Marrying a widower….Everyone loves a martyr….

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Gabe and I got engaged recently in December and have set a date for this coming October to be married.  We’re not having a huge reception, it will probably include about a hundred people.  We didn’t want to have anything too expensive or too large as we have a lot of responsibilities with our kids but we feel that we would like to do a little more than taking a trip to city hall.

We were talking today and he mentioned that he still has not announced the date to his mom.  He is worried that she is going to be less than thrilled about us spending the money on the reception and what people will think.  He has tried to talk to her previously about eventually selling his house and moving on and though it’s nothing personal, she wasn’t the biggest fan as she’s not someone who likes change.  A couple of months ago, his aunt asked his mom where his girlfriend was as she thought that I lived with them and his mom told her, “Oh no, she doesn’t live here, she’s like his friend who helps him a lot.”  What?  He did tell her immediately that that was not true and he planned on getting married soon.  Again, it’s nothing personal, I know that she likes me and we get along great.  The thing is though, she would like to live in denial and see her son as the poor widower raising up three motherless children without another interest in the world.  She would also like everyone else to believe this as well.  I think it’s partly cultural and partly generational.  In her generation, when your spouse dies, you don’t move on.  You can recall fond memories of them for the rest of your days and everyone will see you as a respectable widow(er).  In his case, it’s even more admirable as he can be a respectable widower who supported his children and raised them all single handed.  Needless to say, she is not the only one with this thought process.

During the wake of a death, there is always literally dozens (or more) people promising their everlasting love and help (whatever I can do) to the survivor(s).  As the weeks and months pass, most of these people have dropped off from the face of the earth.  THEY move on.  As in his case as well, he had tons of help from family and in-laws in the beginning with his household and children.  Over time, the help dwindled and he had to look to babysitters and housekeepers for help.  For the most part, we have found, when you need this type of full time help, it’s almost impossible to find someone who’s reliable.  So who is left to help?  Yeah, that would be me.  I find the hypocrisy fascinating, all of these people who would love for this young widower to just stick it out and be respectable and alone, however, they are more than happy for his partner to take on the kids and the things that they no longer have time for, as THEY have moved on.

In the end, he can either be everyone’s favorite martyr or HE can move on and be happy.

 

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Dating a widower….His friends and their wives…

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One of the biggest challenges that I have personally faced while dating a widower is his social circle, particularly his friends’ wives.  I have found a couple of diamonds in all of that dirt whom I just love and have an actual friendship with, but they are few and far between.

I knew things were going to be ugly a few years ago when Gabe got a phone call from his buddy Jude.  This was a half hour prior to me needing to drop Star and his son Aiden off to his sister in law.  Yay.  Jude:  “Hey man, the girls seem to think that you and Jenna were having an affair while your wife was still alive, you’re gonna have to do something to let them know that that’s not true.”  Wait, what?  Why couldn’t Jude just tell his gossipy wife to stop spreading rumors when he knew himself that this wasn’t true?  And so, it started.  The gossip.  I drop the kids off with his sister in law thirty minutes later and she’s understandably short with me as she now thinks that i was having an affair with her sister’s husband.  Awesome.  I did not and do not have a relationship with her to have a discussion with her to try to diffuse rumors.  And I shouldn’t have to do that anyways, it’s not my job.  It’s his.  They are his friends, his people.

For me at least, going into this situation, I feel that a lot of these women and even some of the men felt that it was my obligation to prove myself to them and to make them like me, their logic being that they have “been around longer”.  I disagree.  My only obligation is to be my usual nice self, be courteous and understanding and that’s it.  Just because I’m in a relationship with their friend, does not mean that I now need their approval or to go out of my way to make them my friends as well.  I think that a lot of the time, from reading and from my own situation, the people in the widower’s life completely forget that this new woman has her own family, her own established friends/ social circle, her own life and a lot of times, her own children.  For me personally, it would be nice if they liked me and we could all get along but . I wasn’t set out to make new friends.  In fact, how would they know any of this?  They never asked.  They never thought past themselves.  I have heard this saying and it rings true so many times:  Grief can be very selfish.

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There have been many incidents since that day, that I tried to see past.  Most of them centered around one person in particular, Jude’s wife Julie.  Julie is known as the Queen Gossiper and I suspect she thinks that she is the Queen Bee.  There have been many parties where I was not invited to sit with the women and sat quietly with his daughter Star while they would just stare and whisper among themselves, like a bunch of tenth graders.  There have also been several more ridiculous rumors crafted, my personal favorite being that my oldest son is really Gabe and my love child.  This one made me giggle.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how they choose to treat me or what ridiculous rumors they make up.  I don’t associate with Julie nor allow her on any social media of mine.  The sad part is only that by doing these things, it has really distanced Gabe and Jude a great deal.  By not wanting their social circle to change, they did end up changing it as Gabe is not a huge part of it as he once was.  He feels that he has to be careful of what he says and does now around people who he once felt comfortable.  He turns down some events now to avoid a shark tank.

It’s funny how things can change, he has another friend couple, Charlie and Mary, who have been nothing but supportive.  He was already close to Charlie but usually only got together socially within the group.  He now seeks them out as these are some of the only people whom he feels completely comfortable around.  Death and grief change so many things and so many relationships.  It can make some people become more compassionate and it can make some people become monsters.

The first year in a relationship with a widower….The merry go round…

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Firstly, I want to say that I refer to him as a widower for the sake of my posts, but I don’t really identify him in real life that way.  His name is Gabriel and he is a man who happened to lose his wife years ago.  Okay, going forward….

The first year of our relationship took off very fast.  I chalk it up to knowing each other in the past and feeling comfortable with each other already as compared to someone who you are just getting to know.  I feel personally, like there are core things about people that never really change.   It’s hard to describe feeling like you really know someone and feel comfortable with them and then, on the other hand, there are so many things that you are still learning about them, like you need to catch up.  There is also a feeling of obligation to someone that you have already known.

That first year we hid our relationship from most of the people he knows due to guilt and obviously the fear of hurting others.  We went out to eat a few times a week, we went on one or two day romantic vacations several times.  That year his in-laws were very involved with his children and I think he just needed an escape from what he was going through, which was me.  It was like being in love for the first time with so much underlying guilt and shame.

When I would go to his house, it would always be when his children were away or in school.  It is so strange to go to your guys’ house and yet, you are actually really in his and his wife’s home.  You have the family photos, you have the memorial pictures of her, and everything there is essentially her taste.  It feels as if you’re having an affair and it’s a very hard feeling to shake.  About a year in, we were on a short getaway and he asked me to get something from his wallet.  I opened it to see his drivers license along with a small picture of his late wife right beside his drivers license picture.  I do understand grief as a logical person, but oh, that stung.  There was also the time that he told me that if his sister in-law just happened to show up one day, he would really contemplate asking me to hide in the closet.  Ewwwww and ouch!!!  What are we, twelve???

On one hand, I was in this new relationship that I was sharing with my friends and family and was so excited about.  I could definitely sympathize with him but would feel such betrayal from him for hiding it.   And so it goes, it was a teeter-totter of joy, excitement, guilt, shame and being hurt, over and over again.

One of the best examples of that year that I can think of was his birthday.  We were coming back from a two day vacation that day, (his kids were visiting family in another state) and he had made plans the previous year for his birthday to go out.  I remember us driving home from our vacation and his friends calling him and me staying quiet.  He felt horrible, I felt horrible, but he couldn’t just squelch his prior commitments with his people either.  He went out that night with three of his couple friends and sent me pictures while I was at home.  Worst.  Feeling.  Ever.  I knew I had to be a logical adult but could not help but feel betrayed.

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I also longed for the day that we could have a “normal” relationship but dreaded it as well.  I wanted everything to be normal and to not have to feel hidden but I also dreaded the reactions from those close to him and the hurt and anger that I knew that it was going to cause.  To this day, I almost want to hide in a corner at times when it comes to gatherings with his family and friends, it can be so hard and at times, just painful.  I have found a whole lot of solace in certain individuals in his circle who have just accepted me and loved me unconditionally and that is one of the ways that I can still keep going and have hope for a “normal” life.

How it all began….How I unintentionally rekindled an old romance and began a relationship with a widower…

When I was 19 years old, I had a boyfriend whom I was madly in love with.  He was handsome, smart, funny and hardworking but he was also very young as well.  We were in a relationship for about two years when the day came that he butt dialed me and I very dramatically discovered that I was not the only girlfriend he had.   I was devastated.  I was also very young and dramatic.  Following that day ensued throwing out anything he owned that was in my possession and plenty of screaming matches and tears.

Moving forward, we both married other people, had children and wished each other well.  I would hear about him through a string of mutual friends and a phone call years later when his dad was seriously ill and he needed help navigating insurance programs as it was my line of business.

I divorced almost ten years ago and have been a single mom to my three boys since then.  I have dated and been in a relationship that did not work out since then but to be honest, it never even crossed my mind that I would ever run into this guy again.  Until one day….I’m scrolling through my usual Facebook feed and a mutual friend posted that his wife passed away. She was only thirty eight years old.  I was shocked and heartbroken for him and their children.  I sent him a text to see if they were okay.  Obviously they were not, I left him with the usual, “I’m here if you need anything” and left it at that.  In the weeks that followed, I thought about them a lot.  We had a phone conversation a few weeks later when things settled down a bit for him and agreed to meet for lunch before he returned from leave to work.

Fast forward a few months and he picks me up from work for lunch one day.  I had not seen him in over fifteen years.  He looked tired but surprisingly, he looked like the same guy I knew all of those years ago.  I surprised myself when I suddenly felt nervous there in the car with him.  We decided on Corner Bakery and sat down to eat and chat.  We talked about how he was feeling, how the kids were and how he was planning on juggling everything on his own.  He has always been an extremely resilient person who at least pretends not to dwell on things for too long and would rather turn the subject to the other person instead of himself in order to avoid looking weak.  He dropped me back off at work two hours later, we hugged and said goodbye.

Following that day at lunch, suddenly, this person that I almost never thought about for so many years was constantly on my mind and I didn’t want him to be.   We’re suddenly texting daily and I was anticipating hearing from him although I knew I was being crazy.  A week following lunch, he sent me a text, typical him style, “Hey, why don’t you let me take you on a real date out to dinner?”  And so it began……