6 Important Tips for Dating a Widow or Widower

Dating can be tough as an older adult due to a lifetime of previous relationships. Here are some tips for dating a widow or widower.
tips for dating a widow

Dating can be extremely beneficial for your mental and emotional health as you age. It can provide you with companionship — someone to talk to, go on adventures with and do nothing at all with, but due to previous relationships, it can also be tough which is why we wanted to provide a few tips for dating a widow or widower.

Dating in your golden years can be a little different than your teenage years – for starters, they probably didn’t have dating apps like these when you were a kid. On the bright side, you may have a firmer grasp today on who you are, what you like and what you consider dealbreakers. As a teen, you were probably still figuring things out. But there are other things to navigate, such as a person’s children from a previous relationship, exes who are still in the picture and dating a widow or widower. 

Romantically connecting with someone who lost a spouse poses a unique set of challenges. The experience will be different for every widow(er) and couple, regardless of how much time has passed since the spouse’s death. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, but there are some common things experts say people should be mindful of when in a relationship with a widow or widower. These top tips for dating a widow can help you look out for your new partner’s feelings — and yours, too.

1. Take It Slow When Dating a Widow(er)

tips for dating widow

You may feel head-over-heels for the other person. You have so much in common and have a blast together. That’s good news. But while you may be ready to dive in and make things official (perhaps even changing your Facebook status to “in a relationship”), experts say it’s a good idea to take a step back and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

The first of our tips for dating a widow(er) is to first ask yourself a few questions. Do they appear to be reciprocating? It may be hard to figure out and take some time. That’s normal.

2. Respect Boundaries When Talking About Their Spouse

one tip for dating a widow is to respect boundaries

Bringing up the loved one they lost may feel awkward. Some people say you should let them take the lead and bring up the person, while others may say it’s OK. The truth is, there’s no blueprint, and it’s really going to depend on your partner’s personal preferences.

They may prefer not to talk about them or at least be the one to bring them up and get uncomfortable if you press by asking a bunch of questions. On the other hand, they may appreciate you bringing up the deceased spouse or even small gestures, like giving them flowers on the anniversary of the person’s death. Ask them how they feel, genuinely listen and follow their lead. Keep in mind that these preferences may change over time, and that’s OK too.

3. Watch Out for Red Flags When Dating a Widow(er)

watch out for red flags when dating a widower

While you may be concerned for your new companion’s feelings, it’s important to remember your’s, too. It’s normal for a person to want to remember, talk about and honor a deceased spouse. But, if they are constantly comparing you to them or speak about the person’s death all the time, it may be a sign the person hasn’t moved on and isn’t ready for a new relationship. Before investing too much of your heart and time, take stock of how things are going. You may be better off friends for now.

4. Manage Relationships With Children

manage relationships with children appropriately when dating a widow

If you had children and divorced and remarried when they were still young, you may have run into issues with jealousy and hurt feelings. Your new partner may have children from their previous relationship. Though they may be older, keep in mind they still have feelings. These children may still be grieving their deceased parent and may be in a different stage in their healing journeys than your new romantic interest.

In the best-case scenario, your new partner’s children will welcome you with open arms. But it’s possible they see you as a potential replacement for their parent or are upset their surviving parent is moving on so soon which is why managing your relationship with children is one of our tips for dating a widow(er).

These feelings may hurt you. While you shouldn’t have to deal with name-calling or other put-downs, respect their feelings if they’re a little chilly towards you at first or don’t want to get together for coffee. Just like you gave your new partner time to process things, you’ll want to extend the same courtesy to their kids. Let them have their space.

5. Don’t Compare Notes

a good tip for dating a widow is to stop comparing notes

Perhaps you got divorced. Or, maybe you also lost a spouse. Maybe you’ve never been married, but you recently lost a parent. There are loads of relationship circumstances that you may have gone through, but one of the most important tips for dating a widow(er) is to quit comparing experiences.

Keep in mind that everyone’s feelings and experiences with death and grief are different. Though it’s tempting to say, “I understand how you felt when you lost your husband because I got divorced, and that’s a loss, too,” try to steer clear of statements like this. Instead, tell them you’re sorry about the loss and thank them for sharing their feelings with you. 

6. Final Tip for Dating a Widow(er) – You’re Not Second-Best

you aren't second best when comparing yourself to a widow's ex.

You likely know no one will replace the person’s deceased spouse. There are probably years of love and memories there. But it’s not your job to replace the person. That said, you shouldn’t feel like you’re the silver medal, either. The other person is choosing to start a relationship with you, not settling for you. Try to cast aside doubts that you aren’t good enough or that you’ll never live up to the other person (unless the other person is giving you those vibes, in which case, see tip #3). Remember, you need to love yourself to love someone else. Have confidence and know you are worthy of their affection and companionship.

Have another question? Ask an expert.

Our team is here for you. If you have a question about caring for an older adult or other member of your family—be it physical, legal, medical, financial, or anything in between—we’ll have one of our Trusted Advisors get back to you ASAP.

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