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A widow, who is beginning to date again, asked, “How much should a person talk about an ex or deceased spouse?”
I asked eight seniors, some widowed and some divorced, for their opinions.
Gale, a widow, said, “Not enough to bore your current partner. I suggest a mutual exchange where each of you gets to talk about your exes, but briefly. No one wants to hear a running dialogue about an ex, especially if the date involves getting to know your current partner.”
Art stated, “This is how I handle the subject of my late wife. My feeling is that an occasional mention is OK when talking about a place you visited, or something that relates to a current situation.”
Marian, divorced, said, “Too much or too little divulged by either person isn’t good for obvious reasons—still grieving/angry or unwilling to take ownership. Being able to talk about previous relationships opens a window to where the other person is in his or her healing and state of mind.”
Gail, also a widow, wrote, “I feel it is appropriate to tell your date that you are a widow or widower and for how long. Offer nothing else unless asked. It is very easy to ‘elevate’ a departed spouse to sainthood and that should be avoided at all times.”
Brenda, divorced, shared, “It’s OK to mention an ex. But don’t point out similarities or differences in your date. Don’t reference your previous life in every event. Be careful not to bring up ‘we did that’ or ‘she would have liked that’ as that is very annoying. I dated a widower briefly, and he did that. He even told me several times I was just like her. That made me angry. I think he was trying to justify dating me by making me seem just like her. She had been deceased for ten years.”
Linda, divorced, after corresponding with a widower online, said, “I met him in person five months ago. A relationship began.
“He was married one time. He doesn’t have photos of his wife out (deceased three years), but he speaks frequently about the life they had. I wonder if he has gotten past the grief and can move forward into a new relationship?”
Dr. John, divorced after a 21-year marriage, said, “Death or divorce, if you were with a partner for a significant length of time, that’s part of who you are, and where you’re coming from. To expect a person to never talk about his or her ex, I think, is to refuse to deal with part of who that person is.
“Be very leery of a person who talks negatively about their ex. Chances are, down the line, that person will be talking negatively to someone else about—you!”
Maria, a widow, agreed with Dr. John: “Since we are older folks, we all have a history. We are bound to talk about people we have loved in the past, especially if someone has been widowed. It shouldn’t dominate the conversation, but I would like to hear where a person has been with their past experiences—all part of getting to know and assessing the potential partner.
“We all need to be tolerant, but if someone is talking too much about an ex or past love, tell them how you feel. Communication is the key to a successful relationship.”
If a person talks about an ex frequently, it likely means he or she is not over the situation. That isn’t wrong; it’s a sign that the healing process is ongoing. It could be the person is still angry, hurt, or the heart has not mended. Perhaps, with more time, the person will be able to focus more on the feelings of the new person in his or her life.
It’s natural for seniors to mention occasionally a former spouse or significant other. But, keep in mind, people who do could be hurting the feelings of the new person. Done often enough, the new person might leave, and then, the talker might regret that she or he wasn’t more conscious of the new person’s feelings. Have empathy and be aware of that.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites at www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com.