The Evolution of Being a WOW

Stages - The Evolution of Being a WOW
by Tammy Fletcher, M.A.

As a WOW (or those of us in a committed, day to day life with a former widower), we sometimes see patterns in what we go through, react to, or work to heal from. Here are a few stages described by women in relationships with formerly widowed men. By no means do these appy to each of us – we are each as individual as our partners. But you may find a common thread or two.

Ignorant bliss – “I’m in love! Everything is great! Issues? What issues…? ” It is the rare WOW who knows what to expect when she falls in love with a widower. We may not expect any unique issues at all. We may have seen “Sleepless in Seattle” and cried along with the rest of the viewers as Meg Ryan nobly steps up to fill in for Tom Hanks’ deceased soulmate. Whatever may come, how bad can it be? The first weeks of new love can give new meaning to the old phrase “Love is blind.”

Grief Counselor – “I love this man and he seems to be in pain. I want to help. Maybe if I just let him talk it out a little more….” Most people feel compassion for others. When someone we love is hurting, we especially want to do what we can to help. We may find that our new love responds to our caring by opening up some of his deepest feelings. These may seem to revolve around his former spouse. We listen. We empathize. We want to share both the happiness and the pain of our new partner. But can we, really? If his late wife starts to dominate your heart-to-heart discussions with your husband or significant other, you may find yourself feeling more like a grief counselor than a girlfriend. That can be a red flag that it is time to detach a bit from talks that focus on the past and another love. It is difficult to know where to draw the line between encouraging openness and compassion and beginning to feel invisible or used.

Fatigue – ” I am getting tired of this. How many sad anniversaries are there in a year, anyway? How many more stories? And, um, would it be okay yet if I moved her shampoo over so I have room for my toothbrush? ” Imagine spending your first night with your new love and waking up to a picture on the nightstand. A smiling couple on their wedding day…but you are not the bride. Your first toast together, in a lovely restaurant. Your significant other raises his glass to you, and the candlelight glints off his wedding ring, which he still wears on his left hand. It may be hard to feel romantic when you feel like “the other woman.” Even the most understanding woman can start to run out of tolerance when she feels she is sharing her man with another woman – even if she is not physically there. This stage is where the power of memories can begin to take their toll. The more her presence is evident in your every day life, the more crowded it feels. Your partner may not know how you are feeling. It may even take you by surprise to start to feel weary.

Hurt – “Why did they say that? Why wasn’t I included? What about my family?” As you become more of a couple, people in both of your lives naturally react to your new relationship. On your side, friends and family may be curious, happy for you, and welcome your new partner into your circle of family and friends. You may experience the same from those on your love’s side. You may also, however, be rejected by those who have feelings of betrayal, jealousy, confusion, or even resentment. The change in his status, from grieving widower to a new woman’s boyfriend or husband, can open old wounds for those who knew him and his former wife as a couple. Some people adapt and even welcome you. Some may make inappropriate comments – “They were so happy.” “She was the love of his life, you know.” “She is watching over you both from heaven.” “I hope you can make him as happy as she did” (the latter I heard at our wedding!) What about families? Perhaps your man has been close with the family of his late wife. It may be difficult for him to introduce you to them, and they may be hurt by his new relationship. Maybe he still calls them his “in-laws.” If things are getting serious, what will that make your family if you marry?

Insecurity and doubt - “Why did he tell me all those stories? Was it really that perfect? How do I live up? He is quiet, is he feeling sad? Where did my self esteem go???” Even the most confident woman can begin to doubt herself after months of “Hallmark moment” stories starring your love and another woman. We tend to not speak ill of the dead, and the late wife can take on the qualities of a saint. Day after day, week after week, our self esteem can start to crumble. We aren’t saints. We don’t have as many memories as they did to share. We beat ourselves up for feeling insecure at times. It’s time to reach out for support and help.

Reaching out - “YOU TOO???” I remember the first time I met another woman married to a former widower. It changed my life. I thought I was alone, felt guilty for struggling, and learning that my issues were nearly universal freed me from a downward spiral that even an excellent counselor couldn’t help me with. She felt as helpless as I did. Reaching out to other women in my situation turned my life and my marriage around. They “got it.” They didn’t condemn me for feeling second best or frustrated sometimes. They offered their own insight and ideas for improvement. But most of all, they just let me share my experiences and in that, I began to find myself again.

Setting boundaries - “That picture on the nightstand makes me uncomfortable. Can we move it please?” No one wants to be unkind or selfish. Many of us have lost a loved one, gone through the pain of a relationship that has ended and the grieving over the loss of a dream, and we feel empathy for the men we love. Some WOWs are widows themselves and have a unique perspective on both sides of the situation. If WOW issues begin to eat away at our relationships, it is time to talk and find areas in which we can compromise. We can respect the past but gently put it in the past, while we make room to focus on the present and future. If you are feeling physically ill every time you enter a room that is full of another woman’s memories, speak up. If spending holidays with your family, his, and his late wife’s is creating chaos and frustration all the way around, tell him and ask if there is a compromise that can be reached. If a friend of the late wife’s is compelled to take a walk down memory lane at every opportunity, detach. Find a calm moment and tell your partner how you feel, without anger or blame. Work toward solutions for both of you. He may not have any idea how you are feeling. He can help you understand his feelings as well. Give him a chance. Give your relationship a chance.

Rebuilding - “Who was I before this? How do I get my confidence and identity back? Maybe it’s time for us BOTH to compromise….” I promise you, his former wife was a normal person, with strengths and weaknesses, just like you and I – even though you may have heard otherwise a hundred times by now. It’s time to focus on yourself and your marriage. Who are you? What do you love to do? Find that woman again. Work out, take a class, get together with friends, take your husband off for a weekend to someplace new, find ways to take care of yourself. When you stumble, reach out to someone who understands and then pick yourself back up. Being alive doesn’t make you a lesser person! You did not take someone else’s place. You took your place, next to the man in your life.

Anger - Anger can be a normal feeling. “Thank you, but I personally don’t give much thought as to whether she would approve of me or not.” or “Honestly, the past is the past. I don’t have much interest in their marriage. It’s interesting that you do, though.” I got to this point the hard way. I spent a three-hour appointment with a hairdresser who was a friend of my husband’s family, who considered herself an expert on his former wife and their marriage. Even though she had never met his late wife, she “spoke to her from the spirit world” – it was something straight out of The Twilight Zone. She felt compelled to talk about my husband’s late wife for the entire three hours – their marriage was perfect, my mother-in-law had worshipped the ground she walked on, and that my husband would never recover. I said, “You know, I don’t think that’s how it is. I don’t need to hear any more.” I got angry – not as angry as my husband did when he found out, but that’s another article! It was a turning point. For the next few months, together, we made our home our own, made plans for the future, he spoke frankly with those who were focusing on his past life exclusively, and we made some hard choices to let those who were stuck in the past stay there – by themselves. I didn’t feel guilty. I felt better. We both did. And we found a new hairdresser – one who just cuts hair without the bogus seance included!

Reaching out, Part 2 - Helping others – “I have been there. I have felt like you feel. Don’t beat yourself up. Hold my hand till you get out of this tunnel. ” It is amazing the healing that comes from reaching out to others in our situation. Just listening empowers us and them to move on, rebuild, and feel good again. A relationship with a person whose previous relationship ended in death can be different than one that has ended in divorce. Your partner had no choice in the turn of events that turned his life upside down. He has gone through a lot and that has made him who he is today. That doesn’t mean either of you has to stay stuck in any of the stages above. Most of us still find ourselves visiting one or more of them as issues arise. But if we can identify these feelings they become more transitory, not a permanent state of mind. Even baby steps forward can be considered progress to be celebrated, and you will find yourself living more and more in the present with respect for the past but an eye toward your future together.

**Reposted with permission from Wivesof Widowers.Com.  It is considered the property of the site and the authors, and is subject to copyright laws. Please do not reproduce any of the material here without the express permission of the site.

41 responses to “The Evolution of Being a WOW

  1. I have been married almost two years to a widower that was left to raise 3 girls (ages now are 22, 18 and 16) I do everything a mother does in the household- cook, cleans and taxi cab. The girls have never been disrespectful to me and overall are good girls and make good grades. The issue that I have is that my husband does not discipline or encourage any of them to help around the house but seems to show his love by handing them what they want. I feel like when we talk behind closed doors we agree but in front of them he shows very little discipline and then when I mention it to him he wants me to be the enforcer. I am not very comfortable doing that when he does not do it at all when he is with them. I feel like that makes me the “bad cop” and evil stepmother. For example. since our 18 year old was 16 he has allowed her to have boys in her room with the door locked. Sometimes it is boys we have never even met. I have told her to keep the door open but then she goes right back to locking it later. My husband ignores it when he is home but if he is not home asks why I did not confront her on it??? I feel strange enforcing rules that he does not enforce when he is there and I think it is unfair to me. The youngest will go and stay the night out and not even let us know where she is- he leaves it up to me to call her if I am worried.
    Another issue that is really upsetting me is how he gives them practically whatever they want but does not want to discuss with them how to manage money. He says they will learn their own lessons in life but if I want to talk to them about it I can. Meanwhile, we bought the 18 year old a practically new car and she cannot even clean her room and he said she would have to pay for her own gas. Instead, he now hands her gas money and when I mention it to him he just says “If I have it, I will give it to her” and says he is resenting me even bringing it up anymore. When we got married, I used all my life’s earnings to pay off a HUGE credit card for him and I contribute A LOT to the house in money but I feel like I have NO say on what he decides to buy the kids. I am now at the point where I just want to remove myself from any monetary or emotional investments towards the kids because he does not allow me any say in how they are being raised. I feel used and unhappy because of this.

  2. I found this forum by chance as I feel so alone and have no one to talk to about how I feel. Four years ago I met my husband who was widowed. He has two girls from his first marriage.

    At first everything was fab. The girls wanted me to move in. I suppose I was a novelty. However that soon changed. It has got to the point now that the eldest has left home (she was only 17 when she left) and is living with an undesirable older man. The younger daughter is still at home but insists that her bedroom is a shrine to her dead mother. I cannot even go in there, in my own house! I am being unreasonable?

    Everyday I hear what a marvellous person she was, what a wonderful mother she was. I have tried to talk to my husband about how I feel second best, like a visitor in my own home. His reply is well had she not died then you would not be here.

    I feel like I am going mad. His wife’s family are horrible to me and don’t speak, his eldest daughter does not speak to me and deliberately goes out of her way to forget my birthday etc.

    Recently I had to have my little dog put down. I was gutted but I was not allowed to be upset because after all it was only a dog and my husband and step children had lost their wife and mother.

    I just hate my life at the moment, and myself most of all because clearly I am far too selfish and think only of my own feelings.

  3. This must be the same for many of us. I have been with my partner for 3 years. I have never been accepted by his sister in laws. (wife dead for 6 years) I am polite and friendly at all times – sometimes they do not even say hello or goodbye when we meet en masse. Lately they have been making remarks about the Will we are about to make and how this should be set up to best benefit his adult chidren. I am fed up with their interferrence, I feel that they undermine him and disrespect me – further they create a difficulty for the children as their loyalties are divided.
    I wish that my partner could be more assertive with them, but fear that he sees them as an extension of his wife and treats them with kid gloves, excusing and making allowances for their outrageous behaviour (not that he condones it) but he seems to bend overbackwards which leaves me feeling somehow inwardly about to explode and with a sense of feeling second best I am not quite sure why. Could someone untangle this for me please?

  4. Dear Anonymous, who wrote: “If your mate is not at a place where he can love his lost mate for what it was and be ready to increase love (not subtitute) then it will be nothing but a struggle.”

    This is the first intelligent reply I’ve read. Still one-sided, though. Yes, it is important to establish if your widower is ready and willing and mature enough to take on a healthy, equal relationship. Another, important question is: “Are YOU ready, willing, able, mature enough, with enough self-esteem to take on an equal relationship?” Because if you are not, you are going to cause this man so much sorrow and pain and destroy the lives of any children still under his care.

    The wife of a widower starts at a tremendous advantage over other new wives. This man and his children and any extended family are GRATEFUL to you and desperately want this new union to work. They have seen how this man and his family disintegrated, how the children were neglected, because, face it, not even modern men have the capacity to be a single working parent. They look on with great relief and gratitude and happiness as you, a woman, take over the household, with the competences and skill sets that only women tend to have, effortlessly turn a cold, dark place into a home, everything clean bright, and regular meals. WOW!

    To screw that up that advantage, you must have exceptionally low self-esteem, or just be a plain b-, well, think about it.

  5. Six years ago I married a widower with 4 daughters (to which I added my 2). I’ve been so very fortunate in that I do not deal with any of the hurtful things so many of you are dealing with. I find that any comparisons I feel are usually in my mind, worrying about whether or not he is comparing. His consistent actions are what convince me he is not. It takes a tremendous amount of self-confidence and sense of self-worth to lay this fear to rest. For what it’s worth, here’s my advice:

    First, if you are in a dating relationship and you find yourself being compared, or even feeling like an unequal in any way, then your man is not ready to even think about dating, much less getting married. Tell him you love him and want to be with him, but you’re not willing to live in her shadow. When he feels ready to love you as though you were his first, then you can move forward. Women should not be begging to be loved. We are worthy of being loved and should require it fully from the men we commit our hearts and lives to. No compromise, especially in this scenario as you are taking on an enormous responsibility to his children and family.

    Yes, losing a spouse is one of the hardest things a person will ever deal with, but so is marriage in general. A healthy marriage is based on selfless love. If both people are concentrating on their own needs and wants, then the two shall never meet. Neither one will be “happy.” (Happiness is relative). If only one person is looking out for the best interest of the other, but the other is self-focused, guess who will never feel loved?

    If your mate is not at a place where he can love his lost mate for what it was and be ready to increase love (not subtitute) then it will be nothing but a struggle.

    If you’re already in it, and he’s flipped the coin, then it’s time to practice Tough Love. This too takes self-confidence and an sense of self-worth (not to be confused with arrogance.) Get yourself ready, both mentally and practically. In the right time and right place explain your position. Let him know that you want to be there, committed, but it has to be equal. You can only give your 100%.

    Give yourself a short time frame to see if he’s taking this seriously and is willing to do what needs to be done, in his heart and in his actions. Otherwise, it’s time for YOU to think seriously about your future. Make your decision and live with it. You’ll either resign yourself to an equitable, self-sacrificing, and unfulfilling marriage. Or you’ll draw a line and insist on something different – which may mean seperation.

    Seperation can lead to change, or it can lead to loss. But at least you’ll know which way it’s going and what to do with yourself and your life.

    My 2 cents

  6. Thank you for the great article! The role of a WOW is certainly unique and difficult at times. As others have posted, it is nice to know my feelings are not totally off base!

  7. When my father remarried, we did all the right things. We bent over backwards. Never mentined my late mother again. She moved into our house (a company house, we couldn’t move out) and she cleared out everything and made a bonfire in the backyard. She redecorated. I was a teenager and was so relieved to have another woman take over the burden and responsibilities of this man’s loneliness. The entire family were onto me day after day with advice on how to ensure stepmother would be happy and reminded me daily “your father’s marriage is more important than you. You’ll be finished with school and out of the house one of these days.” With all the romantic zeal of teenagers my school friends advised me on how to make my father’s new wife happy.
    It seems she was so insecure that she wouldn’t be happy unless she could wipe me off the face of the earth. She lied about me to my father and the rest of the family. She gave me no pocket money, not even bus fare to get to school. I had to work after school and my marks dropped from straight As to barely passing. She told my father I worked for fun. She advised my father to send me to a small town university where I couldn’t find work. My teachers were so concerned they organised a bursary for me. She advised my father, frirst to tell me nothing about the bursary, but then he decided to tell me anyway, but that the money was “theirs” I was dropped off far from home at the small town without money and no prospect of finding work. Long after I’d left home, she’d tell my father I hated him, then he’d write me brutally accusatory letters so I thought he was about to commit suicide. I’d write a placating letter back assuring him I loved him. Hear nothing back and then at the next family gathering his wife confronted me with: “How dare you write your father a letter like that?” He died ten years after marrying her (incidentally of a sudden heart attack just like her first husband). I think she was a psychopath. But whenever I hear WOWs go on about their stepdaughters, I wonder how much abuse those children are silently enduring, with nowhere to go, noone to help, because the given wisdom is that the WOWs position is terrible and the stepdaughter is going to be jealous of th new woman in her father’s life and make the poor WOWs life hell.

  8. Dear Ladies, It’s time you stopped putting yourselves down and bought some rules into your relationships that should have been introduced before you crossed the line. It’s called ‘counting the cost’. While I commend the love and kindness you give to your new spouses, and their children – you need to expect an equal – or thereabouts – quantity too. It’s time to talk … to counselors, and trusted friends you trust, and regain your self-worth, because all of you obviously have given heaps, and are not reaping your due. Love to you all – been there done that. Anne.

  9. Pingback: Grief is Not a Disease » Jay Cosnett

  10. I am the original author of this article and am so glad to see it shared here. I have been a WOW now for over ten years, and it DOES get better. We had an online group for WOWs/GOWs for about 5 years and it was amazing to see how many women all over the world came to share their joys and struggles. While the site has been long retired, I see WOWs in my private practice as a psychotherapist and again – so little understanding out there for the unique experiences of a WOW/GOW. Many thanks for sharing this article!

    My own blog can be found at http://www.sdtherapy.wordpress.com, and I hope to have some other WOW-related articles up soon.

  11. My boyfriend lost his wife 2 years ago leaving him alone to raise their four year old son. He was great when we met and was really attentive and tried hard to impress me and before long, we had moved in together.

    I’ve had to face a lot emotionally since then especially not being included in all his family gatherings / circles. We both come from a culture that isn’t flexible towards relationships and deeply frowns on living as husband & wife so i still keep my flat.

    I’ve on many occasions put my feelings below those of my boyfriend taking note that he is still grieving. However, after a year and a half of dating i feel i deserve to be heard and acknowledged by his relatives and friends.

    It’ has not been easy especially for someone like me who loves hard and sacrificing has become the norm of my everyday life. I feel like i do not get much support from him emotionally and of late i have really been feeling used for my domestic abilities. I feel like i am giving more than he is in the relationship and each time we have a problem he is quick to claim am making a big deal of things stating i would not react in a particular manner if he did not have a child or am acting this way because it’s his wife’s memorial. I feel so pushed aside, compared and not worthy in his eyes and despite all this I’ve really tried to be to be a cushion and i know i’ll never be her but it’s in such times you try your best in your own way to fill up the gaps left behind.

    Some days i wish i had never met him and fallen in love with him because he can be so hurtful and selfish. I can’t help think of how things would have turned out had i not dated him at all. I think for me the hardest part is comparing how he was in the beginning f the relationship and how he is now, maybe thats why it feels like am a fish caught in the lake and brought into the fish tank.

    All i ever wanted and still want is to be someone dependable for him and his son in all ways. Someone that can obviously never replace her but can bring a little bit of sunshine in her own way.

    On everyone’s blog i noticed one thing you all left out, how often we’ve curled up alone in a dark room and cried because the person you love so much and is supposed to be your best friend won’t even listen or try to see things from your angle as then they would understand.

    • “On everyone’s blog i noticed one thing you all left out, how often we’ve curled up alone in a dark room and cried because the person you love so much and is supposed to be your best friend won’t even listen or try to see things from your angle as then they would understand.”

      If I felt that way or that had happened, I wouldn’t be with my husband. He’s my partner and my best friend and if he didn’t listen to me, then I wouldn’t consider him either.

      There’s a great support group on Facebook called Dating a Widower. You might want to look there for support, though many of the women will offer the following advice: Put your feelings first, especially if your BF isn’t. If you’re not happy in the relationship and he won’t listen to you, then it’s time to think really hard about why you’re still in the relationship. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    • I can so relate to what you are saying. Your last paragraph is so poignant. I too have been that person. I have been the person crying and curled up and feeling so alone and so hurt and betrayed because as you said the person I fell in love with and whom I supported and grieved with and was there for did not give me the same understanding. I too have felt pushed aside, compared and not worthy. I too have felt I wish I would have never married this man. Yes, comparing how things were in the beginning and how they are and when I first felt him “leave me” behind. That was very difficult and I was broken hearted. His family did not support our marriage and his adult children were rude and hurtful to me and my family. I tried very hard to be open and friendly and loving to his adult son and daughter. His daughter in the end went on a rampage to try and destroy our relationship. I feel my husband did not do things to protect our marriage and we are still arguing over it 5 years later. It isn’t worth it to feel so worthless and alone. It is better to move on with your life now than to wait and marry. It won’t get better. It will get worse. It is better to take care of yourself and realize you are worth more than how you are being treated. I am finally getting the courage to do something to finally take care of myself.

  12. Thank you for this blog. I would like to read parts of it to my gentleman friend, who lost his live-in companion nearly two years ago. Perhaps then he will understand how I feel about the framed photos of her that he keeps within reach. “Sandy” was beautiful, brilliant, wealthy and accomplished — qualities that already made me feel inadequate. But she was also an alcoholic who died of liver and kidney failure at age 61, so their relationship was by no means perfect. Still, he hangs onto her memory in the form of these photos. I moved across the country last August to live with him, and when I walked into his apartment, he still had her photo on the wall. I told him it was inappropriate, so he took it down and put it in his closet with a dozen others — five feet from our bed! Needing space for his sweaters (and feeling uncomfortable about the photos being so close while we made love), I put them in a box and moved them our storage unit, which he seemed OK with at the time. We recently moved to a new apartment, and I accidentally discovered that he had removed them from a box and put them on a shelf in the closet of his home office. Needless to say, I was hurt and angry, so much so that I contemplated suicide. Maybe if I were dead, he would worship me too. I know it’s a crazy thought, and I am going to get help, but I am so sad because I can’t compete with a ghost.

  13. I feel truly blessed to have found your blog and I see so many are feeling the same. I read through this post and it says exactly everything that I’ve experienced in dating a widower. It’s not an easy journey and it places many doubts in ones mind as to if this is the journey I should be on. It’s amazing how God stays in the midst of the storm and helps us to see the light at the end of the tunnel…although for me that tunnel is going to be a long travel to get to the end of it. :)

    Thank you for your blog, it speaks to my heart and soul in so many ways. I went out searching for others who were blogging as I’ve been contemplating starting up a new blog as I’ve just finished up with one that I’ve been writing over the past few years on another subject totally unrelated to my new life experiences. I’m also dating a widower who not only lost his wife tragically but also his youngest son and his other son lived through the tragedy…so a very complex situation of grief for two very beloved family members.

    Thank you for sharing your life with Superman and Superboy! :)

  14. “It is difficult to know where to draw the line between encouraging openness and compassion and beginning to feel invisible or used.” — Well said. I find myself, after a year and a half of living together with my widower boyfriend, asking him during conversations “how did this turn into a story about (late wife)?” because I honestly don’t think he has any idea of how often he speaks of her. While I know their marriage wasn’t perfect and he seems and tells me he is very happy with our relationship, it’s still unnerving to have her as part of MY life so regularly. I don’t think my boyfriend and family members realize I’d like them to ask ME about MY history/family/past once in awhile instead of inunndating me with stories about HER. It’s been 4 yrs since she died, nearly 2 years since I started dating/living w/ boyfriend, and while it’s getting better — they are slowly getting to know me, but don’t actively seek out to connect– it’s isolating and disheartening oftentimes. So glad when I found this site and realized I wasn’t going nuts!

  15. Wow! Much time has pasted in year soon I will be married to my widower and his 3 children. Things are slowly getting better. is youngest girl 7 yrs is giving me slight trouble. I think it is she is not disciplined and I enforce the rules. She has done some doosies; urinated in trashcan, spilled red Koolaid on her new carpet, crushed crackers in her sock drawers, and canbe a terror in the morning time. I try hard but she refuse to eat brekfast at 7am for me. I beg her what does she want for breakfast ,,, oatmeal,cereal, waffles, toast,eggs, WHAT etc-just says no to all my meal suggestions. Finally she will eat for her older siblings. I drive her to school and tell her I love her or give her a hug; she just stares at me. I think she is depressed and misses her real mom who died of Cancer 2 yrs ago. We are trying to get close but I think she gets grief from siblings and my hubby not to bond with me. One time she wanted to call me MOm or Mama T. Not any more. Also she has a huge picture in her room on her wall of my hubby and her first deceased mom. It makes me sad I know it must do same to her. I want to get rid of the pciture but afraid I will be yelled at or cornered, Ithink the hubby wants to keep the grief alive in the family. March last year he had a party honoring her memory; it ws uncomftable but I survived. The children did ok but I feel did not really get into the memorizing Mom’s life. Her adult girlfriends and my hubby loved it. Fireworks will fly from me cause I am not going to agree to this party on deceased mom and his wife.

    My hubby is getting better about helping with this chore on raising children.; this will help in the end

    Today I did cry cause read new hubby/my widower’s letter to my 17 yr old son for his Catholic retreat. All of my son’s aunts uncle and step parent had to write personal letters about their spirtual journey in their life. My new hubby wrote about his past wife died of Cancer and God took her even though he prayed, church prayed she was anointed. God still took her away cause it was best thing despite the pain he and childen went thru. God has a plan for us all depsite the pain and she was the love of his life and he will see her again in heaven. Ah Karumba did that hurt;I cried alot and realized she was the love of his life not me. Despite I am crazy about him in so many ways. I really feel at this time in our marriage I will never beloved by him in the true sense; only here because I am good at home economics and help him raise the children . At times he does not like to be too alone with me; I have asked for 90 days get away for weekend, He always has some excuse it seems. I really think I am boring to him. Other nite he said I treated him like a sex toy, WTF- WHAT!!!! He refuses to cuddle and give massages despite I have asked before for them.I have ceased giving out my back massage and scalp and cudles. I realized I am alone for the rest of my life even thought he is in the house with me.
    Pray for me or do the PUSH-Pray Until Something Happens cause I am scared quite a bit these days.
    Tea

    • Dear Tea,

      I am married to a former widower (left with 4 girls.) I want to tell you that while I do not believe divorce is what God wants or intends for marriage, I also believe he understands that we are broken/sinful human beings and we often fail at loving the way he wants us to.

      I disagree with you. I do not think you should tolerate what is going on in your marriage/family. If you do not have the support of the children, then what good is there for you to be there? Your husband can hire a nanny and wallow in his grief and stunt the emotional well-being and health of the children – all on his own.

      You need to being telling him that you need to talk to him. In whatever way you are able, you must tell him that you want and need to be lovely wholly and seperately from his late wife. If he can’t do that, then it’s not a marriage. It’s a nanny with benefits.

      Tell him that you observe the little one is inclined to bond to you but she is getting mixed messages from siblings. YOU need to get some counseling.

      You’re fooling yourself if you think it will get better. If you allow this, it will be worse and you’ll wake up 10 years from now filled with hurt and resentment, and still no relationship (to speak of) with the kids that you have committed your life to.

      I’ll be happy to communicate more if you like. I’ve got 6 years and 4 steps, plus 2 bio of my own. I’ve learned lots and feel I have something to offer you.

      Becky

    • I will pray for you Tea. Why are you afraid? It sounds like your husband is very insensitive to your needs. Won’t he talk with you about it?

  16. It is wonderful feeling to know I am not alone. I, am engaged to marry a widower soon. We moved in shortly after being engaged, in a home he lived in with his late wife. I know he loves me, and I feel no competition with late wife herself of course, but do struggle with the odd feeling of being second best or second choice. It really is a different situation dating or marrying a widower and none of my friends can understand. I struggle with his and his family’s need to remember the late wife, and how often talk about her. They were only married a year when she died, but he has his head on a headstone with her. He said when we first met that could change, but since another death in family, I know he wants to be buried with her in the family plot. This is a tough struggle as well. I know it shouldn’t mean anything to me, but it does. I also struggle so much with feelings of maybe this isn’t something I can deal with and should leave. His family calls his late wife, the love of his life and did to my face. How is that supposed ot make me feel. I know he loves and yet….will there always be a shadow of doubt…..We are not yet 40 and hope to have challenge. I am haunted by knowledge he suffered miscarriages with late wife and he believes all of them are waiting for him in heaven…I struggle so much with this and I know it is I who is making it a bigger deal than I should. I may not be the best person to be with a widower….I need to feel like the center of someone’s world–is that so wrong?

    • I face the same issues with my husband. I feel like it doesn’t bother me as much as it should. Their names are both on the headstone (which he ordered after I moved in with him due to Jewish custom of waiting a year for the headstone). It took me aback for awhile. I’m not sure I have any good advice. I think I’ve decided that the first wife can have him in heaven as long as I can have for the rest of our mortal lives. Maybe it’s because I’m not strongly religious?

      I hope that you can work through your doubts. You should feel like you are the love of the *rest* of his life. She was the love of the life he had before you. I’m not sure that makes as much sense as I hope it does. You’re marrying a different man than she married because he lost her and that changes someone immeasurably. And now, maybe you are exactly the person he needs to continue forward on a new path.

      Hang in there!

      • I agree with Erica. My fiance also made a promise to his late wife, in the days before she passed that he would keep her ashes in his home until he he passed, and then they would be buried together.

        At the same time, she also made him promise to move on and find someone to spend the rest of his life with.

        They had 35 years together and were very happy prior to her illness and death. Had she not fallen ill, they would still be together.

        I don’t feel second-place or second best, just different. It’s not a competition and I encourage him to speak of her. And it’s as though having that freedom, he actually over time has come to speak of her less. Anniversaries will always bring memories and after the first year, they get less emotional but no less meaningful.

        I encourage him to spend them with his grown children, going through photos and telling stories. I don’t go, for no other reason than I know that they appreciate this time together and the freedom it brings.

        HIs children were hesitant at first, but when they saw I embraced his late wife, stories of her, and hold her in high esteem, they warmed to me very quickly. They came to understand that I had no intention to replace or eradicate their mom, but honour her as their mother and my fiance’s first wife.

        I respect her as I would want to be respected – love crosses cultures, races, demographics and ages. Why can’t it cross the line between life and death, too?

        (BTW – after we discussed the best location, he now keeps her ashes in his home office, as this is his space.)

      • erica, I have a similar attitude towards my relationship with my fiance. i do not feel at all competitive with his wife on the contrary I feel her quality and the quality of their marriage has reassuring implications for our future.

  17. So glad I found this blog. My fiance and I are getting married next month after just getting engaged this past weekend. His first wife passed away in April of 2008. Needless to say, the reactions have been numerous and varied and the less happy of them have really hurt my feelings.

    I’m glad that there is somewhere I can go where people actually understand what I’m going through because there just isn’t anyone in my life who does.

    So thank you!

    • Congratulations. I see you are getting married this month.
      Reactions of other people can really be hurtful and some never stop. It truly makes one feel that they are the other woman that broke up a marriage. They would feel that way no matter who widower married, but it still hurts.

      Yes, others don’t have a clue what the wife of widower goes through and it can be a lonely existence not having anyone to understand, support or defend you. Some are very cruel and get a lot of enjoyment from their actions, gossip and just being a trouble maker.

      • Thank you! We were married last week. It was a private ceremony because I just couldn’t deal with having a large wedding, knowing that at least some of the people attending would be thinking, “Well the other wedding was nicer…” etc. Plus, my mom passed away ten years ago. I didn’t want to focus on the people who weren’t there, but on the two of us. It was lovely and just what I wanted.

        I think everyone has come to terms with it. His family is really wonderful and deal with this all so well. I know they don’t mean to hurt my feelings, but sometimes it isn’t that easy to remember that it’s not about me that they are really sad and focused on how they are hurt. I know that I most certainly did not handle my dad dating again very well. And I have since apologized profusely to her because I know how hard that must have been for her.

        I am still glad to know that there are other women dealing with this in their lives who are strong and able to get through it. It makes me feel better that we can all hang in there “together.”

  18. TVAIR..I posted a short reply but I don’t think it posted. W and LW never argued or yelled? LW did not marry a widower either. Big difference. Being a wife of widower takes a strong, loving woman to deal with so many issues that 1st wife did not have to face.

    • omg!!!! bj, u just hit such a cord and I want to print ur post and put it on the fridge, preferably over one of LW pics! It is a big difference of what we deal with as opposed to what the LW never delt with! Thanku for making me feel so special :)

  19. Hi
    I am glad to know I am not the only one feeling neglected very alone and sad. I love my husband so much (more than he does back to me)but he is so distant with me. He hardly ever trys to please me at all, but I go overboard for him and our blended family children. He has 3 children ages 13 to 6 years. I have two children ages 15 and 12 years. I think he mearrie dme to care for the children and not loves me that much. He has written and blogged many times that he loves and misses his wife every day. Also his oldest girl looks like his wife’s twin. He plans things to do with her,but not me. It hurts quite a bit but he is trying to take care of kids needs and my adult needs comes in every once in awhile. I am trying to be patient. Other nite we had disagreement and he told me, he and other wife never agured or yelled at each other. I was not yelling but he was yelling at me and even threw his cell phone against the wall. He was furious with me cause I did not stay at the 13 year old daughter’s school concert! I told him he had his priorities wrong and the daughter should not come over my wishes or needs ALL the time. I came and saw her sing one song then left to get his 6yr old from Girlscouts then go home and cook and get to bed early since I was tired from working full time. Also the 13 yr old destroyed my wedding gift of red planter with a fern by eating the dirt, killing my plant and taking the pot of dirt in her room and spilling on the new carpet. He had not thoughts about what happen to me. I have had nitemares of him marrying his step daughter and me alone. I think he is obessed a little about her since she looks so much like the mom.

    I would love comments or advice. I do love him but I get bad vibes from him at times that he does not care for me other than cooking and cleaning or helping take care of the children. I haev told him I am crazy abouthim; he says nothing. I have told him I miss him when we are separated; he makes no comments. eh tells me he loves me at end of each phone call;but it is I love you too before I even say a thing. So I quit saying I love you on the phone unless I can see his face. He is very quiet but never ask me anything about me or refuses to listen to the Five Love Lanaguages tapes we got as wedding gift. At the wedding he gve me white roses instead of red. I noticed it but said nothing and he cried at the wedding a bit. He married his deceased wife 2 different times on July 4th. I hope my feelings and his actions get better. He tells me he is trying to be the man I want and he needs more time . Sometimes I feel so ignored in my wants and needs. I pray and hope over time our marriage gets better.

    • tea tvair.. He says that he and his late wife never argued or yelled?? Well his LW did not marry a widower either. That’s a big difference.

    • TeaTvair,
      Your comment “I was not yelling but he was yelling at me and even threw his cell phone against the wall” struck a chord with me because this is exactly the type of behavior that I experienced with my former fiance, a widower. I finally found a book, Why Does He Do That…Inside the minds of angry and controlling men,” by Lundy Bancroft. He explained that men like this have a sense of entitlement and that even though you are not yelling, they perceive that you are whenever you disagree with them and attempt to hold them accountable for their actions. I was floored by the commonalities between the way men who are widowed and actively grieving and men who are simply ‘abusers” behave. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who feels like they are losing their rights and dignity, but is having a hard time articulating what is happening.

  20. This forum is a breath of fresh air! I have been through most of those stages above. I’ve been married to my husband for 5 years and there are times when I am so comfortable and feel like I’ve finally gotten to where I need to be to have a healthy outlook and relationship and then in an instant, all my built up confidence can come crashing down by insecurities and the reality of marrying someone who has his heart divided. It’s a tough journey sometimes. I have zero support from my husband about any of my feelings that i’ve had or have. Every feeling I’ve ever had and said out loud is like I am the unfeeling, 2nd wife who is only thinking about herself. This is not true. I have done many things to show how much I care and that I could empathize and “be there”, however, I feel the majority of my attempts have been unappreciated and almost like I’ve treaded on such personal water it’s almost offensive to him. I wish there was a local support group in my area because I would sign up right away just to hear other womens stories and talk to other people to validate my feelings and continue to understand his. Once again, I am so glad there are others!!!!

    • thank you so much for your comments. It makes me feel liek I am not alone anymore. I am struggling with this situation and am thinking of leaving my widower, 2 months before we marry. I just do not think I am up for it, I think I am too sensitive or am made to feel like I am just a trouble maker.
      I too wish there was a support group in person somewhere….

  21. So good to be able to realize that there are others that want and need to share their feelings. Wish this site was more active in this particular area.

  22. I have been dating a widower for a year and 9 months. I moved in with him and his son about 6 months ago. While we have made much headway in many areas, last night it came up that he expects to invite his ex-in laws to our wedding. We have only begun discussing what type/size etc. of ceremony we would like, let alone guest lists – this absolutely devastated me and resulted in much arguing and fighting.

    Should not my feelings come first here? To date, I have compromise beyond believe. I understand it is important for him to keep that relationship alive for the sake of his son. I attend some of these family gatherings but not all. He thinks I should be attending all of them, and now expects them to come to our wedding?! It will be a very small affair. Many people will not make the short list so why in heaven’s name would we include these people? They are lovely, but I am sure they would understand, and most probably be relieved. I fear he will always have one foot in the past. Any advice or comments are appreciated. I feel I need to stick to my guns on this one.
    Thank you! One does feel very alone when with a widower. I’m grateful I have come accross this site.

  23. Thank you for this forum. It has really begun to help me shed some light on my situation and realize that I a not alone in this quest to know what to do!
    I would like to know more so that I can work through this with compassion and sensitivity but, I also don’t want to feel that I’m inferior and in second place to someone who is no longer physically there.

  24. Jwow,
    Don’t ever feel guilty for your feelings. They are valid. If you still feel sad about this incident or are still unsure in another day or so from now, then talk to him about your sadness. Often times wow’s need reassurances. Your feelings may not be stemming from the picture in the wallet. Your sadness may be stemming from some past hurt that you all have not come to terms with yet.

    I have been with my husband for four years now. I can promise all of you that as time goes by things do get better. But for us, the more we communicated the better it got.

    Hugs
    Glenda

  25. I think your feelings are normal for a wow, and I have at times felt similar.

    Since you asked for advice, I thought I’d post some, for other wows to see. I have found that often there are objects/pictures/other personal affects that have become such a part of a man’s environment they often don’t realize that it’s there. I had expressed some concern over some specific items to Superman before, and he didn’t even remember they were there.

    I think it’s a great sign that he took it out right away – he does care about your feelings! Don’t discount the small things and gestures.

    It is painful at times to be a wow. Does your husband back you up when you have all those issues with family and friends? Does he help defend you and set boundaries? If he does not, you should have an open conversation with him. He needs to know how it affects you and he needs to help set boundaries with the people that treat you poorly.

    Also, one thing that has helped me when people act crazy and at times it is my mantra: IT ISN’T ABOUT ME. Whatever issues they have that are complicated by the grief they carry – always remember, it’s not about you. As much as is within your power, don’t let their actions ruin the joy of your marriage and family.

  26. Good article. It’s so great to hear that there are other people experiencing similiar issues.

    I’m a relatively new wife of a widower – about two years. My husband is wonderful and loving, but he has a serious fixation with his late wife’s family. They are perfect in his eyes and I think it’s an extension of his late wife….not sure though. They are really wonderful people, but his late wife’s mother is not very welcoming at all. I have a son from my first marriage and so does my husband. My husband’s mother-in-law (late wife’s mother) will not deal with me when it comes to arrangements for our son (I adopted my husband’s son).

    I found a picture of his late wife in his wallet a few weeks ago. I feel shattered….not sure if this is normal or not. I think that if he was truly committed to starting a new life, he would either carry both of our pictures or none. I’m very hurt and can’t stop thinking about it. I’m feeling very depressed about it and know that I need to move on. When I confronted him about it, he said that it was always there and that he did not make a conscious decision to carry her picture and not mine. He was very emotional and took it out right away, but I’m still very sad.

    It is painful to be a wow sometimes, but I also feel guilty about it.

    Any advice?

  27. Enjoyed article. Wish there could be more written about real life feelings of wives of widowers.

    My husband moved through his grief before I met him and was ready for a relationship. He never made me feel second in his life and I never felt that I had to compete with his first wife in any way. Our relationship was entirely different than theirs. His children were in their late twenties and mid thirties when we met.

    One would think that “their” friends would be happy for him but I was told that his wife’s friends felt that he was being disloyal to her and he should remain single forever to honor their marriage. In fact, his late wife’s best friend announced to her bridge club that that she would do whatever it took to make sure our marriage would never take place. She had been best friends with his late wife for over 30 years and had total control over his children. They looked to her as taking their mom’s place and listened to her every word and all opinions. This “friends” feelings came first as far as his children were concerned. She is still controlling and manipulative and needs to know that she is loved the most.

    When my husband and I married, I made sure to include wife’s best friend in all family gatherings so she would not feel like she was being pushed aside. When we finally, after 2 years, not include her and her family for a family dinner, she had a fit and made his children feel guilty. His children always had to go over and visit her whenever we had dinner at our home.

    I had a grown daughter and 2 grandchildren that were treated badly by the group. Yet, I gave parties for his grandchildren, grown children, wife’s best friend and treated all the same. I worked my self to death to please everyone even with backstabbing going on and so did my husband.

    So much more I could share. Just wish there would be more discussions on what wives married to widowers must face. It’s not all about the widowers… includes the pain of new wives and their widowed husband when all they want is to have a life to share together and with all involved.

    • I so agree with you bj. I too have had very similar situations to endure. My husband’s family have not been supportive. Infact, one of his brother’s wife was very rude and brought up his dw and asked if we were going to visit his dw’s mother. I was so taken aback I didn’t know what to say. My husband’s mother while visiting at a family gathering sat with her back to me speaking to another of the brother’s wives. They all share history because my husband was married for 40 years to his dw. We have been married for 5 years and I am younger than he by 12 years. His daughter went on a rampage to try and destroy our marriage by horrible accusations and hurtful e-mails and behaviors. His son was also not supportive and refused to be empathetic toward his father or me. I just think it is nasty and rude behavior. I think they have to have someone to dump their feelings good or bad onto and it’s easy to make the dw the saint and the new wife the wicked new wife. I pray for you. I hope you will pray for me also. I don’t think we deserve to be disrespected and I am learning that it’s up to me to make my life better as I cannot change anyone but me.

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