Dilemma: a widower does not want to betray his dead wife

Katharine Whitehorn / 16 March 2016

A reader is unsure how to convince a lonely widower to start dating again and stop him feeling guilty for betraying his dead wife.



Dilemma: widower's regret

I am 63 and divorced. I have met a widower of 70; he is lonely and would like to date and so would I. 

But his wife asked him to promise her that “he would not go with anyone else” and he did. But now he wishes he hadn’t. 

He struggles badly with his conscience over the feeling that he would be letting her down. How could I help him feel easier?

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

I understand only too clearly both sides of this one. I had always felt that if I died first I would hate to have my husband “go with someone else”. I also know that when someone dies the person left behind does not feel – certainly not at once and maybe not ever – that the relationship is over. 

If you saw the film Un homme et une femme you may remember that when, after a splendid courtship, the woman suddenly can’t go any further the man says: “You told me he was dead!” and she says: “Not for me.” 

But I’m not sure it’s you who can best help your man; you are, as it were, the temptation, and if he’s stuggling with his conscience it needs an outsider, someone to provide moral authority for him to decide whether he can override his promise. 

If he’s religious it might be that a priest could convince him that “in heaven there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage”; if not, perhaps a counsellor could help him move on. Still, I wouldn’t give up hope; an awful lot of happily married men do marry again, and even strong convictions can slacken with time.

Related: tips for dating a widower

Our readers say...

We also asked our Facebook followers for their advice...

"Please do not feel guilty. You must enjoy your life. It is for the living, you know. You deserve to be happy."

"Don't worry your wife will probably expect you to. Life goes on she would not want you to stay alone. Move on."

"Go for it, I've have met a nice friend and we enjoy nice holidays together, good company. He was married for 40 years and I for 25 years but the company between us both is becoming a bond, I love my freedom but enjoying meeting him in my time, it works really well. It's up to you how you want this to be."

"Do you think your dearly departed would want you to be on your own for ever, we all need someone to feel loved, reach out and know they are there. She will be there in spirit, close your eyes and remember. Don't feel guilty, remember her but don't dwell, life moves on slowly but surely. Don't rush into anything but let nature takes it's course, you're only human after all. I wish all the luck and my thoughts lay with you."

"My friend lost her husband a couple of years ago and has agreed to meet someone and see how that develops. I am proud of her because she still misses him but all she wants is companionship, you know someone to go out with and become friends at the very least. And this would be at weekends and in her spare time so I say go for it."

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