Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Challenge

First of all, please forgive my absence from this blog for so long! I had battle dsome major health issues, but am happy to say that I have recently been handled a clean bill of health and am back to my duties helping Ws, GOWs and WOWs wherever and whenever I can, and more often than ever before! Thank you to those of you sent words of encouragement and those who prayed for me. Prayer WORKS! :)

Now...onto today's blog:

All GOWs struggle with grief-related issues in their relationships with Ws. Some issues are small and easy to fix, and happen early enough in the relationship to not seem so impervious. Other issues seem so hurtful and insurmountable, they can cause a GOW to feel like giving up. The challenge is to know when to hang in there and when to move on, and that’s no easy task! Sadly, when it comes to loving a W, there’s no right or wrong answer for this $64,000 question! The dynamics of every relationship differ from one couple to the next dramatically, and every individual GOW handles this challenge (call it the "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" challenge) in her own way, based on her unique character traits (strengths AND weaknesses) and background (i.e., insecurity or fear of abandonment issues). But there ARE some "rules of thumb" every GOW should remember when considering the "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" challenge.

Basically, I believe you should stay and fight if you meet these criteria:

If you believe:

~that there is still work to be done in the relationship to improve it,

~that some of that work is YOUR responsibility and you are willing to try something new, be more patient, gain a new perspective, and work a little harder,

~that you are happy and MOST of your needs are being met, even though his grief issues seem to tip the balance in his favor for now until he reaches recovery,

~that you are 100% certain that your W's occasional insensitive treatment of you is solely based on grief issues and not on "jerk behaviour" and/or a lack of character or moral fiber, and that his present treatment of you is more good than bad,

~that your W is 100% committed to the relationship and is willing to heed and use The Three C's with you,

~that you are 100% convinced that your W is a moral kind of guy who would not purposely mislead, lie to, or cheat on you,

~that your issues regarding his LW are based solely on obvious grief behaviours and not concoctions manufactured by a deep-seeded insecurity you may have always battled in your life,

~that you are in the relationship for all the right reasons, and not wrong ones like fear of being alone or fear that you may never find another man,

~that you can fully and completely embrace and respect his past, his LW, and his memory of her without losing your personhood in the process,

~that you are capable of guarding your heart as you and your W work together towards his grief recovery,

~that you can capably dismiss any assumptions & expectations - and eliminate any timelines - as far as his rate of healing and, instead, let him lead,

And, finally,

~that you can be selfless when needed, but lay your personal boundaries when warranted.

Now, I know there are "other W bloggers" (who will remain anonymous as they are not WORTHY of mention here) who feel that a GOW should cut ties and run at the first hint of grief-related struggle within a GOW/W relationship. But it is my belief that ALL relationships - not just those with a W - are hard work, and as such, jumping ship seems foolhardy if not premature. It IS possible to "hang in there" when the going gets tough, especially if you feel your W is worth the effort.

God bless, and until next time, just keep loving your W....and if you reach a point where you are considering the "Should I Stay or Should I Go" challenge, please join the over 1000 members and me at always supportive and very interactive Official WOW/GOW Message Board, found at my website:


  1. Widowers. We are as dumb as a box of rocks sometimes, when it comes to our own emotions. But we still strive for connection.

  2. As do the women who love you guys, Wanderoke. ;)

    1. I am engaged to a widower since December and its seems that he has taken two steps backwards since asking me. He is so up and down in his emotions and can be very hurtful. He is a good man, but I'm so just confused about his behavior.

  3. I'm wondering if I should "stay or go". I've been with my husband for a year and he lost his first wife ten years ago. We dated two years before marriage. He has called me by her name (once while kissing my neck) in bed and the other when we were laying in bed and he was mad at me. He refers to himself and first wife when he means to reference himself and ME. Tho not in front of others. He was asked on the phone for both our names and said the wrong name again before catching himself and saying...."i mean new wife's name". He's done this alot. At first I was understanding, then mad, then cried and carried on and now I just feel like I have to just accept it though I'm putting an emotional wall up. He is aware of how I am feeling. We have talked and argued about it, but it still happens so I have decided to suffer in silence since talking didn't work. It hurts that he still feels that obviously he and she are the "couple" and it feels like he doesn't consider me his Wife. :( Any advice?

  4. Amy: It would take me a book to tell you what I believe is going on with your W. *hint hint* ;)
    Also, please feel free to join The Official WOW/GOW Message Board for further info (registration at

  5. Anonymous: Give your W a break. What he is doing is simply habit and lacks bad intentions. After 10 years of marriage to LW, her name is hardwired into his brain, and it's a hard habit for some Ws to break! Please re-read this blog post. Your W seems to be fulfilling your other needs, so I don't believe leaving him over this minor issue would be wise.

  6. Thanks, Julie. He was actually married to LW for 20 years, not 10. She has been dead for 10 years. We have been married for 1 year and dated for 2 yrs before marriage. So you feel it is normal after 3 years of being together and her being gone for 10 years that he still manages to call me or refer to himself and LW instead of him and me a few times a month? Sorry to seem dense, but I wanted to get the facts correct and make sure you knew how long he and I have been a couple and how often he is making this mistake. Which also incudes his hesitating when introducing me...such as...this is my wife.."DEAD AIR"...then after a few seconds says my name. My self esteem is seriously hurting here :(

    1. When I started dating my W, I had just been out of another relationship after 10 yrs. Both of their names are very common ones.I said, now after all this time we BOTH may say the others name (Thank goodness as of yet neither of us has said our others name) and I said Just so you know it may slip, and has nothing to do with us. I am glad he hasn't done the above, but maybe the wife should "slip" once and maybe just her former's name. Not only may it being his feelings to light, that everyone "slips" up once in a while, but now he will KNOW how it feels.

  7. OK, I stand corrected...but my advice still rings true. In fact, after 20 years, he may never get her name out of his head. LOL! Hang in there, luv. He's a keeper, regardless of this brain wiring misfire, right? ;)

  8. I am involved in a serious relationship for 18 months with a widower; we are both in our late 50’s and in the last several months we have discussed living together and marriage. Although I hardly knew him prior to our dating I have known the family for more than 10 years including his late wife who is deceased nearly 5 years. His youngest adult child, a 21 year old daughter has been best friends with my daughter, also 21 since they were 12. Despite my long term motherly relationship with his daughter it has been compromised by our dating. Surprisingly his newly wed daughter has been very supportive and our relationship blossomed over the last year. When she planned her Nov. wedding back in Jan. 2012 her request was for me to attend her wedding as her father’s guest. Since then, I have also met his brothers and their wives, and family friends who have been supportive and approve of our relationship. I attended the shower, rehearsal dinner and family reunion at the hotel and assisted the bride at her request. I also shared a room with my widower as we have been away together previously and our adult children have been aware of that. At the church ceremony, my two adult children and I seated ourselves at the rear of the church since no other arrangements were made. I had anticipated escorting my widower at the beginning of the reception when the bride and groom’s parents along with their guests are announced, followed by the bridal party. You see, the groom's father is remarried and was escorted by his wife; the groom’s mother was escorted by her boyfriend. I was blind-sighted when I concluded minutes before the entrance that he would walk in alone. I felt quite slighted, extremely hurt and even embarrassed how this might have been viewed publicly. When he rejoined our table, he initiated a jovial toast stating openly to his brothers and wives that he was also seeking their approval for them to welcome me as part of the family; they did so emphatically. I could barely blink back the tears that this should come minutes after he walked in alone. Despite my feelings, I behaved normally and with unquestioned dignity throughout the evening; he shared with me days later that the consensus of close family and friends were so complimentary considering the difficult circumstances. They even told him it was time for him to stop putting his life on hold and he should claim his right to happiness with me. A week after the wedding, he noticed I‘d not been myself. I cautiously explained my hurt feelings prefacing that whether or not they were right or wrong to him, I found his actions hurtful. It wasn’t so much of a need to validate me publicly but it felt more like “invalidation”. He immediately exploded and crudely stated that “there was no f#$!ing way I was ever going to walk in with him at his daughter’s wedding with only 4+ years after the death of their mother” and stormed out. I felt undeservingly attacked and rebuffed for sharing my feelings. I feel like a heartless vixen instead of the long-time family friend and serious girlfriend. We have never argued until now. But I cannot get his angry, hurtful and bitter words out of my head. I can’t even believe he uttered them. He sent a text to me the next day that he needed a few days to process these events. I have always been the one in the relationship who would pull back on the reins in response to his and my children’s sensitivities. I now feel shell shocked and am about to end this relationship which I thought was heading for a long and committed future and built upon shared family values. I believe his actions and reactions are to the contrary and are not indicative of mutual respect or genuine intent. Can someone please help or advise? Should I end this?

    1. I had a similar experience at my W's son's wedding 2 years ago. I was resented by his (28 year old) daughter for having sat next to her dad during the ceremony. W's son (the one who got married didn't seem to care one way or the other). The daughter went on to make a big scene at the reception. W was upset with her at first, but then it all came down on me later, as usual. Although I sat where the usher seated me, the final concensus between W and daughter was, I guess, that I should have gotten up and re-seated myself somewhere else. Does this seem absurd to anyone besides me? There had been no discussion or communication about this (where I was to sit) between family members, with or without me, for the entire year of engagement before the wedding. Maybe I should have brought it up myself, but I was trying to stay out of the wedding plans so as not to appear to be barging in where I wasn't asked. (Other GOWs and WOWs can understand what I mean, I'm sure). Let me also add that I had been with W for 4 years, and we had lived together for 2 years prior to the wedding. W's children both visited our home (one we purchased together). The son had always been warm and accepting towards me, and it appeared daughter was slowly warmng up to me...right up until the day before the wedding. I point this out because though she said she was upset because I sat next to him, she had started being rude to me during the festivites the day prior to the wedding, and very pointedly would not be in any picture that included me, the day of the wedding. I also want to add that I had lived with W, and nursed him through cancer treatments for 4 months, the year before the wedding. I had also scanned and printed photos of W and LW on their wedding day, to be displayed at the reception. I have never done or said anything negative towards his LW, and had always been that understanding and selfless person that Julie wants us to be. Several people, including W's son and his friends, came up to me at the reception and offered their support of me and opposed the daughter's actions. Needless to say, I felt that I had been led into a trap by daughter. If she had strong feelings about where I would sit, why didn't she say something to her dad or brother before the wedding? I know it was a difficult day for all of them, and I talked to daughter afterward and explained that I had been trying hard not to interfere in the wedding plans, and sat where I was seated. She seemd ok when we hung up, but things have been very awkward between us ever since. It's 2 years later, and I am thinking of breaking up with my W. We have been talking about getting married, but I have doubts about it. Every time there is an issue with his daughter, although she initiates the negativity, it always gets twisted around and comes down on me. I believe his (now 30 year old) daughter will continue to cause problems between my W and me, and I am tired of it all. I think finding a new relationship (with a non-W) is more the answer for me. Julie, seems like a very empathetic person, who is more self-sacrificing than I am comfortable being. The situation a GOW or WOW is living in is very difficult, don't let anyone tell you differently. If you want a lifetime of being a martyr, it may work for you. As for the author of this 2 year old post to which I am replying, things won't change. In your case, it appears to be the W who is resenting your presence, rather than his child. You need to decide if this kind of life is what works for you.

  9. Hi "Shares",

    I read a LOT of miscommunication (and NO communication!) within your post.

    For instance before the wedding even took place, SOMEone (the bride, your W, the wedding planner?) should have made it clear whom the reception entrance would include. I'm thinking maybe W wanted to walk in alone because he needed that time in the spotlight all to himself. I know this sounds corny and kinda weird, but I have heard it from other Ws: the "empty arm" he walked in with at the reception (by walking in alone) was indeed a nod of recognition to his LW since, together, they were the bride's parents. I doubt he did so to intentionally slight you in any way, but he COULD have communicated his intention to walk in alone prior to doing so.

    But let's go back a bit. Your first mis- or non-communication moment happened at the church. Indeed, if the bride personally asked you to be her dad's guest, and W wanted that, too, then arrangemenrts for your seating should have been made. However, I'm begining to think that neither W nor his daughter wanted YOU to be in the "seat of honour" next to W where her mom/LW should have been.

    Lastly, you pouted and moped about this whole incident for a WEEK without communicating your feelings when you really should have done so sooner. Would he have been less angry? I doubt it. In HIS mind, he made up for all his "faux pas" by toasting your honour after your table was seated at the reception. When you finaly fessed up to your hurt feelings, he got made because in HIS mind, he made a grand gesture to welcome you to the family IN FRONT OF THEM. As well, his daughter's wedding was probably the most emotional, happy, thrilling, and satisfying event of his parental life, and your admission of hurt feelings just threw a wet blanket on his joy.

    Should you break up with him? Not if this is the only fight you've ever had, becuase honey, there WILl be more, trust me...and you need to learn how to get through the hard times together. It starts with honest, CALM communication. What you really SHOULD do is have a serious discussion about what you were each thinking and feeling that day, and try to understand each other.

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  11. My W is worth it, but lately things have been a bit tough. His ex-in-lawes have been using his kids to give us a tough time. Thus, he is not allowed to text, call or see me. His LW have been gone for nearly 5months and therefore the feel that we've been dating too soon. Too soon for whom? I haven't seen him for 3wks and it's been very painful as I feel like the step-mom from hell. I don't know what to do. He called one night and cried, because he wants to see me. He doesn't want to take sides. I hate the situation. Please keep us in prayer.