AfterTalk now has an internet radio component at BlogTalkRadio.com. While preparing for a recording session this week, I did a lot of research on what to advise recent widowers who want to begin dating. I’d been through this myself, and have helped several friends ‘get launched’ back into the world of male-female relationships. What I found surprised me. Very little said by men about this basic life experience, but a lot said by women about men. I’ll summarize some of it here, along with some suggestions for widowers who think they are ready.
The main theme of women’s complaints was that widowers were still living with their deceased wives. Talk of the wife dominated discussions. The wife, in most cases, was wonderful, and everything about ‘their’ life together was perfect. There are two possible conclusions we can draw from this. First, these women are meeting only those men who had good marriages; the rest don’t date. A second possible conclusion is that widowers remember selectively, filtering out the fights, quibbles, inconveniences, and annoyances. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It may even be healthy. It may also set a counterproductively high bar for future relationships. The women know this.
One woman told about her first and last visit to her widower boyfriend’s condo. She had expected a few pictures of the happy couple, and a few mementos, but when she found the wife’s bathrobe still hanging in the bathroom, she broke off the relationship.
Most women complain that when on dates, men talk too much about their late wives. Here’s an interesting quote that sums it up well:
“These widowers feel a need to bond their late spouses with their present loves. I have to wonder why they feel it is necessary, in their minds, for the late wife and present love to be friends. To what end do these means serve? Why would a man expect his new love to gleefully embrace this odd emotional “ménage a trios”, and what women of self-worth and esteem would settle for it without argument?”
The first thing widowers have to do is decide that they are ready to date with the intnetion of establishing a relationship with another woman. I suggest a personal inventory. Ask yourself some of these qurstions:
- Are there things about myself that I always wanted to change but couldn’t in the context of my past marriage?
- For example. do I want to travel? Retire? Spend more/less time with the children? Dine out more/less? Get season tickets for the Met Opera or the NY Knicks? [The answers to these will help you figure out who to date. For example, if her career is going full steam and you want to retire, she may not be the one for you. Did you pick the Knicks? Are you willing to go to a few operas if she’ll go to a few games?]
- Do I want a ‘roommate,” or might I be happier living alone?
- Do I want to be married again until death do us part?
- Or do I just want a part-time companion, like a ‘friend with benefits?’
- Can I compartmentalize my feelings for my late wife, and open my heart to another woman?
This may be the last time you get to re-invent yourself. It bears thinking it through before you take the plunge.
Now it’s time for a makeover. Start with your environment. Try to imagine what a woman would see when she enters your home. Have you dealt with your wife’s clothing and personal effects? Have you replace the photos of the two of you? [You can relegate a few to a special place, like your office at home if you have one]. Does the place look too feminine? If you’re thinking about having sex with this new woman, will she find the bedroom welcoming, or will she find a shrine to your deceased wife? If you can afford it, get a decorator and turn your nest into a man cave.
Now let’s look at you? Still wearing your wedding ring, or have you moved it to a chain around your neck? It may be time to move it to the vault. You need to feel like a new person, so do it. Style your hair differently. Change your wardrobe. If you haven’t heard the term ‘manscaping,’ look it up.
Let’s talk about how you talk. When you talk to new women in your life, stick to the first person singular, like ‘I’ and ‘me.’ Drop the ‘we’ and ‘us’ and ‘our’ unless you are referring to the new woman. Develop a narrative about your life that is in the first person; what have you-you singular- done and seen and been? Think this through and rehearse. Let her ask about your deceased wife. Your answers should be honest and brief, folloed immediately by a question about her life. Never talk about your sex life with your wife. They don’t want to hear it, and they don’t want to tell you about their own. Also, it says to them they you have a big mouth when it comes to sex, and that turns them off.
That’s all I can write about today, except for one more suggestion. Join AfterTalk–it’s free, so you have nothing to lose. Use it to write to your deceased wife and tell her how much you love her, and that the best thing you can do to honor her memory is to find happiness again. She will understand, I promise you that.