Dating Widow(er)s: Our User Guide

The dating world can be difficult to re-enter after losing a spouse. If you’re a widow(er), or you’re dating someone who has grieved the loss of a life partner, eHarmony users have some advice and wisdom to share on the subject of dating after loss.
Dating Again

We asked eHarmony folks to chime in on when they’ve found that widow(er)s are typically ready to date again. The responses were unanimous: it varies. There is no magic formula.

See the advice from our own community!

Each person and situation is unique. Some are ready to date again shortly after their partner dies. Others need more time. What’s perhaps most important is that the widow(er) is comfortable with the timeline and isn’t reentering the dating world because of the outside pressure to “get back out there.”

Not Ready?

Patience is key. For a widow(er) to be ready to enter a new relationship, he/she has to feel comfortable looking past their grief and focusing on loving a new individual. If the photos can’t come down, or the reminiscing is constant and weepy, more time is needed.

Most widow(er)s have a support system of friends and family. Therapy groups offer additional networks of emotional care. You shouldn’t have to be responsible for your date’s healing process.

The Comparison Game

It’s a reasonable concern, worrying that a widow(er) will compare the next relationship to the one that came to a tragic end. Keep in mind that it’s human nature to compare every relationship to a previous one, but that not every comparison is a bad one. If you’re feeling insecure about not living up to someone else’s legacy, be honest and vulnerable with your partner.

Ask questions, listen carefully, and don’t come to conclusions about the deceased spouse or the previous relationship. The deceased spouse wasn’t perfect; comparing yourself to an image of a saint isn’t fair to either of you.

If the new relationship is a healthy one, it will develop into a unique one, independent of the person who came before.

What You Need To Know

If you’re dating a widow(er), be sensitive to where he/she is coming from. There may be tears and a period of adjustment as you date. Don’t make assumptions about where the widow(er) is at. The “kid gloves” treatment isn’t fair to someone who wants to pursue a real relationship.

Ask questions and provide a safe space for him/her to be honest with you. As one user pointed out, it’s important to remember that a lost spouse will always be loved, even as the widow(er) moves on to a new relationship.

Pain will come and go as your date grieves. Asking, “How can I be there for you?” and offering a shoulder to cry on will put him/her at ease when overwhelmed with emotion.

Unique Challenges: Family

Dating a widow(er) will often present unique circumstances not prevalent in other dating relationships. One eHarmony user brought up the “non-standard” family dynamics: their in-laws may still be part of their life, often permanently so. When someone dies, multiple people grieve and often bond in that grief.

Remember that there may be in-laws and children with opinions about the widow(er) dating again. While the person may be ready to date, their family might take some time to adjust to the idea.

Unique Challenges: Adjusting to a “New Normal”

A widow(er) confronts different dating challenges than, say, a divorcee, in that “forever” ended against their will. It may be difficult to be vulnerable with someone new. He/she will be used to a specific dynamic in a relationship. Be patient as your date learns to be vulnerable to a new person. For some widow(er)s, a new sexual relationship is especially intimidating.

Furthermore, your date might feel a little lost in some areas. Perhaps their late spouse was the primary bookkeeper or household organizer. Be patient as he/she adjusts to a “new normal.”

Is Finding Love Again Possible?

As one user wrote, “Emphatically yes.” Love isn’t a one-time-only deal. If you’ve lost one love of your life, know that you’re not limited to bittersweet memories. Just as your heart has room to deeply love more than one child, you’ll learn to love someone new for who he/she is in a relationship that’s unique to the two of you. Your new love won’t negate the past; instead, the love lessons learned in your first marriage might make the new relationship stronger.