Sunday, March 29, 2009

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

Everyone has a past history of prior love relationships: ex-boyfriends or ex-husbands, past lovers, and/or former friends. Each person from our past has contributed in some way to our personal growth. Even if the relationship ended badly, most people can honestly admit that they learned a lesson, gained insight or wisdom, and used the experience to forge a better understanding of self. If personal growth is a good thing, then it makes sense that we should be grateful to the people from our pasts, as they have played a part in molding our unique characters.

Alas, it’s hard to dole out praise to these folks if, for some reason, we harbor old resentments against them. If they broke our hearts or hurt us deeply, human nature interferes with our ability to say, “Thanks for all you did to help make me the person I have become!” but in truth, that’s precisely what the experience these relationships have afforded us has done.

If you are married, do you believe that your spouse has changed you in a positive way? Do you believe that you have changed your spouse? Have you made each other stronger, happier, more patient, understanding, caring, or loving? More importantly, have you helped each other to grow as individual people? I’m sure a majority of married folk would respond “yes” to all of these questions.

Then why does a WOW (or a GOW, for that matter) find it so difficult to not give credit where credit is due and be grateful to the late wife for the positive influence she had on her husband?

Perhaps it’s because GOWs and WOWs are not afforded the luxury of “closure”. Unlike divorced men, widowers did not choose to leave their wives. Death chose FOR them. And unlike divorced men who fall out of love with their ex-wives, widowers will always feel a great deal of love for their late wives. This lack of closure in a widower’s past tends to extend to their future wives to some degree. The late wife, unlike the ex-wife, is not “locked out” of her husband’s heart. Thus, a widower’s new wife must learn to share the same space in his heart that the late wife occupies.

This is a difficult thing for any woman to do. We are a jealous and possessive gender, and find it absurd to accept that our spouses can love two women at the same time. This jealousy can fuel the fires of insecurity rapidly. To overcome feeling “second best”, we tend to compete with the late wife’s memory, vying for that coveted “first place” position in our husbands’ memory. Yet this becomes a frustrating “two steps forward, one step back” race to the finish. In the whirlwind of negative emotions that ensues, we become blinded to one important reality: The widowed men with whom we fell in love would perhaps not be a perfect match for us today had they not been happily married before.

Because my husband was happily married once before, he learned how to be a great husband, which has benefited me immensely as his new wife. Because he kept his first “in sickness and in health” wedding vow while he cared for a dying wife, he has proven his worth as an honorable, upstanding, and loyal man. And most importantly, because his late wife loved him dearly and respected him greatly, he was encouraged toward personal growth and evolved into the man of my dreams.

I urge all WOWs ad GOWs to reap the benefits of the their husbands’ late wives’ legacies and, in gratitude, give credit where credit is due. This is an important part of Loving A Widower...


  1. Everything stated above is true, but I just don't know how to raise a whole family in grief. I have been engaged to my widower for almost two years and in those two years we have undergone the most intensive challenges any two people could face, but despite all, we are still together. Today, as many days lately, we are not doing that well together. It seems that life's pressures are winning this challenge and I just don't know how to change things. Most importantly, how do I mother our two children and help them develop into healthy adults despite all the trauma they have undegone??

  2. If after two years your W is still quagmired in grief to the point where he simply cannot function on a daily basis without breaking down, then I would recommend counselling for him, and perhaps family counselling for all of you should you plan on staying with this man. If I were you, to be brutally honest, I would get some distance between the W and myself while he attempts bereavement recovery. It is not fait of him to drag you through his grief to such an extent that you are feeling so depressed.

  3. Julie, Great article. I respect what you are saying and probably felt the same before we were married. I was unprepared for all the harsh treatment by adult married stepchildren, old friends of the family and others. But mostly that my husband would allow them to treat me this way. If it were reversed, I would be all over any family member of mine that would treat my husband rudely.
    I strugge with finding every card they ever gave each other around the house, and yet he doesn't have time to stop and get me a card for our anniversary.
    He has asked my why I dislike his first wife so much. I told him because I have never had anyone live cause me so much grief as this woman has deceased. I love my husband but this is a lot to handle especially with a man so insensitive about it. It has been 2 years of marriage. And all this is still going on. I am seeking ways to learn to cope and make peace with it all in my heart.

  4. Now that you are married, you have more rights than you had when you were dating. First and foremost, you have the right to express yourself - to communicate your needs - and to be heard by your W with an attitude of cooperation and a goal of compromise.

    I suggest you have a serious sit-down with your W, wherein you tell him exactly what you have stated here about the cards, the relatives, and his apparent lack of sensitivity towards you re: these issues. YOU are responsible for communicating your needs and anxieties with him. After all, men aren't mind readers. HE is responsible for listening with a sensitive heart and cooperating with you on a plan that will include HIS actions in helping to solve your problems together.

    For more support fro myself and others who walk in your shoes, please consider joining the Offical WOW/GOW MEssage Board at

  5. I am a GOW. My W is at the end of early grief. We met a few short month's after LW's passing and it has now been two years. We talked of marriage, family and I became pregnant-then miscarried. We moved into together and I am "raising" his 3 kids(ages:7,9 & 11) LW's bday, her DOD, and their anniversary are all within a few days of each other. And the grief monster was Godzilla this time. He had taken down pics in their old home and gotten rid of a lot. Now in our new home, things are appearing, her clothes in a box in our closet, a book of pics of her and during the rough week he carried his wedding ring on a chain around his neck and their wedding photo in his work bag. The ring especially felt like such a betrayal to me, as it was hidden under is shirt and discovered. Oh, and also because we are not married. I ignored the ring those few days, figuring he needed the additional comfort, but one night he forgot to take it off before he came to bed. I was planning on tolerating it during the anniversary week and telling him it was hurtful to me later when I found the right wording or if he continued wearing it. Now he admits he is not ready, contrary to what he said before we moved in. His kids are ready for me to have a title and we are all looking to him to provide it and he is dragging. I think I better bail, although it is the last thing I want, because his kids are getting attached and I just don't know what kind of time limit to put on this. How long will I wait? Probably only a few more months. Should I give him an ultimatum, although I hate the idea of doing that? If so how specific should the terms be? Maybe it is the kick in the pants he needs. I have been soooooooo patient. But I feel like he is regressing. After the miscarriage he said we would try again. Now he changed his mind and said he does not think he wants to try again. I am almost 37 and want to be a wife and mom. I thought God brought us together to make us a family. But I really want a baby and I really want to be the wife of someone who I know loves me. It is beginning to sound like these things may not happen for a while, and then it will be too late for me.

  6. Hi Suzanne,

    Your situation, though unique to you, is something I've heard many times. I would like to invite you to share your story with the 400+ members of The Official WOW/GOW Message Board at so you can hear from other women who walk in your shoes, esp. those ladies who want a baby when their W does not.

  7. I read this article and found it very informative but there are issues that I am still facing today. I have been with my Widower for over 3 years and we are recently married. I have been through the weirdness with the adult children and the only grandchild. However I still to this day can not be around certain family members because they still go out of thier way to make me uncomfortable.But I think what really hit me hard is at our wedding his grandaughter got upset and "our" day turned into making sure his granddaughter had a good time. This may sound selfish but I feel that we were robbed of our day.

  8. Dear Stirred,

    You can't go back and undo the past, but I can validate your feelings. Unfortunately, bad weddings aren't "do overs", but I hope there was enough loving memories to make you smile, and perhaps, some day, you and your W can renew your wedding vows, just the two of you.

    Meantime, regarding "toxic" reletives...We have a great thread on this very topic happening at The Official WOW/GOW Message Board. Come on and join us....

  9. I am the wife of a widower and we have been married for 24 years and I have raised his 3 kids they were 4 7 and 10 when we met .I am close to the children particularly the younger 2.I have made great efforts to be nice to my husbands in laws and they are good people but it is a really difficult road,one which I feel I want to get off.I have 2 boys of my own and thought I had grown and blended,but F my step daughter recently married and she choose her biological moms home church.It really upset me and I had to insist that my husband thank me for raising her in his speech .He did this but he aligned himself with the dead wives family and I felt I shut down all day and he was a jerk.She is dead thirty years and I always thought one day I would not feel strong emotions about this but I do .I believe this brings out the very worst in me and I want out I am happier alone and the only thing that keeps me here is the fact that my 15 year old son will be shattered he is a sensitive soul,and loves his Dad.Marriage should not make you an emotional wreck,