Thursday, June 25, 2009

The "Perfect" Late Wife (LW)?

I believe it's absolutely normal for a GOW/WOW to fine some kind of satisfaction, even comfort, in discovering LW's faults and flaws. When it's W himself who offers these tidbits of truth, he is, in effect, completing a grief stage: acceptance. Where once he held LW on a pedestal of perfection, time has healed his heart to the point where he can now put LW's memory in perspective. In most cases, admitting openly that LW had flaws doesn't mean he regrets his marriage, or that LW went from angel to total b*tch overnight. It simply means that he has come to a point along his grief journey where he has processed her loss rationally instead of irrationally.

Normal as it is to do "the superiority dance" (a la "Church Lady" from old Saturday Night Live when LW's faults/flaws are laid bare, remember that normal does not always equal productive. LW's faults/flaws are only part and parcel of the human being W loved (or once loved). She wasn't perfect, but she wasn't a total write-off, either. There was SOMEthing good about her or SOME payoff of their marriage that kept W hanging in there.

It is always disasterous when human beings take an "either/or" stance on their acceptance of other human beings. No one is absolutely, 100% bad or good. We ALL have good, and we ALL have flaws. The danger in a GOW taking LW's admitted flaws/faults and judging LW as "bad" just to make herself feel better is that doing so can come back to bite her. When W has heard enough LW-knocking (even if he agress with what is being said about her faults - and even if HE was the one who confessed them), he will resent having shared such intimate secrets about her flaws in the first place - or start to feel guilty about doing so - when he knows deep inside she wasn't ALL bad, and that their marriages indeed had moments to cherish. Divorcees are often dealt this kind of judgement when others ask them, "How could you have stayed with such a monster for so long?" First of all, it makes the divorcee feel stupid, and everyone can relate to resenting a person who judges us as foolish. Secondly, every divorcee will tell you that there WERE some marital highlights, happy times, and positive affirmations within the marriage's duration (and enough good things within their exes) they will always treasure...and grieve the loss of.

Thus, while it's true that some Ws had unhealthy marriages to their LWs, be forewarned that even those marriages (and the less-than-stellar LWs) will still be grieved as a loss. This kind of grief is jammed-packed full of guilt and resentment, leaving these kinds of Ws very trepidacious about committment, much less remarrying. More often than not, it is these kinds of Ws who take longer to come full circle in their recovery....and can be "the toughest nut to crack" for a GOW.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dating a "Virgin" Widower

I always feel bad for the first GOW to come into a W's life. She becomes the proving ground; the waters that W tests before he jumps into the proverbial relationship-after-LW pool; the one on whom the W cuts his relationship teeth. For many Ws, it has been years if not decades since they've been with any woman besides their LWs. These Ws have spent those years honing their marriages, getting to know ONE woman's personality, fine-tuning their responses and sensitivities to suit only HER. Then they try out the very same stuff on a new woman, and are befuddled as to why the stuff that worked when it came to LW isn't making any headway with the new GOW! These "virgin" Ws must think all women are alike, and that using their one-size-fits-all relationship tactics will work on all women since they worked with their LWs. Wrong! Since all people are different, why would their LW experiences even come close to working with the new GOW? Sure, some things SHOULD remain the same: men should alweays treat women with resect and be gentlemen. But I'm talking about those virgin Ws who, in their first real relationships since their LWs died, tend to stumble along like clods...until they realize they cannot and should not treat the new GOW exactly as they did the LW.

A poor newbie GOW has an unenviable position with a virgin W. As his "first" since LW, the new GOW wears many hats: she is a teacher; the one who, as described above, patiently instructs him in proper post-LW relationship behaviour. She is a mother; the one who gently soothes his aching heart with her love. She is a nurse; the one who tends his inner wounds, all the while trying not to become too personally involved (but failing) so his pain will not become her own. She is a therapist; the one who listens sympathetically and patiently as he works through his grief. She is an engineer; the one who systematically works out a plan for their future together, using every conceivable force in nature to move him gently onward and forward. She is overworked, underpaid, and hardly appreciated. Is it any wonder she is exhausted and constantly worrying about her "job security" - where she personally fits into virgin W's heart?

Ah, but then she remembers her "benefits package"! Virgin W is hard work, to be sure, but there ARE perks. Were it not for these perks, new GOW just might start looking for another job. Instead, she remains steadast and devoted, hoping the pay-off for her efforts will be the, diamond....ring: that wonderful pre-retirement bonus of having helped to invent a new man from a formerly hopeless one; a man who has learned that the past is indeed the past and that the present and future CAN be more wonderful, thanks to the GOW.

And yet, so many GOWs bail out before they reach the pay-off, and I can't blame them. It's only human to think, "There must be an easier job than this!" and worrying she'll never reach retirement age and that golden handshake!! However, their efforts never die in vain. The next GOW to come along enjoys the benefits of the first GOW's hard work. Thus, the first GOWs last hat must be that of a writer: one who scribes onto virgin W's heart those words that make him think, motivate him to change, and inspire him to do so. It's all any writer can ask. ;)