An Unlikely Couple: Grieving and Dating: A Strategy for the Widow and Widower

Before we get into where to find prospective companions and strategies for dating, let’s pause for a minute and discuss the use of AfterTalk’s Private Conversations during this time in your life. Dating after the death of a loved one is a reaffirmation of how much they really meant to you. It says that you want to recreate what you had with them, and this is how you honor their memory. It may help therapeutically to share those thoughts with them by writing in the Private Conversations part of AfterTalk. By writing about why you are dating, you may find relief from the sense that you are doing anything that minimizes the love you two once enjoyed. The love you feel for your deceased mate never goes away. Twenty years later you can be moved to tears by a forgotten photo you stumble upon. The great thing about this life is that you can feel that love, and yet in the present, love another just as fully.

DATING STRATEGIES

LARRY: Now I’m going to reveal my greatest secret for men who have not dated in years, maybe decades, and are suddenly thrust back into the fray. This is how to be the perfect first date. My first wife, Vanessa, had many single friends. We would spend countless hours listening to them complaining about the men they met. It went like this; during the entire first date the men would talk about how accomplished they were in business, sports, and yes, sex. The women would sit there and listen. At the end of dinner the men propositioned them. It wasn’t so much being ‘hit on’ by the men that bothered them as it was the total disinterest in them as a person that preceded it. Internalizing all of this I decided to reveal as little about myself during a first date as possible. I subtly barraged them with questions about themselves. Some of my questions were deliberate; I always wanted to know how they related to their fathers, for example. I am convinced that women who have a strong relationship with their dads bond better with their husbands. I’d then move the conversation to their brothers, and then mothers. I was careful to memorize the names and ages of their children, and use those names in the conversation. Yes, I admit it, I even took notes, discreetly that is. Word would come back through the person who set us up that I was a ‘brilliant conversationalist,’ although I had said very little. It had worked out for both of us; the women felt someone had actually shown an interest in them as a person; I learned much of what I wanted to about them.

WENDY: Be honest with yourself and don’t try to force anything to work. To quote my friend Karen, “line ‘em up and knock ‘em down.” Then, she added, “for every behind there is a seat.” With 9 billion people in the world there are many potential wonderful fits for a long-term relationship. You do need to make the time and put in the effort. Time is different; it speeds by, and you don’t want to waste time waiting for a chance encounter. I agree with Larry to let everyone know that you are interested in meeting someone and what specifically you know that you want and don’t want. I wanted a man who would be both a life partner and a father. Intelligence was important. Physical characteristics were not. You need to think about what is truly important to you. Look at potential partners carefully and be honest with what you see. How they are is what they are going to be in the future. You should know by now that you can’t change a person’s basic nature, so don’t delude yourself. If you gut isn’t happy move on. Don’t waste time. I was beyond happy to know that I didn’t need a man to support myself and my children and I raised my children to be financially self-reliant because economics shouldn’t be why you devote your one life to someone.

WHERE TO FIND PEOPLE TO DATE

LARRY:  It would take another thousand words to go into where to find people to date, and perhaps we’ll do an article about that later. For now, let me boil it down. When you are ready to date, let EVERYONE know, family, extended family, friends, clergy, and co-workers. These people know you best. Concentrate on the females; they are the experts on the fix-up. It’s either genetic or women go to some secret classes on matchmaking that men don’t know about. Your heterosexual male friends are hopeless at this. The next best thing to do is face-to-face social situations. Google around and see if there is a widows-widowers group in your community. Join things that truly excite you so that you find yourself among single and married people with a common interest. Those married couples you meet at the museum benefit committee all have single friends. There are endless dating sites from the venerable match.com to eHarmony.com, to the newer Zoosk.com. There are also many sites that are faith specific like Christianmingle.com, Catholicmatch.com and JDate.com. If a shared commitment to faith is important to you, you should explore these. There are also sites that cater to LGTG singles like howarewe.com and perfectmatch.com, but many LGTG people think highly of the powerhouses like match.com and zoosk.com. My best advice to you regarding online dating is be careful and be totally honest. Use a flattering photo taken in the last twelve months. Tell the truth about your age. Before you start, read several of the many articles online about how to protect yourself when using these sites. That said, they do work quite effectively.

WENDY: I took on dating as a second job requiring work. Personal introductions are potent and distilled by the filtering of your friends and family. . I was willing to consider anyone my girlfriends set me up with. That’s how I met and married Larry. I was an attending physician at NYU and he was VP for Development, and two physician friends set us up. Had this not happened I was seriously considering going to a bereavement group for widowers of women who died of breast cancer because they were in committed relationships and were of the right age group for having families.

That’s it for now. There’s so much we didn’t get into. For example, dating and the inevitable result of it—exploring one’s sexuality with a new partner—is a very different issue for pre-Baby Boomer adults who might have had only one sexual partner in their lives. For both older men and women there are also a host of medical factors to consider. More on this in another AfterTalk article. If you want us to go on about this topic, write to us at larry@aftertalk.com and visit the AfterTalk forums, especially the one entitled “For Widows and Widowers: Sex and the Recently Bereaved Spouse.”

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