On Life and Love after 50, by Tom Blake
On Life and Love after 50, by Tom Blake

By Tom Blake

In 24 years of writing about senior relationships, I’ve been asked many times, “How long should a widowed person wait to date?”

The most recent person to ask, Arlene of Laguna Woods, emailed, “What is a respectful time to wait to date after one’s spouse dies? A man I know is dating after six months of his wife’s passing. He’s in his mid-60s. I’ve asked many women what they think and (what) they say is, ‘It’s different for everyone.’ I say he could have waited a year out of respect for his deceased wife.”

The women who Arlene asked are correct: The length of time to wait to date again is different for everyone.

I don’t think respect is the issue here. I don’t know any details about the man’s marriage. His wife could have been ill for years while he stood by her. If that were the case, he had already shown great respect for her.

Or, what if their marriage was unhappy and miserable? But out of respect for her and the institution of marriage, he hung in there. Waiting to date wouldn’t accomplish anything else.

A more important question: has he properly grieved and healed? If he hasn’t, he should not be dating. Men tend to date quicker than women after the death of a spouse. What often happens, particularly with new widowers, is that they are lonely; they start to date before they are ready. A nice woman comes along and falls in love with him.

A little later, he realizes he still misses his wife terribly and dumps the new girlfriend. So, in protecting his heart, he breaks hers. That’s not good.

What’s the proper period to wait for grief recovery? Impossible to say. Many times, I’ve asked widows and widowers how long they waited to date.

One widow wrote: “You’ll know you’re ready when you no longer find yourself dwelling on the past comforting. Only you will know that.”

Another widow said: “After 21 years of marriage, it took me a good two years before I was emotionally ‘whole’ enough to consider another relationship. Up to that point, my incessant talk about my late husband would have made any man run in the opposite direction.”

What happens if someone is still grieving and he or she meets someone they think would be a great partner who becomes interested in them?
Here’s where honesty is paramount. Out of respect for the new person, he should tell her he’s still grieving but feels they could become a loving couple, and, if she would be patient with him, it could work out. Then, as they go forward, they can openly and honestly discuss how things are progressing. In that way, no one gets blindsided.

Somewhat along that line, I had a friend whose mother saw a man she knew. His wife had died just months before. My friend said, “Mom questioned me whether it was too soon after his wife had died for her to ask him out for coffee. I told her you can’t control when opportunity knocks, and if you don’t answer the knock, it may not return.

They had coffee. The next Sunday, the man took her to church. Six months later, they were married.”

A friend, Gale, told me years ago: “The man in my life had already done his grieving before his wife died, and no one has the right to dictate what that mourning period should be or for how long. That’s a right reserved exclusively for the partner left behind after a spouse dies.”

In other words, it’s no one’s business except the partner left behind on when they decide to date.

One thing is certain: As we enter our 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, we don’t have a lot of time to waste in deciding if we’re ready to date or not.

So, perhaps Arlene will not judge too harshly the mid-60s widower who is dating six months after his wife passed away. Let’s hope he has adequately healed.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites at www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: tompblake@gmail.com.

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comments (1)

  • My wife of 30 years died 3 years ago at the age of 55yrs. Our marriage was not good. Extra marital problems was not the issue (it’s complicated) Make no mistake! I had done many things wrong in those 30 years and I regret every one of them and i wish I could change them but I can’t. (I’m a retired Police Officer with PTSD and she was a retired 911/Fire/Police Dispatcher and though not diagnosed I firmly believe she had PTSD…again…it’s complicated!)
    Two weeks before she was diagnosed with terminal cancer she told me that she did not love me, that she felt nothing for me and that “you better figure out where you are going to live”. Once the diagnosis arrived, the crying and the tears subsided (me more that her) I was determined that I would care for her and that her final days would be filled with love.
    I did my best without any assistance or offer of assistance from her family or friends. Nevertheless I kept moving on ….dressing her, bathing her, feeding her, providing her medications, wiping her (literally!!) ….barn chores for the 6 horses, 2 dogs, 2 cats, banking, property upkeep, etc,
    3 months after my wife passed I received a visit from a family friend (female) who we had not seen in 7 years. This lady used to board (read ‘free board’) her horse at our farm and eventually gave me the horse since she couldn’t afford to keep it.
    She was upset and concerned about my wife’s passing as she didn’t know about it until 3 weeks after. (I have known this lady for over 35 years)
    Three months later we started dating. It was like new breath had been given to a suffocating person. I always knew she was a good person. My assessment of her is and continues to be spot on! 6 months later we were engaged. 3 months after that we were married. It is now 2.5 years into the marriage. This wonderful woman has brought me so much happiness, contentment and peace. I am truly blessed.
    The down side to all of this is that my late wife’s ‘ family has disowned me, will not talk to to or even acknowledge that I exist. I had always thought that they were my family and that we were close but I was so wrong!
    Her mother, 2 sisters, 3 nieces and aunt do not speak to me anymore. The last conversation I had with them after they found out I was engaged was very upsetting with them telling me how upset they were with me and basically that I was no good for ‘disrespecting their daughter, sister, aunt, niece’ All the men in the family talk to me but the women don’t
    Obviously they feel that I should have waited until they were comfortable with me staring a new relationship. I understand why they feel how they do but it is really not rational. None of them ever lived their lives according to my wishes. How can they rationalize being angry with me because I am not living my life according to their wishes?

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