Dating A Widower: I have been dating a widower for a little over a year now. I’ve known this man for over 20 years. He and his late wife were friends of our family when she was still alive. She died 3 1/2 years ago in a motorcycle accident. He was driving the motorcycle and a car turned in front of them and he hit it and she flew off the back and hit the car, and later died of massive head injuries, even though she was wearing a helmet. This woman was the most wonderful person I had ever had the privilege to meet. She was a great mom, wife, and person, so it stands to reason that they were completely devastated when she passed away. My family was, too.
Fast forward to today. Like I said, this man and I reconnected in May 2005 when I invited him and his kids to my college graduation. They couldn’t come because they were getting ready to move. He told me they were moving because of too many memories and that it was time to move on. Well, after he got moved into his new house, we started corresponding over email and chatting online. And, in December 2005 I realized that I wanted to go out on a date with this man. So, I asked him and he said yes. And, it was wonderful. We fell in love and wanted to take things slowly for his kids’ sakes. He told me he would do everything he could to make this work because he wanted us to be together. I said the same. Also, we are both Catholic and he asked me to get an annulment, so I did because I wanted to get closure on my previous marriage and so that we (this man and I) could be together.
Things were going great. I guess I should mention that I also have two children ages 17 and 11. His kids (the ones still at home) are a 16-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. He has a 21-year-old daughter in the Marines also. Things were going along just fine, and his daughter came home for Thanksgiving, and then a couple weeks later, my annulment was finalized. No sooner had I told him that the annulment was done, did he come to my house and tell me that things weren’t going to work because his kids don’t want it. I asked why and he said because they don’t want someone with kids. He has told me that he’s really struggling with this because he made a promise to them that if they didn’t think it was right, then he wouldn’t do it. But, he also tells me that he loves me and my kids very much and that his kids love us, too, but don’t want to be with us on a permanent basis. As far as I know, they haven’t given him a reason as to why. I feel that although their feelings should definitely be taken into consideration about our relationship, he is the adult and it is ultimately up to him what he wants. He has told me he wants to be with me, and I believe him. Oh forgot about something. There is this woman who lost her husband a little over a year ago and has been corresponding with him (she asked my permission and I said it was ok.) He has taken his kids to see this woman and have supper with her a few times and has told me every time that they were going over there. Well, he told me recently that his kids like her because she reminds them of their mom. I have a really hard time with this, too, simply because he shouldn’t have taken them with him in the first place. I’m wondering if they are still not ready for him to move on yet, even though he says he is.
I am having a really hard time with this. We are still together, but the relationship is tenuous at best. I love him and his kids very much and really want this to work because on some level I believe God and his late wife brought us together. I have felt this from the very beginning. I guess I’m not sure whether his kids are still grieving the loss of their mother and aren’t ready yet, or if they don’t want to share him with someone else, or what the deal is. My kids are devastated because they also love them with all their hearts. I would love any insight from those of you who have gone through this. Thanks so much for your help and guidance.
Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach, Co-Founder and Director of the Step and Blended Family Institute
I haven’t gone through this particular experience personally although I work with people all the time who are considering new relationships with partners who have children. My husband was also a widower of young children when we got together, however he did not feel the need to ask the children if it was okay to remarry. He talked with them and I’m certain checked things out with them before our relationship became serious but for the most part they were on board for us getting together.
I understand his reluctance to make a decision that they are not ready for. He hurts for them and their loss together and doesn’t want to burden them any more than necessary. Having said that, we should never make promises to our children that may be impossible to keep. Most children don’t see themselves ever wishing their parent to remarry so unless he’s prepared to remain single for the remainder of his life, he may not want to leave those decisions to them. Understanding, patience, sensitivity and even pacing things are sometimes necessary to help children come along. Also, remembering that they are on a different emotional timetable than we are and validating their feelings is essential. Many couples who decide to pursue their relationship despite the lack of support from the children, show respect for where the children are at by letting them know that they understand that they will need some time to get used to the idea and that no one will be rushing them or expecting them to be as excited as the couple is about the new relationship. However, it is usually a wise move and a fair move for the parent to let the children know that they are responsible for this final decision and that they alone will make it.
It is not possible for you to force your partner to see it this way however if you feel that this is the relationship for you and that you are not comfortable continuing in the way it has been going, then you need to let him know how you feel and what your wishes are for the future. As far as this other woman is concerned, I would also say that is absolutely fair for you to know where things stand in this regard. It would be unfortunate for him to pursue a relationship with her just because she reminds them of their mother, but in either case, you have a right to know where things stand.
If anything, you can share with him that many people go through this situation and do decide to repartner or remarry and that the ones that have a greater likelihood for success are honest with their kids, are sensitive to their needs, but are also concerned and interested in pursuing a life that brings them some joy and fulfillment as well. Parents who try to go without just to give more to their children, often end up running out of anything to give so it is absolutely okay, if not essential to take care of our needs as adults which will in turn make us more capable of being there for and giving to our kids. Many children don’t think they will ever be ready and many adult children would prefer for their parents not to remarry, but we have to search ourselves and give ourselves permission to do what is right for us as individuals.
For anyone considering entering a blended family, I usually recommend coaching to learn about the dynamics of stepfamilies or at least a few good books or other resources to help in this way. Knowing what lies ahead of you and planning it together can save everyone a lot of pain and a lot of years of wondering what to do. This could be the next step for both of you as a couple to educate yourselves about what you’re going through so you can make decisions that respect everyone’s position. You can check out my website for additonal information.
It’s not unusual for things to be going well in the dating stage, and once potential marriage or long-term considerations are being made, the children get nervous and apprehensive. The seriousness and long-term implications can be a bit intimidating; right now the emphasis is simply on enjoying each other and the comfort is there because of the long-term friendships. However, with possibility of a marriage, they begin to anticipate sharing their Dad with others in a family situation and this can be quite scary and overwhelming. Right now there are natural boundaries and it is much simpler but they know it can help but be different once you are all together.
Letting them know that you don’t intend to replace their mother but simply want to be a significant person that will share in their lives, should help to ease some of the fears. Also, letting them know that you both intend to take some time before taking that next big step will bring some relief. You will be a new family in some ways, but that will not mean that the families and the traditions that existed previously, will no longer be an important part of their lives. Also, their Dad can do a great deal here to reassure them that they hold a special place in his life that no one can ever take the place of. They are scared of losing any sense of control, of losing him and the life that they had hoped for and invested in, especially after losing their mom. Just acknowleding how difficult that has been for all of them and explaining that this new life in no way will be an attempt to erase what went before, but an oppotunity to celebrate a continuation of life together, should help them over time to see that this new relationship doesn’t have to be a threat to the memory of the life they had with their mom.
I hope this is helpful and I will be happy to hear your update.
Alyssa Johnson, The Smart Way to Re-Do Your “I Do”
Your pain over this was very clear in your message. I hope you find the following helpful.
It does seem that his children are still struggling a bit with the loss of their mother because they were drawn to this other woman because she reminded them of their mother. This seems like they are looking for a replacement rather than ready to really move forward. This is understandable due to the severe loss they’ve experienced.
I don’t know how quickly things were moving with their father, but I would encourage you guys to take a step back and slow things down. Your partner made a huge mistake in the promise he made his kids. He gave them veto power rather than allowing their input. If you two continue to move forward you’re setting yourselves up. The kids will be resentful of you and your relationship with their father.
Instead, I’d encourage you to try to just spend time together and see where things head. Your partner needs to keep working with his children in dealing with their grief. The most healing factor with grief is time. If the kids continue to see you with their father, while he continues helping them adjust to their grief so that they can move forward, your relationship should be in better shape.
I wish you the best Deb and I hope this relationship works out for you!
Thanks so much for replying. We have done what you said, taken a step back and are trying to reevaluate things, and I agree that he shouldn’t have made that kind of a promise to them. I mean, I could understand if I was a raving lunatic, a drug/alcohol user, or something of that nature. That would give them a reason to say “No, dad. We don’t want her in our family or her kids, either.” But, I’m not any of those things. I just love their dad and want us to be a family, along with my kids, too. They all get along great and it’s killing me that this is happening.
What hurts me is that we’ve basically stopped seeing each other because of this. I miss him and his kids and my kids miss them, too, but I don’t think the way to go about this is to completely cut off contact with them and us. We have both been so busy that we haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk about any of this. I’m hoping we can do that soon.
Yvonne gave me some wonderful insight on this subject, too, and I’m hoping that once my partner and I sit down and talk that it will help things significantly. He has told me that falling in love with me is just like it was with his late wife. He said after a couple of dates, he knew I was the one. He has said time and again that he loves me and wants to be with me, but is torn between wanting to be with me and keeping his kids happy. I feel like he’s given his all to his kids for the past 3 1/2 years and it’s time for him to do for himself, all the while keeping his kids informed and being sensitive to them at the same time. Am I completely off base here? I want to help and be there for all of them, but it seems like he shuts me out when he’s having a hard time with things.
Anyway, anything else you can suggest would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!
I forgot to mention that my youngest daughter, who is 11, is an extremely sensitive girl. Her dad and I divorced when she was almost 6. So, she is sensitive to this situation too. She also has ADHD. When this man and I first started dating, it wasn’t that great with her. His daughter and her were having disagreements over who should get which toy and such. That has gotten a lot better since she has been on medication. Almost a 180 for her, so I don’t know if that has anything to do with his kids not wanting other kids in the family or if it is a generality. Thought I’d throw that out there.
Alyssa Johnson, The Smart Way to Re-Do Your “I Do”
I agree with you that it’s important that you two don’t cut all contact unless it’s clearly established that the relationship has ended.
If not, then you’re just avoiding one another and that doesn’t solve anything. It sounds like the two of you really need to sit down and re-establish some boundaries in your relationship and discuss where you feel like things are. This doesn’t have to be a big pressured thing. But, it’s important that you’re both on the same page so that neither of you feels mislead.
I’d offer to help him in any way he can suggest as far as the kids go. Even if he doesn’t take you up on it, at least he knows you’re willing and aren’t becoming resentful of his children.
I really think the key for you is to keep praying and to take things slowly. Don’t be in a rush, or fear you’re losing him if the contact is not the same. If this relationship is meant to be, it will happen, but in it’s own time, not necessarily on your time table.