Being a widow is a rollercoaster of emotion.
I probably don’t need to tell you that losing a spouse is one of life’s most stressful and devastating events (Holmes and Rahe stress scale). The decision to move on is filled with a myriad of conflicting thoughts and feelings, fears and hopes.
No one chose to end the marriage. It was stolen from you — often unexpectedly. As a result, falling in love again and dating again for widows can be light years different than it is for someone who is divorced or has always been single.
At first, as a widow dating, you may have never thought that you could feel anything, much less love, for someone else. Then after some time, you meet someone and for some reason, you get this weird feeling — butterflies. That’s when you realize that you too can have feelings again.
Here are 10 ways that someone who lost their spouse loves differently the second time around and why it’s okay:
1. It may feel like a love triangle.
You love your new partner, but you are still in love with your spouse. How crazy, huh?
It’s not about having a replacement. Your new love is unique and can’t compete with a memory. It’s okay. It doesn’t have to make emotional sense. The heart is big enough to love more than one person. What you really love is the memory of your spouse, the life you had with them in the past.
Now, you are loving the life you are experiencing with your new love and what you are looking forward to in the future. You will forever love that memory and a part of you will forever grieve that loss and my guess is that in some way, that's a comfort to you and you wouldn’t want to lose that part.
2. You may fantasize about whether your spouse would approve of your new love.
You'd wonder if they would even be friends if they met in real life.
These thoughts are not weird or creepy. You lived a life where you probably made most of your major decisions with your spouse. It's natural for your mind to think of running this new love interest by your spouse as well.
Those passing thoughts are just that, passing thoughts based on habit. Don’t place too much meaning on them.
3. It’s a roller coaster.
You may feel like you're in a dream. You feel guilty and then excited and then guilty for feeling excited all within the same minute and there may be mood changes that accompany that.
Roll with it and accept the feelings. Eventually, they will not feel so incongruent.
4. You may feel like you're cheating, especially after the first physical contact.
You aren’t. I know you know this, but I just wanted to confirm it with you.
5. You believe in love and the institution of marriage, yet you may be scared to love and lose again.
This can result in distancing when things begin to get serious. Know that this is a possibility and is based on a need to protect yourself.
Anything worth having can be scary because of the unknown factor. You are alive now and now is the time to live. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
6. Since the death of your spouse, you have a newfound sense of independence and you may really enjoy this new freedom.
You recognize that your new relationship doesn’t have to be about being together 24- 7. So, it’s okay to go out on your own and encourage your partner to experience life separately as well.
7. The beautiful thing is that you can apply lessons learned from your first relationship to the new one.
No relationship is perfect and this is your second chance to get it right, which may explain why remarried widows and widowers are happier and healthier than their counterparts who have not found love.
8. There is an ease and lack of desperation in your loving.
This is because you have confidence in your skills as a partner, as you should. You know what you want in a relationship and you can confidently demand it.
9. You don’t need someone to take care of you, you just want someone who cares for you.
You don’t need someone to build a life with you, you just want companionship. You enjoy someone who thinks you are awesome. And yes, you deserve it!
10. You recognize the frailty of life more acutely than most.
The little things don’t matter as much anymore and you don’t sweat the small stuff in your relationship. This makes your new relationship more comfortable, relaxed and authentic. Enjoy it!
Life has thrown you a curve ball and you probably never saw this new love coming in your life. Your experience dictates that you will love differently, and you will also love beautifully.
The past is gone and the now is swallowing up the future at a rapid speed. Hold on to the now and enjoy the ride!
Dr. Zoe Shaw is a psychotherapist, coach and relationship expert helping people just like you who are struggling with what life is throwing at them. Don't try to do this alone. Join her newsletter list for free relationship advice or schedule a free 30-minute conversation.