When someone asks me how I met my husband, I have an automatic reaction: pit in my stomach and anxiety. What do I say? How much do I disclose? Because the thing is, we don’t have the “typical” love story. We didn’t meet at a college bookstore during our freshman year. I didn’t notice him at a bar one fateful Tuesday night.
My husband is a widower.
We knew each other through work. After his late wife passed away, what started as a friendship over time turned into something more. It’s not the typical love story. It’s beautiful and real, yet also etched with pain and darkness. When we first started dating, I would search the internet for advice on dating someone that has lost a spouse, but didn’t find much that was helpful to me. Even today, I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I have learned a few things about dating and marrying a widower…
Don’t play the comparison game.
Please, please do not compare yourself to her. Comparing will only drive you crazy, and it may even drive you away from him (or drive him away from you). I did this for a long time. “She was prettier than me… He’s probably thinking about that right now as he’s looking at me. He married her, so that means that she was his one true love and that I am the back-up plan.”
No, you are not the back-up plan. My husband has described it to me as almost “starting over.” In many ways, his life ended that night. But then he found a new life to build with me. No better or worse than the last — just different. He had room in his heart for both of us.
Be prepared for judgment.
Not everyone in your lives is going to support your relationship. And that’s okay. If you are like me (a people pleaser), this part will be very difficult sometimes. Whoever the person is, make peace with the fact that they are on their own emotional journey and remember that it may not even have anything to do with you personally. If it’s someone from his late wife’s life, take a moment and think about how much pain you would be in if you lost a loved one. Maybe someday their feelings will change…maybe they won’t. Either way, it’s out of your control.
You may both be judged by the timing of your relationship, no matter how much time has passed. There is no official guidebook on how to grieve and live life after a loss. Do not let other people dictate the rules of your relationship for you and try not to let their opinions affect your feelings. No one has the right to judge a situation like this (but they will). Rise above it and put all of your energy and focus into your relationship.
Get support for yourself when you need it.
I did not do much of this…for a long time. I think that I was afraid to admit when things got tough because I didn’t want to hear any “I told you so’s” from the people that were concerned about me getting hurt by being with a widower. I also felt guilty about expressing my emotions because I didn’t think that I had a right to feel upset about anything, considering all that my husband had been through. So instead, I kept most of my feelings inside, which usually meant driving to an empty parking lot at night and bawling my eyes out for ten minutes.
Find people in your life that will just listen and allow them do that for you. Looking back, I know that I had people like this in my life but I was too afraid to open up. Keeping all of those feelings inside can eventually lead to resentment, which will only hurt your relationship.
When things get hard, focus on the love and have faith.
There is a reason that you are with this person. There is a reason that you are holding on so tight to make it work. Yes, there will be challenges. But there will also be many blessings and much to be thankful for. Today, my husband is an incredibly strong person. He encourages me to take risks and to not take life too seriously. He values our time together and tries to enjoy each moment in life as much as possible because he knows how quickly they can be taken away. His strength, encouragement, and love have carried me through some very challenging times over the past few years.
Ultimately, have faith in your bond and in your ability to overcome the obstacles that come your way. Focus on each other and ignore the judgments, the insecurities, the doubts that will likely float through your mind. Enjoy each moment together and remember that despite the pain and darkness, there is much more beauty and light in this life.