January 2016

Question 7: My New Partner Feels Threatened by my Late Husband

2016-01-06T21:16:25+00:00

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Our latest question comes from Jaqui, who writes:

I am a widow and I think I am worth dating! I had 34 years of loving (and often working) with my husband. The pure joys of our early relationship and our later overcoming the trauma of infertility to make a different happy life together have left me knowing I am a strong woman with the capacity to love, to grow. I have great friends, some of them go back 40 years, some are newer friends.  I love my job and don’t look to a man for financial security. I keep fit riding. I have a sense of humor.

In fact there is a “new man” who seems to think so too, he’s kind and attentive. But he gets jealous of my past marriage, especially if I mention it now. Am I not meant to speak of my adult life from age 21 to 55, or the 4 years since I was widowed? All the years that have shaped this woman worth dating?

My new man is divorced and tells me stories of his three kids growing up. He hasn’t had much to say about his ex-wife. He doesn’t seem to need to talk about his past much, but then he hasn’t had to say final goodbyes. I go to his family celebrations and get along well with his family, including his ex-wife. But he seems to think I need to “move on” and would probably go along with the idea about references to a late husband being a sign of maybe not being “ready.”

Recently a group of my old friends visited for a long weekend. My husband, their friend, was mentioned just three times. Aware of new man’s sensitivities, I joined in only once. New man has been embraced by these friends, he’s met them several times, but after they were gone he complained that they/we spoke too much of the past and of my husband.

It seems to me that whether a new man remains “in competition” with a dead husband depends less on the strong (but sometimes sad) widow, his new partner, and more on his own capacity to accept that she also has a past and his being secure enough to accept that it may have been a happier relationship than any he has experienced with his previous, still alive, partners. If he can’t do that, maybe it’s him that needs to move on.  I’m still hoping.

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Dear Jaqui,

Your question resonated with me because my boyfriend of one year has also said that I need to “get over” my late husband.  Boyfriend feels that I talk about my late husband too much.

But how can we not talk about someone we were with for over thirty years?  Those years weren’t spent in a vacuum. They were spent in marriages where so many of  our actions and decisions involved our spouses.   How can we act like we were single during that time?

I’ve written before that it is unrealistic for new partners to expect those us who have lost spouses to act like they never existed.  Blog Post on Dating a Widow  Even widowed folk who have grieved and integrated their losses may still feel sad on occasion.  Many of us feel that we will always be our late spouse’s wife, AND, in time we can be another person’s partner.  Our past relationships have contributed to who we are today, including our capacity to love a new person.

Moreover, most older singles have suffered some type of loss, be it widowhood, divorce, the loss of our parents, or estrangement from adult children.  How would you feel if a new man asked you not to talk about a deceased parent whom you’d been close to?

The problems is that he sees your late husband as a rival.

Whether New Man’s concerns are justified depends on the frequency and manner in which you mention your late spouse.  No guy wants to be unfavorably compared to your former husband.  But it doesn’t sound like you’re doing this.  You’re making a few references to your past married life.  And it sounds as if you are doing so quite sparingly with concern for new man’s sensitivities.

So, what’s going on?

Does New Man need to be the center of attention in most social settings?  If so, his “concerns” may really be displeasure that he’s not getting enough attention.  I once dated a narcissist who needed to be the focus point of most gatherings.  The issue wasn’t what other people were talking about; it was that they were not talking about HIM.

New Man sounds insecure.  In which case mentions of any former relationship would make him nervous, regardless of how that partnership ended.   So, it’s time for a talk.  Tell him what you’ve written to me.

Your marriage helped make you who you are now.  Much of your history involves your late husband.  You are happy with new man.  You have found love again. (if that’s the case). Your late husband and he are not in competition.

You’ve been through different phases of your life.  You are trying to be sensitive, but you don’t want to feel censored from talking about your past.   You can’t shut your old friends out of your current life.  You don’t feel threatened by his past.  Couldn’t he feel the same?

Ask him exactly what concerns him when you mention your late husband and try to address those concerns.  Maybe your husband was a better provider.  Maybe new man feels threatened economically. Or he thinks your old friends don’t like him. You can reassure him that you are not making comparisons, that you love him for who he is, that your old friends embrace him and are glad to see you happy.

But, if he can’t deal with references to your late husband, your other option is never to mention him to new man, to see your old friends on your own without new man, and to otherwise make sure new man never hears about your late husband.

But that reflects very poorly on new man.

Can you really be happy in a partnership with someone where you have to edit yourself so much? And who is so insecure?  His inability to deal with mentions of your late husband is ultimately his problem, not yours.  You can be sensitive and reassuring, but he needs to be okay with your past, a past which you have reason to be proud of.

If he can’t deal with a partner’s past relationship, he may need counseling to overcome his insecurities. Any lady he dates may have previously been married.  You may want to suggest this if a few talks don’t help him to see he has no reason to feel threatened.

However, if he just can’t deal with your past marriage, you will have to decide whether it is, in fact, time to move on.  For his sake, as well as yours, I hope he sees that his insecurity is damaging an otherwise good relationship.

Let me know what happens,

Debbie

 

Question 7: My New Partner Feels Threatened by my Late Husband2016-01-06T21:16:25+00:00

New Year on the Huffington Post

2016-01-03T20:23:02+00:00

 

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Dear Blog Friends,

I have a new Huffington Post article.  I’m not on my main computer,  it took me this long to try posting from my IPad.

So, here’s my article.  New Year’s Eve Without my Husband

Once again, I am so grateful for the comments and messages I’ve received.   Happy New Year!!!❤️😜🔷🔔🎁

Let me know what you think.  I promise not to do an Easter, Arbor Day or Groundhog Day post on missing George.  I think.

 

Love,

Debbie

New Year on the Huffington Post2016-01-03T20:23:02+00:00

December 2015

Question Six: Are Widows Less Emotionally Damaged than Divorcees?

2015-12-24T16:35:00+00:00

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An Anonymous Questioner asks:

I divorced about 4 years ago, and have been through two relationships (one about 2 years, the other about 8 months) with women who were divorced. Lots of passion, but emotionally frustrating. Both of these women carried deep scars from their previous marriages, scars what made them either skeptical of or scared of real love. I am in my 40s, and find it difficult to connect with much younger women, particularly those that have never been married, but it seems like the divorced women I have met or dated are so damaged.

With my divorce, I had married for real love but lost my wife over the years to worsening depression and alcoholism until she became a hollowed out husk of the person I had married. I became like a widower living with a ghost. Losing a spouse/marriage this way was like a death. Made me think that perhaps a widow (in the 35-45 range) might be a good fit for me for many reasons. Curious to hear your thoughts.

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Dear Anonymous,

I sympathize with your plight. I too have met men so damaged by past relationships they seem incapable of forming anything deep with a new person.

I have also met men thought my being a widow gave me a clean bill of emotional health.  One guy said he was thrilled that I was a widow because I “wasn’t broken like the rest of us.” Another said that my being a widow from a long marriage meant that I could get along with men. Unfortunately, both these guys were were frighteningly self-absorbed.  One was such a self-righteous, entitled schmuck that I wrote about him as a “type” to avoid. My Bitchy Article

And now you see the problem.

Each person has different emotional baggage regardless of how they came to be single.

Just because I’m a widow doesn’t make me any less “damaged” than the divorced ladies. I’m probably more bitter and cynical than most.  Just not about my late husband.

Nonetheless, when one spouse divorces another, they’re rejecting their partner, physically and emotionally as well as legally. This rejection can be emotionally devastating to the spouse who didn’t want a divorce, and can inflict psychic damage on a par with, or worse than, death. The rejected spouse feels betrayed by the divorcing spouse.  It calls their entire marriage into question.  Impact of Divorce vs. Death of Spouse

Unlike widowhood, divorce can involve stigma where the person divorced  feels ostracized. Friends may desert her. One blogger characterizes life after divorce as “one of withdrawal by friends and placing blame, one of growing isolation, one of constant interference in efforts to re-establish a recognizable ‘life.’” Daily Plate of Crazy

In death we confront the finality of a loved one’s passing. In divorce, though we don’t generally wish our partners dead, we sometimes realize that life would be easier were that the case.  Self-esteem will take a hit. Legal battles may rage on for years. And although the marriage is over, the rejected spouse still has to deal with her former husband.  We demonstrate more compassion when it comes to widowhood although the ghosts of the divorced still walk the planet.  Death or Divorce: Which is Worse

Personally, I have felt people respected me and were prone to like me because I’m a widow. I stayed with my husband, and was his caregiver, through cancer. I survived his loss. If I’m out and about, I’m exhibiting resilience!  I do not feel judged. But it sounds like some divorced ladies feel they are judged, and consequently abandoned by friends.  This could really damage someone who is already feeling abandoned by her spouse and who feels vulnerable!

Plus, I need not question my marriage.  It ended because of my husband’s death.  I mourn the marriage, but I don’t doubt my choices or my husband’s love and loyalty.

But why your particular ladies are damaged, if indeed they are, is unique to each of them.

Perhaps, they don’t want the commitment you crave.   They may not be ready.  That bond may be something they don’t want regardless of perceived damage.

Offering “real love” can be subjective.  It means different things to different people.  I’ve dated guys who allegedly wanted deep commitments, but really wanted a woman who would cater to their needs. One guy talked about a partnership, but really wanted a de facto mother. Another thought we had an amazing connection, but used me as his shrink. “Real love” is a beautiful idea, but the reality is open to interpretation.

Passion is wonderful; finding someone for a deep committed relationship is so difficult.  I’m going through it wth my boyfriend of one year.  We have passion.  Is he permanently damaged from his divorce and that makes him unable to see outside his  own viewpoint?  Maybe he always lacked empathy even before he was married or divorced. Or is my idea of love selfishly based upon someone who can nurture me through the grief process such that my damage is dooming the relationship? (Nope, he doesn’t read my blog).

You have asked a complicated question which depends on too many variables for a definitive answer:

  1. Is your idea of “real love” something mutual beyond your own construct?
  2. Are the divorced ladies really damaged or is it just that they don’t want the same thing that you do?
  3. Are we dealing with character traits that exist irrespective of divorce?
  4. Would a widow be less “damaged’? (Well, it depends on the widow in question.)

So, by all means broaden your search to include widows, but please don’t expect us to be a less flawed group.  Each woman in question will have her own transcendent qualities, and possibly accompanying baggage, requiring an individual evaluation.

I’m so sorry about your prior marriage. I think the quest for real love is a beautiful one, and I wish you luck in finding the right person.

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Dear Readers, do you think the divorced are more apt to be”damaged” the the widowed?   Does one or the other make for a better prospective mate?   I’m really curious about this.

 

 

 

Question Six: Are Widows Less Emotionally Damaged than Divorcees?2015-12-24T16:35:00+00:00
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