Widows Dating

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With widows dating, people are only naturally curious to know all the details behind it. How do they meet people? How is the family dealing with it? Here is the story of how my widower dad navigated the challenging terrain of dating again.

A widows’ dating life is under quite a bit of scrutiny. There is much to consider besides finding a good match. For my dad, so much of his decision relied heavily on the support of us kids…almost to a fault. I applaud my dad for being so considerate of our feelings, and at one point, he said he wouldn’t move forward in any relationship unless he had full approval from all 22 of us–kids, spouses, and grandkids. We thought it was funny to joke back that the babies who couldn’t quite speak had uttered a disapproving grunt.  He was emotional as he stated this, and I can’t say that for each of us there was cheering from the get-go. I recently shared my thoughts on my perspective of Losing Your Spouse. It’s the pre-qual to this post, so READ IT if you haven’t!

As a refresher, here is a quick timeline:

  • November 2015: My mom passed away in Ghana
  • January 2016: Dad came home from his mission in Ghana
  • May 2016: Dad sold the house in Houston
  • September 2016: Dad started a job at BYU in Utah
  • October 2016: my daughter and I visited him in Utah

I left that last post with a cliffhanger, and I got several texts from friends needing to know more NOW! It was not my intention to cut it off like that, but as I wrote, I realized the grieving post needed to be separated from the dating post. Not just that it would be a SUUUPER long post, but I thought the sentiments needed their own space.

Almost that entire first year after my mom had passed away, my dad wasn’t dating, he didn’t feel the need to remarry. From what I’ve heard, widowers (men) are more prone to remarry from loneliness, but my dad said over and over that he was ok to be alone. He got season tickets to BYU football games alone (and even stormed the field after a game–alone), went to concerts alone, he didn’t mind it. He really wasn’t “looking”  for companionship, he was content. He had a few widower friends he’d spoken with that admitted they felt a bit depressed being alone, and never wanted to go out alone, and he just didn’t feel that way. He wanted to go out and enjoy life, despite the fact that his wife of 40 years was no longer by his side.

I mentioned previously the widows conference my dad was invited to speak at, and his apprehension. I don’t know if it was my urging, or if he figured he’d do it in the back of his mind anyway, but he entertained the idea. Just after I left Utah in October, he met with the organizer of the conference for lunch, and they outlined what they wanted him to speak about. He was asked if he wanted to first attend a similar conference before he committed to speak, so arrangements were made for him to attend a conference in Idaho at the end of October. The speaking engagement he was asked to speak at was in Southern Utah in January.

He had spoken to Stephanie several times on the phone before he actually met her. Even before I came to Utah, they had spoken (which he neglected to mention to me), as she reached out to him to speak at the conference she was putting together. Turns out, their phone conversations were about more than just conference talk, or widow talk. It seems that there was a connection even before an introduction. She organized several conferences for widows in Idaho in the 3 years since she had been a widow herself. She worked as a voluntary position to bring people together in her area, suffering from loss of a spouse. She spent countless hours, without pay, for several years, donating her time to a cause that she believed in, and had benefitted from herself. She formed a circle of friendship with women who understood her grief, and they were able to lean on each other.

When my dad first told me about Stephanie, he was a bit apprehensive. He wanted to tell me, but I think he was nervous for how I would react. Before that, I had encouraged him to go out on a date, just wanted to let him know that I was up for the idea. So it surprised me when he was seemingly nervous to tell me about his meeting her. They hadn’t even gone on much of a “real date” when he told me about her, but he had feelings, I could tell, and I think that’s what made him nervous. From that very first conversation, I could tell this Stephanie gal was something special, and I know he could tell that as well, and it made him nervous. Nervous for himself, nervous to tell us kids, nervous that he might betray my mom.

I think from the outside, when widows remarry, most people are happy for them. Happy to see them with a partner, happy they found love again, etc. But on the inside, feelings from all parties involved vary from acceptance to apprehension to uncertainty to happiness and it changes from time to time and different from person to person. There is a lot of emotions to sort through. My dad perceived the challenge that lay ahead, and I think he was worried to confront it, to accept it.

We had been hearing for a year that he wanted approval of all 22 of his posterity when considering any decisions, and I think he knew the task that lay ahead of him. Stephanie lived in St. George, 4 hours south of him in Provo. After a few weeks of him telling me about conversations and weekend meet-ups, I knew this was going for the long haul. I’d call him on it, and he thought I was crazy for mentioning it “so soon” into their dating, but I know how it works.  I don’t think you have to know someone a long time, to date a long time to know that you have a connection and imagine yourselves together long term.

I believe in short term dating longevity. I actually think dating too long allows for recognizing too many flaws, which can talk people out of it. I am of the understanding that any good man with any good woman, striving towards bettering themselves can work together. So if you see an early connection, have the same goals and ideals, it can work. No one can really be warned of anothers hidden shortcomings, or predict a sway in the direction of a partners change of heart on religion, fidelity, etc.  So if your core beliefs align, and you have an attraction…BAM! What else is there to consider? Maybe that’s the idealist in me, but that’s how I feel.

I digress…

As my dad tried to explain her personality to me, he mentioned that she kind-of reminded him of my mom’s best friend K.K. The sweet woman by her side just before she passed away, whom she’d laughed with for 30 years. I liked the image of my dad dating someone whom my mom would likely connect with.

My dad was really anxious for me to “meet” Stephanie, which I did via a skype in mid to late October. I was a little nervous to talk to her because I had already grilled my dad about her the 20 questions I might have otherwise asked her upon meeting her for the first time. What was I going to ask? Would I pretend I didn’t know? I’m a horrible actress, so that wouldn’t work out so well for me.  It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was actually kinda nervous, mostly because my dad had an expectation and really wanted Stephanie and I connect, and I felt he was actually putting pressure on ME!

Luckily, my family was around and helped cut the possible awkwardness. My husband and I were both impressed that Stephanie called each of my children by name, and remembered what they were into, and asked them about that. Obviously she had been briefed, but she cared enough to remember and ask. The kids warmed to her, which allowed me to warm quickly, too. I already knew I’d like her because my dad did. After the call, I spoke to my brothers with the basic feedback, “she’s hard not to like.” Stephanie is an energetic lady, enthusiastic about life, just like my dad.

In early November, my dad said he was invited to Stephanie’s family Christmas party on December 17th and asked if I wanted to come out for it to meet her and her family. He really wanted me to meet her, and I love him for that. He wanted me to give my stamp of approval, and though I thought about it, I ultimately told him….”Dad, I don’t need to meet her to give my approval.”

widows dating

That party was on my anniversary, and it just wasn’t a good time to take a solo trip the week before Christmas. Plus, I told my dad if he was engaged, I’d be up for making a special trip to meet all her family, but not necessarily before hand. In hindsight, I think he wanted me there more for him, as a comfort, but I felt silly at the idea of being at her family Christmas party.

I’d been asking him throughout October and November what he thought about the relationship long term, and it was just too much to wrap his head around, and he often said he wasn’t sure. He liked her, but I think he had to get used to the idea of allowing himself to love someone else after being married for 40 years to my mom.

It was finally in December, likely after meeting her family, that he felt confident enough to say that yes, yes he could see himself with her long term. It felt kind-of funny to grill my dad on a dating relationship. At times in the past year, he felt like my child in the sense that I would offer emotional support, ask him questions to help him think, and guide him to see what he already knew.  He grappled with what my mom would think about the situation, what my siblings thought, and appreciated my feedback and counsel. This man who has guided me through so much in my life, I was now helping to guide him. It felt special, and I’m grateful I got to play that role.

widows dating

My dad has always loved the hymn, “Lead Kindly Light.” That while he could not see the distant shore, one step ahead was enough for him.

In January 2017, my dad traveled to Southern Utah, and spoke at the widows conference, the one Stephanie approached him to speak at months before, and how they met.

I’ll share an excerpt from his address there:

How can we cherish memories of the past while also moving forward with faith in every footstep into the future?

{I just loved this Walmart shopping spree, playful banter}

I want to suggest five (5) things that can heal us when we are hurting, mend us when we are broken, make us whole again when we fill shattered or uncertain.  They work for me when I remember them, when I hold them close, when without choosing to feel misunderstood; I decide instead to “dance in the rain rather than wait for the storm to pass,” a favorite saying of my wife’s. So, here’s the 5 things which help me. I hope they will also be helpful to you.
  1. Mourn
  2. Mourn with those who mourn
  3. Rejoice
  4. Rejoice with rejoicers
  5. Press Forward
{I’ll ask my dad if it’s ok to publish his entire talk (or email me and I’ll send it), because his storytelling and way with words is much better than mine.}
Once January hit, it wasn’t IF he was going to get married, but WHEN. Dad brought Stephanie out to meet our family in Texas in February. As I’d told him, I’d met her enough on the phone and skype to know she was a great lady, and he was very happy with her. I felt 100% happy with his choice, but it wasn’t the same joy coming from all of my siblings. I won’t expound on that, but I’ll just say that for some it was a tougher transition to acceptance. But we all did agree…SHE is hard not to like.
We had a great extended weekend in February, we did some Austin highlights, and had a grand ole time. Before he came, I told my dad I wasn’t so sure I was ready for PDA, and he was very sensitive to that. He, Stephanie and I had a power walk together, went to my son’s track meet with the family, went to church, etc.  It was fun to hear that even when they live 4 hours apart, that they do skype 7 minute workout exercises together. They spend almost every weekend together, talk every night, have lots of other hobbies/interests individually, and are genuinely concerned with the lives of each others children/grandchildren.
widows dating
{teamwork preparing us dinner at my home}
{our power walk exercise}
My biggest concern for their visit wasn’t me with them, but more other peoples reactions to me. I’d mentioned to a few people that my dad was dating someone and I’d hear, “Already??? Wow, how long ago did your mom pass away??!” And I was totally annoyed. People don’t get it and often say what comes to mind without thinking, and I had to remind myself of that. I was worried about nosy people that I hardly ever talk to, asking me tons of questions after their appearance at church, and THAT was my biggest concern for the weekend. I guess I feel like, if you’re not close enough to me to talk on regular basis, don’t come around asking me questions just so you can have the inside scoop.
widows dating
I got to introduce them to several of my closest friends, and hear their feedback, which I appreciated. On the last day there, a good friend came over to meet her. This friend has known me a very long time, adored my mom, and wept openly on the phone when I called her the night my mom passed away.  I was working on a project, and she, Stephanie and I tied ribbon to a string for an hour, while my friend grilled Stephanie on all of the details of how she met my dad and how it all came to be. My dad was working on his computer in the kitchen and would pipe in jokingly from time to time as they kiddingly jarred about details, and I kind-of just listened to my friend talk to her. It was fun to hear her side of the story, and funny to watch she and my dad flirt and tickle each other in front of us on the couch. Yep, this was a side of my dad I’d not seen before. I thought it was cute.
I loved how Stephanie made it a point to talk to my kids and show kindness to them, that meant a lot to me.

While staying here, Stephanie got the guest room, but my dad slept in my boys room. My youngest daughter was confused at this notion, and whispered in my ear, “Is there a rule or something about that, or is it just….awkward?” I love her innocence, to which I replied…”yeah, it’s a rule, not until they are married, they won’t share a bed.”

They got engaged shortly after their visit to Austin, and details were made for an April wedding in Utah. My dad kept saying how excited her kids were to meet us, which for some reason surprised. I guess I was going to have some step siblings, new territory I hadn’t much considered.

Read Part 1: Losing your Spouse

Read Part 3: Bonus Family

Bonus: Wedding VIDEO!!

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Comments

  1. Congratulations to the happy couple. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing the story!

  2. Kristen, you’ve done such a lovely job of telling this story. I had tears come to my eyes a few times as I thought about the feelings involved for you, for your dad, for Stephanie, and others in the story. It’s lovely to hear that things are going so well. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for sharing (and thank you to your Dad) such a lovely story of family times and love overcoming sadness. My mother in law passed away a few years ago and my father in law has been alone and has not been able to share with his children any aspects of his personal life in fear that they do not accept someone new in his life. It is hard but I think all widowers should have a second chance at finding love.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the read, Ines, thanks for sharing a little of your story, too. I think there is a lot of fear involved, no perfect answer for each situation.

  4. I read some articles on this site and I think your blog is really interesting and has great information. Thank you for your sharing.

  5. Tracey A says:

    I absolutely love this. Being widowed at one time myself, grieving and in pain, and getting remarried to a wonderful man with grown children as well. GOD IS GOOD, ALL THE TIME! I have to think your Mom had a little of bit of help in bringing those two together! What a wonderful blessing for those involved.

    I am continually blessed as well and have just celebrated 11 years of marriage. I still miss my late husband, but embrace my new life with love and many thanks to Heavenly Father and Tom.

    May blessings follow them and your family!l

  6. Linda Stolle says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this, Kristen! You did a beautiful job. Your honesty with your feelings is so commendable. I think I would have felt similarly in your situation. Just so happy the way things are turning out! Love and miss your mom, and glad your dad has found a kind and sweet companion til they are togethe again! Maybe these two couples were close friends in the premarital life. Wouldn’t surprise me.

    • Linda Stolle says:

      I don’t like auto-correct!! Premortal Life is, of course, what it should say!

      • Kristen Duke says:

        Haha…thanks for clarifying. I’m glad you enjoyed the read. My mom is missed by many, that’s for sure. I think she and Stephanie would have been, will be good friends.

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