Monday, March 7, 2011

Feeling Like W's Mistress?

Many women tell me that they feel like they are in relationships with married men when dating a W. Recently, a member of The Official WOW/GOW Message Board ( even created a short list of reasons why:

1) We spend little or no time together on the holidays. His immediate family, extended families...yes, even LW’s family...all come first.
2) His inability to plan and/or take a trip with me, even a short overnighter.
3) Friends and/or family members that treat me like “the other woman”; an outsider.
4) No card or small token gift for Valentine's W, either.
5) The LW’s and her memory – and the preservation thereof – comes before everything else.
6) I feel like I am constantly competing with LW for W’s love, but never attaining that coveted #1 spot in his heart.

Some GOWs have told me that their Ws have even gone so far as to make love with them once, feel guilty about it, and then cut off all sexual contact if the Ws were cheating on their LWs. Talk about feeling cheap!

While NO man has the right to make you feel like his mistress on purpose, it is easy to forgive a W’s seemingly hurtful behaviour when you understand the grief process....and how it is his lack of intent that makes his mistakes forgivable.

Some of you may ask incredulously, “But how in the world can a man be so unaware of - and so blind to - such insensitivity?” Most men wouldn’t be, but Ws are exceptions. Grief, like love, can be very blind...and guilt is often in the driver’s seat, holding the reins of control. Sadly, there is no blueprint or guide to grief. Ws stumble their way through it unwittingly, without a plan, and without knowing what they’re doing or if they’re doing it right. They need to be reminded that what they feel is normal, as are the behaviours that rise like phoenixes from such confusing emotions. However, normal does not always equal productive, and there ARE steps a GOW ca take to overcome feeling like her W's mistress (more on this later).

To be sure, most Ws are unaware of how their behaviour impacts others, least of all, their GOWs....that is, until they are shown the way! Dr. Phil says, "You teach people how to treat you!"..and GOWs are no exception! In fact, I can say without fear of retribution that if a GOW feels like her W’s mistress, SHE is partly to blame! It is a GOW’s lack of communication in those delicate areas listed above that lead to a wall of resentment and confusion in her relationship.

Indeed, it is up to each and every GOW to communicate her needs effectively to her W. Most men are not known for being mind readers, and very few actually “get” sarcasm or negative female body language and facial expressions. Thus, it takes good oral communication skills to tune a W into his insensitivity without raging at him for his woeful incompetence brought about by grief.

It starts with validation: a GOW should acknowledge her W’s grief in a way which conveys to him that he is not being blamed, resented, or otherwise scolded for his actions/inactions. She should actually take the guilt burden off of him by offering her understanding, informing him how she knows that grief can render a W selfishly myopic and sorely out of tune with anyone’s needs but his own.

With a spirit of cooperation, a GOW should be willing to give her W a pass for his past mistakes because she knows she must put the blame where it belongs: on grief. She should acknowledge that, although she has been patiently understanding thus far, some things DO need to change.

Finally, a GOW should communicate to her W in detail those things that upset her (see list above) and, using The Three C’s (communication, cooperation, and compromise), she should ask for his help in working together with him toward solutions that are mutually satisfactory to both.


  1. I thought this blog was excellent, Julie since I have indeed been feeling rather like my W's mistress recently! Since meeting five months ago we have had an excellent connection - until the last three weeks or so when latent grief has surfaced and he has been in his cave.

    Had it not been for your website and book, I wouldn't have understood all the issues surrounding latent grief and the cave. It makes it all much easier knowing that what is going on is fairly normal and that many of us are suffering together!

    The hardest thing is not knowing whether patience and perseverence will pay off - or is it all a waste of time? It's all a bit of a blind act of faith.

    All the best to you and my fellow GOWs!

  2. I can't agree enough with Anonymous' sentiments, for I am experiencing them painfully myself right now. Indeed, "the hardest thing is not knowing whether patience and perseverence will pay off" or whether it is "all a waste of time." Indeed it is a blind act of faith and trust. Well said, as was the blog entry that prompted the comment in the first place--deeply affirming of my own experience dating a widower.

  3. It is tough being a GOW. I met him about 14 mos after the death of his wife. Not sure if I should continue this realationship. It has its ups and downs and lately more downs then ups. I know communication is a key but when he dosen't talk what do you? I have tried email, but that seems so....Jan

  4. Met a great guy who lost his wife 14 months ago after a long battle with cancer. We have been together exclusively over 5 months now. I have yet to meet anyone from his side nor has he yet agreed to meet any of my friends or family. I feel like a complete secret. He recently came back from a weekend with his family, I asked him if he told them he was dating and he said no. What for to discuss Cindy's replacement? I explained it wasnt like that and he agreed but the comment was strange. Her things are still in place as well as her ashes in the living room w/her picture. He still wears her wedding rings around his neck but takes them off when he's with me. His inability to make weekend plans away or even give me flowers or anything romantic is still absent. So glad I found your site. I do understand the situation a bit better but still feel not right about so many of the above since we spend at least 3-5 days a week together. He rarely discusses his LW with me as well. Not sure how much time to give the situation but am running out of patience. Any help is appreciated.

  5. Anonymous would take up a lot of space here to respond to your issues as they can be quite complicated to explain, so please join me at the Official WOW/GOW Message Board (at my website:, wher ethere is ample space and LOTS of ladies similarly situated who can help. You are NOT alone!

  6. Sometimes it feels as if I am in another codependent relationship.. As if I were dating an alcoholic. Seriously I have had many men want to marry me, but I am extremely leary of the baggage they carry.. Woman are nurturing by genetically predisposed inherited traits of "mothering....NATURE... IT IS HOW WE ARE TUNED... Every one is different and bereavement is in stages.. The final is letting Go... Be leary of men whom have not fully let go...Or It will be your folly.. Honest, trust, respect and open communication is the best... talk.. talk.. talk.. If ur W is not receptive to your needs, then move on... as it is no different then being married to an alcoholic.. I believe a Ws thought and behavior patterns can be obsession , to the extent of addictive personality disorders... Be careful... and do not get caught up in their behavior. REMEMBER your not their therapist... Tell them how u feel, measure the percentage of time they spend obsessing and your tolerance level.. We all come with baggage... If u dont like the bananas then jump off the banana boat!,,, my motto...