Dating a widow may come with a different set of challenges than dating an unmarried or a divorced lady. If you happened to meet a widowed woman, having doubts about your future prospects together is normal. Will you be fighting a ghost at every turn? Will she be able to fall in love with you despite still being in love with her deceased spouse? Are there any red flags to watch out for when dating a widow? These questions are probably spinning in your head right now while you are debating if dating a widow is hard and if you should pursue a romantic relationship with her.
After my close friend’s disastrous dating debacle too soon after her husband passed, I put together a list of things you should know before you start dating a widow.
1. Casual dating won’t do
If love and commitment are not on your dating agenda, do not get involved with a widow. She had true love and will not settle for anything less than what she lost. Understand that if she decides you are worth dating, she is also deciding you are worth a long term commitment. If you are not ready for a committed relationship, it would be best to pass on dating a widow.
2. Let her take the lead
Allow her to decide when and where the first date will take place. She needs to feel safe, and taking control will help her in agreeing to meet you. If are too aggressive, you will turn her off. Understand that her reservations about the date have nothing to do with you. She needs time to gather the courage to say yes to a date. This is especially true if you are her first attempt at dating since her spouse passed. Do not let this deter you and allow her to take the time needed. If she is ready to date, she will take this leap.
3. Leave her spouse out of the conversation
It may seem that bringing up her spouse during conversations would make her feel better; however, it has the opposite effect. She needs to separate you from her deceased spouse. Asking too many questions will put her on guard, and she will feel you’re too aggressive rather than just curious. When the inquiry is relevant, ask the question. Making it part of a general conversation will feel natural and less like you are being nosey.
4. Respect her feelings
Falling in love with someone is hard on the psyche of a widow. She will have all sorts of feelings, especially if she feels a strong connection with you. There may be tears of guilt, and you may find her wearing her wedding ring. Be patient with this. She will come to terms with these feelings, and they will pass as you two spend more time together.
5. Be patient with introductions
You may feel invisible in her world for a while. She may tread lightly in introducing you to her family and friends. Know that by doing this she is protecting herself. Depending on how long it has been since her spouse passed away, those around her probably have their own opinions on her dating. Give her some space with this. As she begins to have feelings for you, she will naturally want you around her family and friends.
6. Give her space
You have to be understanding if a widow may not wish to share all her time with you. She used to share a lot of special moments with her husband and now she needs her space and time for mourning, no matter how long it has been. She needs to honor his memory, and your involvement (at least at the beginning) in her daily life feels like a betrayal. She will eventually welcome you into her life and when she does, honor the memories she had with her former spouse. Your acknowledgment of their love will secure your place in her heart.
7. Put marriage on the back burner
Unlike divorced ladies, a widow’s marriage didn’t just end because two people couldn’t make the relationship work. Yes, she knows she is single and her spouse will not be coming back; however, she may still feel married so even if your intentions are very serious, making it straightforward that you are dating a widow for marriage is a no-go. In the beginning, she may be vocal about never getting married again, and this could end up being her truth. You should decide for yourself if a long-term relationship without marriage is okay with you before moving forward.
8. Prepare for fluctuating emotions
As your relationship grows stronger, her feelings of guilt will also deepen. That little voice in her head will tell her she couldn’t possibly fall in love so deeply twice. Falling in love with you will bring her survivors’ guilt to the surface. She may even feel like she is cheating on her spouse. Allow her the time to come to terms with these emotions. As you support her, she will learn to deal with these feelings until they dissipate.
9. Know the touchy subjects
If she has been a widow relatively short time, be prepared that she may want your company for conversations, but not in bed. A widowed woman is not a booty-call candidate. She will have a stronger sense of what she wants due to her loss. If she is a single mother, it may also trigger feelings of guilt. Tread lightly and move slowly. These are not deal breakers, just speed bumps!
10. Allow her to build trust in you
If she allows you to share in special moments she spent with her spouse, you are one lucky guy. By giving you the honor of sharing her memories, she is showing her trust in you and your new relationship. Widows tend to keep those special times for themselves to remember and grieve their loss. Being a part of that is a gift she is giving you. Honor it by showing up and supporting whatever feelings are bubbling to the surface. You can learn a lot about her through her memories of her former love. Pay attention.
11. You don’t need to replace her husband
Often a man believes a widow is only dating him because he looks or acts as her deceased spouse. Not true! She knows you aren’t him. She may have been initially attracted because you reminded her of him. We all have our types. The very last thing on a widow’s mind is replacing her spouse; she knows this is impossible. In this respect, you don’t have to worry. You are a different person and she knows it. Try not to dwell on her comments regarding your similarities to her deceased spouse.
12. Accept her hypersensitivity
If her spouse died of an illness, she may be super pushy about you going to the doctor for a cold. I know this may seem silly, but to her, this could seem the matter of life and death. There will always be a part of her that wonders if she could have prevented the death of her husband — even if prevention was not possible.
To you, off-handed comments may seem just that. To her, the comment or lack of a comment may bring about a sense of panic and dread. If her husband took his own life, a comment such as “kill me now” may be triggering for her. She may also be extremely sensitive if you forget to text her or call her when you get home letting her know you are okay. Of course, this is irrational; however, I would encourage you to comply with these requests. Give her the peace of mind that she needs.
13. She will fall in love again in time
A widow is keenly aware of how true love feels and she will recognize it when she finds it again. Be prepared, gentlemen. When she finally allows herself to acknowledge her feelings for you, they will be strong and fierce. Even with the horrific experience of losing the love of her life, a widow will eventually want to take the chance again and find love.
Will there be bumps in the road for you both? Absolutely! Will it be worth all that effort? Definitely! Once she has overcome all of her doubts and guilt, the relationship you build by allowing her to deal with her feelings will be immeasurable and you will be one lucky guy with an enviable love.