Understanding the intentions of a widow or widower
Dating a widow or widower with a view to forming a relationship can be a difficult process. If this is the first time you have dated again since losing your partner, rising to the challenge of a first date will no doubt be a significant experience. What to wear, what to talk about, what not to talk about – all these things will need some careful forethought.
Your date may also be going through similar processes. However, once you’re both sitting face-to-face and chatting freely, you will probably find the situation much easier than you thought it would be.
If you find you’re laughing a lot together and the conversation is flowing, you can assume that your date is enjoying themselves. This being the case, then you too, should enjoy the moment and regard the meeting as an encounter to learn from. All being well, you will both have had a positive interaction and the prospect of a future meeting will bode well.
Moving Things on Gradually
As time goes by, you may find yourselves enjoying each others company on a regular basis. Understanding each other’s intentions can take time. This could provoke some self-inflicted and unintentional mind games.
There are likely to be plenty of sensitive concerns that both of you might want to avoid. However, talking openly about some of these issues could open up your relationship and prevent any wrong conclusions.
Being compared to your date’s late partner is an obvious thought. You could both be having these feelings on a subliminal level. It is also likely that each one of you is harbouring questions about the other’s partner and trying to establish just how ready they might be for a relationship.
Talking about your late partner periodically, albeit in a brief context, could help to move the conversation on. Stating how long you have been widowed and what caused your partner’s death can save some uncomfortable questions in the future.
You don’t have to go into any drawn out details, just a brief conversation on this subject is all that’s needed. It is hoped, they too, might appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts of their own, about how they are feeling regarding their own loss.
They may need some extra time
If someone is showing positive signs of wanting to keep in contact, but equally choosing to be non-committal, it could be they want to take things at a slower pace. They may need some time to come to terms with the new feelings they’re experiencing.
Weighing up the pros and cons of entering into a new relationship is to be expected. It might also be because they have been here before and things haven’t quite worked out as well as they had hoped.
If you feel a strong attraction towards your date, but are not sure your interest is being reciprocated, it’s important you communicate that you’re happy for them to be taking their time. Allowing them the space they need to assimilate their feelings is important. This will help to provide a solid foundation on which both of you can build something new.
If you sense any kind of reluctance during the process of getting to know each other, it is important you don’t come on too strong. Let things take their own course.
Understanding each other
When dating a widow or widower, there are certain reassurances you will need. Knowing and understanding the best course of action is key.
For example, a widower who is seeking a relationship soon after losing a life-partner could very likely be suffering from loneliness. He may be finding it difficult to know how to cope with his own company. Someone without a family, or a circle of friends looking out for him, could make for a compromising situation.
The same can be said of a widow who might be finding it hard facing the future on her own. Putting too much store on a romantic relationship with someone who is not ready could have a disappointing outcome.
All relationships have a particular dynamic. A change in the status quo can have a disconcerting influence when the person affected believes they might not be able to cope.
Feeling you should make more of the relationship too soon, can be compromising. However, you might find that meeting during the daytime or early evening is better. The first few dates will then give you the opportunity to get to know each other in a more informal atmosphere. A video call is another comfortable way of connecting in the initial stages.
This will help you to see how the friendship is progressing. It might also reveal whether or not they are over the grief that would have followed their partner’s death.
By offering a platonic lifeline, this could help a recent widow or widower to come to terms with their loss. It could also highlight the possibility of greater things further down the line for both of you.
Establishing the relationship
If things seem to be moving on and going well, being introduced to their friends can be a positive step forward. Taking things to this level demonstrates they’re keen for the relationship to develop further. This cannot be underestimated.
Introducing you to people who would have been acquainted with their previous partner is a positive sign they are taking the relationship seriously.
If they introduce you to their family – their children in particular – this can be an indication they see a future with you and want to move the relationship on.
Showing each other that you’re willing to talk about any concerns either of you might have, will give both of you the chance to express how you’re feeling. Building a mutual sense of care and understanding can give rise to a greater openness and trust between you.
If they seem to want to talk about their previous partner, that’s OK and it could help to establish a stronger rapport between you. However, if they seem to want to talk about their late partner constantly, you can take this as a sign they’re not yet ready to move on with someone new.
Ultimately, by creating conditions for the widow or widower to feel at ease, they are more likely to want to open up about their current feelings. Any apprehensions they may have could also come to the surface during a conversation of this nature.
Afraid of being hurt
One of the biggest factors preventing widows and widowers from pursuing a relationship is the concern they might get hurt. The thought of things not working out and the possibility to have to endure another loss has to be met with a huge amount of respect and sensitivity from both of you.
Of course, some people move on more quickly than others, but there will always be the need for a degree of patience and compassion between you.
As in any relationship, the best measure of how serious somebody is feeling will be exhibited through their behaviour. If they seem to be holding back a little, this may be the most comfortable way for them to behave at this moment in time.
It may also be an indication they are not yet sure about moving on. This is when you should perhaps take a step back and wait for them to make the next move forward.
Is it love?
Assessing whether your feelings for each other are based purely on friendship, or whether love is in the air, is a natural development. Remember, as a widow or widower, it might be difficult to accept loving somebody else.
While the love for your late partner may be as strong as it ever was, it’s important to recognise the potential of entering into a new relationship. Each romantic experience is unique and will hold its own value and significance.
When you feel the time is right, raising questions about where the relationship is headed and whether the feelings you share are mutual, will ensure that you’re both on the same wavelength. This could lead to an awkward conversation. Too much, too soon, could have a negative affect on your confidence.
Knowing when to have this conversation will be based upon your own instincts and how well you have come to know the person you’re dating.
Establishing whether or not a widow or widower is interested in you can take some time. As you get to know each other, you will learn how each of you deal with certain situations and at what pace.
If you are both widowed, you will no doubt be sensitive to each others feelings and won’t want to prolong the relationship if it doesn’t feel right. The suffering that both of you would have experienced is likely to have left a depth of compassion. A conversation about the future is the best way to establish where the relationship is headed.
Dating someone who has also lost a life partner can bring a richer meaning to your relationship, and a desire to make the most of the opportunities life has yet to offer.
Eventually, it is hoped that dating a widow or widower will lead to a worthwhile relationship that can develop over time. If this is the case, it will be because you have grown to understand each other in a deeper sense. Hopefully, if a long term romance does follow, your relationship will have a firm foundation on which to flourish and a new chapter in your life can begin.
Founder of Widowsorwidowers.com. Writer/Blogger. Publications include Huff Post UK, Esme, High 50 and Living Better 50.