Falling in love after the loss of a spouse can be tricky for both the widower and his dates, who may have difficulty knowing how to empathize with such a loss. Showing empathy for the loss of his wife, adjusting the pace of the relationship to his needs and remembering that you do not have to compete can go a long way in building a successful relationship.
A widower may use dating as a way to heal the pain of losing his wife, or he may unconsciously be seeking a replacement for her, according to the organization Widow's Hope in its website post "Dating and Marriage." If loneliness and a desire for physical contact are his primary, or even his only, motivations for dating again, he may not be ready. Grief can also lead a widower to avoid becoming emotionally intimate with someone else, and he may resort to withdrawing, holding grudges or sarcasm to protect himself, according to clinical psychologist Ken Druck in the eHarmony article "Finding Love After Loss: 7 Steps for Moving Forward." In those cases, it may be wise to wait longer before you begin dating him.
Talking About His Late Spouse
Bringing up the late spouse is often part of the healing process for the bereaved, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Certain times of the year -- such as holidays, anniversaries or her birthday -- may continue to be a source of pain for your boyfriend. Widowers often need the social support of those around them, so practicing your words is essential. Encouraging a widower to "Move on with your life" or "Stop moping around" may seem helpful, but such phrases can inspire guilt or stall a widower's grief process. Instead, offering words of kindness, such as "Your wife sounds like she was a wonderful woman." Occasionally ask questions about his life with her to show your support and interest.
Building a New Relationship
Your partner may fall into the habits he shared with his wife and encourage you to participate. He want to visit the same spots they visited or spend the weekends at his former in-laws' cabin. Gently suggesting new places to vacation, or taking on a new hobby together -- such as taking a ballroom dancing class or volunteering with a local charity -- can help the two of you bond and focus on the present, according to the Center for Behavioral Health in its website article "Things to Consider When You Marry a Widow or Widower." Your partner's family may also be resistant to his return to the dating market at first. If you find that you are repeatedly ignored or insulted by his family, talk to your boyfriend in private about the effect this behavior has on you. He may be able to remind them that although they are grieving, their actions are hurting someone who has nothing to do with his late wife's death.
Pacing the Relationship
It is natural for widowers to feel guilty when first approaching dating, and they may need to adjust the pace of your relationship. Remember that this is not a personal slight -- but a step that can ensure both of you are emotionally healthy enough to push things forward when the time is right. Dating a widower may also mean that if you hope for marriage bells in your future, it may take longer before he is ready. It may take three to five years, or longer, before a widower is ready for remarriage, according to the organization TwoofUs in its website post "Preparing for Remarriage."
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