Widow-to-Widow: When You’re Ready to Start Dating Again

My husband and I love TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé.” We love it because the relationships are so outrageous. Despite red flags, language barriers and the money it costs to bring someone into the U.S. on a spousal visa, couples plow ahead and try to make the relationship work. Some even get married. It seems like the couples on this show lose all common sense when it comes to love. This is one reason why I feel compelled to share some dating advice for widows and widowers reentering the dating scene. Here are a few tips.

Recognize that the game has changed.

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If you were married for a long time, you must realize that the dating scene is not the one you remember. People don’t call anymore. They text, especially if you’re dating someone younger than 35. You may have to tell the person to call you. Better yet, arrange a face-to-face meeting. I don’t think you can truly discern a person without meeting them in person. You can read any tone into a text or email. You need to experience the person to gauge their energy, vibe and intentions.

And internet dating is a thing. I’m old enough to remember when AOL chat rooms started. I was always warned about the dangers of meeting people online. However, that’s the way many people date now, and in many cases, it works. I have friends who are successful at meeting people through sites like E-Harmony and Match.com. Be careful, but don’t be afraid to try new things.

Don’t feel guilty for moving on.

This is major after a spouse or partner dies. First, you may feel guilty for everything that transpired in your relationship before their death. Then you may feel guilty that it was them and not you. Once you get through that guilt, you may feel guilty moving forward and dating other people. I went through all of these phases. People may even try to guilt you for moving on. I encountered resistance from people in my life when I started dating after my husband died. However, you are released from your marriage after your spouse dies. Even the Bible says so!

“A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord”—1 Corinthians 7:39 (NRSV).

“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion”—1 Corinthians 7:8-9 (NRSV).

“I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us”—1 Timothy 5:14 (NRSV).   

Abraham married Keturah after Sarah died. David married Abigail, the widow of Nabal. The Bible even supported Levirate marriages in the Old Testament that said the brother of the deceased man was obliged to marry his brother’s widow. Don’t let church folks guilt you. You’re free.

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Don’t focus on time passed. Ask yourself if you’re healed.

There is an unsaid societal expectation for widows and widowers to allow a certain amount of time to pass before they start dating again. Some say a year. Some say more than a year. Do you remember the frenzy Disney star Tiffany Thorton caused online when she remarried less than two years after the death of her first husband? Everyone has an opinion about how long a widow or widower should wait before dating again. However, I don’t think you should focus on time. You should ask yourself if you’re healed to love again. There is no timeline for grief. However, you will go through it – some longer than others. Take time to heal. Losing a spouse creates new issues. For example, I’m clingier than I was before my first husband died. My husband today says I’m very dramatic when I say goodbye for the day or when we leave each other, and he’s right. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my first husband. I went to bed the night he died while he watched a basketball game, and when I woke up in the middle of the night, he was dying. I carry that with me. So now when I leave my husband or children, I hold them tight and tell them how much I love them. This is a side effect of grief. There are others so make sure your heart is healed enough to love the way God wants us to love – without abandon and not saddled by sorrow and fear.

Don’t settle. No matter how old you are, how many kids you have, or what you went through. There will be someone who will love all of you.

After my first husband died, while I was seven months pregnant with my daughter and my son was two, my family members kept saying, “It’s going to take a special man to take on all of that. I don’t know many men who will take on all of that responsibility.” They weren’t trying to be mean or discouraging, but they couldn’t conceive of someone dating a woman with so much “baggage.” However, they didn’t know God had already put people around me who were in similar situations and found loving partners. My aunt married a great man who accepted her two young daughters and raised them as his own. Another aunt and uncle, who my late husband introduced me to, married under similar circumstances. She came into the relationship with children, and he’s been a loving father to them. There were so many examples around me. I knew God was showing me that remarriage wasn’t impossible and that there would be a man who would love and accept my children as his own. Today, my husband says he’s thankful for the family God gave him and that he loves “all of me,” the good, bad and ugly, and my children couldn’t be happier with their God-sent daddy. God will do the same for you.

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Don’t settle for the first person who shows you attention. Widows and widowers are easy prey for some people because they know you’re vulnerable. Be discerning. Take time to get to know the person’s character, and if they’re not the one, don’t be afraid to “throw them back.” As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

I hope this encourages you. Share your tips in the comments.

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