“I love you.”
“Umm…I…*gulp*…need a snack. Be right back.” ZOOOOOOOOOM!
Ahhhh, love. According to the songs, love is a many splendor’ed thing. It makes the world go ‘round. It’s all you need.
Excuse me, but at the risk of sounding anti-Cupid….Humbug! When it comes to dating a new widower who has never had a relationship with anyone besides his late wife, you need a whole lot more than love: you need patience, compassion, and most of all…courage!
Who else in their right mind, besides a GOW (Girlfriend Of a Widower), would share her man’s heart with another woman (the late wife)?
Who else besides a GOW understands that on certain days of the year (death anniversary, late wife birthday, wedding anniversary, etc.), her man’s heart will be broken by grief triggers, and she will be temporarily demoted to “grief therapist” for the day?
Who else but a GOW? No one, that’s who!
Try to envision your girlfriends’ mouths agape if you were to explain to them the same scenario about a divorced man you’ve been dating:
“Hey, gals, it’s the 1st anniversary of my man’s divorce today. He’s pretty low about it. He’s going to go visit her and take flowers. There’ll probably be a lot of tears as he reminisces about “the good times” they shared together, and I plan to just hold his hand and listen with compassion when he gets home. So whaddya say – wanna go get a cup of coffee while he makes his house call?”
KER-plop! (The sound of your girlfriends’ jaws hitting the floor).
Yet, this is precisely what a GOW deals with in her relationship; things that can only be handled with compassion, love, and yes…COURAGE! Being in love with a widower takes GUTS, and lots of them! It takes a strong sense of self without insecurity, an inner peace free of competitiveness, a rock-solid faith in silver linings, a willingness to sacrifice one’s self for the greater good of bereavement recovery, and the patience and knowledge that most if not all "things grief” subside with time.
Most GOWs I have met or with whom I have communicated online share these stellar character traits. Yet when it comes to saying “I love you” for the first time, these same pillars of Samson-ish strength are reduced to peanut butter.
So what gives? Why are these otherwise gutsy women so afraid of beating their widowed boyfriends to the punch by uttering those three anticipated words that will express what is in their hearts?
Simple: they are afraid of the inevitable comparison to “the one he loved first and still does”, AKA: the late wife. It is an anxiety that all GOWs share.
Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all. Confessing our true feelings to someone for the first time is downright scary. As much as we try to predict the outcome of our love professions with accuracy, widowers new to dating are largely unpredictable. Confess your feelings too soon, and he may run screaming into the night. Too late, and he may wonder if you really mean it or are just testing the relationship waters.
Even if the timing is perfect, he may still balk, wondering if how he feels for you is equal in quality and quantity as what you feel for him…wondering if his loving feelings are real or if he is simply on the rebound…feeling guilty for having loving feelings for you – feelings that are perhaps stronger than his feelings for his late wife…pushing his true feelings down because having them is akin to betraying his late wife or cheating on her in some strange way…wondering why he doesn’t feel the same way about you that he did about his late wife…and the list goes on, unpredictably.
So what is a GOW to do? Should she chicken out? Send a Hallmark card that will say it for her? Ask a friend to relay the message? Nahhh. What’s the fun in that? We profess our love feelings for a man TO a man because we want him to know how we feel, but admit it, gals…more importantly, we want to hear the same in return. And if we didn’t take that leap of faith and verbally blurt our heart’s contents to his face, we would miss out on the biggest thrill life has to offer: hearing a man say “I love you, too” for the first time...and meaning it.
In relationships without risk, there is no reward - just limbo. Even if your declaration of love is met with his declaration of fear, guilt, or ambivalence, the risk is still worth taking. Why? Because every baby step you take as a GOW is one step closer to the knowing the truth of a widower’s heart – how he feels, where he stands, and what the future holds for the two of you.
Unlocking the contents of a widower’s heart takes patience, understanding, and a willingness to wait until he is 100% sure that his response will be 100% honest and without reservations. There is no better road to this kind of discovery than to take a deep breath, look him square in the eyes, tell him how you feel…then let the chips fall where they may. I guarantee that the discussion to follow will not only be eye-opening but bonding as well – whether he reciprocates or not. Then you can get back to the business of Loving A Widower....