What you need to know:
- Your readiness to love again will largely depend on how your process of moving on after the death of your partner has been.
- There is no shame in starting to date again if all you actually feel is loneliness and a need for company.
- You will need to create equilibrium for the affection you feel for your late spouse and the one you want to feel for the new man you’re seeing.
In the months and years following the death of a husband, many widows contend with intense feelings of loneliness and a yearning for emotional and romantic companionship. However, getting back in the dating game for many widows is a challenge. “For most women, love is an emotional engagement. A woman will feel emotionally enjoined to their spouse, and when they die, they can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt at the prospect of loving again. What would their spouse really think of them when they date again? What will the children say? What will the parents and relatives say?” says psychologist Ken Munyua. To make dating after the death of a spouse less stressing, here are nuggets to bear in mind:
When to start dating again: There is no ‘right time’ for you to seek love again. According to psychologist Patrick Musau, your readiness to love again will largely depend on how your process of moving on after the death of your partner has been. “Ask yourself why you want a companion: Is it because you feel lonely and want to fill the gap left by your late husband?” he says. There is no shame in starting to date again if all you actually feel is loneliness and a need for company. “The initial relationships following the death of a spouse are usually not long-lasting, but catalysts to healing from your loss and moving on.”
Loving two people: You will need to create equilibrium for the affection you feel for your late spouse and the one you want to feel for the new man you’re seeing. According to Aaron Ben-Zeev, the author of In the Name of Love: Romantic ideology and its Victims, although a new lover might physically replace a widow’s previous lover, widows psychologically love two people simultaneously. “The love felt for the late spouse is likely to increase in light of the prevailing idealisation of the relationship and of the new spouse,” he says. “However, disengagement from constant preoccupation with the deceased spouse occurs over time, facilitating attempts to adapt to the new relationship.” It can be complicated if your spouse is terminally ill and cannot fulfill your sexual needs, but has given you the green light to start looking for someone. Although this form of green light might appear well intentioned, it could come across as emotional guilt-tripping.
Intimacy: According to Evanson Munywoki, a psychologist based in Nairobi, feeling guilty about dating and sexual engagements are some of the things you will need to confront. Most widows fail to allow themselves fulfill their sexual or romantic needs because they fear doing so is betraying their late spouse. Additionally, according to Ben-Zeev, the hesitancy to get intimate with new partners is fueled by the fear that they might end up losing them or become vulnerable to deeper forms of relationships that they aren’t ready for. “You need to acknowledge such fears and strive to highlight your own needs for emotional and physical intimacy, and how to fulfill them,” says Munywoki. Do not engage in activities such as sex when you aren’t ready.
You can find love again: If you decide to date, do not let your feelings for your late spouse come in the way of your happiness. According to psychiatrist and clinical psychiatry instructor Dr. Marilyn Mendoza, recognise that it is possible to be happy in a new relationship despite having thoughts, dreams, and feelings for your late spouse. “The important acknowledgement you need to make is that your new relationship won’t be like the one you had with your late partner. He was unique and you can’t replicate him by simply dating people with the same attributes or looks. Open yourself to the uniqueness of the new person you are seeing,” she says. But you must be careful who you go out with. You don’t want a heartbreak when you’re already struggling to get over the death of your late spouse.
Dating a widow: Consider how long ago the death of their spouse occurred. This will let you know whether they are looking for a longer term partner or whether they are searching for a companion to help them ease their pain by filling the new void in their life. Munyua says where you are in a close friendship with such a partner, do not take emotional advantage of them or use your presence to extort favours such as sex, money or gain allegiance.