Monday, March 1, 2010

Putting your GOW/WOW Needs On The Back Burner

GOWs walk a fine line between getting their issues addressed and not wanting to burden their poor grief-weary Ws. On one hand, you want to be compassionate, respectful, and caring. On the other hand, doing so means your GOW needs take a back burner, and you start to wonder where YOU fit in with all this grief. Then you begin to lose patience, which breeds resentment, which stunts a relationship's growth...not a healthy path for ANY relationship, but an absolute "couple killer" for GOW/W relationships!

Tiptoeing around W's grief, though compassionate, is never really a good idea. But neither is ignoring his grief, wishing it away, and/or pretending like it doesn't exist, all in the name of pushing him towards recovery faster than he needs to go, or just so you can get your needs met.

The balance you need to achieve can be accomplished by following these steps:

1.) Never assume...Communicate!!

Dating is a "getting to know you" time in every relationship. Having been with your W for awhile, you start to become very adept at recognizing your partner's moods. But which moods are grief-related, and which moods are simply the ordinary, run-of-the-mill blues we all experience from time to time? We can almost pinpoint when a W bad mood is grief-related if an LW-related anniversary is near...but what about those times when he is quiet and pensive, mopey, or just down in the dumps? Can we assume ALL of his bad moods have something to do with grief?

Of course not! Ws are human, after all, and ALL humans have bad days. Drawing "Grumpy" out is key to getting him to communicate about his negative moods. There's no beating around the bush allowed when dealing with a W! - you have to use direct language, but in a compassionate, gentle way: "Dear, you seem very down lately, and while I know you struggle with your grief feelings, I'm wondering if your mood isn't based on something that has [i]recently[/i] happened. Either way, I'd like to talk to you about it because I care, and I hope you wil trust me with whatever your reasons for being so depressed/quiet/grumpy.ansious/etc."

2.) Acknowledge - and accept - his pain, but don't "sacrifice in the name of love" unless you are prepared to focus ALL of your relationship's time and energies on grief alone!

While noble in its compassion, putting your needs aside to devote 100% of your energies on W's grief is never a good idea. Many GOWs believe that "Since W is already hurting an dealing with sooo much, why should I dump my GOW issues and everyday life problems on top of his already burdensome pile?" The answer is simple: because YOU matter! YOU are 50% of your relationship, and as such, you are an intregral part of its growth. That being the case, let me ask you: How much growth will there really be if you continue to withhold your feelings/issues to tend to his, all the while suffering in silence and breeding resentment and impatience slowly? Thus, putting your needs on the back burner isn't so noble after's downright destructive, both to your relationship and to yourself.

However, timing is everything. I know that when my husband comes home upset about something that went wrong at work, that is NOT the time for me to complain about our high electric bill. The same discernment is required of a GOW when W is in a grief-related bad mood. Therefore, choose your discussion times wisely, and approach them in a spirit of cooperation. Acknoweldge his pain when he seems to be hurting...but when you are hurting with GOW issues, the same rules apply. All in love is allow him to be YOUR support when needed, too. When you seek to withhold your issues "for the good of the relationship", you effectively deny your W the immense pleasure he derives from reassuring you. Stop being so selfish in your nobility! ;)

3.) Communication kills The Insecurity itemize your needs and deal them out, one at a time.

Without proper communication, we assume waaay too much negativity. Humans are funny beings, and GOWs are stranger still: instead of assuming the simplistic reasons behind a W's quiet mood - that perhaps he is silent simply because he's just got gas (lol) - we negatively assume that he MUST be thinking about ending our relationship...or he's thinking that he couldn't possibly love me as much as he loved LW...or he's thinking I'm fat...or...or..or...etc....etc...ARRRGH!! All that insecurity makes you feel like you're losing your mind, doesn't it?

The GOW list of insecurities can be quite a long one, so the problem becomes dealing with one at a time instead of the whole kit & kaboodle at once. Itemizing your list of GOW issues in order of importance to you, then communicating them to your W, effectively kills The Insecurity Monster...and when the beast is dead, you acquire newfound strength for your GOW journey, add groweth potential to your relationship, and become more of a positive influence and support to your W when his own journey becomes problematic.


  1. Julie,

    I was, at first, sacrificing in the name of love.Not wanting to burden my W with my "petty" problems.

    Well at some point I decided I loved him enough to argue with him! and I told him just that. No more Mrs. Nice Gal, if I am upset I am gonna share it with you, widower or not! I am confident enough in our relationship to risk a big fight.

    I am not sure he appreciated this!!! LOL.

  2. As amusing as I'm sure your post was meant to be, luv, I hope you are aware of the HUGE difference between fighting and effectively communicating. I am not an advocate of the former, but of the latter. I would advise against approaching your W in heat of anger, positioning for a fight. Instead, take an attitude of cooperation and compromise to the table.

  3. Doing my best to do just that far so good. I've been dating my widower for almost 10 months. He's beginning to open up more about his past and I'm hoping this will help him to move on with me! What are your thoughts?

  4. That's a good start, luv. But YOU need support, too. How about joining me and 400+ other WOWs and GOWs at the Official WOW/GOW Message Board, which you can access from my website at :)

  5. I too have felt in the past that my issues have taken the back burner to his life, not necessarily to his grief. He is learning how to be a single parent, work full time, and still meet family's expectations of him and his son. I am trying to learn the balance of his life, my life, and the ability to meet each other's needs. I am head of heels for him as he is for me and know that we are perfect for each other but have some growing to do together. Timing and balance is what I feel is key to our relationship and even more so because he has a very young son. Thank you for posting this blog.