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Dating a recent widower

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  July 6, 2011 08:50 AM

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It's chat day.


Q: Hey Meredith,

More than a year ago I began dating a recent widower. By recent I mean that he had lost his wife less than six months prior. I knew him vaguely through work, never knew her. At the time, I had sworn off dating and was pretty focused on raising my kids and enjoying the occasional weekend they were with their dad. But I agreed to a *date* under the pretense that this would be dating, no relationship, no happily ever after. Then those pesky feelings got in the way.

So the issue: When we are together, we have a great time. Lots of fun and laughs. We will have three to four great weeks, then he'll suddenly pull back. I've got some severe whiplash. Since we've been together, neither of us has dated anyone else and we are viewed by friends and family as a couple. We talk every day and see each other two to four times a week.

After the latest falling out, we spent a few weeks "not seeing each other" but still talking/texting daily. We both got to air a lot of grievances/fears, etc. In the end, he concluded that yes, he did want me in his life. And he has made an effort to be more of a friend to me, be more supportive of my emotional needs (and honestly, I'm rarely needy). While he is seemingly doing what I asked ... how crazy is it that I had to ask in the first place?

I'm struggling with how I feel about this summer's vacation plans. The week my kids are visiting their father, new guy is going to an island for a week with six couples and their kids. I am completely understanding that these were *couple* friends. He went on this trip last summer and was miserable feeling like the 13th wheel all the time. So, after what will be a year and a half of dating, am I wrong to feel left out on this trip? We've spent holidays together with both sets of kids. I've met his family, he's met mine. I know all of the friends going and have bent over backwards to befriend them (still way outside of that loop). I don't want to sound whiny, but I rarely ever have time without my kids in tow (maybe two weeks total a year, usually in one-night increments). It seems to me like serendipity that I would be able to go ... but no invite. I accept the possibility that his kids are not comfortable, in which case, I would understand completely, but he says they like me and are OK with our relationship.

I find myself wondering if I am staying with him merely because it's fun to get out once in a while and make grilled cheese. I will also add that this quasi-relationship is the longest one I've had, besides my marriage ... so I wonder if I'm holding on to something that isn't, just because he's been around so long.

– when it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad, it's awful, Florida


A: I wouldn't worry about the trip. I know that it's upsetting to be left out, but for all you know, your boyfriend and these couples spend half the week reminiscing about his late wife. It might be their time to mourn. It sounds like your boyfriend is doing all that he can to keep you around but that bringing you on this trip crosses a widower line that he's just not read to hop over. I wish he had communicated that to you, but all of this is so new to him. He barely understands his own feelings. I'm not shocked that he can't explain them to you.

Your job -- while he's gone -- is to think about your feelings for him. My guess is that you're in this for more than grilled cheese, but you don't seem sure. So figure that out. When he's gone, are you missing him -- or are you just missing a warm body? When you think about your ideal future, is he in it?

If you do want him around, you have to be patient. You're dating a recent widower. He's processing a major loss while figuring out how to be a boyfriend to someone new. I'm surprised that he's done as well as he has. All adult-with-children relationships have hiccups, second guessing of priorities, mistakes, pauses, and some weird feelings. That's just how it goes. Your issues with him are going to be extra sensitive and awkward because he's coping with a death.

All you can do is work on communication. Assure him that he can be honest with you about anything, and assure yourself that you can ask questions – politely. You should have asked, "Should I feel weird that I wasn't invited on this trip?" And he should have answered, "My friends and I are just not ready." And then you should have said, “I understand. I hope that someday, I can join you."

Stay empathetic and keep the discussion flowing. In your situation, a year and a half isn't a very long time. If you want this, you have to be willing to wait.

Readers? Should she be upset about this vacation? Should she continue this relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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