It seems once you’ve lived, loved, and lost someone, you should be free to date and marry again, or not, without fear of glares, gossips, and grabbers. Turns out, that’s not the case. A smattering of letters this week from widows, widowers, and those who know them–all with very strong feelings about the dos and don’ts of finding love again:
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I were having dinner with another couple when a conversation ensued that divided the men’s views from the women’s. It concerned a recently widowed man (I’ll call him “John”) who is dating a woman from our wives’ circle of friends, “Peggy.” (Peggy is a widow.)
The wives were appalled that John has begun dating only three months after his wife “Gloria’s” death, and insisted a woman in his situation would not. Furthermore, the women went on to question whether it was appropriate for him to date within Gloria’s circle of friends. Our wives believe that anyone within this circle should be off limits, while we men don’t see it as a problem.
So my question is: What is the proper protocol? (As an aside, the women now shun both John and Peggy.) — JUST WONDERING IN THE BAY AREA
DEAR JUST WONDERING: “The wives” obviously identify with Gloria and feel that John’s not wearing sackcloth and ashes for at least a year after her death is disrespectful to her memory. That’s what they would expect from you. They would also prefer that you not date any of the available women in your circle. They were stating their feelings. So consider yourselves put on notice!
From my perspective, it seems your wives feel neither John nor Peggy has grieved long enough, and so they are punishing them. It is possible, however, that Gloria told John she didn’t want him to be alone and grieve after she was gone, which is why he is being comforted by someone who knew them both. I’d advise your wives to give them the benefit of the doubt instead of shunning them.
Dear Margo: I’m a recently widowed man in my 50s. There is a woman who works with me with whom I’ve been good friends for as long as we’ve worked together, about six years. She is several years younger than I and very attractive. Ever since my wife passed away, she has been making advances, and I don’t know how to say no without harming our friendship. I’m not attracted to her, nor am I looking for a relationship right now. She keeps asking me to lunch, buying me coffee and leaving little notes on my desk with messages and smiley faces like a teenage girl. This is getting annoying, and I don’t know how to politely tell her to back off. — Need Time To Grieve
Dear Need: They really swoop in, don’t they? This woman sounds quite aggressive, and it’s clear that “subtlety” is not her middle name. A gentle way to essentially tell her to knock it off would be to say that you are appreciative of her solicitousness, but you are still in mourning and, as your signature says, need time to grieve. If she continues to try to rope you in, then you will have to tell her flat out that she is being rather thick and you see her only as a friend, and the result will probably be that the friendship is kaput. (But a small price to pay, say I, if she is making you insane with her overtures.) — Margo, directly
DEAR ABBY: I was involved with “Ralph” for two years. We live in a senior apartment complex, and women have been coming on to him for years. He is now seeing “Joan,” who happens to be my neighbor. This hurts me deeply.
This is a small complex and it’s difficult to face them. I am desperately trying to hold my words and feelings inside because it is hard not to call the woman a “slut.” I blame Ralph more. He made the decision to humiliate me, but how can Joan do this to her own neighbor? How do I handle this with class? — SHATTERED HEART
DEAR SHATTERED HEART: The smart way to handle it “with class” is to keep your temper in check and do no name-calling. If Ralph didn’t make your relationship official, he was free to start seeing someone else.
While I agree that this is a painful disappointment, do not waste one more minute feeling “humiliated.” Not all romances work out — and a remedy for easing the pain is to become more active. Do not sit around feeling sorry for yourself watching Ralph and Joan come and go. Time can ease a broken heart — but if it doesn’t, consider trading rooms/apartments with someone on a different floor.