Question: I am a 63 year old widower whose late wife died 8 months ago after a twenty year cancer battle. The last two years were almost entirely in a caretaking role. I loved my late wife very much.
I was honored to be her caretaker, and cherish the memories we had together.
But feel I experienced a lot of the grieving process even before she died. I feel that I reached the point of acceptance in about 5 months, grieving heavily at first, and now only lightly and very occasionally. In the recent months, I have met and dated 5 different ladies, and one has become a very special relationship. She meets so many of the criteria that I consider necessary for a future spouse—it is not just physical, not just that loving feeling (definitely there), but also oh so many compatibilities between us.
After their mom died, I told my 4 kids (all grown and in their own homes) that I would wait at least the traditional 1 year period before making any new commitments. I have told them about my new love interest, have arranged time for each of them to meet her. I told them I would welcome their opinions, but I have also made it clear that after the year is up, they would not be in any sort of “veto” position.
So my dilemma is this. My youngest (23 year old girl, living on her own and attending college) is telling me I am moving too fast, that even after the year is up she will be very uncomfortable with even an engagement. She is sure to point out that she is not negative on my girlfriend, but just negative on my even considering love and marriage at this point (actually I would not consider having an actual wedding for at least another 6 months). I am listening and telling my daughter that I understand but also that I feel after the promised year it will be my decision to make for myself.
The idea of being told I must wait well beyond the year is tough for me to take when I feel that I loved and took care of her mother and have had no semblance of an intimate relationship for years, yet this daughter is trying to put a roadblock in place against my remarriage. Is the one year wait enough if my girlfriend and I are “meant for each other”? Should I give my daughter any power in this situation? How do I proceed without alienating my daughter, who now is opting out of any further activities that include my girlfriend? HELP !!!!
Alyssa Johnson, The Smart Way to Re-Do Your “I Do”
Hi Walt and thanks for posting,
I think there are several things going on here…
First and foremost with your daughter
I’m glad you feel you have grieved and are ready to move forward. But it doesn’t sound like your daughter is there yet. Everyone grieves at their own pace. I’m not saying you must wait until your daughter catches up with you, but rather this may be the reason for her negativity. It’s not uncommon for adult children to be uncomfortable with parents remarrying – especially after a death.
Try to talk openly with your daughter about the grief you experienced and the love you had for her mother. Be sure she knows how much you cared for her. She may feel you are dishonoring her mother’s memory by being in a new relationship so soon. At 23, she’s probably still rather naive about relationships. Be upfront with her about the loneliness you experienced and your desire for a companion.
Issue of 1 year
No matter what someone’s life situation is, I always recommend people date for 2 years before marrying. You don’t truly start seeing someone for who they really are until you’ve been together at least 18 months. We can put on a good show for that long. Also, emotions are just too high before then and it’s human nature to overlook things that will be irritations, and roadblocks later on down the road.
The other 6 months gives you a little more time to be sure it’s a good fit. You’re not going to know for sure that you’re “meant for each other” unless you’ve dated for an extended period of time – and you’re not there yet.
You’ve got a bit of a balancing act to work here between meeting your needs and maintaining a relationship with your daughter. I wish you the best of luck.
As a widowed person myself, and having dealt with family members dying of cancer, I understand that it is very typical to begin to separate from your loved one emotionally during the end of their life. It is normal to begin the grieving process well before your loved one has actually died and it is very difficult for family members to understand that process. Especially difficult for them if they were not there everyday, watching that horrible process. I believe this is God’s way of allowing you to gradually accept his will.
There is no “1 year” suitable amount of time to move on with your life (IMO). Everyone deals with death and relationships differently. And all relationships are different so it stands to reason that there really cannot be any formula or timestamp on grief or moving on. Do it in your own time. However, getting remarried is a step you should take slowly since you want to be sure you’re not just trying to fill a void of loneliness with any warm body who comes forward with the attention you crave. If there is love there, it will wait. Enjoy the process of dating and making your way through getting to know each other fully. This is a special time in the relationship to treasure, not to hurry through. And, you’re sure to have some hills and valleys in the ongoing grieving process so be sure to allow yourself the room to feel those emotions and deal with them.
I remember thinking, cool, I’ve grieved and I’m feeling happy. Thank God I’m through that. But, those feelings came rushing back from time to time (how can you avoid thinking of your wife while looking inti the eyes of her daughter!). Even 21 years later, I still get twinges of sadness, regret and grief (and, of course some happy memories too), but those times get fewer and farther between.
I believe discussion is the key to all relationships. Just be honest and open with your children and I don’t believe you can’t go wrong.
Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach, Co-Founder and Director of the Step and Blended Family Institute
You’ve already received excellent advice so I will echo what has already been spoken here. One thing to add in response to your question of whether or not you give your daughter the power here, is this. Try not to think of it as giving her the power. I know this is hard, but if you follow the good advice of giving this more time, we’re not suggesting this because we think your daughter is right, you’re wrong and you need to concede to her. Even if you didn’t have any children, or if your children were jumping up and down for joy about this new relatinoship, based on my experience working with couples considering remarriage or already in blended families, I would still encourage you to wait at least 18 months and even a bit longer for all of the reasons already cited. THe advice given here is good relationship advice, designed to give you an optimal opportunity for success in this new relationship, which will naturally lead to the formation of a new stepfamily.
Also, by choosing not to see this as a power struggle, I think it will help you in your relationship with your daughter. From what you’ve said, it does not appear to me that what she wants is power here. She is simply being honest with you about the fact that she’s not ready for this, that she’s hurting and that she wants things back the way they used to be and it’s really hard for her to see you moving on. So I’m not suggesting that you don’t move on and eventually remarry, but simply try to understand that it isn’t so easy for her to be in this situation and she’s also likely to be worried for you because she only sees what she sees and she may be fearful that you are rushing into something and will get hurt.
Again, being honest with her about where you are at emotionally, that you need a loving relationship in your life and that this has nothing to do with the love you had for her mom, should eventually ease the pain and loss that she is experiencing. We advocate for people to give these new relationships a reasonable amount of time to develop out of respect for other family members, to protect those existing relationships, and also to give you the best chance at having a great relationship the second time around. It’s not about giving up your power. Ultimately you will make the best decision for you and your children will accept it or they won’t accept it. It won’t go to a vote becuase your children cannot make this decision for you. But in the meantime, don’t look upon this as a power struggle – because that is not what this is. Take the time to move forward in a way that will give everyone some consideration and continue to enjoy and work on your relationship even if marriage is not the next immediate step.