Is Six Months After Husband’s Death Too Soon to Begin Dating?

Question from Mary: I lost my husband after 31 years. He literally dropped dead at work seven and a half months ago. We had been married almost 31 years and he was my soulmate. A few weeks ago, a man who I knew and met once through a social networking site started texting me and emailing me. He is separated and lonely. I look forward to his messages and I can’t help being flattered by his attention. He gives me a purpose to get up in the morning and I feel happier. At the same time, I feel a terrible guilt as I loved and still love my husband. I feel I should not be doing this so soon. I am not looking to marry this man or even have a serious relationship, but I know he is a good man as other people I know know him. But I feel so guilty and cannot really understand myself for doing it when my husband and I were so close and it is so soon. I am going to meet him in four weeks. I feel I can trust him too, but I don’t think I can trust myself. Could anybody help me concerning this matter?

Beverly Chantalle McManus responds: Mary, first of all, please let me convey how sorry I am for your loss. Seven and a half months ago you lost your sweetheart, who had been such a rich part of your life for over 31 years. I’m so sorry. And I’m glad you reached out. It’s important to know that you’re not alone. One thing they never really tell us is that grieving takes a lot of time and energy. I encourage you to be compassionate with yourself and allow yourself time to really heal, and to feel all the feelings (good and bad) associated with the death of your soul mate.

Especially for those of us who had very fulfilling relationships, it’s so hard to be alone, and it is very tempting to want to jump back into a new relationship, because it feels so good to desire again, and to be desired. However, I’d like to share something I learned — “It’s not a bad thing to walk slowly at this time.”

In our workshops, we regularly advise those with spouse losses to wait at least a year, and if possible, two years, before starting new romantic relationships. As indicated in your letter, your internal warning flags are already telling you this. Go very slowly. It’s fine to make new friends, and it’s good to reach out. But go very slowly when it comes to forming new romantic relationships — you are still extremely early in your grief, and I would guess that there is still a lot of healing, a lot of self-discovery, a lot of exploration and growth you will want to accomplish before you get into a new relationship. You’ll know you are ready when you start to feel “single” again, and not just lonely or widowed.

As for this particular friend you mentioned, I’d also be extremely cautious with someone who isn’t really quite “free” yet — if he is only separated, he still is legally tied to someone else, even if his heart isn’t. I would wager a guess that he may need to grieve the end of his marriage as well, and that he too will change significantly as he heals. I’d encourage you to give each other room to grieve, to cope, and to continue growing. It’s easy to form relatively close relationships online, but meeting in person is quite different. You may want to consider holding off on the actual meeting for a bit longer, just so you each have time to heal.

And, I don’t want to make any assumptions about this particular man’s character, but will say this just because I care about you, and it applies to any new relationship for widows:  Be wary of opportunistic men who make it a habit of preying on recently widowed women. We are easy targets because we’re so vulnerable and feel so alone. Be extremely careful about sharing any financial details with anyone. If a man seems vulnerable and want you take care of him, or move in with you, or to borrow funds for any reason, run in the opposite direction.  For online relationships, regardless of how well you feel you know each other, when you do eventually meet in person, please let a lot of friends know where you’ll be, and when you expect to be home. Be sure to meet in a public place that is well populated. Please don’t share your home address or other details that would make it easy for others to take advantage of you.

I hope you’ll stay in touch and let us know how things are going.

Beverly Chantalle McManus lives in Northern California with her two daughters, who have each now graduated from college.  She is Vice President and Treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Open to Hope Foundation, a bereavement facilitator and core team member of the Stepping Stones on your Grief Journey Workshops, and a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of loss and grief.  In addition to grief support, she is also a marketing executive for professional services firms.

(c) 2009 Beverly Chantalle McManus

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  • NLU says:

    I too am a Widow approx. 9 months since my husband died. It’s one thing to give advice to someone, but it’s another to actually go thru. I have been dating for approx. 4 months. I have known this man for about 35 years. I believe there is a plan for each one of us. The choices that we make decide what kind of life we will have! I believe that no one can tell you how long to grieve, because each individual is different and their grief is different. No one really knows my life and to say that I should wait 1 year or 2 years….I lived my life with my husband the best way I knew how. Yes I do love him and always will and he will always be in my heart. The man I’m with understands that. My life with my husband is no longer here. I’m starting a new chapter in my life and no one will understand unless they walk in my shoes. I’m happy, alive and I have not felt like this in a really really long time. So please to all the widows/widowers you grieve at your own pace and your heart will tell you when you are ready to go on with your life. It’s hard at first especially if you have children but life goes on!

    • Judy says:

      I am have been dating a gentlemen for three months. His wife died in June of this year. The past couple of weeks have been extremely difficult for him. I know he is experienceing the lost of his love for the first time during the holidays. He is in great pain. He has asked me to be patient. That is not a problem I care for him deeply. What can I do to help him?
      Part of his pain is he hasen’t told his children he is dating and the guilt is tearing him apart. He is afraid to upset his adult daughter, she and her mother were extremely close.

    • Kris says:

      Yes, I agree….I love my husband…and nobody understands the dynamics of our relationship…I sometimes feel guilty due to the fact that I have started a new relationship only 2 months after his death, however, we haven’t really been more than friends over the past 12 years….there was alot of anymosity between us over the past 29 years…my daughter doesn’t understand…but…although I do miss him and will ALWAYs love him…I can move on. I would have stayed with him forever, to fulfill my obligations…but I don’t know what to do now…I do have a boyfriend, nothing exclusive, but for now, I want him to be part of my life, but my daughter can’t bear the sight. What am I to do? How long must I be afraid to have him at my home, to cook dinner for me….????? When is it OK to tell her…that I must have my friends too? Right now, it is very one sided, she has her friends over, but I can’t because it is too painful for her…I am trying to respect that, but it is hard…I am the mother, but not a mean person who doesn’t care. HELP

      • mkwendy1 says:

        Only YOU know the dynamics of your relationship with your deceased husband. The death of a spouse can drag up everything and in your case, if the relationship wasn’t the greatest, it can sometimes pull up all good memories or a mixed bag of good and bad.
        I would claim to anyone that Mark and I were perfect for each other. There’s no other who could make me laugh more or get us out of a fight nad someone who never held a grudge (now I’m crying forgive me), like Mark. He was free spirited and loved everyone but with this came almost a camelion type personality. It didn’t take much pressure and Mark was a smoker, then he was introduced to pot in his late 18′s and of course, the lifestyle of carefree got him hooked. He kinda sludged through until mid 20′s and I became available and he was….well, a loser. He lived with him mom, smoked pot, was a janitor and owed back taxes and child support and his car was on it’s last leg. But aside of all that, I just looked him in his blue eyes and got talking to him and watched that passion come through via his speaking and writings and I knew he had me back and so did he. I sent him to school and when we married he was officially into PC hardware/software support and then I paid off his back taxes AND childsupport arrears. Mark was an amazing husband. I had my foolish complaints but even with whom I’m seeing, I either got Mark really trained in those 8 years OR this death is gonna be throwing me an entire 8″ of Humble Pie in my face.
        I had it good with him and he did his stupid things to be sure. Got drunk on many occasions but never drove, just irritated me that he’d get so drunk and so frequently and so he went into a program because it began affecting his work.
        Through all of that, I’d NEVER define me and him as those problems, they all served their reasons to get me to where I am now. They gave him time to focus on him and see what he was becoming, which in turn made the last year of his life amazing. He became the man I always knew he could be, but then he was taken away at 33 and seemed too fast.
        But for me and getting back to you, there was a time where I wanted to divorce him. I’m sure glad I didn’t and I think us widows could put on a pretty good support group for young married women. YOU NEVER KNOW when they will die and if you look at each day as this could be yours or theirs last, then you might either do a happy dance or perhaps change your thinking.
        With this new man, who cares if it’s 2 mos afterwards. Your own worst enemies are those who will scoff at the “length of time” and for them to even give me their opinion, I want to know first that they have WALKED in my shoes. And my shoes are not just about his death, but about my health too. The other thing that will eat you up is your own worst enemy, your thinking. We want to believe there is an X amount of time and the pain will go away, we’ll stop thinking about them, the new relationship will be better then what we recall (even if it wasn’t all good memories) and most of all we want people to understand that our moving on doesn’t mean we love the last spouse any less, it meams that YOU loved him so much, that you just can’t stop the natural pouring out of love that comes from within. Does that make sense? I was so in love with my husband, that I didn’t know how I could go on but when you love someone that deeply, you are used to loving and want that to go somewhere. I wouldn’t suggest losing your discretion and going after anyone or anything, but of course God is in control and that person may have been there all the while.

        So I hope what I have offered you is help of some sort. It matters what you think and even that can be tricky so ultimately, follow your heart and don’t become victim to people’s (you need to wait 2 yrs, or 5 yrs, etc). A man who was married for 55 years was widowed and he relied on his wife for everything. He did the farming but inside the house, he was clueless and I mean….she had a child and he put all the dirty dishes in the stove and no laundry was done, everything a mess. He was married in under a year. He had a need to be taken care of and wanted that. Is there anything wrong with that? HE eventually died and now his wife is a widow. But with the divorce rate as high as it is, I’m sure becoming a widow and doing your best and learning from your mistakes, maybe taking a compatibility test, would be good but again, follow your heart and trust the opinion of someone who knows you well and you cannot go wrong.
        Peace to you. W

        • NLU says:

          I agree with you 100%. No one can tell you how long you should wait to date and to sit there and judge you is wrong. You hit on the nose!
          The new man in my life has given me my life back. He puts a smile on my face and it’s on my face for 24 hrs. It feels good to feel alive again. No one knows what kind of life I led with my beloved husband. I was ready to leave him 1 month prior to him getting sick. I asked myself, “how can I leave him now?” I still loved him very very much, just couldn’t stand the drinking. Due to his illness he had to stop drinking and lasted less than a year with us. Would I change anything, NO. I would do it over and over again.

      • NLU says:

        You shouldn’t feel guilty. You are not doing anything wrong. You are here and your beloved husband is resting. As for you daughter, you must give her time. I have 3 and they just recently found out about my guy friend. They cried and they felt that I didn’t give it enough time. It’s really hard to explain to them what my life was with their father and I don’t want to talk ill of him. Yes you are the mother and you have a right just as much as she does to have your company. Yes you need to respect her, but at the same time I hear this too many times. Widows/ers put off their personal lives because of their children. Don’t do that! Live your life! I totally understand what you are going thru!

    • Sue says:

      I am too a 39 yr old widow, my husband was diagnosed with osopheagel cancer and died 5 weeks later. I agree with NLU your heart will guide you.We had no children and spent almost 24 hrs a day together with few friends and family i have to start a new life for myself. I am at the stage now where i am thinking of meeting someone down the track to share my life with but will always remember my husband he was a part of my life here and would want me to be happy. I think all husbands/wifes that have passed would want the best for the one that is left behind and that may or may not include the love of a new spouse. Just be happy and DO NOT feel guilty about living.

  • mkwendy1 says:

    I lost my 33 year old husband 1-8-09 and he was my soulmate, love of my life and my higschool sweetheart. We weren’t together for 6 years after h/s, due to our going our separate ways but we were brought back together in late 1999 and married May 2001. We have a 4 year old son (3 when his father died) and my husband had a 12 year old from that 6 yr. hiatus we took apart. My grief has been very hard and gutt wrenching. My husband was ridiculously funny, lived life to the fullest, our connection was so close, we could read each other’s minds across the room and when I became very ill in June 2006, and it led to many massively big surgeries, near death for me in Aug. 2007, more surgeries, countless hospitalizations and he only became my caregiver more and more. His loss was tragic, unexpected and senseless and happened during a “routine” surgery. He went back and I never expected that he’d be wheeled past me into emergency open heart surgery due to their teraing a hole the size of a fist in his main artery to his brain. He became braindead and L/S had to be pulled on 1-8-09. His best friend Chris had been asked by my husband Mark, on 3 separate occasions, that if ANYTHING should happen to him; please take care of me and my son. Weeks prior to his death, we were talking about death and I asked him who he thought of my friends would ‘go after’ him and then he said the same and said ‘I think you’d be with Chris’ and he gave his nodding approval.
    It only took a few monts to realize Chris was not going to leave until/unless I asked him to. He was now taking over my TPN feedings, rushes to the ER or hospitalizations, watching my son and I have known Chris since we were all teenagers.
    I am the type of person that I think is ultra important to remember with each death, I need to know what people are thinking and so I asked Chris if he thought we’d be together. After his dodging the question he said “well, I’ve been singer 8 years and I have 8 things I’ve wanted in my future wife and you have now made my list 10 b/c you have 10″.
    My health is such, as is my own inner conflict I still have with this all, that I/we don’t “do” anything personal/sexual. I’m ok with that and so is he. His answer is “I’ve waited 8 years and what does a few more do?” He also asked me what type of guy it makes him to want that? So he asked me to marry him a few weeks back and said, “the best way I know how to take care of what Mark had….has, is to marry you and take care of Lance too.
    I know for me, I don’t ever want to explain Mark to anyone as it would be impossible. I also don’t want anyone to ever feel competition with Mark and frankly, it would be hard to not know about him and not feel competitive, unless you were his best friend. I don’t ever want to date, ever, so this helps me with that. Mark always told me he would never want to date either.
    So I think in talking to widows, I see they are either 1-2 year widows OR 5-6 year widows. Some take a shorter time to date and others take longer. I think each needs to find their own way. Maybe the younger ones are quicker? I haven’t done any polls so I have no answers in that regard but as much as I believe I am moving in the right direction, it doesn’t come wihtout fear or questioning myself. Losing that person whom you loved so much creates a fear of going through it again and hoping you can love the next man as much as your spouse who died. I think time is not on our sides when we start this venture and as long as the person you are dating knows this and also gives you their permission to cry and grieve and go through what you need to go through, you will start to see moe of their character too. Best of luck to all of you and so sorry for your losses. I think widow(er)s,need a support group and I stumbled across this so I am thankful for this and what I’m able to share. W

  • Sheryl says:

    I lost my significant other of 23 years 8 months ago. He was quite a bit older than me and he passed away only 8 weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. A week before he died he called me to his hospital room and told me that he I was too young to be alone and he wanted me to find someone to spend my life with. My relationship with him was, let me say, more like friends than lovers. Probably because of the age difference. I am 54, he was 80. I loved him very much and took care of him through his illness but I just wasn’t in love with him. I do miss him and actually dreamed about him last night. Anyway, I’ve been seeing someone for about 6 weeks and I feel like I’m 16 years old again. I have known this man for over a few years. We work at the same place and a few years ago we tried to start something but it just wasn’t the right time. I felt God knew that I was needed to take care of “P”. I have prayed about my new relationship and have put it in God’s hands and now we have made our way back to each other and it’s wonderful. He understands that I still am grieving and will have moments that I am sad but he supports me and gives me that hug when I need it. I am taking this slow. I don’t know where this will end up. I do have guilt about it being too soon but I’m no spring chicken and I can’t waste time if this is what God’s plan is for me. What I am trying to say, is that through this past year I have learned that I really have no control of my life. God’s plan is there before tomorrow and he knows what’s in store for me. I have put my life in his hands and pray everyday that he leads me in the right direction if it’s with my relationship or my entire life. My life seems a little easier since I have done that. God bless all of you who have lost a loved one. This is the second for me and take it from someone who knows, its hard…really hard but God will only give you what you can handle.

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  • Dimakatso says:

    I lost a partner a month ago and still not sure of how im taking the loss,I sometimes think im fine but on other momments I still feel the gap and turn to be distance to people around me and a lot of guys who I know turn to like to be more closer to me.
    I dont know if they trying to comfort or just asking to a relationship with me right now i feel nothing will replace nor close the gap I only want him and nobody else!!

  • Strumski says:

    I lost my husband of 29 years 3 years ago. He was a body builder and only 48 years old. I remember at 6 months wishing I had someone to go out to dinner with and spend time with but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to actually meet someone. I was extremely depressed and wasn’t sure if I could handle it emotionally. I don’t think 6 months is too early if you feel happy and secure. I started dating at 1 year and it had very mixed feelings. Since then I dated on and off and recently met someone who I am in love with. I have a daughter (30 yes old) who is still grieving terribly and I have not told her how I feel because I don’t want to hurt her but at some point I will have to tell her if I want my relationship to grow with my boyfriend. I know that my family and friends will probably think I am crazy but they are not in my shoes. They have not experienced the pain, depression, anger and anxiety that came along with the death of my husband. I have been going to counseling for the past 2 years and it has helped me to change the way I think. I have always taken care of my family and always worrry about everyone else. I have learned that for me to move foward and live a happy life, I have to think differently and stop worrrying about everyone else. Eventually they will get over it and accept the fact that I have another man in my life.

    One last note, not all men are opportunist, in fact the marjority want to have someone to love in their life too. I have come to realize that there are very few men who are looking to take advantage of you financially. Since my husband’s death, I have a hard time trusting people in general especially the men I dated and it affected my relationship with them. I was told by several guys that I had a wall up and they didn’t like the feeling of not being trusted. My current boyfriend is very caring, loving and understanding and at first that made me think I couldn’t trust him which is absolutely crazy. We have discussed my feelings and he is very reassuring. I have learned to throw away those negative feelings and go with the flow. Counseling helps you to understand and change the way you think. Best of Luck!

  • Carrie Ann Marquess says:

    I lost my husband of 12 years on 8/11/12. He was 38 yrs old. He was my first love and I will never deny that. The last 8 months before he died were very difficult for me. He was addicted to OTC medications that he was also purchasing from friends. He went I to detox in December of last year. We were going to start the new year fresh and clean. But as months went by he was having tou me with the meds again. I didn’t know it until he told me he relapsed in June. I said it was ok, I know it happens, but he would never talk to me about his problem. I would ask and be would say he was fine. So when he passed away of an accidental overdose I wasn’t shocked. He had very small doses of three medications but the mixture was what had killed him. I know he didn’t do it on purpose. So after grieving and seeing a therapist I have accepted his death and I’m moving on. I recently had an accidental meeting of a guy who, even though a short time, am really attracted to. It’s been two months since my husband passed and I’m seeing a man I could really see spending the rest of my life with. My parents say it is too soon. But honestly my heart was not fully in this marriage for the last 8 months before he died. So that’s why I feel that I’m ready to move on.