I’ve been in a relationship with a widower for two years. He has two grown, married kids. His wife was killed three years ago — a devastating incident.
We are both really blessed to find each other. We do your full moon ritual; we enjoy asking each other questions and getting curious about each other. I make sure he’s well-tended to, cooking, cleaning, and general support. We’re happy.
His kids were not on board with us from Day #1. They thought it was too soon since their mom passed. I understood, and always gave him space to be with them. They refused to meet me or hear my name.
They call me “mistress, the bitch, the devil, the gold digger, the person ruining the family,” and still I have been supportive of him and his family.
I don’t understand all this hatred and disrespect. I have been a good partner to their dad. I am very hurt as I am a very caring, loving person who has good intentions and who stood by my partner during all his sad days, and still do.
I know you will tell me someone else’s opinion about me is none of my business. Still, I cannot see my partner being in bad fights with his kids and cannot stand the names and labels I am hearing.
What shall I do? Email the kids? Just walk away from the relationship? Be more patient and maybe something will change? My heart is aching…
CM — Dubai
Your boyfriend has put you in a terrible spot. In light of this, my advice is to hand him this column and ask him to read it, because short of that, there’s nothing you can do. Nothing.
This isn’t your problem to solve. It’s his.
He needs to step up and be the leader of his family, as it’s his family that’s causing the issue.
Before I get on a roll, I want to say that what I’m offering isn’t easy. I’m certain that dealing with the loss of his wife/their mother is devastating and rough for everyone. The pain of her loss (and the inability to deal with it) is clearly what’s causing all the friction and turmoil here.
Widowers Often Find New Partners Right Away
After nearly twenty years in the understanding-men-and-relationships business, one thing I know to be true is that a widower who enjoyed a good marriage/relationship is likely to couple again fast after the loss of his partner — like, really fast. Often within six months. He likes partnership. He’s good at partnership. He’s not replacing his wife, but rather seeking out another partner in life because he feels he’s not as useful in the world without one.
In the best of circumstances, he finds a new partner who will help him honor his wife by keeping her memory alive while also helping him to discover who he is after she’s gone. That sounds like you.
Children Aren’t Ready
Also, no surprise to anyone, children of said men are often upset, off-balance, and thrown that their dad would “forget” his recently deceased wife so quickly. They can’t see that their father hasn’t forgotten or discarded their mother through the cloud of their own grief, and they’re looking for someone to blame. But being alone and forever pining for someone who’s gone doesn’t honor the memory of anything or anyone.
So, what do you do? You either tell him what’s in this column or you hand it over. And for the love of God, do not attempt to communicate with the kids directly.
Set Boundaries of Acceptable Behavior
Dad needs to set his own boundaries here.
If I were in his shoes, I’d call a family meeting (even on Zoom) and say everything I had to say just once, because I’m efficient like that. However, this can also be done one child at a time if the group thing seems unfathomable or daunting.
Here’s a rough outline of what I’d say in said family meeting:
“(Names), I love you. And I am so, so sorry we lost your mom the way we did. I miss her every single day.
She is irreplaceable, and I know you think that I got into a new relationship too soon. I understand you are angry. I hear you when you say you will never meet her and don’t want to know her name. You have a right to feel that way, and you have the right to never meet her if that’s what you want. That’s your prerogative.
Now, it is my prerogative to choose my new life partner, and I do choose her. I choose to love her and to love you, too. Because we’re all in a lot of pain, up until now, I’ve allowed you to discredit her, call her names, and act out as if she were to blame. This. Stops. Right. Now.
If you choose to never meet her, I honor your wishes, but in doing so, you are making the choice to not spend special times like holidays with me.
Going forward, I’m calling on you to be the adult(s) that I raised you to be: Kind. Respectful. Responsible. Someone who takes care of and processes their own anger and hurts without taking it out on others.
I won’t participate in any more berating and badmouthing towards my partner. If you start in, I’m simply going to hang up the phone or walk out of the room. We can connect at a later time when you’re able to be civil and kind. If you’re rude in public, I’ll ask you to stop, and if you don’t, I’ll leave. And finally, if you keep it up, we won’t see much of each other moving forward.
Don’t make me choose between you and her. The end result, regardless of who I’d choose, wouldn’t be good for any of us. Using manipulation and emotional blackmail to get your way is not how I’ve raised you to be, so please, show me that I did a good job raising you by changing your outward behavior to reflect the people I know you to be inside.”
CM, I know it’s hard to believe, but if things are as you’ve outlined, this likely has nothing to do with you. This is their misplaced rage at unexpectedly losing their mom. If your guy is willing to have this conversation with his children, it’s not just for you. It’s also for the good of him and his kids. I would hope that they are good people who mean well most of the time, and that they just need a wake-up call to their own crappy way of processing their grief.