Dating During Widowhood

We often hear widows and widowers say, “I had such a wonderful partner that I could never be with another person.”

Friends and family members who are also missing this departed partner often see this outlook as a badge of honor and courage, and so they encourage it. Obviously, though, these attitudes focus on the past, and can keep us stuck there. And the people who applaud singlehood don’t have to grapple with loneliness.

What do you want your future to look like? If indeed you had a great partner, it means that you know how to be a great partner as well, and there is likely another satisfying relationship out there.

It can be a difficult transition, but we’ve had great success with a couple of therapeutic interventions that we have used with clients who had these feelings of disloyalty.

Here is an exercise we have found useful to deal with the feelings of being disloyal to a deceased partner and pursuing a new relationship. We sometimes need a way to resolve these feelings. The exercise helps to process our feelings and remind us that life is for living.

Exploring Dating During Widowhood

Write a letter to your former partner, telling him how you are feeling without them and stating that you have a desire to find another relationship.

Now reverse rolls and write a letter from them responding as you think they might. Continue the process until you feel some resolution. You might be surprised what comes up.

If you prefer conversation to writing, use the same ack-and-forth process with a pair of chairs. Talk to the imagined person in a chair that you place face-to-face with you. Then switch chairs to respond as your absent partner.

Excerpted from Open to Love: The Secrets of Senior Dating: Dr. Gloria Horsley, Dr. Frank Powers: 9781957616575: Books.


Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Frank Powers

Dr. Gloria Horsley, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical nurse specialist. She is the president and cofounder of the Open to Hope Foundation and co-hosts the award-winning “Open to Hope” cable TV and internet podcast. She has co-authored 10 books. She is a member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council and serves on the advisory boards for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation. Gloria was widowed after 60 years of marriage and has four children, including a deceased son, and 10 grandchildren. She and her partner Dr. Frank Powers currently split their time between Palo Alto, California, and Scottsdale Arizona. Frank Powers, Ph.D. has been a licensed psychologist in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the last 30 years. He served as the chairman of the Psychiatric Security Review Board for the State of Arizona and is a past psychology professor at Scottsdale Community College. He studied sexuality under William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson and received advanced training in couples’ therapy with the Imago Institute of Harvel Hendrix. He has published numerous articles on the subjects. He is a graduate of George Williams College and holds master’s degrees from Arizona State University and Columbia University and a doctorate in psychology from Union Institute. He is an award-winning sculptor and in his spare time he enjoys golf, pickleball, and tennis. Frank has two stepdaughters and one step-grandson from a previous marriage.

More Articles Written by Dr. Gloria Horsley