[Two Pronged] Recently widowed – when to start dating again?
I recently lost my husband due to a medical episode (brain aneurysm, 3 months ago), he was only 37 years old with us being married for 10 years, leaving me a beautiful nine year old son.
Recently, I have received invitations to date or go out to dinner from male friends. I have politely declined all of these with the thought that it is too soon for me to be seen out in social circles. While tongues would definitely wag if they do see me out, especially with another man, others are not shy to ask if and when I will remarry.
When is the "acceptable" time for me to socialize again – not only to date but also to go out with my girl friends?
Thank you for your letter.
The etiquette surrounding mourning varies from country to country and also from generation to generation. For example, some southern European women are reduced to wearing black for the rest of their days and never remarrying, and some Indian women join their dead husbands on their funeral pyres.
The advent of socially acceptable divorce (or, here, the murkier waters of annulments, legal separations, second families etc. which for some arcane reason the bishops think preferable to divorce) changed things forever and the rules became very much more flexible, though not everywhere, of course.
Today in this country there seem to be at least five major influences on widows' behavior: respect for the memory of the deceased, family pressures, the impact on the children, perceived societal expectations and of course the needs of the widow herself. The degree to which these actually affect behavior depends on the character of the widow.
For every woman who honors the memory of her dead husband by never looking at another man, there is another whose long and happy marriage ended with her dying husband telling her to enjoy the rest of her life by remarrying.
Some families, friends and children urge the widow to get out there and start dating again. Others expect her to put the departed on a figurative pedestal and honor him daily via abstinence.
The age of the children is also important, and not everyone is prepared to expose them to meeting a series of 'uncles' (there are of course endless ways of avoiding this). Local customs may also impact – if all of a widow's friends readily submit to a life of celibacy, or alternatively dance on the grave of the departed two weeks after he dies, the path of least resistance is to conform.
But by far the most important factor is what the widow herself wants. She has to balance the expectations of family, friends and local society, plus the effect on any children, as against her own needs, which may include her desire for companionship and sex.
Clearly the strong-willed will go their own way, regardless of external pressures, while the more pliant will likely accept the views of the majority. In addition, the younger the widow, the more likely she will start dating again and remarry.
You are still young and clearly intend to socialize and date in due course. So the answer to your question, Kate, lies within you. What are the priorities in your life? What do you want? Are you willing to subordinate your own wishes to those of anyone else? And if so, for how long? Only you can answer this but from the tone of your letter it seems that you are ready to go out again, notwithstanding any wagging tongues, so I suggest you go for it.
Best of luck,
Thank you very much for your letter. I guess we should also both thank Jeremy for so clearly crystallizing your concerns to a choice between listening to yourself and listening to others.
Put the above way, people who have vested interest in your choices, even if they have no right to, can try and convince you that listening to yourself is being selfish because it is simply a matter of what you want and why, in heaven’s name, can’t you wait?
But actually, it is more than a matter of what you want; it is a matter of what you need and thus, ultimately, what your son needs.
You need to avoid parentifying your son. Briefly, parentification is when your child feels he has to take care of you as much as (or even more than) you take care of him. Check out this link, and this, for more.
Seeing you happy with people you like and respect in the same way they do you will relieve him of having to worry if you are doing all right. It will free him from wondering if he is a bad person for enjoying himself too. He can figure out for himself, with you as his role model, that enjoying life does not mean minimizing the love you and he had for your husband and his father.
Of course, each in his own time. Do not rush either yourself or him to be outgoing. The need and/or desire to do so will come when it will come. But by seeing how comfortable you are with whatever comes and by knowing you value his and your needs more than conventions set by other people will reassure him that good friends and new people (who have the potential of being good friends) can be a welcome addition into your respective worlds.
Most of all, the way you care for him even as you meet your friends and even date other men will confirm, time and again, two important facts: 1. that you love him in a way you will never love any other person; and 2. no matter what happens, that you will not abandon him, a fear many children of single parents have.
Death is, of course, something that cannot be avoided and sometimes something we cannot even postpone, no matter what we do and how well we take care of ourselves.
Death, especially in the beginning, will not be far from his mind. So give him the space and permission to ask you anything he wishes, and to cry and to rail against fate/faith/God should he need to. You don’t seem the type to give any sort of “Big boys don’t cry” lectures and thank heavens for that.
My personal guideline would be to go out with people who make me feel good about myself and who not only help me heal, but also give me the opportunity to give something back – an important insight, a little laugh, or even just the same promise of a good time with me as I have with them.
Should you meet someone you are comfortable dating, then by all means, do so. Basta lang, walang tapakan, walang sagasaan (as long as neither takes advantage of the other). But that is the very minimum requirement, of course. A better one would probably be: Live and let live, love and let love. And as far as life and love are concerned, no time can be too soon.
All the best,
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