What you need to know:
- Widowers tend to be attracted to women who remind them of their late wives.
- By sharing similar interests, you may have to contend with regular references to how his late wife loved the same things.
- Expressions of affection will be limited to how you do things or how you treat him instead of who you are to him.
Dating a man who is grieving the loss of his wife or one who has not moved past the death of his wife is no easy task. He will appear responsible both through words and actions. In most cases, he will not be out to play. However, despite all these attributes, his ability to reciprocate your romantic feelings and affection may not be up to the level you would like. This ability will depend on his emotional state, his healing, his readiness for love, and the position his late wife still occupies within him.
According to Abel Keogh, the author of Life with a Widower, widowers tend to be attracted to women who remind them of their late wives. This can be a startling red flag especially in a new relationship. “It will not be a good sign when dating a man whose wife passed away recently and your characteristics greatly match hers,” says Abel. These could range from hair styles, dressing code, cooking style, TV programmes or general life interests. By sharing similar interests, you may have to contend with regular references to how his late wife loved the same things. He will be in love with the version of his late wife which he sees in you, and not your individuality. Consequently, says Abel, the widower will not see you for who you really are, but as a version of his late wife. “He’ll want you to be his late wife, and will not hesitate to end the relationship once he realises you can’t be that woman,” he says. If he is not ready to move on, this type of man may attempt to convert you into his late wife. He may subconsciously form a habit of referring you by his late wife’s name or pet names.
Love or empathy
According to family therapist Susan Gacheru, a widower will either wholesomely love you, or love your empathetic gestures and attitude towards him. “For widowers, falling back in love is a delicate act. If he loves your sympathy, he may not be too quick to make you his full romantic partner,” she cautions. In the same vein, expressions of affection will be limited to how you do things or how you treat him instead of who you are to him. “For example, he will not tell you he loves you, but will often say how he loves your kindness,” says Gacheru. Ironically, a widower may seriously date and even marry a woman he doesn’t really love. According to Abel, this is because the void and loneliness left by his late wife are so acute, they may push him to get serious about the first woman who shows the slightest interest in him. Whether he is in love or not, a widower will often treat their new woman with utmost chivalry. “He will be very romantic, and tell you how he loves you such that it might be difficult to tell if he is genuinely ready to move on or he just wants to overcome the loneliness and mourning he has been going through,” he says. This also means you should not measure his commitment based on how excited he gets about sex. Just like a drug, he could get hooked on sex as a form of tranquilizer.
One of the things you may notice often is your date’s grief. Inevitably, you will be emotionally inclined to want to help him overcome it. You will want to show him that there’s more to life. However, he may be rigid when it comes to talking about the impact of his grief. “This will be more than just the reluctance men have when it comes to talking about their feelings. He will recoil and at times say you are invading his privacy,” says Gacheru. But she also points out that despite the hurt, a widower who sees a future with you should be able to occasionally open up about his emotional state and his struggles to move on.
If you are fortunate enough and an honest relationship between you and a widower grows, Gacheru says you will need to understand that he may wander off to the memories of his late wife along the way. “Don’t be so hard on him in the days when her memory comes alive in him and he appears to sink into a corner of sadness,” she says.