.

    To the poster who said divorced persons don't understand a great marriage. What a lot of crap. Sorry. but how judgemental and hypocritial. I am divorced. My marriage may not have been "good" in your eyes, but my parents had and still have an awesome marriage over 45 years strong. I grew up surrounded by that. Just because I was unforutnate in having a marriage that did not work out does not mean I should be told I don't recognize a good marriage.

    That is the thing with widowers as a recurring theme – they seem to hold themselves "above" the divorced. Why is this necessary? Good and bad things happen to all people. We can lose a spouse to death or divorce. Pain is pain. Why does it have to be "my pain is bigger than yours" – or I am better than you because I had good marriage? Wow you lucked out had a good marriage and loving sopuse… that doesn't make you any better than anyone else. You could be a good partner again, but so could a divorced or never-married person with the right partner. Why is necessary to pat yourselves on teh back so much all thewhile cutting those others down?

    You had a wonderful marriage great – but the widowed do often glorify their marriage and it IS hard for a new person to deal with taht. You can get pissed off, angry but it's true. Who wants to feel they are second place or constantly compared?
    But in our society we are not allowed to give the new partner any slack whatsoever. If they feel insecure or have doubts even if they simply want to be loved for themselves and not hear ad nauseum about your former spouse/GREAT marriage.

    I share stories about my marriage and ex spouse. It's part of getting to know me BUT I dont' compare my new partner nor make them live in my past.

    That is why I loved Roads response. So right Letting go is essential to having a NEW life. It may be painful. But the late spouse is NOT coming back – period -ever. What purpose do you serve by making your new partner relive your past over and over other than make them feel less loved?

    Widowers and widows need to recognize that their pain and issues are NOT the only ones important to a new relationship. You have to be able to GIVE in order to receive. You cannot expect a new partner to sit idly by feeling secondbest. You have to have the ability to move on and make your new BF or GF be the MOST important person to your world… and let the late spouse become a part of your past. If you cannot then you are not ready for a REAL relationship wiht someonenew.

    This does not mean you cannot honor your LHor LW memory, still love them, but you have to let go to love again. Be kind..

  7. Ann July 7, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I am dating a widower and I feel it to be is more difficult than I expected. I to felt that because he "lost" his wife, that he was somewhat more attractive. I am a very giving person and I see that he shows his emotions sparatically the expressions can be somewhat profunctory. I am not sure of his feelings or thoughts of me. It is hard, I do like him very much. Any thoughts on how to proceed would be very appreciated. Should I let him know that I am hear for him to express what he feels…I am finding it hard to continue without an understanding.

  8. Anonymous September 7, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    after reading what you posted, it definitely sucks to date widowed mom.

  9. Anonymous January 10, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I have been dating a widower for several months. I must say I have endured the blow by blow account of his wife's terminal illness, how brilliant their marriage was and what a good mother she was. If I didnt have such strong feelings for him I would have finished it before now. It is true that a new partner cannot compete with a dead person.
    It is REALLY hard work dating a widow/widower and I find myself biting my tongue a lot of the time. I would say one thing though, his emotions took such a battering with what he went through there doesnt seem a lot of emotion left in him now and I find that the most difficult aspect to live with.

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