Upsetting the status quo
If you’re a widow or widower, and starting to miss the friendship and romance you shared with your partner, it may be that the time is right to consider the possibility of dating again. This will inevitably bring with it feelings of guilt and self-recrimination. There is also the potential to upset the status quo within your family, and in particular your in-laws.
With this in mind you may need to tread carefully when you decide to tell your in-laws you’re thinking of dating again. If it’s been a while since you lost your partner, they might be pleased for you. If you’re counting in months, then it is very likely going to be hard for them to come to terms with the idea. They may also be worried and afraid they could lose you, and the association they have with you. You are, after all a significant link with their son/daughter. Worse still, for them, will be the fear they may also lose touch with their grandchildren, if there are any.
When the time feels right to tell them you’re dating again, let them know what a difficult decision this was for you. Tell them how much you’re missing the companionship of their son or daughter and how feelings of loneliness and despondency were starting to wear you down.
Helping your sprits to restore themselves
If and when you find yourself dating and enjoying the company of one person in particular, then it is time to share this with your in-laws. As time passes, it is hoped they will see that the friendship with your new partner is helping to lift your spirits. When they can acknowledge that this new woman/man in your life is showing a genuine interest in you and your family, they are more likely to accept the situation.
When you think the time is right to bring them together, introduce your in-laws to your new partner by their first names. Adding ‘my in-laws’ to the introduction will immediately underline to your partner they are not only friends but also an integral part of your family. If your in-laws truly care about you, they will be pleased in the long term and if you’ve made every effort to make them feel included in your life, it will be easier for them to accept the situation.
There will be emotional highs and lows at this time
As time passes, it is inevitable there will be emotional highs and lows. Anniversaries marking particular events you shared with your spouse will come along and I doubt you will want to ignore these. Make it a special occasion where the in-laws and any children share the event together. Explain to your new partner that it’s important you have this time with your family in order to make everyone know you have not forgotten their son/daughter. Over time this will not be so necessary as one hopes your in-laws will have come to terms with the reality of there being someone else in your life. In the early days, however, I see it as a good way to keep everyone on your side.
Should you find yourself in the situation where your in-laws just cannot come to terms with the thought of someone else usurping their son/daughter’s role, you will have to have a serious discussion with them, especially if you’re still young. Explain that you do not want to spend the rest of your life on your own. Try and assure them your partner would have wanted you to be happy and you’re not trying to replace him/her.
You’re adding a new dimension to your life
Help them to understand that you’re adding a new dimension to the life shaped by your marriage or partnership with their son/daughter. If they are being difficult, they will know in their hearts they are expecting too much of you. However, it is hoped, for everyone’s sake, they will gradually come to terms with the situation. Whatever you do, avoid keeping the relationship a secret. This will make it much harder for them to accept when the news gets out and will reflect very badly upon you.
If there are children involved, make a concerted effort to arrange regular visits to the grandparents and encourage all of them to keep in touch on a regular basis. Any changes going on in your life and theirs can be shared and mutually discussed and understood. If you’ve always had a good relationship with your in-laws, the chances are they’ll be pleased to see you moving on and if you make an effort to involve them they will be pleased to be part of your future.
This could be a difficult time for your new partner as well
There is no real code of conduct for introducing someone new to your in-laws after bereavement. If it’s been a while since your partner’s death, then it will no doubt be easier than if it is relatively soon after. This could be a difficult time for your new partner as well, as they will be aware that initially, the presence of in-laws in your life will be a constant reminder of your late partner. They may also be afraid they are being judged or compared.
Moving on after bereavement can be a difficult time for you and for those close to you, but providing you’re not rushing into things, making new friends is healthy progress. A relationship with another widow or widower could help the transition in the early stages. Whatever direction you take, you will always have memories that will be with you forever, but not necessarily restricting your passage as you go forward.