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.


  1. I am dating a widower whose late wife was an alcholic, drug addict, prostitute, who sold her wedding ring for drugs, cut him off from his family, and he still puts her on a pedestal.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    As stated in the blog article above, "canonizing" a late spouse is a normal stage of grief processing, regardless of whether or not the LW was indeed perfect..or, in your W's case, not. I'm sure it's not easy for you to hear about how much he loved and misses her when she wasn't exactly stellar, especially when you are probably one of those bad things, but when we endeavor to understand the grief process, we are more apt to be sympathetic to a W who is passing through this stage.

  3. Correction: "...when you are probably NONE (not "one") of those bad things..."