Should they actively search for another lover? And if they find another lover, while still loving their late spouse, how can these two lovers reside together in their hearts? For widows, is loving again worth the effort of having to adjust to another person? And is widowhood the proper time to fall in love again? The end of love and death For many people, romantic love forms an essential aspect of their lives; without love, life may seem worthless, devoid of meaning.
Romantic love is a central expression of a good, meaningful, and flourishing life. Without love and desire, many people feel that a large part of them is dead.
The lover is perceived to be "the sunshine of my life," and for many, without such sunshine, decay and death are all around. Even in one of the darkest periods of history, the Holocaust, people fell in love, despite the risks of expressing it. People did not relinquish love, and love even enabled some of them to survive the horror and death around them.
Death is perceived to be associated with love in various ways. Thus, romantic breakups are often described as a kind of death. In the words of Dusty Springfield , after such a breakup, "Love seems dead and so unreal, all that's left is loneliness , there's nothing left to feel. The French famously refer to orgasm as "la petite morte," or "the little death. Similarly, it was claimed that "All animals are sad after sex.
Their love to two people is more complex given the continuing impact of bereavement , even years after the loss. The widow's ongoing relationship and bond to the deceased remains a central aspect in her life. She has to cope not merely with the new situation of loving two men at the same time, but also with the shift in the way she has loved her deceased husband: In the romantic ideology, profound love should last forever.
The end of love is taken to indicate that it was superficial in the first place. Contrary to this view, love can perish for various reasons that arise from changes in intrinsic or extrinsic circumstances; such changes do not necessarily indicate that the initial love was superficial. It is true that profound love is less likely to perish, but it can perish nevertheless. Hence, there is no reason to assume that one's heart is not big enough to include several genuine loves in one's life.
The death of a spouse places the widow in a new situation, which has similarities to other situations in which love ends; nevertheless, widowhood has unique aspects. Whether a relationship is average, as most relationships are, or very good, or very bad, the ending of any personal relationship changes one's circumstances. This is due both to the tendency to idealize the past and to our sense of propriety in not speaking ill of the dead. Although the late spouse is physically absent, the widow's love for him can remain — and even grow.
New widows and widowers face a range of circumstances in which their decisions are likely to be different. Here I will discuss three such central circumstances: Most of the claims presented here apply to widowers as well. Adapting to a new lover The case of a widow's love for a new person is different to that which pertains when a regular love affair occurs after a previous one has ended. This is especially so if at the time of the spouse's death, both partners shared a profound love.
In this case, the survivor's love does not die with the spouse's death. The love felt for the late spouse is likely to increase in light of the prevailing idealization of the relationship and of the spouse.
Although a new love might physically replace the previous one, from a psychological viewpoint, the widow will now love two people at the same time. Her love expresses the nonexclusive nature of love more than it does its replaceable nature. Thus, one widow writes: I will always love and miss my late husband.
It's really hard to understand sometimes how I can go from tears for my late husband into smiling and thinking of my new guy. There's an odd 'divide. Consider the following sincere description which appears on the site Widow's Voice by Janine , a widow, about her feelings toward her new lover. And he had only fallen in love once. We both had that love for over 27 years When C came along and we started dating , it was different.
I knew things would be different, because he was not Jim. But I didn't know that love would feel different. And so as we became more serious and had deeper feelings for one another, I started to worry.
I questioned myself and my feelings. Because this did not feel the same. I wasn't experiencing the feelings that I had 27 years ago.
I wasn't feeling that I was falling more in love each day. I wasn't feeling that my heart would burst from how much love I had for him. I didn't wake up each morning almost counting the hours until we'd be together again. So I wondered if I truly loved him. I stressed a lot over this, not wanting to give up on the relationship, but wondering if I was being fair to him if this truly wasn't love. It's hard to express how much pain I was in. He loved me a lot, but although I was not sure that it was love for me, I was not willing to stop seeing him.
I thought I was being selfish. How could this love feel the same as my first love? I was younger then. We were both worry-free. We had no children. We really didn't have many bills. We had no jobs. We had only each other. And we had a long future ahead of us. It's 27 years later. I have 6 children. I have a dead husband I have a scarred heart. I am in a different place. Love after love will not feel the same.
But that doesn't mean that it's not love. It is not wrong that your new love is different from the previous one. Realizing the difference in circumstance enables a widow not to feel that she is compromising or settling.
In a sense, the new lover brings the widow back to life. As Annabel, a widow, said to her friend who ignited in her the desire to make love: The growth experienced by the non-bereaved at this stage of life is likely to be less conflicted and more positive, and while the growth of the bereaved remains present and distinct, it lags behind that of their peers Bar-Nadav and Rubin argue that the experience of loss and its aftermath are reflected in the fact that widows feel greater hesitancy than their peers do about engaging in intimacy with new partners.
These concerns about intimacy arise from the anxiety that they might lose someone again, their fear of opening up to new relationships, and their concerns about not maintaining fidelity to the deceased spouse; all these issues enhance their tendency to avoid intimacy. The role of imagery and counterfactual thinking is central in widows. While the deceased spouse ceases to disappoint and irritate us, the living new partner continues to do so; he reminds us of the richness and the difficulties of ongoing living relationships.
Although love for the deceased spouse may increase as times goes by, a certain disengagement from constant occupation with the deceased occurs over time, facilitating attempts to adapt to the new relationship.
The connection to the deceased spouse is likely to remain throughout the widow's life, but its nature will undergo many changes. The creation of a new loving relationship involves both the capacity to let go and to hold on to the previous relationship, thus creating a new equilibrium see here.
Like other people, a widow yearns for her lover to come back, but unlike others, she knows it is impossible. Which position is worse: The pain and sadness is greater on the widow's side, not merely because of the terminal nature of the loss, but also because of the greater romantic intensity.
The widow is eventually likely to accept her given situation, and this will help her to live more peacefully with her current relationship. Another marriage is not worth the effort Finding the right partner and then learning to live with him often involves a lot of time and effort.
Some people reach an age at which they doubt whether it is worth the effort. The price of adjusting to a new person may be too high — one reason being that the presence of her late husband, whether for good or bad, will remain with her most of the time.
In many cases, the personal relationship would have been satisfactory, but not one in which a great fire burned constantly in the couple's hearts. It is likely to have been good and comfortable, but not what we are presented with in romantic movies. In such situations, the considerations about whether to enter a new marital framework are typically more mundane and relate to maintaining a comfortable life. As Nancy, a widow, indicates: The heart may include this person, but the question is whether it is worth the effort.
Even if the predicaments surrounding being with a new lover are solved and the widow can spare a place in her heart for the new lover, there is still a whole set of dilemmas concerning how and when to embark on a new love.
For example, what is the proper duration of grieving, whether and when to take off the ring, when to begin dating, when to give away his clothes, which clothes to wear in various circumstances, what and how often to talk about the past, and what loving behavior toward the new lover should be shown in public.