By Tom Blake
A senior woman emailed: “I’m dating a widower of two years. He has pictures of his deceased wife everywhere in his house. Should I insist he remove them?”
I asked my e-newsletter readers for opinions on the woman’s question. Here’s what some said:
Ben, a widower, wrote: “It’s been two years since my wife’s passing. My girlfriend has brought up the issue of pictures of my late wife in the house. I am gradually taking them down and moving on in life. Empathy, patience, and love are how I deal with change in my life.”
Cheryl emailed: “I had a boyfriend who constantly suggested that I take down the photos of my late husband. He felt that if I thought it was necessary to have those photos prominently displayed, it meant that I still loved and thought about my husband all the time and, therefore, couldn’t put my whole heart into loving him.
“Eventually, I broke up with him due to his extreme jealousy and possessiveness.”
Kim wrote: “I will never date another widow, because one compared me to the deceased, and I was always trying to measure up to a ‘legend’; at least he was, in her mind. Who wants to date someone who can’t heal and move ahead?”
Alicia shared: “Seven years ago, my brother lost his wife of 30 years after a happy marriage. Four years later, he remarried. He still misses his deceased wife. His present wife was divorced for several years, and her husband died as well. Both of them freely speak about their deceased spouses.
“I have learned from them that even though you find someone new whom you now love, the past life does not need to be buried. It was a large part of your life, and why should you sweep it under the rug?”
Curtis wrote: “I had a sister who married a widower. They were much in love and had pictures of both their former spouses around. They talked with each other about adventures they had with their previous families. When my sister died, she was buried with her previous husband, and when the widower dies, he will be buried with his first wife. In the meantime, they enjoyed each other’s company. Both families accepted the other and were glad they had been happy again.”
Sherrill wrote: “My guy, Matt, loved his deceased wife dearly, and until we met, he believed he would never love again.
“When I moved in with him, Matt asked if I would object to him putting some pictures of his ex-wife on the refrigerator along with my pictures of my kids and grandkids. I had no objection. I felt secure in our relationship and his love for me, did not feel threatened; I admired his loving devotion to his wife.
“He inadvertently put pictures of her directly in my line of sight, so I saw them every time I opened the refrigerator door. Initially, this didn’t bother me, but eventually, it did! I asked him if he would move the pictures to a different location on the refrigerator, which he willingly did. He has pictures of his wife and me in his office.
“This is a complicated issue for which there is no simple or right answer. As seniors, we all bring baggage into a new relationship.”
Bill, a widower, emailed: “What matters in the conduct of a new relationship is the acceptance by a new spouse of the nature and profundity of the widow’s or widower’s prior relationship.
“Confidence is best created when the widow or widower provides an atmosphere that enhances the strength, convictions, and independence of their new loves. Removing doubt and fostering self-confidence minimizes any propensity for rivalry with departed spirits.”
Lynne wrote: “Don’t expect the surviving spouse to ever give up loving the deceased spouse. If not for death, they would still be together. Someone who wants a relationship with a surviving spouse is going to have to realize that there is memory lingering there, and be comfortable with that.”
Hopefully, these sensitive replies will help the woman who asked the initial question to decide what’s right for her.
Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at findingloveafter50.com. To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org.