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Psychoanalyst Darian Leader calls this the Rebecca Syndrome, a reference to the Daphne du Maurier novel in which the heroine is terribly haunted by the ghost of her husband's late wife.
Leader , the power of what has gone before will infuse even the most contented new partnerships. Social scientists have found that men look to reconnect because they want what they had before, what they're used to.
New York Times writer Elizabeth Olson notes just one man's unapologetic reason to want a new wife -- he's overwhelmed by household chores, and he can't find things around the house. As the companion of a widower, you may suspect that you're valued mostly for your listening abilities and household organization skills. It's true that a widower's grateful response to your sympathy doesn't always mean he's eager to make you his full partner in love.
But the man who is ready to move on will signal when he wants a relationship that goes beyond appreciation of a tidy house and a listening ear. That signal comes only in the presence of patience, warmth, sympathy, physical responsiveness, and a disinclination to point out how damn long you've been waiting. You and your widower will never be the couple that exchanges memory-laden glances at a son's graduation.
The two of you will never experience the mutuality of joy felt by parents at the wedding of their daughter. You will admire his grandchildren, as he will yours, but you won't adore them. You won't celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary. You won't be buried side-by-side. If you are lucky enough to find a widower who is attentive, generous, and affectionate, and if you have the grace to help him recapture the happy state of companionship, he will dearly love - very nearly with his whole heart -- his new partner.
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Nothing wrong with being cautious and slow. It is criticism the widowed are particularly attuned to: Carolyn Klassen and Jim Klassen of Winnipeg married on April 26, , 13 months after his wife, also named Carolyn, died of cancer.
But Klassen and others believe these stages aren't perfectly linear. Instead, they often overlap: It's true that some widowed people do move on too fast, because they're in denial and don't want to face pain; such relationships often bear a cost. In a fascinating recent case, after two authors who wrote bestselling memoirs about their final months ailing with cancer passed away, their widowed spouses fell in love with each other.
Lucy Kalanithi is a doctor and widow of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who wrote the memoir When Breath Becomes Air and died of lung cancer at As Riggs was dying, she urged her husband to reach out to Lucy Kalanithi for help.
The two began e-mailing as Duberstein struggled "not to go insane" grieving. And so their unconventional union was sparked. Both of the terminally ill spouses had given their partners "radical permission" to forge new relationships, Kalanithi told The Washington Post earlier this month. But the re-configuration was bittersweet: Despite the self-awareness many of these couples exhibit, the outside world often sees one thing: It comes from fear. McInerny remorsefully recalls one incident when she herself was judgmental.
While Purmort was very sick, a widowed friend of hers called and said she was going on a date. McInerny's reaction was a visceral "ugh. Purmort slammed her for it. Six months after Purmort passed away in , she tried dating but felt she was operating on "a different plane of existence" than the men: The small talk was killing her.
Six months after that, she met Matthew Hart at a mutual friend's backyard party. Even so, on one of their early dates at a restaurant, McInerny withered in shame when an acquaintance spotted them. I ignored him for the remainder until we left the restaurant. McInerny and Hart married and had a baby, all within two years of her first husband's death. Today, she feels like she's in love with two people — one dead, one alive.
Widows, McInerny contends, are particularly primed for love: They are emotionally open, understand that time is finite and value good partners , fiercely. For those falling in love shortly after the death of a spouse, Winnipeg's Klassen is a firm believer in "holding space. In a blog post titled "Visiting my Husband's Wife's Grave," Klassen described watching him shake while weeping.