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FYI...My book, "PAST: Perfect! PRESENT: Tense! Insights From One Woman's Journey As The Wife of a Widower" is available for purchase at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and via the publisher, iUniverse.com.
Julie Donner Andersen
Newsletter Dated: 3/24/2004 11:33:07 AM
Subject: The One And Only WOW/GOW Newsletter - APRIL 2004 - Julie Donner Andersen
Gosh...12 new members this month alone! Welcome newbies! Glad you are with us!
LET'S DO A WEEKEND!
I have been kicking around the idea of getting together with all of you within the year, and wanted your input. You, my newsletter members, are from all 4 corners of the earth – so where would we hold a WOW/GOW convention? I’m ready to throw a dart at a map!
However, being a Canadian resident, I’d love to meet you all in Toronto (Ontario). What a fun town! (And if you are American, your Yankee money goes so much further here!)
So let me know what you think. Pick a time of year, and tell me if travelling to Toronto would be OK with you. Based on your responses, I will look into accommodations. Of course, I'd be lecturing and wil do my best to get other speakers, too. And we'll have fun shopping, schmoozing, and relaxing!
MY SECOND JOB
Ok, I’m going to plug my second job - I am an Ebay seller! Yep, just started in January, and I love it! With three kids under my roof, their cast-off clothing (and mine, based on extreme weight loss and gain!) started to become a fire hazard, so now I sell, sell, sell (and buy, buy, buy, too! Bye, bye profit! LOL!). Also, now that I have re-decorated (isn;t it weird how your style/taste changes over the years? Men just don't get this! LOL!), I can finally get into my garage now that my boxes of copper and country decor collections are listed on Ebay as well!
If you want to take a peek at my stuff, my Ebay “handle” is “author1059”. Naturally, my newsletter members will receive a special discount - 10% off anything. Just mention that you saw the advertised special in the WOW/GOW Newsletter!
I have sooo many wonderful and TALENTED GOWs and WOWs subscribing to this newsletter! You are all amazing women! Recently, a new member wrote and sent me a fantastic article, which I have included here in this month’s newsletter. Her article is full of that raw emotion that all new GOWs feel...insecurity, unworthiness, feeling “second best”, etc. Read it for yourself, remember what it was like when you first started dating your widower, and keep this new member in your prayers. I know, and YOU know, that these feelings abate with time. There is HOPE on the horizon! And, last but never least, there is the warm support of fellow GOWs and WOWs to lift each other up. What do you think of this article? Your (anonymous, of course) positive comments would be appreciated, and I will forward them to this budding writer and fellow GOW to brighten her day.
And how was YOUR month?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What I Know Of Pamela...by “Vicki”
(Unedited, but names changed to protect the article's author)
You hold me close in the middle of the living room. As I stare over your shoulder, she smiles at me from the picture frame (or rather, from the several picture frames scattered about that side of the room), with her youthful cheeks glowing and her smile radiant, your arm around her, or her arm around you, or your arms around each other. Your own face is calm, your smile one of contented bliss—you, as a pair, are the picture of perfection-the perfect couple, in the perfect relationship. Pamela’s portrait alone, larger than life, greets me one more time as I must unavoidably pass her gaze just before entering the bedroom door where I would like to say we are safely alone, at last. But even then I know that’s not true—it’s just that now I can’t see her. But you can.
And in the morning I will prepare coffee as she stares at me from the refrigerator, and from the portrait, coupled with you, in the kitchen. I will put on my makeup to leave, her things, even a lipstick, still on the bathroom counter, along with yet another portrait of the two of you . . . staring from a place I cannot fathom and you cannot escape. PAMELA WAS LOVELY, PAMELA WAS LOVING, PAMELA IS LOVED.
In vulnerable moments you have shared your soul, spilled your guts. She was everything to you, at once your lover and your best friend. You miss her. Your time with her was the happiest time in your life. A mutual friend commented on your loss “He was devastated. She was such a beautiful, vibrant woman.” PAMELA WAS WONDERFUL.
I went to the local newspaper and they copied her obituary for me from their last remaining issue, dated scarcely a year ago. It was a lengthy obituary. She was well educated, successful, charitable. She was involved in all the “right” things socially and domestically, highly honored in her profession, beloved by her family. PAMELA WAS A PILLAR.
And that is what I know of Pamela. I will never have the opportunity to sit down to coffee with her and form my own opinions. I will never know if she sometimes felt hurt, disappointed by you, or you by her. I will never know if you ever fought together or disagreed. I can’t help but believe that you unwittingly, unintentionally hurt me now because you want me to be her; that you compare me with her every minute, day by day, and find me a disappointment.
Or could it be that you were with her, at times, the same distant, unreachable soul you are, so often, with me? And if, by chance, you were, was she the type of woman who could love so deeply and unconditionally, with such grace and confidence, that she was able to resolve the issues that keep me up at night, as I am now, writing this at 2:00 in the morning? Clearly, in every way, by all indications, PAMELA WAS PERFECT. SHE WILL ALWAYS BE PERFECT.
Even the “best” relationships between the “best” people under the “best” of circumstances are challenging (this, of course, may have been the exception in your case, based on the one-sided information at hand—I on the out-side). But relationships have never been easy for me, and Sweetheart, with each passing day, I am more and more convinced that I am simply not up to the task. I have loved you, and have tried to love you well. It was the best I could do/be.
No doubt you will miss, as I certainly will, the affection, the companionship, the understanding we sometimes shared. Not least of all the intimacy. But you will still have your beautiful photos and your lovely, perfect, precious memories. I will never send you this little page, or confront you face to face and risk one last, excruciating, sense of comparison--of inadequacy. I prefer, instead, to tell myself “it was just too soon,” to simply step aside and allow you to work independently through your grief, because, unlike Pamela, I AM NOT PERFECT--I AM JUST ME—I will not apologize for that--not for one more minute of one more day.
~~The author of this article, “Vicki”, is a newsletter member and a GOW.
~~NOTE FROM JULIE: The preceding article does not necessarily reflect the thoughts, advice, or opinion(s) of the newsletter owner. All articles from newsletter members are welcome. While I cannot pay you, I will be happy to include your byline and pen name as you would like to have it appear.
Questions Of The Month – MARCH (and your responses)
1. (Four part question) Did you move into your BF/HUBS residence that he shared with the LW? Were “her things” still in the house? Did you feel like “the intruder” or like the guest in another woman’s home? Did you share your fears with your widower before you moved in? If you’ve been together a while, how do you feel about the intruder issue now?
~~I haven't moved in, but we're talking about getting married in the summer. My mom asked me what I would do if things weren't the way I want them in the house. And honestly, it doesn't matter to me. I've waited 48 years to be with a man of his calibre, and that's the only thing that matters. I haven't always felt that way, but I've learned a lot since last April! Part of what has helped me get to this place is your article on embracing the late wife.
~~I kind of moved into their residence...he remodeled the basement into an in-law apartment and rents out the much larger "house" part. Together we finished the remodeling that he/she had started years before her death. There were a few pieces of furniture from their marriage that were not my taste, but that's ok. While they were doing the construction, they would write on the walls their names and dates -- it was everywhere! As he and I hung the last piece of drywall, he handed me a pencil and told me to write my name and the date. When I said I didn't think it was right, he said, "She may have started it, but you finished it." At that time I felt very much that all three of us could co-exist in the house that "love" built. Unfortunately, we broke up a few months after that date. I don't think he could separate himself from the memories.
~~My husband bought a new home after his LW died, and he didn't do much in the way of decorating the new home. When we married, I moved into the new home with him, and we combined our things to achieve our décor plus we bought some new stuff. Yes, some of her things are around, but most of it is packed away for his daughter for later, such as the fine china, etc. I feel comfortable in our home because we each have our things and they are combined in such a way that neither of us has "the upper hand", so to speak, in the use of our possessions. While we are comfortable in our home, we ultimately plan to choose and buy our very own home TOGETHER.
~~Yes, I moved in with my boyfriend 1.5 years after his fiancée died suddenly. He told me she had be dead for a couple of years before we met and it wasn't for a few months after we started living together that I found out it was soooo recent! Also, he never told me that they were engaged! I was trying to find out more about his ex and so I looked up her death notice in the newspaper archives and read "loved fiancée of...." What a shock that was! I still have to fire lots of questions at my boyfriend if I want to know anything - sometimes he's happy to discuss and other times he just makes some silly comment about not remembering....
~~Yes, all her things were still in the house. Before I moved in, I thought I could cope with having the LW's things around but that wasn't to be the case as I soon found out. GHOSTS! He had boxed up her clothes but all her treasures where lying around the house. I often was told not to use an item because it was 'hers'. I felt like I was a visitor. My furniture went into storage because my partner had everything so I had no sense of belonging in his house. Fortunately he bought a new bed before I met him and that definitely helped! I never saw ghosts in the bedroom because of this. To this day, I still can't lie on 'their bed' that is in the spare bedroom. I don't encourage anyone to move into the house of a WOW that he/she shared with his former wife/husband. If I had my way over again, I would move in together in a new house which I could call "OUR NEW HOME". This way, I could have at least 1/2 the say on what furniture we keep and what we sell and what ornaments get displayed etc. At least this way, I would feel as if the house is 1/2 mine and not all theirs! I admit that I feel comfortable in his house now (it will never be our house). Perhaps this is because we have completely redecorated and partly remodelled the house over the last year and I've helped choose the new ecor/layout etc. We have new carpet, curtains, wall colors, kitchen, etc. The outside of the house is even a different color. The LW would never recognise the house now and I'm sure it wouldn't be her taste either - it's mine! It was a feeling of belonging that I missed when I moved in to 'their' house. Not having anything of mine adorn the rooms in his house made me feel like a visitor. The fact that we have redecorated the house gave me the opportunity to add my taste. Looking back now, we should have bought a new house that was 'ours' but sadly I didn't know these things back then! I didn't know that JDA had a wonderful site to help people like me!
~~I moved into the house my husband shared with his late wife. It was her "dream" house. Tough, tough deal for me, even though the house was beautifully built. They bought it while it was being built, and she was able to pick carpet and wood and wallpaper. My husband gave her $10,000 to furnish it, so she went out and bought her "dream" furniture--new living suite, new dining and bedroom furniture. I was not and have never been particularly "thing" oriented, and he was not willing to let go of "HIS" furniture, so I got rid of most of my stuff and moved in. And I was supposed to feel grateful, because I was getting a better deal. (I lived in a trailer house that I owned and decorated and really loved.) We have sold the house, but we are still sleeping in her dream bed, and her dining table still stands in our dining room. Her desk takes up a huge portion of our dining room; I have to turn sideways to go between the table and the desk to get through the dining room to my office. So, sometimes I feel even though we moved, she moved with us. And, yes, I felt like an intruder and in some ways, still do. I don't keep my clothing in her dresser. I have a armoire that was my mom's, and I keep my clothing in that and in baskets in my closet. My husband keeps paperwork--canceled checks and business papers--in the dresser. It's been five years, and I guess I am resigned to this life. He's not going to give away or sell good furniture, and we really can't afford to replace it. I don't feel comfortable in my own home, though. I always used to enjoy lying in bed and reading, but I don't want to spend any more time in bed than I absolutely have to. Silly, huh? Her picture was not taken down out of our living until well after our first wedding anniversary. He had promised to never take it down, and he had given me "orders" not to remove it. I didn't say or do anything until one day I just couldn't take it anymore, so I took it down. He never said a word, and, in fact, was in a better mood that evening than I had seen him in a long time.
~~Yes, I moved in my husband's house that he shared with his LW. In fact, I moved in a few months before we got married. Yes, ALL her things were here when I moved in. I had to, and still have to help my husband with going through her things, and getting rid of them. At first, I wanted EVERYTHING out of the house (including HER)...but it takes time. So, after about a month of living here, I told my husband, (finance at the time)…that her things here bothered me. He understood, and started going through things. I didn't get too involved with it…just sat close by to be there if he needed me. It got easier as time went on, and I wasn't in such a rush to get it ALL out in a matter of a couple of days. It has been over a year now since I moved in, and "their" house is almost turned into "our" house. We have redone almost every room in the house. We changed the paint on the walls, bought new furniture, and thrown out a lot of her things. But to this day, I still use a lot of the kitchen things that she once used. It doesn't b other me near as much as it used to. Even though we made ALL those changes, I still felt like a visitor most of the time up until about a month ago. I found myself falling in a depression. I didn't want to clean HER house, I didn't want to cook in HER kitchen. It finally came to the point that I became so unhappy as a person, I left my husband for a few days. During those few days, my husband and I talked on the phone for HOURS... and he told me he had noticed my lack of house "duties", but was afraid to confront me about it. I told him how I was feeling…and he told me he had been waiting for me to "jump in" to our marriage. He felt like I was acting like a visitor instead of his wife. I told him part of me was just trying to respect her and the other part of me didn't feel like I belonged and I was angry about it. He told me that if I didn't step into our marriage, how could I expect others to respect our marriage? He was right.... this is MY home now, and I am his wife now, so I had to start taking my place. I came back home, and I jumped in...it was scary...but I feel so much better about my place in my marriage now. I have my head up high, and we are starting to look for another house (selling this one, and buying one that would be "ours" . Kind of like a fresh start on OUR lives together. But I know that can't happen overnight, so I have accepted that this house is MY home and am enjoying looking at other houses. I know that my husband wants "OUR" house also, and as long as he shares my feelings and understands, then I am satisfied with looking ahead at OUR future plans!!!!!
~~No. We moved into a new home. It was really important for everyone in his family to break from the memories that were at their old home... memories that were painful.
~~I haven't moved in with my boyfriend, but I am over at his house almost every day. Most of her things have been put away as the house has turned into a bachelor pad. The first time I visited, we grabbed some junk food on flowered paper plates, bought over a year ago that were stocked up in the cabinet. Little things like that exist, but don't bother me too much. My boyfriend was considerate enough to put away their wedding photos and other memorabilia before I came over. It was actually him that stated that he did tell me it was hard for him as I'm the first woman he's dated since she passed away. I don't feel like a guest in his home at all, but he has a great amount of wisdom on making sure my needs are met too. We sat down that night and shared some of the fears that we had regarding competition and how to deal with the situation. Honesty and being straightforward help so much. I'm not sure how I'd feel moving into his house. I think I'd
definitely like to rearrange a bit, just to make the house a bit more of mine and his.
~~Yes - he's discussed it. I, again, reference your article on embracing the late wife. For a while, it was difficult. But now, I appreciate everything she did for him so much.....how she made him feel safe, how she was his best friend, how she loved him and helped make him the man he is. If I feel the "insecurity monster", I tell myself "this isn't about me". And it isn't! I'm his friend! I would hope he'd want to talk to me about it.
It's surprising what a little self-talk can do.
2. (Four part question) Has your widower (or does your widower) voluntarily discuss his late wife/past marriage with you without your having to ask? How does this make you feel? If your widower is loathe to discuss his late wife/past marriage with you, why do you suppose that is? Do you think it is grief related, or is it because he just doesn’t want to hurt you by discussing these things? Explain.
~~Sometimes he did, especially when it related to the kids. At first it was very obvious that he was stopping himself from talking about her, but I always felt/feel that to ignore her from his life was wrong. I asked him not to censor himself when he talked about his life . . . if she was part of the memory then he had to include her in the story. I'm not dumb, I would be able to figure it out, but by including her, it made her less "goddess" and more human. And, I couldn't just ignore all the memories the two of them had made together by cutting her from his life. She's not a threat to me, so talking/hearing about her doesn't make me feel insecure.
~~My husband does not discuss his marriage to LW with me, but he does throw out her name in everyday conversations. I think the memory of LW is a healthy part of our relationship, and he mentions her only in passing from time to time. I occasionally ask him a question, and he doesn't really seem to want to answer, but it's not like he's
really avoiding an issue or anything. I just think he prefers to live in the present.
~~We met only 8 months after her death, and we married six months later, only 14 months after her death. At first, he talked about her all the time, about how wonderful she was and how they never fought or argued. He even talked about how much we are alike. I understood that it had not been very long, and I had reservations about that. I expressed my reservations, but he assured me that he was ready to move on, that "she was as dead as she was ever going to be." At first I found the comparisons flattering but somewhat disconcerting. I mean, I think we are attracted to types of people. He is not unlike my first husband, who is alive and well and living not too far from here. It's okay to talk about my ex's shortcomings, because he's still alive. Even though I know my husband's late wife had some shortcomings, we must never, ever speak negatively of her. I always feel like I am being compared to her and coming up short. And I have to admit - sometimes I wish I could. There are days I HATE her, which makes me feel like a rotten, rotten person. We have been married five years. I think my husband is happier than he's ever been. I don't think theirs was a particularly good marriage. It wasn't a bad marriage, but she did her thing, and he sat on the couch. She had one child she was very involved with, and she was extremely involved in her church. He doesn't talk about her as much as he used to. I think he was working through grief in the early years, and I think these days, he understands that I want to live our lives without her constant shadow. I understand that he was married to her for 20 years and they had a child together, but you have to live in the present and move forward together. But we are good friends and lovers; we have a great relationship. I cannot imagine life without him. I have been in counselling to try to deal with my negative feelings about her and their lives together. Just this past weekend, we attended his/their son's wedding. I think my presence there was a reminder of her death, and sometimes the son is mean to me when he is missing his mom. They played her favorite music as the bride's attendants walked down the aisle. It is pretty music. Playing it was a good attempt to honor her memory, but it cast sadness over what should have been a joyous occasion. Her sister sobbed during the wedding, my step-son, the groom, sobbed during the ceremony to the extent that my husband had to hold him up. And the odd thing is that nobody would talk about it.
~~He's been very good about talking about the situation. From the very first date, he told me that anything I wanted to ask, I could. He mentions her once in awhile when sharing about his life, but no more than any other friend he has had in his life. He's told me before that he understands that he wouldn't like it if I talked about an ex-boyfriend a lot, and so he doesn't want to do the same to me. Somehow I feel as though it's a bit different for him though; she WAS his wife, and that makes her an important part of him. I do want to find out more about her eventually, but not until I've let my relationship with him grown until we feel comfortable together and I know who I am with him and what part of him I fulfill. I don't want to risk trying to become who she was to him.
~Yes. She will come up in conversation in a normal and casual way especially when we are having dinner together as a family. It is good for them to be able to review the fun memories of their life with their Mom before she died. How does this make me feel? It is not a problem for me. I think it is healthy to be able to have her name come up as appropriate. She was such a major party of his and the children's lives. It wouldn't be right to rob them of that joy. Sometimes I think the pain of the loss gets him at times that he doesn't expect. There are times that he wishes that his wife could have seen the accomplishments of the children, something that she would have really enjoyed. He is good about trying to live in the present and not overly focus on the past.
~~My boyfriend and I have been dating 3 years. His wife of 20 years has been gone 4-1/2 (she was 38 and died suddenly and I never knew her). Yes, he tells stories about her and I have never minded because he is always is sensitive to my feelings. At first I wasn't sure how to feel and just listened. Now, I sometimes bring up a reference to her, from his stories, in conversation. He has told me that he likes it because then he knows I don't feel threatened by her. It has brought us closer because I haven't tried to shut her out. I have come to realize she is part of him...and I love him.
3. (Two part question) What is the #1 thing you want to know about the late wife and/or your widower’s marriage to her? Why do you think it’s important for you to know the answer? Explain.
~~I think I know the most important thing, and that is that they loved each other, had fun together and treated each other with respect.
~~They had a marriage much like everyone else has -- they loved each other, they took care of each other. The in between of how they did these things is not my business. I have no need to hear the specifics or make him relive those days. I'm busy trying to live my own life.
~~I would like to know if they basically got along pretty well on a daily basis and I'd like to know how they handled conflicts. I know LW had a very volatile personality and I'd like to know if and how they fought. The reason I want to know is that my husband and I are very peaceful and do not have a lot of waves in our relationship. I don't know if that's really because we get along so well or if he's afraid to "fight" with me. I sometimes wonder if he's being polite with me, and that makes me feel somewhat like a guest rather than a wife. It's an odd thing to try to explain. He was raised in an alcoholic home and has a strong tendency to avoid conflict anyway.
~~I want to know if he got to tell her "goodbye". She died after she flew off the back of his motorcycle and had brain injuries (he was driving). I know some things about the event, but I don't know if she was conscious enough so he could speak to her before she passed on. I think it can help, in a small way, if you can say you love them and have the chance to say good bye. The accident is very hard for him to speak of, but I want to know bad enough, that someday, I shall ask after he gives me an opening.
~~I would like to know what kind of sex life they had. It's funny to me that he's never said anything about that at all. He's told me her virtues in every other department, but he's never indicated to me that they even had sex. I would like to think that's because our sex life is better. And that leads me to the other thing I would like from him: It would be so nice, since I have spent all these years being compared and falling short, to have ONE THING that I do better, in which I don't fall short. My husband will NEVER do that. He will NEVER give me that satisfaction, and he will never say anything negative to me about her. And I do know for a fact that she was not perfect. His dad has told me that they were on the verge of a divorce and that he was angry at her all the time before she got sick. Her sister has told me that she was hideous to him before she got sick and vicious to him during her illness. He once made a comment that when someone dies and the spouse feels relieve that there's tremendous guilt. But he later told me he meant his sister, that he never felt relieve or any kind of guilt over his marriage.
~~I'm not too sure. Right now I'm actually not curious, because she hasn't been too much a part of our relationship. I have met my boyfriend's father-in-law several times and am developing a good relationship, which is important. He lost his wife and his only daughter (my boyfriend's late wife) within a year of each other, so he's very close to my boyfriend. Eventually I'd like to know who she was and her personality. I think this is important because I want to know who this person is that my boyfriend would commit his entire life to. I think this would really open a door into part of who he is. I heard a quote once that said, "Tell me who you love, and I'll tell you who you are."
~~I would like to know if he called her any pet names, like "Honey" or "Sweetie". He never calls me anything but my given name.
~~I would like to play the "best" and "worst" game with him - such as "What was the best time you had with LW? What was the worst?" or "What was the best dish she cooked? What was the worst?" I don't know why I want to know these petty things, I just do.
QUESTIONS OF THE MONTH – APRIL
OK, gals, send ‘em in! Pick one or answer all three...but DO share with us! Don’t make me bombard your e-mail inbox with nag notes! LOL!...JDA
1.) Do you feel that your widower’s loss has changed him, either for the best or worst, as a partner? Explain.
2.) Do you get along with your widower’s children? If so, what’s your secret? If not, what positive steps are you taking to remedy this situation? Is your partner supportive of you as a step parent?
3.) How do you and/or your partner recognize the LW’s death anniversary, if at all? Explain.
NOTE: In the last newsletter, the "Dear Julie" letter about life insurance struck a chord with one of our members, Susan Law Corpany. (Susan, by the way, is an author of fiction books about widowhood, remarriage, and WOWdom, available at Amazon.com – search by author name).
Here’s what she had to say about it:
“For that lady whose husband refused to buy life insurance, I've known women whose husbands refused to carry life insurance on themselves, too, worried that in the event of their death she would go out and have a good time with that money with another man. Well, guess what, she might. Not in a "dancing on his grave" kind of way, but in a "going on with life" kind of way, yes her, and therefore their, life might be better as a result. What that is called is SELFISHNESS and it is a trait you want to avoid at all costs in a spouse. If a man keeps from buying insurance because of a picture in his mind of his partner with a new spouse, he is saying that rather than see her happy again he would rather see her struggle to make ends meet and put her in a position of having to grab hold, as many women do, of the nearest man with a job. She would be more likely to remarry for the right reasons if she has financial security. Wanting security and marrying someone for money are two different things. If I were her, I would tell him that I intended to get a policy naming him as the beneficiary because I would not want him to struggle with child care expenses or be unable to hire a housekeeper or cleaning woman and to replace whatever income I brought in. And I would tell him that if the day came that he needed to cancel the daycare because he was getting remarried, it would be fine with me if he took some of that money and took his new wife on a honeymoon. I sometimes feel that I have unfair benefit of enjoying the financial security that my first wife sacrificed to help provide, but I also take care of her children and her husband, and I don't believe she would begrudge me those things because she was not a selfish person. I hear stories of people who exact promises of lifelong devotion and never remarrying on their deathbeds, and I know women who would never even consider dating because of the promises they made never to remarry. It is sad to me that a final request should be selfish and selfishness is the only reason I can see for someone refusing to provide adequate security in the event of a death. This is not a GOW/WOW issue. It is an issue for everybody and shame on anyone who does not give thought to the future welfare of their spouse (first or subsequent) and children in the event of their death.” ~~Susan Law Corpany
This month’s DEAR JULIE deals with asking “the tough questions”...
Your book advises communication with a widower as the best way to confront GOW/WOW issues. However, I’m scared to death to ask my husband about his late wife or his marriage to her. Maybe I’m afraid of what I might hear – the worst things, like “Yes, I loved her more than you”.’
He probably wouldn’t answer my questions, anyway. He never, ever talks about her. I know they had a good marriage, so perhaps he is simply “defending her honor” by keeping silent.
I’d like to get him to talk, but how? How can I overcome my fear of the worst?
Scared in Fort Worth
After my book was released, I was deluged with letters from wives of widowers, wondering how I found the courage to ask my previously widowed husband about his late wife and their marriage. While I appreciate being thought of as courageous, asking “the tough questions” was more a matter of necessity than bravery for me...and for our marriage.
I have always felt that the greatest fear of all is the fear of the unknown. When left to our own devices, our imaginations can work overtime, wreaking havoc on our insecurities and vulnerabilities. When we privately wonder about things that concern our happiness and mental well being, we tend to lean towards the negative, assuming that the tough questions, if asked aloud, will be met with answers we are not ready to hear…or that will be the opposite of what we hope to hear.
Surprisingly, that’s usually never the case. Information, like education, allows us to calm our fears, put them into perspective, and in most cases, brings peace and relief to a worried soul. Even the painful answers to the tough questions can at least be digested with time. Truth has a way of winning out over the worst of fears.
So what are we so afraid of?
We are afraid that our questions will be perceived as nosy, insensitive, none of our business, or regarded as insignificant by the person we are asking. We fear being judged for appearing needy. We fear the perceived and/or anticipated fight that may ensue as a result of hurt feelings. And worst of all, we fear that the answers will be too shocking or painful to endure.
However, husbands and wives communicate with each other the most intimate, secret, personal things that two people can utter to one another. By doing this, their relationships deepen and their marital bonds are strengthened. Being privy to another’s deepest thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and opinions is an honor. It means that the person sharing this vital information trusts the receiver implicitly, and is assured that the listener will not judge nor hold said information against him or her.
Trust is a two way street. Respecting the answers to tough questions is just as important as being respected for asking the questions. To be trusted, one must be trustworthy. Wives of widowers must first decide if they are capable of handling whatever their husbands respond, whether the answers leave them feeling good or not. They must also decide, before posing the questions, whether the answers will help them overcome fears, issues, and insecurities, thus leading to a stronger relationship.
Case in point: When my husband I were planning our first Christmas together as a married couple, I wondered to myself why I should try so hard to make it nice for us if his grief would only make for a miserable holiday. I wanted cookie cutter perfection for my holiday, complete with Martha Stewart-ish dinners, parties, and decorations…without the interference of “The Grief Monster” or “The Ghost of Christmas Past”.
But it was painfully obvious to me, even though he spoke nary a word about it, that my husband grieved his late wife’s loss at this special time of year, just as he did in the past when we were dating. The act of marrying me did not make his grief miraculously disappear.
I had a choice: Either I could muddle through and pretend for both of us to have a good time (but fooling nobody!), or I could gently confront my husband and ask the tough questions about how he would like to proceed with the holiday festivities in respect to his grief.
Brave, yes, but necessary. I needed to discuss my husband's feelings with him so I could make plans based on them. I needed to know his answers so I could be as much of a helpmate to him as I could be through this sentimental time of grief. As well, his answers would also provide me with insight into his grief journey, enabling me to gauge where he was at and if healing was rooting or not. That way, I could prepare my own heart for whatever was to come.
I trusted my husband not to judge me for asking, and he trusted me with his revelations about Christmases shared with his late wife, and how he missed certain traditions of old. Because of our little discussion, we were able to form a united front in the face of grief, incorporate old traditions with new, and enjoy the present holiday and each other.
But are some questions too sacred…too personal…too scary to ask a spouse? In respect to present wives asking tough questions to previously widowed husbands, the answer, in my opinion, is a resounding “No!” Keeping secrets, for whatever personal reasons, is not a healthy thing for anyone to do to a sacred blend of two souls into one, which is what marriage is all about: one soul, one mind, one love...and a willingness to share everything about one’s self with your soul mate.
If you are a wife of a widower, you must first be aware of your reasons behind your questions. Do you want to know about your husband’s sex life with his late wife? First, ask yourself why. Would his answers be beneficial to making your own sex life more interesting and enjoyable? Or is this a “loaded” question – the answer to which will only serve as justification of your insecurities and plunge you deeper into your own self-serving pity party?
The answers to the tough questions are like constructive criticisms – you may not like what you hear, but with a heart full of grace and respect for the one who delivers the answers, you can easily find a positive way to utilize the information...as long as you take “self” out of the equation.
~~Do you agree? Disagree? Have some advice to help this reader? Got a question for me? Let me hear it! firstname.lastname@example.org
SHAMELESS PLUGS AND OTHER ANNOYING AUTHOR STUFF…
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Ladies, I’d LOVE to see your reviews of my book show up at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca (Canada), and/or BarnesAndNoble.com. If you have a moment today, would you please visit my book at these online bookstores and leave your reviews/comments? Promoting books on online stores is by far the best way to reach other WOWs and GOWs. Thanks a bunch!
JUST FOR FUN…
The Husband Mart
A store that sells husbands has just opened in Ottawa where a woman may go to choose a husband from among many men. The store is comprised of 6 floors, and the men increase in positive attributes as the shopper ascends the flights. There is, however, a catch. As you open the door to any floor you may choose a man from that floor, but if you go up a floor, you cannot go back down except to exit the building. So a woman goes to the shopping center to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads:
Floor 1 - These men have jobs.
The woman reads the sign and says to herself, "Well, that's better than my last boyfriend, but I wonder what's further up?" So up she goes.
Floor 2 - These men have jobs and love kids.
The woman remarks to herself, "That's great, but I wonder what's further up?" And up she goes again.
Floor 3 - These men have jobs, love kids and are extremely good looking. "Hmmm, better" she says. "But I wonder what's upstairs?"
Floor 4 - These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking andhelp with the housework.
"Wow!" exclaims the woman, "Very tempting. BUT, there must be more further up!" And again she heads up another flight.
Floor 5 - These men have jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking, help with the housework and have a strong romantic streak.
"Oh, mercy me" says the woman to herself......but just think.... what must be awaiting me
further on?" So up to the sixth floor she goes.
Floor 6 - You are visitor 3,456,789,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please.
Thank you for shopping Husband Mart
TEENAGER OWNER'S MANUAL
Congratulations! You are now the proud new owner of a teenaged daughter.
Please read this manual carefully, as it describes the maintenance of your new daughter, and answers important questions about your warranty (which does NOT include the right to return the product to the factory for a full refund.)
IF YOU FEEL YOU HAVE RECEIVED YOUR TEENAGER IN ERROR:
To determine whether you were supposed to receive a teenaged girl, please examine your new daughter carefully. Does she:
(a) look very similar to your original daughter, only with more makeup and less clothing?
(b) refuse to acknowledge your existence on the planet Earth (except when requesting money)?
(c) Sleep in a burrow of dirty laundry?
If any of these are true, you have received the correct item.
When you first receive your teenaged daughter, you will initially experience a high level of discomfort. Gradually, this discomfort will subside, and you will merely feel traumatized. This is the "Break-In Period," during which you are becoming accustomed to certain behaviours that will cause you concern, anxiety, and stress. Once you have adapted to these behaviours, your teenager will start acting even worse.
To activate your teenaged daughter, simply place her in the vicinity of a telephone or Instant Messanger. No further programming is required.
Several hours after activation, you may desire to shut down your teenaged daughter. There is no way to do this.
CLEANING YOUR TEENAGED DAUGHTER:
Having a teenaged daughter means learning the difference between the words "clean" and "neat." Teenaged daughters are very clean, because they take frequent showers that last more than an hour. They will scrub themselves with expensive, fragrant soaps which you must purchase for them because like I'm sure I'm going to use like the same kind of soap my mom and dad use. When they have completely drained the hot-water tank, they will step out and wrap themselves in every towel in the bathroom, which they will subsequently strew throughout the house. If you ask them to pick up the towels, you are confusing "clean" with "neat." Teenagers are very busy and do not have time to be neat. They expect others to pick up after them. These others are called "parents."
FEEDING YOUR TEENAGED DAUGHTER:
Your teenaged daughter requires regular meals, which must be purchased for her at restaurants because she detests everything you eat because it is, like, sooooo disgusting. She does not want you to accompany her to these restaurants, because some people might see you and like I'm sure I want my friends to see me eating dinner with my parents. Either order take-out food or just give her the money, preferably both. If you order pizza, never answer the doorbell because the delivery boy might see you and, ohmigod, he is so hot. Yes, your daughter's idea of an attractive man is the pizza boy.
CLOTHING YOUR TEENAGED DAUGHTER:
Retailers make millions of dollars a year selling stylish and frankly sensible clothing which will look adorable on your daughter. If you enjoy shopping, you will love the vast selections which are available to you. Unfortunately, your teenaged daughter wants to dress like a lap dancer. You may be able to coerce her into putting on a cute outfit before leaving the house, but by the time she walks in the schoolhouse door, she will be wearing something entirely different.
Teenaged daughters require one of two levels of maintenance: "High," and "Ultra High". Your daughter is "Ultra High." This means that whatever you do won't be enough and whatever you try won't work.
This product is not without defect because she has your genes, for heaven's sake. If you think this is not fair, talk to your parents, who think it is hilarious. Your teenaged daughter will remain a teenager for as long as it takes for her to become a woman, which in her opinion has already happened and as far as you are concerned never really will. If you are dissatisfied with your teenaged daughter, well, what did you expect? In any event, your warranty does not give you your little girl back under any circumstances, except that deep down she's actually still there - you just have to look for her.
Men's list of rules:
Finally, the guys’ side of the story. (I must admit - it's pretty good!) We always hear "the rules" from the female side. Now here are the rules from the male side.
Ladies, these are our rules!:
1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.
2. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.
3. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that
4. Crying is blackmail.
5. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!
6. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
7. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
8. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.
9. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.
10. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.
11. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.
12. If something we said can be interpreted two ways - and one of the ways makes you sad or angry - we meant the other one.
13. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.
14. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.
15. Christopher Columbus did not need directions and neither do we.
16. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.
17. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.
18. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
19. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.
20. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine.....Really.
21. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation, or monster trucks.
22. You have enough clothes.
23. You have too many shoes.
24. I am in shape. Round is a shape.
25. Thank you for reading this; Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that, it's like camping.
Question: If you could live forever, would you and why? Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever,"
--Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest.
"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'! d love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."
"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life,"
--Brooke Shields, during an interview to become Spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign.
"I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body," --Winston Bennett, University of Kentucky basketball forward.
"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,"
--Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, DC.
"I'm not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers. We are the president."
--Hillary Clinton commenting on the release of subpoenaed documents.
"That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the ! one to do it,"
--A congressional candidate in Texas.
"Half this game is ninety percent mental."
--Philadelphia Phillies manager, Danny Ozark
"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."
--Al Gore, Vice President
"It's no exaggeration to say that the undecideds could go one way or another"
--George Bush, US President
"I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix."
"We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
"I was provided with additional input that was radically different from the truth. I assisted in furthering that version."
--Colonel Oliver North, from his Iran-Contra testimony.
"The word "genius" isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
--Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback &sports analyst.
"We don't necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people."
--Colonel Gerald Wellman, ROTC Instructor.
"Traditionally, most of Australia's imports come from overseas."
"Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances."
--Department of Social Services, Greenville, South Carolina
"If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there'll be a record."
--Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman
The following are interesting websites that offer discussion boards about for and about dating widowers or marriage with a widower:
The following URL is a great place for your widower to meet with like-minded widows/widowers for discussions:
NEWS OF THE WEIRD
Excerpted from the following website: “I’m Talking – Be Quiet!: The Fabulous Ramblings Of A Steel Magnolia” http://dani-lou.diaryland.com/faq.html
Q: What was it like dating a widower?
A: Every situation is different, mine was very unique. Dating a widower is not carte blanche to treat a woman like crap. A widower is a man just like any other. The biggest key is communication, but it is more important when loss is an issue. I think asking this question gives us reason to treat them differently. However, they shouldn't be treated with less care or concern than any other person. It was part of their life. Embrace it because it will never go away. Then form your life together. That's the key.
Q: Have any recommendations for dating a widower?
A: Have a good support system. Issues will arise that you will need to discuss. Make sure you talk with your significant other about all your concerns, worries, etc. If he backs away when you discuss them, he isn’t ready to be in a relationship.
Q: He won’t commit because he’s a widower?
A: It isn’t because he’s a widower. Too often we women find excuses for men. Widowers are no different, however we have more empathy for their situation. If you find yourself feeling inadequate, unloved, disrespected, or others, it probably isn’t because he’s a widower. He’s not committing because he doesn’t want to. He lost his wife, against his choice, but he knows love and seeks and desires to have it again.
(JULIE RESPONDS: Pretty smart cookie, don’t you think? :) ...JDA
Good Grief: A Constructive Approach to the Problem of Loss
by Granger E. Westberg (author)
Format: Paperback, 64pp
Pub. Date: September 1983
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers
Edition Number: 35
From the Publisher:
Many people experience grief as the result of loss. This book describes what happens to us whenever we lose someone or something important. We all need a better understanding of the small griefs in life as well as those larger grief experiences that can overwhelm us. Here is a volume to be kept close at hand. It can be used over the years as you encounter a wide variety of grief experiences or as you assist friends in moving beyond grief to good grief.
Ten Stupid Things Couples do to Mess up Their Relationships
by Dr. Laura Schlessinger (author)
Format: Paperback, 288pp
Pub. Date: January 2003
1. Stupid Secrets
Withholding important information for fear of rejection
2. Stupid Egotism
Asking not what you can do for the relationship but only what the relationship can do for you
3. Stupid Pettiness
Making a big deal out of the small stuff
4. Stupid Power
Always trying to be in control
5. Stupid Priorities
Consuming all your time and energies with work, hobbies, errands, and chores instead of focusing on your relationship
6. Stupid Happiness
Seeking stimulation and assurance from all the wrong places to satisfy the immature need to feel good
7. Stupid Excuses
Not being accountable for bad behavior
8. Stupid Liaisons
Not letting go of negative attachments to friends and relatives who are damaging to your relationship
9. Stupid Mismatch
Not knowing when to leave and cut your losses
10. Stupid Breakups
Disconnection for all the wrong reasons
From the Publisher:
Author Biography: Dr. Laura Schlessinger holds a post-doctoral certification in marriage, family, and child therapy and is licensed by the state of California as a marriage and family therapist.She is the author of the best-selling children's book Why Do You Love Me? and But I Waaannt It!, and best-selling adult books The Ten Commandments (with Rabbi Stewart Vogel), How Could You Do That?, Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives, and Ten Stupid Things Men Do to Mess Up Their Lives. She has the number one radio show in America, which is syndicated in 450 cities and is heard by 18 million people each weekday. In September 2000, Dr. Laura will launch a daily television show, syndicated by Paramount Domestic Television. Dr. Laura lives with her son, Deryk, and her husband, Dr. Lewis Bishop, in southern California.
Legal mumbo jumbo:
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Note from Julie: As always, please feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone you feel it may help, or share it with your widower.
I’m just an e-mail away...J.D.A.