2014-06-18 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

The ultimate dating guide for widowers

artis HENDERSON

In his new book, “The Ultimate Dating Guide for Widowers,” author Abel Keogh tells about a moment he shared with his first wife’s grandmother, Loretta. She had been widowed for 30 years and never dated after her husband died.

Loretta’s days for romance had come and gone.

When one of her friends passed away, the friend’s husband stopped by Loretta’s house on the day of the funeral. “I’ll be calling on you later in the week,” he said.

At the time, Mr. Keogh was shocked. He wondered how the friend’s husband could think about moving on, especially so soon. If his own wife, Krista, were to die, he was sure he would never date anyone else.

But when Mr. Keogh became a widower just a year and a half later, at the age of 26, he suddenly understood. He’d see women in the grocery store and fantasize about asking them out, even though he was still grieving, although he still loved his wife. He felt guilty and confused, especially when he considered the widows he knew — mostly older ladies who never dated after their husbands died.

Over the last decade, as Mr. Keogh has corresponded with other widowers, he has learned that his feelings were normal. Many widowers, he says, experience this same desire to find love again, often very soon after losing their wives.

“There is no set or correct time frame for dating again,” he writes in his book. “There’s nothing wrong with you for wanting to date or start a new relationship weeks or months after your wife has passed on. Everyone reacts to the loss of a spouse differently.”

The first few months can be a difficult, complicated time, he says — and that’s without the confusion of a new relationship thrown in. Thankfully, he includes a set of tips to help smooth the process of re-entering the romantic fray.

“Don’t make your first few dates long, formal affairs,” he suggests. “Go out for a meal, a cup of coffee, or take a drive together. Just keep it short.”

Many widowers experience conflicting emotions — guilt, desire, regret when they first start dating. Making the first several dates short keeps you from being overwhelmed by these feelings, he explains.

Another tip: Try new things.

“One of the big concerns women have when dating widowers is reprising the role of the late wife,” Mr.

Keogh writes. “Trying new activities and visiting new places can not only invigorate a relationship, but it makes it easier to move forward and decide if getting serious is something you’re ready to do.”

Finally, Mr. Keogh insists that a man who loses his spouse never play the widower card.

“If you find yourself using the loss of your wife to gain an advantage with the women you’re with, you should not be dating. Give it a rest until you’re ready to treat the women you date fairly and with respect.”

And if a widower just wants a relationship for that most basic human need, intimacy?

“Man up and be honest about the kind of relationship you’re looking for,” he advises. “It’s not hard to find someonee who can meet those needs.” ¦

— Artis Henderson is the author of “Unremarried Widow” published by Simon and Schuster.

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