When Widows or Widowers Feel Like They Are Cheating – What Do You Do?

When your new widow girlfriend feels like she is cheating on her deceased husband, what do you do? Or maybe you are the one feeling like you are cheating on your dead wife. Are these feelings normal? How do you deal with this without blowing up your new relationship?

Before entering a new serious relationship, waiting at least a year after your spouse’s passing is wise. If it is less than a year, you and your new friend may not be ready due to your psycho-emotional state during your grief journey.

As my book (Widower to Widower) discusses, women often take longer to process their grief than widowers do… and often need more time before entering a serious relationship again. While many widowers are ready to start dating within six months, widows may take 2 – 3 years or longer…. and there is little anyone can do to speed this up.

More than once, a widow has contacted me for advice after meeting a widower. In one case, the caller had been a widow for five years and had met a widower she was attracted to, but she could not decide if she should move forward. They often questioned whether they were ready to start dating again, much less enter a serious relationship. The threat of eventual intimacy was enough to scare the heck out of them.

I asked her three questions:

  1. Could she imagine walking on the beach holding hands with this man?
  2. Could she imagine having feelings for him?
  3. Could she imagine sharing a kiss with him?

She could not answer “Yes” to any of these questions, and she realized that even after five years, she still was not ready to date anyone seriously.

Now, even when they start dating again, widows and widowers may sense that they are cheating on their former spouse. This can make even milder forms of intimacy (holding hands, hugging, kissing) very difficult. To move beyond these feelings, both parties need to be patient and do what is necessary if they believe this new relationship is worth it.

It takes a while to work through these challenges. Once more advanced intimacy starts, the feeling may return and must be dealt with again.

One option is to suggest that for now (until SHE says otherwise), your relationship will be a platonic one… that is NO intimacy, just friendship. This can take the pressure off her and allow both of you the time to get to know each other better before deciding whether your relationship has become something more serious.

I dated and talked to several widows before meeting my new girlfriend (now six years in), and that issue did come up during our early time together. It was never relationship-threatening, but it was something that we both were aware of, and this helped us to be supportive of each other as we worked through our own emotions and thoughts on the topic.

Sometimes, you must accept that some widows and widowers will NEVER be able to enter a long-term relationship again. The reasons for this are many, and this choice should be regarded as perfectly normal and not something “wrong” with the one feeling this way. We each process our grief in our own way and on our own timeline. We need to recognize this and support each other on this shared journey.

And finally, I suggest the best place to start, if this sense of cheating or fear of a new relationship is an issue, is either in a Group or Individual Grief Therapy program. Grief therapists can be very helpful and are used to dealing with these issues.

© Copyright 2023 Fred Colby

All rights reserved


Widower to Widower is available through all major booksellers.

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Website: Fred Colby, Author

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