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Tips for dating a widower

Julia Faulks / 10 March 2016

What can you expect from dating a man who has lost his first wife? Here we talk about things you may need to keep in mind when you start a new relationship with a widower.

Mature couple walking
There will be a period of adjustment when you date a widower, so be patient and understanding

How long someone waits until they date again following the loss of a partner is very much an individual decision, especially because we all grieve in different ways. “If a couple has been married for many years, to lose their partner can leave a large gaping hole in their life and companionship can be something they really need,” says Jo Ruff, Head of Family Support at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall.

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1. Accept that you may be compared to their spouse

It’s natural that someone may compare you to their first wife, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It may be helpful to remind yourself that even though the person you are dating was in a good and long relationship with their late partner, they are not necessarily looking for a replacement.

“You are not better than or less than them, it’s just going to be a different relationship. There are going to be elements that they prefer and elements they don’t like as much,” says Sharon Cornford, Bereavement Service Coordinator at St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney.

Find out about dating in later life - the facts

2. Be patient and allow for open conversations

It may take time for your new partner to open up about how they feel about their loss – especially if they are worried you may be offended by them talking openly. It’s up to you to find the right time to talk and allow them to cry if they need to, after all they will feel sadness months or even years later.

If their grief becomes a constant issue, and this is all they can talk about, you may want to question if they are ready to start a relationship with you. It may be that they just need some space – and your patience – to work through any feelings of pain or anger.

3. Allow for a period of adjustment

There will be lots of new things for you to discover about each other and there may also be the extra challenge of grown-up children who are resistant to new relationships. At the same time you may feel uncomfortable seeing photos of their late spouse, but this should get easier over time.

“It is important to be respectful about any family members who may find it hard to adjust. It’s also about being able to let them talk about their significant other who has passed away – you can’t just expect them not to talk about that person – they were an important part of their life,” says Jo.

Find out about the five stages of grief

4. Have an understanding of the different stages of grief

Having an understanding about the different stages of grief can help you when it comes to dating a widower. This is because emotions won’t always follow a certain pattern – it can take a long time to come to terms with a loss and there may be many ups and downs before someone feels able to move forward with their life.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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