Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Second Best

A few weeks ago, I opened up the floor for people to ask Steve and I questions: about grief, about dating/getting remarried after widowhood, our relationship...whatever. We want to be as open as possible about our story so that we can try to bring hope to others. So, we'll address one today, and maybe the others next week. But today's question was for Steve, and he is perhaps the first non-widowed person to guest blog. I'm thankful that he can bring his own perspective and I don't have to speak for him on these issues. And since I know this is such a supportive group of people, I know you'll show him the same love you've all showed me.

Hi Vee, I give you a lot of credit for doing this. You are brave! Does your husband ever feel like he is #2? Does he struggle with living in the shadow of your late husband? Just curious as I recently started dating a widow and sometimes I feel like no matter what, I'm never going to be first in her heart. I will never be the only man she's in love with, and that will make me sad from time to time (other times I do understand and accept it it but that doesn't mean it is always easy). Would like to hear your husband's perspectives if that is ok. Thanks.

Steve: Sure - there are definitely times when I feel second best.  I think it is because I, like most people, want to be the only one our special someone thinks about, loves, or wishes to be with.  When you hear the woman (or man) that you love speak about someone else, even if they are deceased, in a way of love, longing, or desiring it can be a blow to your ego.  While feeling "2nd best" has never been a big battle for me, there are times when I feel it - usually when it comes to things that Jeremy (Vee's late husband) was really good at that I am not and I know I cant give her, or when we get together with friends that Vee and Jeremy had together  and they share moments that everyone remembers fondly and realize that these stories don't have me in the picture, but probably most of all when Vee's grief comes at a point when I have tried really hard to make her happy. 

Before I go any further, I have to say that Vee is really great making me feel loved and has NEVER compared me to Jeremy.  Without those things in place I think it would be a much bigger battle for me.  As far as coping with those feelings, I can't tell you personally what to do, but I can tell you some of the things I remind myself:

First, I remind myself that I love Vee for who she is, not who I want her to be.  We fell in love after Jeremy died - and I realized that her grief would be a life-long journey.  There are parts of the journey that are tougher and some parts that are easier, but its always there somewhere.  I knew from day one that if I couldn't love Vee for all of her (including her grief and love for Jeremy) then I had no business being with her.  

Second, I remind myself that Jeremy died - it wasn't his fault or anyone else's.  If Jeremy was a jerk, or cheated on Vee, or abandon her and the kids, that would be one thing, but he was a great man who loved his family and died too early in life.  In anything we lose that is wonderful, its natural that we would want it back. Therefore, I try to put myself in her shoes and understand that her longing for him is only normal because of the love they shared.

Third, I try as hard as I can not to compare myself - but as a warning, this is really tough! There have been times where I wondered if Jeremy was funnier, a better match, more romantic, a better lover,  etc.  These thoughts can drive you mad and leave you feeling super insecure. When I have started down this road of thinking I try to remind myself that Vee is with me because she loves me - sure she loves Jeremy, but she also loves me. She chose me and wanted to spend the rest of her life with me - and she is a pretty incredible woman, so that makes me a pretty blessed guy!

Some food for thought:  I have looked for resources for guys dating or marrying widows (especially young widows) but haven't found much.  Because there is not much help or advice out there, my best advice is to be as open and honest as you can with the girl you are dating.  If there are things that make you feel inferior then be honest and try to work through those things together. 

I hope that helps!     


  1. You are an incredible guy to write from your heart. As the widowed, I can say that I often wondered how the person on the other end must feel. You should be the one to write a book on your journey, It would be incredibly helpful to us widows and those who love us. I guy my advice to any one who is dating a widow is something that keeps playing in my head, no matter how much we loved the deceased, you can not have a relationship with a dead man! So one of the biggest advantages you have as a person is that you are alive and here for the widowed person. As a widow I must say that you are lucky to be with one of us, because we get what could be lost tomorrow and can appreciate the things others always take for granted- if you are lost to her it will hurt just as much if not more, because you were wonderful enough to come and share your life despite her status as a widow.

  2. That does help, thank you. In most of this it seems like open communication is key. It can be hard to communicate about my insecurities though while she is having a "grief spell". What I am feeling is important, but always seems to be in the shadow of what she has been through. She has never said that to me, now that I think about it though. I guess I need to assert that more and stop assuming thoughts for her. I do wish there were more resources for dating a young widow. I've looked also and found not much. Thanks again Steve.

  3. Thanks for this Steve.
    I've started seeing a guy and this helps me think about the things he may be feeling in dating me.

    Gives me a little more perspective and reinforces the fact that it's not always about me - the poor widow.

  4. I have the somewhat unique perspective of having both been married to a widow as well as being a widower myself. And while it does sadden me to hear so many (as of last count, seven) women tell me in all seriousness, "I would never date a widower because I'd never be able to trust him when he says that I'm the one he really wants to be with," I think I have a pretty good handle on it.

    We have to first stop looking at relationships as a "storybook ending" kind of thing; that is, *nobody* gets a "happily ever after." I know that sounds kind of depressing, but the reality is that all relationships end in parting; one of you will go before the other, even if it's by just a few seconds, because that's how life works. But however much time the survivor has, their life hasn't ended, nor should they let it end. But how do you reconcile your loss enough to do this without feeling like you're betraying the memory of the loved one?

    First, by recognizing that, because they loved you, they would not want you to suffer. They would not feel very good about your sacrificing the rest of your life in homage to what you shared. (Turn the tables, would you feel good about your partner choosing to suffer without love for the rest of their life if it was you who'd died?) It's not an insult to their memory to want to be loved again; if anything, it's honoring the fact that, being with them was so gratifying that you're willing to go through all the same relationship growing pains with someone else in order to have a *chance* at feeling that again.

    Second, because there is no such thing as a "happy ending," we can look at the relationship as a linear thing. Think of your life as a book, and different stages of your life as chapters in that book. The time you spent with your partner was one chapter, but that chapter is done, and it's time to turn the page to the next chapter. You might have fond memories that one chapter was pretty awesome, but in reading a book, you always move forward, never backward. And if in a different chapter you fall in love again, well, that person is your true love for *that* chapter, just as the lost love was your true love for an earlier chapter.

    Finally, by realizing that you aren't same person as you were before. You can't be; you're a widow/er now. The very act of becoming that changes you in ways that we cannot even really describe to people who haven't been through it. You're older, wiser, maybe a little sadder, maybe a little more cautious and aware, but you're not the same person. So if you're ever confronted with the dreaded (and ultimately pointless) "Who would you choose?" question, realize that the correct answer is, "Present me would choose you; past me would choose him/her." Why? Because that's exactly how it happened.

    I realize that I talk from the perspective of a widower looking to love again, but the perspectives here also work for the prospective paramour who isn't sure that a widow/er *can* love again. We can. It's not a competition. You're not a replacement. No one is "second best." Who's better? The '85 Bears or the '78 Steelers? No idea. Two different eras. Two different ways the game was played. Both champions. And that's the way we wids look at it: yes, you're both different, but so are we. And because of that, we can honestly say that both of you are our true love.

    1. Thank you so much for this post. I was grappling with these same issues in my head for the past couple days. I glad your response was so elegantly scribe and I will move forward in my grief journey with this new knowledge.

  5. Steve, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insight from the other side of this grief journey. I'm thinking about dating, but I can't help but wonder, "who would want to date me." I mean, I'm a good person and all. But, geez, the baggage we have! (Or precious cargo, as a friend calls it.) I keep thinking that it's going to have to be a pretty amazing man to get involved with a widow who spent 30 years with a good man and still loves and misses him. That's gotta be tough to compete with. Lucky for Vee, it sounds like she found one, so there must be one out there for me, too. I just have to find him.

  6. I think this is a wonderful post. Michael will be gone 3 years next month and was sick a year before that (and I knew that chances were that he would not live out the year). Unlike Bogie, I don't think of "Who would want me?" but who would I want. The answer comes back Michael every time. His love for me was something close to perfection and that's not post-death rewriting history. I knew it and appreciated it when he was here. He was always there for me and never once made me cry or feel bad. He was a strong and loving man. He cared for me in a way I have never been cared for and I miss his presence terribly--still. Every single person I meet is "not Michael" and I really applaud those who can move on even to a dating stage, let alone get into another relationship. And I applaud those partners who can allow the grief and the tough times of the widow or widower and understand. Thank you for sharing here.

  7. I'm former widow married to a former widower. And anything you wouldn't tolerate from a divorced man DON'T tolerate from a widower!! Some men don't choose divorce because their wives leave them! Would you tolerate him longing for his ex who left him? NO! There's only one number one. Remember the deceased with kind regard like you would an old beau. But no longing, etc. Yuk!

    1. Our Widow's Voice blogs have moved to the Soaring Spirits web site. You'll find current blog posts there: