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Protect your heart when dating a widower. Women can get hurt dating a widower

By Tom P Blake - Finding Love after 50

Last week, I mentioned that I often caution women about dating widowers. It's not because I think widowers are bad guys. To the contrary, most are wonderful men who were devoted to their deceased wives. For the most part, they understand what it takes to make a marriage work, and because of that perception, many women feel widowers would make great partners.


I base my caution warnings on the stories women who've dated widowers have shared with me over the years. In a nutshell, these women have said that the widowers convinced them that they had adequately healed and were ready--and wanted to b--in a committed relationship.


And then, somewhere down the road, reality hits the widowers. For a variety of reasons--often guilt, or holding on to precious memories--they can't proceed with the relationships they've jumped into. End result: the women get hurt.


True, not every widower's situation is like that. Some make the adjustment just fine. But, it happens often enough that it's important to warn women who get involved with widowers about the possibility.


Last week, a woman named Dottie called, and asked for a personal consultation about the widower she's dating. I suspected she would tell me he was having second thoughts about his relationship with her.


Note about consultations: I advise people who want consultations that I am not a therapist, just a good listener who has heard about nearly every aspect of mid-life dating in my 23 years of writing about it. I've found when people want a consultation, they don't call to chitchat; they have difficult and unique issues.


In Dottie's case, my suspicions were wrong. The widower doesn't have issues, she's the one filled with guilt. For years, Dottie was the best friend of the widower's wife. When the wife died, Dottie never gave dating him a thought. "I even had his next wife picked out; he had been an incredible husband to my friend" she said.


He started to confide in Dottie. He revealed things about himself she'd never known. He was an even more remarkable man than she'd thought. Then, after a couple of years, he grew distant. She didn't understand why. She needed to get rid of the guilt, not him.


She pressed him for an answer. He finally revealed that his hints about his feelings for her had been ignored. He wanted her in his life.


She was surprised and reticent to date him, not wanting to jeopardize their friendship. Slowly, they started dating. He has professed his love for Dottie. She cares for him, and feels they could have an incredible life together, but she is so wracked with guilt about betraying her friend that she wanted an outsider's opinion.


My first advice--the same thing I tell all women dating widowers: "Protect your heart when dating a widower. Protect yourself from getting hurt."


Then, I told her to stop focusing on the guilt, and start focusing on not letting him get away to another woman, that he will eventually go elsewhere if they don't become a couple.


Regarding her guilt, I said she had paid her dues to her friend. To help end her guilt, I suggested she write her friend a letter and explain her feelings. And without being frivolous, I told her if her friend didn't write back, then her friend had granted Dottie approval to move forward with him.


Other members of our group chimed in. Louise wrote, "I think dating widowers is the BEST way to go. These men have been in committed relationships and have made the effort to stay married. Once they are ready for dating, I'd always prefer dating a widower.


"They have learned what it means to make a commitment. Yes, perhaps it also means that there may be some left over issues about losing their spouse, but then, who doesn't have some left over issues about something?"


Note the boldface type: "Once they are ready for dating."That is the key to what Louise is saying. Avoid getting involved with a widower--or any person who has come out of a deeply committed relationship--until they are ready. And that is an entirely different topic.


Donna said, "I have been communicating with a widower. We haven't met yet. A few phone calls. But he is going out of town for a week. His actions made me think that maybe he isn't ready to meet anyone."


It's good that Donna is being leery, but people do go out of town. It's too early for her to judge him just because of that.


Dating a widower can work. But, please remember, many, many women have experienced euphoria dating their widowers, only to wake up one morning to find they've been abandoned, and left feeling pretty darned empty. Always protect your heart.

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