Does The Same Dating Advice Apply To Widowers?

I just read your book “Why He Disappeared” and really appreciated the great info. I have not “lost” the guy I’ve been dating for the past 3 months, but I need to fix some of the mistakes I was starting to make. He’s a recent widower (wife died of cancer in June 2010.) We started dating just after Labor Day. He found me on Match.com.

With the exception of 2 weekends (1 in late Sept. and 1 in Oct.) when we saw each other on Saturday and Sunday (but no sleepover) we have only seen each other once a week. We live about an hour and 1/2 apart and he has a very high level job and a big house to take care of (and a dog.) There has been no sex yet but lots of “foreplay.” He says he always waits to have sex until he’s more sure of the woman.

I want to see more of him at this point (3 months,) especially on Saturday nights. I made that need known last weekend in a calm, rational way. In your book, you said that if a guy isn’t seeing you more than once a week by the 3 months point, he probably isn’t interested in a serious relationship. My question is this – does this apply to widowers as well or is it fair to give him a little more time and just get busy with other things so I don’t put pressure on him? He says he has always taken it slow in dating and this is nothing new. I want to be sure that I am getting my needs met and that I’m not just a “rebound” for him. What’s your advice? Karen

Dear Karen,

One thing I know about widowers, followed by two things I know about men.

Widowers are QUICK to rebound, to a point of being unseemly. The guy’s been married for 30 years, his wife dies in June and he started dating online 2 months later? My mom didn’t even think of meeting another man until about 3 years after my father passed away.

Widowers are QUICK to rebound, to a point of being unseemly.

But this is the norm for widowers –for one of two reasons: either the marriage itself wasn’t that healthy and he was immediately ready to move on, OR, like men of a certain age, he put everything had into his marriage and nothing into any other relationships. So when a woman survives her husband, she’s got a circle of friends from the neighborhood, from work, from her card game, from her book club, from her salsa classes. You know what a widower’s left with when his wife dies? His job.

A man’s inability to survive without a woman is a big explanation why a widower is often a very hot ticket on the open market – he’s LOOKING to be married again. Factor in the dearth of older men – there are literally 3 times more single women over the age of 65 – and, well, a decent looking widower doesn’t stay available for very long.

Next, something I know (and have stated repeatedly) about men – of all ages: We do what we want. We don’t do what we don’t want. Which means that even if many widowers throw themselves into new relationships because of their tremendous loneliness, THIS one seems to be functioning more like your basic super-successful middle-aged man. High-powered job. Big house. Dog. No mention of kids. Regardless, he dictates the terms of the relationship based on HIS needs and schedule. If you’re cool with it, it works. If you’re not cool with it, it doesn’t work.

How could you be anything BUT a rebound following a long-term marriage?

…But, at a certain point, a man has to step up and give you a reasonable amount of attention and comfort.

To be very clear, you ARE a rebound, Karen. How could you be anything BUT a rebound following a long-term marriage? As such, you are presumably the first woman he’s been with for many years. To his credit, he’s taking things slow, to avoid diving into another serious relationship that he may end up regretting. But, at a certain point, a man has to step up and give you a reasonable amount of attention and comfort. And if he fails, he risks losing the woman he cares about.

You can give him an extra-wide berth because he’s newly single, but be forewarned: a man who is newly single (and is keeping a little distance) is probably going to want to get a greater sampling of what’s available instead of diving right back into commitment. If he were lonely and desperate to get married, I’d feel better about your chances, but he’s not.

Give him another month to try harder and if he fails, walk away. He’ll probably let you go and resume his new life on Match.com.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Brenda

    Excellent advice and so true!

    I had a man write me from christianmingle.com whose wife had passed 3 weeks earlier – they had a 38 year marriage – and she died from a recently diagnosed cancer!  Talk about rebound………he started to email me and call several times per day and because I am not the “rebound” girl, I slowed things down and poof!

    Now I am dating a very nice divorced (for several years) man who knows what he wants – marriage and me – what a combination :)

  2. 2
    Ruby

    EMK, I don’t see anywhere in the letter that the guy was married for 30 years. 

  3. 3
    Christie Hartman

    I have to agree with Evan on this one. As someone who specializes in dating divorced men, widowed men aren’t all that different than divorced guys except they have no ex to deal with and their kids are usually grown. They rebound quickly. They seek company and don’t consider whether they’re ready for a relationship or the consequences of getting involved. As Evan said, men don’t often have hobbies or a social network once they get older; and, if retired, they don’t even have a job to turn to. So they seek a woman. This is fine unless the woman wants more than he can give her. Then, same rules apply as any other relationship – if he doesn’t come around, move on. I do give this guy lots of credit for moving slowly both physically and emotionally – many divorced guys don’t (like Brenda #1 talked about) and the results are often a disaster.
     
    Brenda (#1) – good for you for recognizing classic rebound behavior (getting involved too soon, coming on too strong). And congrats on finding a good divorced guy. They are definitely out there!

  4. 4
    Zann

    Evan is absolutely right. Speaking from experience in loving 2 different widowers, the death of a spouse is huge. So huge that in my opinion, at least a year would seem the minimum for a widower to become comfortable enough in his own skin where he could be a whole partner.  A widower will say he’s ready, but really what he is is still grieving. He’s lonely, sad, miserable, sometimes full of regret and longing, maybe even guilt-ridden.

    Of course, there are exceptions, and it sounds like your guy is taking it slow, but the fact remains that he considered himself eligible very soon after his loss. The length of time he’s been single and grieving is important (to me). Widowers I’ve known have been convinced they are ready to date, ready to move on, and open to new love in their lives. They’s suffered & now they want comfort and relief, and who can blame them? But usually they simply want the gaping void filled. I totally understand it, but unfortunately there’s the risk you may wind up doing a great deal of caretaking and listening — as a friend should — but it distorts intimacy and when he actually has some distance from the loss, he may want distance from you, too.  If they were unhappy in their marriage, they carry tremendous guilt; if they were happy in their marriage, they have a tendency to elevate their deceased wife to sainthood…. which is sometimes a very hard act to follow.  I hope this helps. Best of luck. 

  5. 5
    JB

    I just had 3 dates with a 50 soemthing widow of 2 yrs who has a 17 yr.old daughter that I met on Match.(I hadn’t dated a widow in over 20 yrs.) I felt like I was on a date with a married woman who acted like a robot.She talked about her husband in the “present tense” and also told me about every needy clingy widower that she’d gone out with off Match that wanted to fix her house,get their kids together and take THEM on trips etc….. This is a woman who put in her profile she wants a man to “sweep her off her feet”. She’s very attractive and very nice but nowhere near ready to date like an adult.She doesn’t need to work and her whole life revolves around driving her daughter around.I’ll pass,thanks.

    Like Evan, my dad passed away when I was 19 and my mom was 52.She could never even grasp dating another man for years.Yes, there’s a massive difference between “widower” and “widow”.I think I’ll steer clear of them from now on if possible.

  6. 6
    Harry

    I don’t see why not with the exception if she has been widowed recently. A new relationship may not be healthy if she is not ready.

  7. 7
    KL

    Well, cancer can take a long awful time, and a lot of grieving for the life they had together may have happened as she deteriorated. I married a widower barely more than a year after his wife passed, and though a lot of people thought it was too soon for him (because their timetable for his grief process is the one that counts!) I think it’s fair to say we’re blissfully happy together.
     
    Your guy, though, is a little weird here. What do all these lines about how he ‘always waits’ and ‘always moves slowly’ – dude, how much dating have you done in recent years? The rules have likely changed since you were out and about unless you and the late wife had some kind of arrangement, which doesn’t fit with the no-sex rule. I would hope that he would be open to building a new life, not defaulting to whatever he was when he married her – feels like a fait warning to me that he’s looking for a replacement her, not a new woman with all her charms and failings and differences.
    And as ever: If he doesn’t want you, he can’t have you. This guy isn’t acting  excited about you, and it doesn’t really matter if that’s because he’s still in shock and mourning or for some other reason. IME, if a widowed person is ready to move on, they make a point of not making excuses to you. They work harder to deal with their emotional issues so they can take advantage of the opportunity to be with a woman they are excited about.

  8. 8
    Laine

    Karen, I just wouldn’t be exclusive with a guy who is still in the stage of grieving. Whether that  grief is due to the  death of a partner, divorce, cheating..makes no diffence. Whether he had a fantastic marriage, a lousy one, was still in love, wasnt in love…makes no difference. People try and dive into the next relationship ASAP because it masks the pain they are going through. People say they want to date and have a relationship all the time, even when they are not emotionally ready. Date the guy by all means, but dont be exclusive to him at this stage.

  9. 9
    Luxe

    It sounds like he is wanting more of a companionship then a relationship. Someone that he can go to for comfort (emotional/physical) but not get too attached. Basically someone to fill in the void a little bit. I agree to give it about a month. If it still stays the same, then the OP will probably want to move on if she needs more.

  10. 10
    Daphne

    My relationship w my divorced older man is similar in some ways. It’s only once a week, and has been for three months, and the other factors like the demanding job and the driving time are the same. The only difference is that my relationship is very physical.
    How much could this guy possibly like you if you can resist having sex for longer than, oh, two weeks ? I question the chemistry here.

  11. 11
    Joe Amoia

    Evan,
    Again great advice. I also want to congratulate Karen for calmly expressing how needs to the widower. Women tend to forget that they have specific needs and they have a say in what they will & will not tolerate. She has expressed herself and now it is up to this guys to decide if he can give her what she is looking for.
    Evan you make an excellent point in how married men tend to put so much into their jobs & families that they often neglect their friendships. A point many women should make note of.
    Keep up the great work!

  12. 12
    Karen

    This is Karen with an update.  He did respond to my request for Saturday night dates which was good, but he still was not ready for dating more than once a week.  We had a great Christmas Eve and New Years Eve together but he told me that he probably wouldn’t be ready for dating me more than once a week for another 6 months.
    I told him I would find that difficult to manage, since it really interferes with the “natural” progression of a relationship.  I told him that I thought we should take a break and that I should start dating other guys.  I also said that he should take all the time he needs to really grieve his wife’s death and heal and that when he is ready for a relationship that might become something more serious with time, he should call me and if I am available, I would love to see him again.
    So, we’ve parted ways, agreeing to keep the lines of communication open.  It’s difficult to let go of someone with so many good qualities.  (The picture Evan painted wasn’t exactly accurate but it would take too long to tell the whole story.)  He is a good man and I am a good woman.  I believe that if we are meant to be together in the future, then he will call me.  If not, then I did the right thing by ending the relationship now, at the point where my needs were not getting met in a reasonable time frame.
    Hope this helps someone else out there who might be going through something similar.   I am keeping the faith that I will have the love of my life (whomever he might be), in my life soon.
    Thanks Evan for your advice and to everyone else who has posted (or will post).

    1. 12.1
      Cat

      Karen, #12, said: “I believe that if we are meant to be together in the future, then he will call me. If not, then I did the right thing by ending the relationship now, at the point where my needs were not getting met in a reasonable time frame.”

      Well said! You did the right thing, and left on good terms with the door open if he chooses to pursue. What a great attitude! It will serve you well in your next relationship.

  13. 13
    Karen

    Me again.  I just want to clarify a couple things for the record.  He was not married for 30 years as Evan assumed.  It was either 8 or 9 yrs., and was a second marriage for both of them.  She was sick for the last 3 years of it.  They had a great marriage from what he’s told me and he wants to find a great marriage again, but he is not going to rush into anything.  I respect him for that.
     
    His dating experience of taking things slow, etc. was related to the years in between his first and second marriages, a period of 5 or 6 years during the mid-late ’90s, so it wasn’t eons ago.   I have no reason to think he’s a player.  I just think the timing was off.  I agree that I was serving as a distraction from his grief, call it “rebound” if you will.  I have far more value than to only serve that purpose.  I want to be in a relationship in which the man is excited about being with me and actively pursuing me because he is ready to love again.

  14. 14
    La Donna

    I have known a few men who, both in late and middle age, moved on with that “unseemly speed” from losing a wife they appeared to love…by and large getting into dating within weeks or months of the loss; instant sex and moving the relationship along very quickly, either moving in or getting married rather hastily.
    Personally, I think this is a silly and expensive way to grieve. It is not fair to the new lady, who is being asked to agree to a “no strings attached” sex and companionship gig. She has none of the respect a wife or romantic partner usually gets. I am troubled that women agree to this…you have to wonder, what kind of person either proposes or agrees to such a fraught and inauthentic arrangement?
    As for the widowers, it is amazing how quickly they forget that they were oh so grateful for the team of sibs, inlaws, kids etc. during the loss, but are astonished that those people are not on for another round of support, this time support in getting romantically involved with another woman, and quickly. It destroys that team concept and pushes others to process loss at a rate they simply are not comfortable with.
    In the end, people will or won’t make mistakes. You can support someone’s right to seek happiness while still pointing out the red flags on the field. And you can simply say “you may be ready for this, but you need to respect the fact that I am not”. And come to some kind of workable compromise. That is what adults do. But I also think you have to be aware of two things: 1. that no one, no one at all, is ready to focus on a new relationship right away (at least get through that “Year of Firsts” before taking a chance that you are ready) and 2. you need to be aware of how your quick return to the romance field may cause others pain, and be sensitive about how you manage “things”.
    Beware the rebound, for sure. It can cost you not only the new love interest, but your entire family support system as well.

  15. 15
    alice

    he had his turn to love and be loved back wholeheartedly -more than anyone else. His first wife did too. So does the second wife. this is not something a widower is able to do.
    I really feel for anyone who has lost a spouse. its must be absolutely excruciating. But i just dont think its fair to others who have not experienced love at all, to be strung long, thinking their partener loves them as they should do, when really deep down, they wish they were with another woman.
    i think widowers should marry widows. Then they can both be eachothers second love.and then be buried with their first love when they die and then be reunited with them in heaven.  Then, they are not obligated to love eachother more than anyone they have ever loved ie their first spouse etc. A widower would accept this from a widow and vice versa. A single woman, who has never married or been in love should not have to accept this.
     

  16. 16
    jake

    Widowers use their second wife. they need someone so grab the next decent person that comes along. they will never love the second wife as much. the second wife is a consolation prize.

    1. 16.1
      faded jade

      My aunt married a widower and he was madly, crazy, head over heels  in love with her until the day he died and left her to be a widow. (My mother was there with him at his death bed, and his final words were “I love you, Marcia” ) It turns out his first wife was a bit of a cold fish, but he stayed married to her until death did they part.  Then he met my aunt who is very passionate in her relationships, and he was actually in awe to be loved in such a way, as he had never experienced that.  He didn’t even know it was POSSIBLE to be loved that way by a woman.  My aunt opened a door for him to express his desires freely and passionately, and SHE was the love of his life.  He said he “admired” and “respected” his first wife and that she was a good woman and the mother of his child, but his second wife (my aunt)  to whom he was married  for over 20 years, was the true love of his life !

      1. 16.1.1
        Angela

        Yes..that can be true but what about past familial connections…if that trumps the love then it is not that deep.

  17. 17
    Valley Forge Lady

    BOy am I glad to read thsi!!!!   i just met a widower who is seeking to date six weeks after he buries his wife.   Hey says he hates mourning. This guy is a real catch….however, the next woman in his life is the REBOUND. 
     
    NEXT!!!!!!!

    1. 17.1
      Simone

      Not everyone is the same. I married a widower. We started dating 3 weeks after his wife died of cancer after being sick for 2 years. He lost both his parents the same way so death in his life was not new for him. His attitude when we found each other on line was that he had been through 2 years of hell and it was his turn to be selfish and be happy. It’s very difficult for me being 2nd in that he had a wonderful marriage and I always feel that I fall short of his expectations. Yet he shows me daily how much I mean to him and how much he appreciates me. He also often tells me that I have taught and shown him so much more than he ever knew / experienced. He was married for 11 years but with her for a total of 16. My insecurities are my problem and nothing to do with how he feels or how much I mean to him. Before I met him I was divorced twice. One advantage of meeting someone after a happy marriage is that they are not cynical or insecure. They didn’t have to experience rejection or meeting the wrong person. He has 2 girls and with my 3 kids we now have 5 permanently in the house with us. It works. Don’t be so quick to give up.

  18. 18
    Widowed

    I am a widowed woman in my 40’s with a school aged child. I can understand a widowed man in some ways. My personal experience is that as a single mom I am truly very busy. I cannot see a man more than once a week. In my experience, the grief was so heavy at first. You long to connect again yet you also miss your spouse! To sum it up, maybe he is still in grief. You are a smart woman for walking away for now. In time he will get past the grief and be a terrific catch.

  19. 19
    2old4games

    I’m a 72 yr. old widower, my wife passed away may of 2010 after 43 years of marriage.  I am frightened off by young 60s chicks that are too aggressively seeking a relationship.  I “dated” my wife 2 years before we married and she was my friend long before that.  I find that other widowers around my age have the same opinion I do about aggressive or desperate ladies.  Can we all be wrong ? 

  20. 20
    SandyNH

    Hi Karen, It is refreshing to read 2old4games comments, my respect to you sir for your sensitive and rational approach, and sympathies on your loss. I have had 2 fairly recent experiences with widowers who were both in the more common group. The first who was 5yrs post the sudden loss of his wife, and >6months of courtship, eventually was unable to stay as the holidays approached. I gently encouraged him to find a different way to holiday, threatened to leave if he didn’t, he then accused me of insensitivity and returned to medicating himself through stressful times with his 6-pack. The 2nd fellow, under a year, and whom I GRILLED like the Spanish Inquisition, about his grief, recovery and readiness, was as infatuated and  insistent he was ready. Not so much. And shame on me for falling for it. Additional reading I have done, to regain what sanity I cling to, echoes Evan’s insights as well. As sensitive women, Karen, it is hard for us to not empathize and assume these “poor sad fellows” need us. As Evan says – they need us alright – for what they need us for. If you have time to wait him out a bit stick with it. But if you find you are  losing yourself with this man, back up, waaay back, deep breath and look in a different direction. Best wishes, SandyNH

  21. 21
    TheOlFart

     I am 73, so well past my sell by date, although apparently looking about 10 years younger I am told.  I met my gorgeous wife when she was 16 and I was 19 and after 52 years of marriage she died 16 months ago and left me brokenhearted. I am very slowly climbing out of the abyss but wondering how a former youth of 19 would go about dating nowadays if it ever comes to that.  I have even asked myself what I am looking for but did not get an answer – just SOMETHING.  Frankly I guess the only thing I really want is her back again.  So where does that leave me?  Computer dating requires you to be complimentary about yourself and, being English from that era, that would be difficult to come to terms with.  Also being one of those non photogenic people having only taken 3 good photos in my life, a photo with an explanation that I really am not as bad as that is not going to help.  So, as I see it, computer dating sites although a great help for some people are no help for people like me.

    1. 21.1
      Joanne

      Dear OlFart….
      I think shoreLineGirl gave you great advice.  Be yourself.  Don’t get into the
      “why and wherefore” too much.  Don’t expect ANY women you meet to be like the fabulous woman you shared so much with.  But DO expect that many women will give you companionship, comfort , laughter, and even love if you will be yourself and show some interest in them…The “sell by” date is just approximate.  If you live to be 100, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to share time and new memories with?
       
       

  22. 22
    shorelinegirl

    I think you should go online and post exactly what you just wrote with no picture. It’s honest and it’s where you are. You will get responses from women and it will help you begin a dialogue and help you to start coming out of your grief process. You will never duplicate what you had , but you may find someone wonderful and at the very least, you will make friends and learn about yourself and possibly have some fun if you open the door. 73 if you are healthy , you may not want to spend the rest of what could be a long life alone. 

  23. 23
    Happy Woman

    I’ve been divorced  after an unhappy marriage, this was  2yrs ago. Two months ago I met online a widower of 3 yrs. We both have kids in their late teens / early 2o’s. He seems a wonderful guy- attentive, hardworking, passionate, funny  and eager to travel to meet me. I haven’t asked about his wife’s death, but he has answered every other query I’ve had. I don’t quite know how or when to broach the topic. We have not spoken about his grief, but he says I’m the first woman he’s dated or thought of romantically since his late wife. He is immersed in work, as some of you have said, and is a dedicated dad. He always makes time to call / message me each day, regardless of how busy he is, and always leaves goodnight messages. He says he wants us to have a future together. YesHe sAys I can ask anything, but he hasn’t been forthcoming about her. Is he waiting for me to ask? I really want to know what happened, where he us with it and how he has coped. He also does not ask about my previous relationship but listens if I say anything about it.

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