5 things no one tells you about marrying a widower

One type of step-family dynamic that we don’t seem to talk or hear enough about is being married to a widower. There is a notion I have heard from ladies when it comes to this subject matter. Many of them believe that its easier to marry a widower than it is to marry a single dad or a divorcee. The main reason being of course that there will be less stress because the ex in this case is no longer alive so there is no bio moms to battle with, no child custody or visitation issues, no child support and so on. However, the women who have been in this position, women who have dated and married widowers will tell you its a whole different ball game. They are clear that it’s not as easy as people will make it out to be. They confess that supporting a grieving partner and stepchildren is an uphill task and that they do face serious challenges in their new families.

What many stepmoms in this kind of situation forget is that grieving the loss of a loved one is a very personal journey. For some, it’s brief, they seem to move on pretty fast and get on with life as usual while for others, it’s long and onerous. Your partner will be grieving and so will his children. The kids may grieve differently from their parents and a lot of it will be influenced by the kind of relationship they had with the parent they lost. That is why our stepchildren may react very differently to us once we step in as new parents.

So what is it that couples in this kind of family need to know, look out for and handle graciously in order to provide everyone with a comfortable transition? From my work with stepmoms who are married to widowers the following five challenges are common and you will experience them should you be in a similar relationship.

A guilt ridden partner

When my dad passed on, I found myself thinking of what I could have done better or changed while he was still alive. I felt guilty. Guilty I didn’t call as much as I could have, guilty I didn’t take as much care of him while he was alive and more so when he was taken ill, guilty I didn’t visit him at the hospital in what would have been out last afternoon together. I should have been more patient with him, a little more aggressive with his doctors. I could go on and on. The list was endless. I kept feeling that there was always something more that I should have done. If you have ever lost someone dear to you then you know exactly what I am talking about.

Its not different in the case of a widower. They are bound to feel guilty about some things they did or did not do while their partner was alive. They may try to compensate for it in other ways either personally or through their children. For example, a dad may worship and adore his children more than ever to compensate for not being supportive of his wife or children, before her death. This may in turn affect parenting or discipline. He may not be able to say NO to his children when he needs to and this affects his relationship with his new wife.

Grieving stepchildren

Children tend to be a couple of steps behind the adults when they lose a parent. Not all the children will grieve the same way or learn to live with the loss at the same time. Some children may take this out on the newly introduced partner especially if the relationship is perceived to be too soon. Grieving stepchildren are not sure how to take the prospect of having a new parent figure. It feels like a betrayal to mom if they do and chances are they will feel that their dad is also betraying her by marrying you hence their rejection of you.

Living up to an angel

When someone dies, we tend to elevate them to some sort of sainthood. Our minds block out any bad they did and chooses to recall only the good. This means that when you come in as a stepmom the children will compare you to a perfect image of their mother and so will other members of the extended family especially those from moms side. So how on earth do you live up to an angel? How do you respond to constant comparison and always playing second best? All this adds on to the stress and strain of your relationship with them as well as your partner.

Extended family and friends that disapprove

You may endure a long list of opinions offered up by extended family and friends. These opinions may not always be positive. In fact some will be downright disrespectful and hurtful. You may be compared to the mom at every turn and no matter what you do never measure up. Some may make it very clear that they do not approve of you nor do they accept you into the family.

Living in a home that you didn’t choose 

There are cases where your partner or children or both are against the idea of moving to a new house. Their old home has more sentimental value now that “mom” is no more. Its not a surprise that they would want to hold on to it to uphold the memories and special moments shared in it. As the new wife you may find yourself with no option but to move in to this home that has memorabilia that serves as a continual reminder of your stepchildrens mom and this may present some challenges for you. Simple things such as redecorating, moving paintings or family pictures, packing and putting away moms old stuff may cause serious conflict between you and your partner and or the children.

All these are dynamics that you have to deal with when you marry a widower. The earlier you become aware of them and discuss them with your partner early in your relationship the better chance you have to avoid some of them or be well prepared to tackle them should they materialize. In next weeks blog we shall explore how you can overcome these challenges.

If you are dating or married to a widower what was your experience like? What challenges did you face, how did you overcome them and what advise would you give ladies who are in similar relationships? I would love to here from you. You can share by commenting directly on this article or write to me wendy@livinginstepafrica.com





3 thoughts on “5 things no one tells you about marrying a widower

  1. I have been married to a widower for 3 months now and he is wonderful, but I find myself getting angry because for example we live in “their” house “their” furniture “their” dishes. the only thing that is mine is my clothes in the closet where her stuff used to be. I don’t know I feel like a selfish person that this is upsetting me. But I really don’t want anything that was theirs. We are planning on moving and eventually replacing everything, so he says. But in the meantime I am getting angry that I have to live my happily ever after with what feels like a cloud over my head. Like I am a guest. There is a plant that was hers and I thought we were getting rid of it but now I guess we are keeping it. no I do not want to grow a plant that was so special to her. I feel like I am being petty but I can’t help it I really don’t want constant reminders of her in “our” home. Does this make me an ugly person?


  2. Hey Ladies, I have been dating a widower for several months now and things are progressing nicely. His late wife passed away after several years of chemical dependency and ended in a Mva on Christmas Day, obviously this has been difficult. This is a long distance relationship.. we live approx 2.5 hours away but he is one of the most amazing men I have ever met. I am a divorcee that ended in 2 adulterous marriages that left me in shambles, we both know what it’s like to suffer. He and His late wife had a very strained and estranged marriage for 4-5 years leading up to her accident. They were not even sharing the same bedroom for all these years, however they were married for 20+ years, we both have children that are 18+ and both of us have 1 child that still lives under our care. Their home is filled with photos of them as a family, everywhere.. which oddly doesn’t affect me bc I know she must have been an extraordinary lady bc of the man and daughter she left behind. They are truly wonderful and loving people. I already see many issues arising in the future bc I like most, have never dated a widower so this is all new to me but I’m always up for a challenge. Thankfully he doesn’t wear a ring, but he does refer to her as His “wife” and this is cringe to me.. makes me feel as if I’m an adulterous women, which obviously I loathe due to my circumstances but I don’t correct him, maybe I should. We have talked many times about marriage, I am beginning to love him very much and I believe he is beginning to love me as well, I believe it is frightening to him tho, he has made reference many times how “different” physically her and I am.. for instance, she was extremely tall, large lady, large feet and “long slender hands” (His words) and I am however, very petite, I am only 5’3 she was almost 5’10 and he is a towering 6’4 so apparently my being “short” has been an adjustment for him (like this is something I have chosen) and naturally I have small feet(size 6) small short hands and petite features, not the “big lips” like she had, also I have very long long hair and she always had super short hair .. these things are difficult for me to hear bc it seems like “comparison 101” and I refuse to compete with a ghost, I am absolutely “polar opposite” for her (again his words) but he claims that is a good thing so he would never confuse the 2 of us, and also he can find comfort that I am not going to become chemically dependent and clinically depressed like she did.. but still I don’t compare him to the men that abused me and I would rather not be compared to her. Am I wrong? He was abused by her terribly and she belittled him at every turn so it is difficult for me to give him compliments that he will receive and he is very insecure in many ways because she made him feel like he was nothing, this breaks my heart. I want to make him happy and I know that I can, I have much love that I have stored up over the years of my own personal abuse but I fear that he is trying to replace her because he struggles with simple things that has to do with the house, such as laundry and cooking etc. which comes so natural to me, like breathing! I don’t want to be married to be a maid, I want him to marry me because he loves me, he has even said that I deserve all the love in the world but he fears he will not be able to love me the way he loved her? I’m not sure what to do with that exactly? I’m not sure how he could know that, love is something that grows over time.. I wouldn’t think he could possible be able to determine the amount of love he would give to me so early on.. obviously anything would pale in comparison to a marriage of 20+years even if there wasn’t anything but abuse from her the past 5 of those years?


  3. I’ve been married to a widower with kids for almost a year now. I’ve experienced 3 out 5 of items listed. I came into the marriage knowing that it would be hard as I had my own two kids with me and expected difficulties. I just didn’t expect how difficult it would be. I perceived that my difficulties would be from the kids; but, in actuality I got it from the kids and my new husband. I don’t have the support that I need and can’t resolve any of the issues as my husband refuses to try to understand where I’m coming from. Instead, he just dismisses how I feel and says that I’ll be fine. I’ve contemplated leaving twice already; but, don’t want to give up on this marriage. I want to give it a valid shot in the hopes that things will get better soon. For the moment, I can only do my best and hope that in the long run it will be enough.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.