I'm back in the dating scene and I'm meeting some men whose wives have died, which is a new experience for me.
Is it normal for men to talk frequently about their deceased wives?
While I understand the trauma of losing a loved one, I believe in not making it a focal point of conversation, just as I haven't talked about my ex-husband.
Any insight from you would be greatly appreciated.
Welcome to the complexities of “mature” dating, especially when someone - the widower OR the widow - keeps mentioning, describing, and recounting memories of their late spouse.
None of these recollections are meant as a comparison to you. Nor does it always mean that the storyteller isn’t ready to date (though it sometimes does).
Mostly, the person is telling you about his/her own life.
Single daters also do this, though it doesn’t sound mournful when they’re describing people whom they chose to leave behind. Nor when angrily describing those who dumped them.
A spouse of many years who’s passed away is still a major part of their lived history - the family they raised, the highlights over many years, and their tough times.
How to handle these recounting? Listen.
You’ll learn far more about the person you’re with than you expected. Far more than if you just had drinks together. More than just rushing into a physical relationship, no matter the attraction of the moment.
However, it can go on for too long. Some people use “the story” like a blockade. They’re not ready for intimacy but that’s about them and uncertainty about taking that next step. It’s not about you.
Best to address a persistent overlay of grief in dating a widower or widow head-on:
As in, “I’d really like to get to know you better in the present, not just from your past. When you’re comfortable about doing that, I sincerely hope you’ll be in touch with me.”
I have a friend in my Dog Walkers’ Group who misinterprets everything said to her.
In our group, we email each other often to make plans.
While we do have a regular schedule, the vagaries of weather, construction, Covid news, etc. sometimes calls for added communication.
At least one in every four times, she’ll (seemingly out of nowhere) get riled up that she wasn’t included, was purposefully left out, etc.
It’s so frustrating. None of us have any ill will towards her. But her negative interpretations are pushing the rest of the group away.
How can I help an otherwise-decent friend stop this confrontational behaviour?
You’re a thoughtful friend. It seems you know this person well enough to keep reassuring her that she’s not being left out nor purposefully slighted.
Yet there’s likely more to her insecurity than simple, logical changes in a dog-walking route or schedule.
Have a virtual chat alone with her and ask how things have been going during the pandemic. She, and probably others too, are unlikely to talk about any personal concerns regarding their partners, children, jobs, extended family, etc. while in the group camaraderie of walking outdoors with energy-charged dogs.
Group chat, amusing stories, doggie antics take over. Meanwhile, behind her complaints, something’s bothering this woman.
Be a good listener for her if possible, as well as a peacemaker for the group. It might also help that, when you send group emails, everyone’s name is visible on the email list.
FEEDBACK Regarding the husband who says his wife of 27 years recently started arguing about “small stuff” (November 10):
Reader – “I wonder if, with the kids raised, she’s now looking ahead in her life and wanting something more. That she’s not happy tolerating what she tolerated before.
“When she was “easy-going,” was she accommodating because she had little leverage in the relationship, or she was tired from working and childcare?
“Her spouse doesn't want to reflect on this. He just wants ease.
“The enforced togetherness of Covid has many wives pondering their relationships - what they accepted in the past and what they want for their future.
“At a minimum, this husband should be prepared to admit that his wife isn’t happy, wants changes.
“If he loves her, he'll commit to that process and make it happen without reservation. Maybe it's not about possible menopause. Maybe it's him.”
Tip of the day:
Someone who talks a lot about a spouse who’s died, may still be mourning the loss. Or shares his/her past story to become closer with you.