Differences in Dating After a Death of a Spouse Vs. a Divorce

by Sarah Casimong

    The end of a marriage is always a hard time, whether your marriage ends in divorce or due to the death of your spouse. In both cases, it can be hard to get back into the dating world, but because circumstances are so different, widowers and divorcees may deal with entering new dating relationships in different ways.

    Idealized Love

    When a marriage ends in divorce, there is usually a reason why it didn’t work out and acknowledgement that the relationship had its flaws. A divorcee can then go into a new relationship learning from her failed marriage. In the case of a marriage that has ended because of death, the widow’s marriage ends up becoming idealized in her mind, according to philosopher Aaron Ben-Zeev’s “Psychology Today” blog, “Love After Death: The Widows’ Romantic Predicaments." This is due to the way that the marriage has ended, but also because the widow may feel guilty about thinking of her relationship with her deceased spouse in a less-than-ideal way. The widow can end up loving her late spouse more, even while dating and loving a new man, according to Ben-Zeev. However, both loves can co-exist because the love for each man is different.

    Insecurities in New Partners

    Unlike a widower whose wife is no longer around, there is a possibility that a divorced man can get back together with his ex-wife. Although the divorced man may have no intention of reuniting with his ex, his current girlfriend may have insecurities about his previous relationship and jealousy around current interactions with his ex-wife, especially if they have kids together. While a widower does not have the option of getting back together with his late wife, the person he is dating may have fears about living up to her. When comparing the living and deceased women in his life, most of the time his late wife will come out looking better, according to Ben-Zeev. However, it won’t be a big problem, if both parties understand that each love and relationship is different.

    Different Types of Fear

    A new divorcee can go into a new relationship with many fears after a failed marriage. One common fear, referred to as “commitment anxiety,” in “Divorcing” by Melvin Belli and divorce psychologist Mel Krantzler, is putting herself out there for fear of getting hurt again.. These insecurities could get in the way of a relationship, especially if the broken marriage has left the divorcee’s self-esteem in tatters. While the divorcee deals with feelings of insecurity, the widow fears bringing a new man into her life out of respect for her late husband. She may feel guilty that getting into a new relationship might be disrespectful to her late spouse and fear that she’ll forget about him, or even feel like she’s cheating on him. She may also fear becoming intimate with another out of fear of losing someone else to death.

    Stigmas With Moving On

    While people are encouraged to date after divorce, there is more stigma with widows and widowers when it comes to moving on If a divorced person were to rebound, he may not get the same negative reactions as a widower who is dating again. This has a lot to do with the length of time after the spouse’s death. However, according to Ben-Zeev’s article, everyone grieves differently. Some people may take longer to get in a relationship after the death of a spouse, while some may find comfort in a new romantic partner sooner than expected.

    References

    About the Author

    Sarah Casimong is a Vancouver-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She writes articles on relationships, entertainment and health. Her work can be found in the "Vancouver Observer", "Her Campus" and "Cave Magazine".

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