Society's Expectations


By: Glenda
Society has expectations of what is and is not appropriate behavior for the wife or the significant other of a formerly widowed man. I say "formerly widowed" because once a widower decides to remarry or decides to become involved in a committed relationship with another, I believe that its time for him to say goodbye to his late wife.

Does society believe this as well? This Teds Woodworking pdf might answer that question. I have come to the conclusion that "it depends" on who society is. Before we became the "new love" in our men's lives we were a part of society. As a part of society we were conditioned to believe that we should feel sorry for our widower and we should listen to his pain and we should be the shoulder to cry on and we should be understanding that his late wife has come before us and that we should understand how important she was in his life and we should allow this memory of her to flourish for the rest of our lives with this man. We should understand all of this, and at the same time we are sharing ourselves and our hearts intimately with him. Society is telling us to be OK with placing our selves in a position where our self esteem takes the largest plunge ever. Society disapproves of adulterous affairs and society disapproves of the divorced carrying a torch for their X-spouses. Society tells us... do not enter these relationships because they will damage your sense of self worth. Society is creating this double standard for us to follow dictating with the unspoken words.... "allow your partner to place you second and love you less... after all he is a "widower".

What do I believe now? I believe that society, exclusive of those who have walked in our shoes or have walked with us in our journey, still has the exact same mind set. I have read articles, I have visited support sites for the widowed and all of the resources available stipulate to the widowed and to their support system that it is OK for them to continue their bereavement as they enter new relationships. I happen to disagree. The topic of grieving while entering new relationships typically is not even discussed and if it is discussed the conclusion is... that the new person needs to "just understand" that this is what you need to deal with if you want to be involved with a widowed person.

There is one particular book I have found and read, designed to help the women who venture into relationships with a widower. The opinion of the author of this book and the message that is sent to us is to be ever mindful that our relationship will always be one of "three hearts". Learn to share him, learn to let him grieve or else your marriage will not work out. This is the message that I received loud and clear. I was disheartened after reading this book, so I searched further. Something about what society was telling me to accept, was just not right for me. It may be OK for others, but it wasn't OK for me. I began to feel like a selfish, evil person because I did not want to share my man with the ghost of his former wife. Society was clearly not on my side. I felt as if there was something wrong with me.

Not unlike me, I've found that women married to or dating former widowers, are also not satisfied with society's norm and continue to search for answers and fortunately find this site. Then there is relief because there is a whole support system of women here who validate that your relationship with this "poor soul" does not have to be the way society implies it should. You do not have to allow yourself to be placed into the role of his grief counselor or to be satisfied with a "second best" position in his life. We all deserve to have a relationship that is normal. Normal meaning that his grieving is over and that he is ready to find love again and he is ready to respect you as "his current love" who deserves to be the only person on top of a pedestal. You should not be made to feel as if there is a competition going on between you and his deceased wife. Or be made to feel by listening to all of his glowing stories of their life together that you will never measure up.

This forum is not a breeding ground for selfish or heartless women. There are many women on this site, myself included, who respect that our partners will always have love in his heart for his late wife. We do believe, however; that their active grieving should be concluded before they embark on a new relationship. This forum picks up where society leaves off and supports the fact that we have every right to expect that this relationship is one of two hearts and however sad it may have been for our formerly widowed partner... this relationship is about the present and the future. It is about happiness and hope. There can not be society's consistent tug at his heart to cause him to feel guilty when he begins to think of his late wife less and less and when the love he carries for her in his heart also begins to fade.

Understand as the new partner, you are often times better suited for him spiritually and emotionally as the man he is today. He should love you with all of his heart and soul and you are justified by standing up and saying to society... "I disagree with your expectations of how this relationship has to be."
Copyright 2005 - WLW


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