Dear Dr. Bill,
I’ve been dating a woman who is a widow. Can you tell me anything about dating and perhaps marrying someone who has suffered the loss of a spouse? Most of the books and articles I’ve seen relate to remarriage after divorce. While some of the information seems relevant, I wonder if widowhood puts dating and remarriage in a different context, especially where there are preschool-age children involved. Do you have any advice about this?
It’s encouraging to hear that you’re developing a relationship with this woman. My main advice to both of you is to take things slow. As you might expect, marrying a widow or a widower is much different from marrying someone who is divorced. There are far fewer complications, emotionally, financially, legally and spiritually.
However, it’s important to understand that when someone divorces or loses a spouse, there can be a tendency to rush into a new relationship—the “rebound effect.” This can cause significant problems down the line, as the person who has experienced the loss hasn’t taken the time to grieve and heal.
Many marital experts recommend that widows and widowers shouldn’t consider getting remarried for a minimum of one to two years after the loss of a spouse. Since you mention that the woman you’re dating has pre-school aged kids, my guess is that she lost her husband fairly recently.
If so, I would encourage you to put the brakes on your relationship and keep it at the friendship level for a while. I’d also suggest you consult with your pastor or a Christian counselor about the dynamics involved.
Also, if you decide to move forward into engagement, let me recommend an excellent book for you to read. It’s called “The Remarriage Checkup” by family therapist and remarriage expert Ron Deal.
Thanks for writing Kenny. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.