Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sex And The GOW/WOW

"Sex and the GOW/WOW" is a topic I barely touched upon in my book, and for good reason. Most wives and girlfriends of widowers with whom I communicated while doing research for the book told me that they secretly bury their issues on this subject, feeling so embarrassed and/or ashamed of their fears, insecurities, and feelings that they found it difficult to even discuss them with me under a cloak of anonymity! WHAT a shock, especially in today's sexually enlightened society!

Shocking, yes - but understandable. As a happily married wife of a widower, I, too, have been loathe to personally discuss this topic for fear that I would be judged harshly, perhaps even thought of as a tad crazy. But the fact remains - there exists in our society a small segment of women who have battled or continue to battle things unseen…even in the bedroom.

When I met my previously widowed husband, his late wife had been deceased for over three years. However, he still resided in the house they had shared together during their 7 year long married life, complete with all of their furniture, pictures adorning the walls, and even her coats hanging in the foyer closet. It looked as though she had just stepped out to the grocery store, and not died prematurely and suddenly three years prior.

My first visit to his home was to be our first night of romance. However, I constantly felt "her" presence. The mementos of her that I faced during my visit were reminders that I was merely a guest and not "the lady of the house". The most chilling remnant of her life was, of course, their bedroom. I doubt that my macho husband had chosen the pink and white lace bedspread and matching curtains after she had passed, so it was a reminder to me that this was at one time HER domain, causing me to feel like a trespasser and an adulteress.

Needless to say, it was a tad intimidating to me as his new love interest. The bed itself represented not only a place where they once laid their heads in rest, but also the shrine of intimacy where they once spoke of dreams, shared their feelings for each other, and yes…made passionate love. How could I possibly even think of coupling in such a way with him on the very same bed where they climbed the heights of passion and intertwined their souls as happily married people do? With closet doors flung widely open, I could almost picture her in the neatly hung and pressed negligee's that draped their way casually from padded hangers there. It felt almost voyeuristic to me.

Their wedding picture and wedding invitation were displayed in gilded frames which hung in all their glory over the bed, as if to speak for her: "You're about to make it with MY husband - you hussy!" Of course, this was not the picture-perfect, romantic evening that I had dreamed of! Too many ghosts.

Her belongings, which produced images of her, were not the only windmills at which I tilted. There was also the issue of comparison. How would I measure up - sexually speaking - to a woman who knew my then-boyfriend so intimately? Considering the fact that they dated for a year before marrying, they collectively shared 8 years of a loving relationship. This gave them plenty of time to figure out how to please each other, to chart the roadmaps of each other's bodies, and to communicate to each other their deepest romantic desires. Foreplay would have been set in stone, each knowing what turned the other on, and the dance of sexual passion would have been played out in satisfying synchronization. Gulp! What a tough act to follow!

Of course, making love for the first time with a new love interest is always nerve-provoking. But as a new lover of a former widower, I had an eerie feeling that "she" was watching us, as if to make sure that I would not "best" her in the sexual arena. Add to that mixture an almost omnipresent feeling - one that nudges your competitive nature and makes you feel that you and your lover are not the only two people in the bed - and you have a recipe for insecurity and thoughts of failure before you even begin to take your clothes off!

When the lights were dimmed and our passion sparked, I almost forgot about "her"…until I turned my head to face my sweetheart, and found his eyes closed. I wondered if he was thinking of "her". With every one of his touches, I insecurely thought that he may be imagining my body as her body. I started to doubt his whispered words of love for me, and felt that he was pretending to say them to her. I wondered if all the grief information I had read was true - that perhaps he may have had feelings of guilt for "betraying" his late wife's memory. I was filled with confusion…and anger. I was NOT the kind of person who would be willing to SHARE my man with another woman.

Bolting from the bedroom, I suppose my sweetie thought I was insane. But we had shared enough time together in our relationship history to forge a firm foundation of trust in our relationship, so I finally blurted out the truth about my fears and anxieties. It was the beginning of a new understanding…and a new life of sexual fulfillment for us.

Eventually, her closet's contents were donated to charity and the wedding pictures stored away for safekeeping. Their bed was sold, as was their house, and we bought our own home and purchased our own bed. But until that time, we had sweet, romantic trysts in hotel rooms and other rooms of the house where the late wife's presence was not so overpowering for me, and we made our own beautiful sexual memories together, away from "her" watchful eye. With gentle reassurance, my husband guided me out of my fears and convinced me that he had never compared my sexual prowess to his late wife's. He confirmed to me that I was a wonderful lover, partner, and friend, so I began to feel more secure about myself and about our relationship.

After a time, the threat of the late wife's memory ceased to exist, and no longer haunted me or forced me to "out-do" her in the bedroom. The pink and white lace bedspread was replaced with and a royal-colored floral comforter that now graces the mattresses where my husband and I renew our intertwined spirits with passion and speak of our future plans. This is now MY domain, and I am now "the lady of THIS house", relegating the late wife to the role of the outsider …a stranger whom I accept my husband will always love, but one who no longer trespasses on our lives in our bedroom.

~~From the book "PAST: Perfect! PRESENT: Tense! Insights From One Woman's Journey As The Wife of a Widower" by Julie Donner Andersen. (Copyright 2002/2003 Julie Donner Andersen. All rights reserved. Reprints only by written permission of author.)


  1. I have just started seeing a widower, he as never invited me to his/their home. He likes coming to mine. We live 45 minutes from each other.. I believe its because he still has all of the things you just described in his home. Maybe not he pink in the bedroom.

  2. This is exactly how it was for me. It still makes me feel really bad about myself.

  3. Thank you for your insights into a complex situation. I never imagined I would be dating a widower. But I am. I cannot speak for him regarding thoughts about his wife but I know it is often on my mind. Relationships are difficult enough to maintain but this situation is a challenge. He is a wonderful man with integrity, core values, and spiritual views points that closely align with mine. I pray we are able to overcome, turning this challenge into the opportunity of a lifetime.

  4. I have been dating a man who lost his wife two years ago, he constantly talks about how much he loves her and says I remind him of her in many ways...he has photos of her all over his house and life sized photos in other places he carries her photo in a key ring with his on the opposite side of the key ring he has her perfume and her bathrobe in their bedroom and talks to her every day..saying a hello and a goodbye when he pops over to see me..he also burns candles for her near the many large often life size photos of her and buys flowers for her regularly and visits her mum religiously and invites her for lunch most weeks...he says I am his earth bound love and she his spirit bound be honest finding it all overwhelming

  5. Dear Anonymous of March 30, 2013,

    Grief is not a mental illness or pathology; however, many pathologies can result, one of them being obsessive/compulsive behaviour. While "canonization" of the deceased is part & parcel of the normal process of grief, your W appears to exhibit excessive and worrisome behaviour. His justification - that you are his earth-bound love while LW is his spirit-biound love - is his way of dealing with overhwelming guilt. Bottom line: there is not way he is ready for a relationship, and needs professional help to aid in his recovery. For more information, please join The Official WOW/GOW Message Board, found on my website at

  6. Thank you for your reply. I had already spoken to him about the possibility of him not being ready for a relationship, he disagreed and said that his lw will always be in his heart and on his lip ie ( that he feels that he will always want to mention her without the worry of anyone restricting him) and that he could not settle with a woman who would not let him talk freely about his LW and that is why he says he feels so happy with me, because I do not restrict him in anyway.

    His LW died of cancer within approx. one year of being married both knowing she would die.
    they were together for around 10 years and
    he has often told me
    he had never really wanted to marry. He has two grown children and several young grandchildren just wasn't the marrying kind but did it to make her happy

    He seems very close to his Lws mother her family having known them for 10 years and has introduced me and wants us to be friends. I don't mind this as the poor woman lost her daughter but again wonder if this is normal behaviour. He refers to her as mum and goes out of his way to help her in fact he has recently taken his mother in law on holiday to visit his LWs ashes ( her daughter) which he took to their holiday home when she died. His LW died two years ago and so this is a time I guess for them both to be there and as her mother is elderly I suppose the last chance for her to visit the place where her daughters ashes rest.

    He is a lovely man kind to a fault compassionate and seems to really care for me but I see he is very connected to his LW I have mentioned that maybe he feels guilty and he says he doesn't but seems to understand himself and his actions often telling me that he knows she would be happy for him and that he isn't doing anything wrong and that he would in her place want her to meet someone equally as lovely as he says he finds me.

    I do however get the impression that he hasn't the energy for complications and seems to want as few complications as possible, I fear I tend to over analyse things and maybe finding fault where there may be none just not comfortable with all the photos and the talking to the photos and the buying flowers etc. however thinking its early days but now sure just get the impression now he is over protective when it comes to not feeling well and seems to want everyone around him to get things checked saying that if his LW had been checked earlier then maybe she would be here now...yes and I wouldn't.....

    He says he wasn't prepared to meet anyone but realised that life goes on, but knew when it happened it would have to be with a woman equally as lovely as his wife and that he knows she would have liked me. Funnily enough everyone seems to echo these sentiments.

    I do find the home he shared with his LW overwhelming as there are many of her things still in the house ( clothes etc) which he seems unable to do anything about and photos wherever I turn which I find quite overwhelming particularly ones of him and her smiling in various poses and obviously happy and in love. So we spend most of out time at my house where I feel happier as there are no photos of them together.

    I feel sorry that he lost his LW but the fact is he did and as he says there is nothing he can do about it.

    I worry about things such as am I a host body for him to try to connect to his LW does he think of her when he is with me and if he is comparing I am afraid that as she seems to have grown wings I will fall short of the mark....oops and both of us will be hurt.

    I didn't think it would be this complicated as I was ready for a new relationship and he seems like a potential life partner.

    Just would like to know your opinion

  7. I have been seeing a widower as well and all these comments ring familiar. My issue in this relationship is my insecurities. Im workinig on them. Ive never married at 67 now and people always querie as he did as well why I have not married. Sure there were origins of family that enterd to haunt me, and he has been very sensitive in trying to buoy me up. but what a daunting task when he is going through his own issues. I openly love to hear about her.... she is wonderful and after two years the family is very much still in the grieving stage. My friend is trying desparetly to move on, but when I get insecure, he retreats back to her memory. I want to be more stable and build stronger ties to spiritual awarenes and faith. So for me the journey has been very educational but my own emotional issues are hard for any fella widow or not. Great Article and thanks for sharing very helpful indeed.