Sunday, May 6, 2012

Guarding Your Heart While Dating A Widower

Recently, a GOW on The Official WOW/GOW Message Board said that her intuition is telling her something bad is about to happen in her relationship. She can't explain it, but nevertheless, the fear seems very real despite any authenticity.

I have said before on the Board that I am not a believer in intuition. Intuition, to me, is currently defined - societally speaking - as some kind of magical force based on nothing more than a "feeling". Realistically and scientifically, I believe it makes more sense that intuition is based on past experience, coupled with the fallout insecurity that came with a particularly bad one; either a bad experience that was personally experienced, or one that was overheard, witnessed, read about, or happened to someone else.

Thus, I believe intuition is based on previously digested fear, and a new experience is tweaking and poking that stored former knowledge to the surface. Whenever someone tells me they have a "feeling" or bases a decision on "intuition", I want them to ask themselves one important question: Am I presently reacting this way based on something bad that happened to me/that I personally witnessed/that happened to someone else/that I read about? Therefore, in my opinion, intuition is nothing more than a bad experience of some sort that set roots in fear that this bad experience will either happen again (if you had the bad experience) or will happen to you (if the bad experience happened to someone else or was witnessed/read about/overheard).

That being said, I believe intuition is not always a bad thing! It is the brain's subconscious way of protecting you from a possible disaster. It is a recalling of information stored long ago that is resurfacing, giving you an "edge" over naivety. And that can really come in handy! However, more likely than not, when women speak of "intuition", it is their insecurity talking, and it is based on one or more of the following: a need that has gone unmet, a question still left unanswered, a lack of closure on a past bad experience, and/or an unresolved fear.

When a GOW believes her intuition is warning her that something bad is about to happen, I truly, without a shadow of a doubt, believe she is reacting to her fear that A.) W will hurt her like someone else did in the past (former boyfriend, perhaps), B.) that she has done or is doing something wrong; something to deserve an unforeseen bad experience (i.e, low self-esteem; feeling of unworthiness), and/or C.) her new vulnerability has given control of her emotions over to her W - and he is unpredictable at best - so she feels she is constantly standing on quicksand and never on solid ground.

So, you’re probably wondering what all this “shrink talk” has to do with you, right?

To combat the insecurity provoked by intuition, one must guard their heart. Though seemingly complicated, it’s really not. All it takes to guard your heart is to take W out of the equation and remember the woman you were before he came into your life. You were OK without him then. You were a worthwhile, responsible, level-headed, decisive, happy person. You based decisions on the knowledge and facts available to you, i.e, you didn’t rely on intuition but on solid research, trusted and tried-and-true advice, and proven information. You lived your life for YOU, not for anyone else. Even if you have children who were (and still are) your life’s priority(ies), you made time for yourself…time to enjoy life and celebrate your personhood. You had control of the reins of your life and your emotions. You didn’t allow others to treat you like dirt, and if for whatever reason you did, you didn’t keep them on your list of friends for long. You trusted yourself to make good decisions, and you executed those decisions with confidence. You believed in yourself and your abilities. And even if you allowed self-doubt to creep onto your heart once in awhile, you immediately went to work to regain lost ground, and you fought back hard to get your footing back.

When it comes to GOW/W relationships, guarding her heart is vital to a GOW’s survival, especially when a W isn’t very committed or communicative, or seems to be dragging his feet through grief recovery. In these relationships, the GOW has no other choice but to protect herself. This doesn’t mean she has to put up a wall around her heart. Doing this would keep her from experiencing a bad experience, but would also keep her from experiencing the JOYS of the relationship. Instead, guarding her heart means she must revert back to the woman she was before her W…the confident, dependable, strong, decisive woman who lived by her own set of rules, took control of her life, trusted in herself and her abilities, relied on her faith and tapped into the strength that came from solidly archived knowledge of life, knew her boundaries and executed them when needed, made herself a priority, faced her fears head-on then danced in their ashes when she burned through them, and enjoyed her life despite its occasional disappointments.

14 comments:

  1. This is one of the best pieces of advice I've read on the subject. This will help me keep things in perspective.

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  2. words that finally make sense..I have been dating a widower for almost a year..he is dragging his feet in some areas, like cleaning out his house,not of the clothes and such that was done before I can into his life..but of the smaller things that lay around, and then he gets upset with me if I asked if they be removed..he has asked me and my 2 teeenage children to move into his home and he even bought me a ring for Christmas(althou no proposal was offered)today we are in the mist of another arguement,when yesterday I saw his deaceased wifes name in our local paper,he had made a donation in her name and I was more shocked and hurt then angry(not sure if I should feel anything about it) but now he is mad at me because I said something about it and I got the well what do you expect i was with her for 40 years..the past few days he has done his magical dissappearing act onme..he drops me back to my house and rarely ever stays here,98% of the time we have to stay at his house(which by the way is across the street from the graveyard she is buried in)..i will see if I get any responses to this and if it will post..then can give more deatils later..I am really impressed with what did I do before I met him..lots I have even given up one of my part-time jobs to be with him and it seems he has to sacrifice nothing for our relationship(he is retired so he does not work)

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    1. I feel bad for you. I would like for my W to share things like that and like your W, he can't seem to do that. When your W made that contribution he may not have known he was suppose to tell you but if he could remember that going forward it would ease so much hurt. My W probably made a similar donation recently but feels the need not to share that it was made "in memory of...". Okay, let me just wonder for the next six months 1. did he make the donation in her name or 2. does he think not saying her name makes things better or 3. am I back to being a crazy person. yea, so much better not sharing this information.

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  3. Dear Anonymous of Jan. 3, 2013,

    I am SOOOO happy you decided to join The Official WOW/GOW Message Board! I hope that, by doing so, you have learned that you are NOT alone, that your issues are NOT crazy or selfish, and that you have rights! As well, the Board offers amazing insigjht into bereavemenrt recovery - something about which ALL GOWs should eduicate themselves.

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  4. I have just started dating a widower, we are at the one month point and have become exclusive. I have met his 2 small children and he has met mine. His former mother in law knows him and I are dating, but has yet to really extend I hand to meet(i understand given it's only been a month, and am not pushing at all.) The friends he has at work know we're dating, his personal friends do not yet, and his facebook still says his wife/exwife? Not sure how to address her, are still married. May will be the one year mark for DOD. He seems fairly well adjusted, the first week we began dating I read about 30 articles both good and bad about dating a widower, to see if there were any ups or downs, and I found both, but decided to keep going as he is an absolutely wonderful man. Sweet, caring. When I had the flu a few days ago he made a surprise visit with broth/gatorade, and went as far as putting my kids to bed for me so I could lay down and rest. I'm now only worried about the upcoming event in May and how it will effect him/us. He also will still wear his wedding ring on occaison, but takes it off around me, I know this is a small sign, but him and I have been very open about everything, I told him how I felt, about reading articles and that I was worried about the coming months. He was very supportive, reading some of them with me, and saying that he was glad I was taking the relationship seriously, and it made him like me even more. He said he hopes he doesn't seclude himself in the coming months as he wants me to happy and feel number 1 in our relationship, but he doesn't know exactly how he'll feel yet. I am 26, he is 33, we are at similar points in our lives given our children are the same ages (2 and 5). My fears seem to creep in more than his, he seems very confident in moving on, and stated at the begining if he wasn't ready to date and move on, he wouldn't be looking. I feel I can believe everything as he has been very open. We talked online(dating site) for about a month before meeting, we live 40 minutes away, I own my own house, and he lives with his former mother in law yet. He has a decent job, but is still paying off debt/medical expenses from his former wife, I also read that living situation is common. I know he has talked to her about moving out, and getting an apartment, but at this point it would be atleast 6 more months. More than anything just looking to make sure we are taking the right steps and that i'm not walking into more than I can handle.

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  5. Dear Anonymous,

    Sounds like your relationship, while still very new, is blooming. You are very wise to take things slowly and learn all you can about grief. For you, as a GOW, there is support at The Official WOW/GOW Message Board, found at my website (http://www.juliedonnerandersen.com). Please feel free to join us. Registration is free. :)

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  6. Hello,
    I have reciently started to date a W his wife has been gone for 4 years we have been together 4 months. I am not his first relationship but we are hitting some bumps. Although he has said since he has been with me he doesn't feel as much grief he is young only 24 his family wants him to marry and start a family. He isn't ready to do that yet, and he feels guilt for me because of that. We both want to take things slow and build a foundation first. His family is pushing him to either marry me or let me go and I don't understand because we have only been together for 4 months so he is now feeling awful because even though he can see a future with me he isn't ready to take that step and I don't really know how to handle this.

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  7. Ugh where to start. ..
    Been dating a w for 7 months. It will be 2 yrs Feb since the death of his wife of 22 years. The most amazing man I've ever met. Im completely truly falling for him. I am the first woman he has dated since her passing.
    Ive established with him that I want to be the most supportive girlfriend I know how to be and to not be afraid to talk about her when he feels like it. They had a wonderful marriage.
    This last wknd his sister came and visited and wound not stop talking about his late wife. It was awkward and uncomfortable when she continously mentioned her name. Let's face it if the wife was still here I would not have met this incredible ma!. Felt guilty and hurt.
    How do I approach him with this as I need to protect my feelings of fear of never measuring up. How much time needs to pass in which I can set boundaries and ask that she not be talked about so much. ..especially when fam is visiting and I am present.
    Please help.

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  8. Awesome work.Just wanted to drop a comment and say I am new to your blog and really like what I am reading.Thanks for the share

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  9. Great post. This is one of the best pieces of advice. Thanks for sharing this.

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  10. Dear Julie- I have just discovered your blog which has been so comforting to me at a time when I feel very insecure in a new friendship with a W. I am not a girlfriend yet, even though we have had times of a closer friendship. But I was super aware it was way too early in his grief to hope or expect anything more.
    I have tried to go to the website you talk about to look at and join the message board, but it takes me to some asian website, which is written in their alphabet and so I have no idea what it is! Can you let me know if there is another website you now have?
    Thank you for your great blog. I feel very confused at the moment so it's good to read helpful advice.

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  11. This blog has been very helpful. I am new to this and have been dating a widower for about three months. We were acquaintances because our daughter are friends. When our daughters had met his LW had already been very ill and I met her very briefly. Aside from a passing hello he and I did not know each other and did not really meet until about 6 weeks after she had passed. There was something there instantly. It was about another 6 weeks later that he asked me to have a drink with him and so it began. He is amazing so kind, loving and seemingly so happy which is part of what scares me. So this is my biggest concern. We have agreed that it is best for now to keep it all under wraps. I want this as much as he does but I see everywhere that this is a red flag. I don't think it will be received well by either of our daughters (he also has two other children and I one who may be slightly more accepting) and certainly not by our mutual acquaintances that were friends of LW. I feel the more time we give it the more likely it will be accepted when we do go public and we have put no time frame on when that may be. As much as I am ok with this sneaking around sucks and he tries fro more time together than possible and arranges "chance encounters" where we spend time together with the children that I am quite certain have raised eyebrows. He wants me to give him a solid commitment that I am in for the long haul but I can't help but be guarded because I fear that while everything is wonderful in our isolated little world, once it becomes part of real life it will not work. I don't want to introduce my children to anyone until I am sure it is solid and won't run the risk of them going through another broken relationship. We just got past the 6 moth anniversary of her death and it was tough mostly because he was very concerned with memorializing her as he wanted to and was expected to do without hurting me, I believe he trusted my reassurances that I understood but it was obvious he struggled with guilt toward both her and I but it forced a lot of good conversation. In reading this my biggest fear was realized in the latent grief portion. I can't bring myself to let my guard down because I feel he has been to strong an too ok and has not grieved properly and I even fear that I am a distraction from his healing process and sadness and it will all come to head and devastate me.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated!

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  12. I recently married a man who had lost his last girlfriend to a sudden heart attack. I've tried to be patient & understanding with him mentioning her (and for awhile it became less and less) but lately he's ramped things up and started to refer to her as "My Betty" not to mention making comparisons. "My Betty would never do this..." or "My Betty always did this..."

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  13. Hello there I am currently struggling and it has been consuming me for the last few days! I just don't know what to do! I have been dating a man since late August of this past year! He lost his wife 3 years ago this coming Monday and his youngest sons birthday is tomorrow the day before her death he has always been open with his feelings to me and I have been understanding. They were married 28 years and this is the three year anniversary of her death. In the beginning I told him I didn't want to be a rebound relationship as I am the first person he has dated since her death! He reassured me that I am not! I was holding back getting close but I have fallen in love with this man! He is a good man he has shown me that he loves me very much and we are very open with all our thoughts and emotions. He has always called or texted daily it was anormal.loving relationship. Last weekend he spent it with some old college classmates that have been lifelong friends he stopped communication with me over the weekend and finally sent me a very lengthy text stating this is a tough time due to the death anniversary which we had already discussed then he went into how he feels unfaithful and sinful we have discussed in the past that it is til death due you part so he should not feel quilty. He said I make him so happy and that he loves me very much but he feels like he is doing something wrong. He said he spoke to his best friends wife who he loves and adores very much who of all things is a clinical pediatric psychologist she said he just needs friends he told her he has a best friend and a lover she said she thinks it's too soon! I told him I would be here for him until he works through this but he has completely shut communication down with me I asked him if he was breaking up with me and he said please no please I do love you so much! I am a strong independent professional women but this hurt is killing me I don't want to lose him but I hate not communicating. I told him I am here with an open mind, heart and ears! How long do you wait??? Have I lost him already? I don't want to keep trying to communicate with no response and completely push him away but I have feelings as well

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