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Living in the widower's house


#1 User is offline   dating-a-widower

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For the past 4 months, I have been seeing a very nice man whose wife died about a year ago. I have two questions: (1) He is already talking about marriage and if that occurs, he would like to have me and my teenage children move into his house. The house has his wife's own furniture and wallpaper choices, photos of her everywhere, etc. How do we create our own identity as a couple if we are in "her" space? (2) How fast is "too fast" when it comes to discussing remarriage after widowhood? Thank you!

#2 User is offline   Yvonne Kelly

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To answer your second question first, there are no hard and fast rules about how soon one should remarry after being widowed. You said that his wife had passed a year ago and that you had been dating for four months and were discussing marriage within a year of her death. If anything this could be perceived as somewhat on the early side, but more importantly, the deciding factors have more to do with the two of you as individuals and the personal circumstances. For instance if youíve known each other for a number of years beforehand, this would give you some preparatory ground for the basis of a relationship, and moving ahead sooner than later with marriage would not be as much of an unknown because you already know the person very well. Your partner needs to know himself and where he is at in the grieving process for his late wife. Grief happens in a number of stages and occurs differently and at a different pace for each person. Those who remarry too soon however, before they have really allowed themselves enough time to grieve, often rush into and struggle in their subsequent relationships and those relationships are not as likely to succeed.

If you are truly concerned about where he is at in terms of his grief and being ready to move on in his life, this would be an important place to begin the discussions that will ultimately help both of you decide when and if marriage is the option for you. I expect that you will want to have the kind of relationship with your life partner that will allow you to discuss these issues, and by beginning in this way, you will start out your relationship on an open and honest playing field. By asking him these things, and/or even suggesting that he may want to talk with a professional to help him figure it out for himself, you are only being supportive. You are not questioning his love and concern for you by having this discussion and you can explain that to him. You are simply wanting the best for both of you and are not willing to leave any stone unturned in order to have this.

Also, it sounds like he is the one who initiated the discussion around marriage. Have you asked yourself if this is what you truly want, should he be ready? If you donít feel the need to move to that level at this time, and feel that it may be rushing things for whatever reason, trust your intuition. You have other options in front of you that allow you to continue the relationship; waiting until youíre completely sure that youíre both ready is absolutely a must. If and when you are reassured that this is what you both want and are ready and prepared for it, then by all means go ahead and be happy. Remember too, that you will now be a stepfamily. You didnít mention children on his side, but either way, you will become a stepfamily and with this comes another set of unique challenges. If you are interested, there are many good resources that can be recommended, to prepare both of you as you enter into this new family situation.

As for your second question regarding his home, which is still very much his late wifeís home in terms of decorating, furniture, pictures, etc., this is another area that needs to be negotiated. Iím sure you donít expect him to erase all memories of her, but in order to get a fresh start on a new life, you will definitely want to make your home together, a reflection of who you are and who you are together as a couple. The problem many people get into is worrying about and stressing over these issues and never discussing them with their partner because they are afraid it is too sensitive and someoneís feeling could get hurt. The worst thing you can do is not discuss it and try to accommodate, which over time will turn to resentment. Once you are serious about moving in together, if this is what you should decide, then beforehand you need to talk about how you can make the home a reflection of ďbothĒ of you, meaning you need to have input into making changes and adding to whatís there already. This may be a negotiation process or your partner may be simply quite happy to have you make as many changes as you need in order to feel comfortable. You wonít know until you discuss it but be honest and let him know how important it is for you to feel that your home, is your home. You also have teenage children to consider and changes will no doubt need to be made to create spaces for them and accommodate to their needs. This can be a fun and healthy process, if negotiated from the beginning and both of you agree to hear what is important to the other person(s) involved and to make concessions as required. Itís all about building a new life together, and although reorganizing/redecorating the home may seem like work that just needs to get done, think of it more as creating something together that will be a special place for your new family.

Of course there is another option which some people choose - selling and moving into a new home that is new for everyone and optimizes your chances for a fresh start. This is not always logistically or financially realistic though. Once again, consider all your options, and make sure that you are not simply following his lead Ė it does seem that all of the ideas are coming from him. That may be fine, but you need to listen to what you know you need and want as well and be willing to share that with him. I wish you all the best as you begin these important discussions which could be the foundation for a healthy and successful relationship.

Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach, Co-Founder and Director of the Step and Blended Family Institute

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