There seems to be plenty of online advice for WOWs (Wives of Widowers) and GOWs (Girlfriends of Widowers), but I am striking out finding comparable guidance for HOWs and BOWs.

Silly me. I used to think it was far better to be widower and to periodically talk positively about a deceased wife than it was to be a bitter divorcee and talk horribly about an ex-wife or ex-husband. Guess I was wrong.


The counsel that is being provided to the fairer sex about dating widowers remembering blissful marriages is far from universal. The direction includes compelling the widower to lock all of his late wife’s gear, including photos, in a pharaoh’s tomb-style steamer trunk (UK Guardian columnist Mariella Frostrup) and throw away the key.

Another opines (blogger Julie Donner Andersen) that it would be “inhumane and selfish” to demand that a widower put all of his memories in a box. At the same time, she concluded  that a widower maybe looking to the heavens for permission from his dead wife to fall in love with someone new.

A third input (author/marketer Abel Keogh) simply suggests that it is time to move on if a widower dedicates an online or literal shrine to his departed wife.

Let’s see: Real or digital shrines are kosher for mothers, fathers, siblings, children, but verboten for deceased wives … Not sure I am following the (il)logic.

My response as a widower to this “advice” and the “counsel” emanating from the relationship Pharisees is to ask: Have you ever walked in my shoes?

I never thought I would ever have to “overcome” a two-decade-plus successful marriage. One could reasonably conclude this experience was a plus that one actually knows how to make a marriage stand the test of time. Having read advice columns and blogs on this subject and factoring in my own dating experiences, one is now tempted to come to an all together different conclusion.

During my nearly seven years as a single follicly challenged dude, I have heard a litany of complaints from recent and not-so-recent divorcees about their ex-spouses including using charming names such as a..hole, d..k and the fact that his parents were not married when he was born.

Is it a blast to listen to this dialogue? Nope. And for some reason these negative vibrations are somehow better than listening to a widower talking about his positive relationship with his late wife. Sitting there politely while a female of the species verbally unloads on her ex is somehow commendable, but a knuckle-dragging male musing romantically in moderation about his dearly departed in the presence of a contending female is insensitive. Sure.

Should a widower temper his discussion about his late wife and be cognizant about overdoing it? Absolutely. Should he take all of these memories, put a sock in it and permanently seal them away in a mental or real vault, never to be opened again? Is this realistic?

The trouble with widowers, and I have heard this more than once, is that if we discuss our late spouses more than a few times that triggers a knee-jerk conclusion from the mind readers that we have not come to terms with the passing of our beloved wives. We are not ready for a prime-time relationship with someone with a totally different set of genes.

How else can I put it?  She’s dead. She’s not coming back. To death did us part.

The answer to addressing the subject of a positive marriage to a dearly deceased wife and a bitter divorce to an (add appropriate explicative) offending guy is communication. I have always contended and probably always will believe that how a couple addresses conflict rather than days of wine and roses dictates the success of a relationship. It all boils down to verbal intercourse.

Regardless of whether a previous marriage ended in death or divorce, there are memories and mementos. The longer the marriage, the deeper the emotions and the thoughts about special places and times. Most likely there will be pictures, some more intimate than others. There may be art. There may be letters and cards. Should all of these be put into a steamer trunk, locked and placed into the hold of the Lusitania?

Personally I believe that sensitivity is a two-way street. There should not be a double standard. Discussing an ex, whether it is by a female or male speaker, and whether divorce or death results in a spouse becoming a former spouse, should be done with care. We need to consider the comfort level of those receiving the message and be sensitive to their feelings.

At the same time, those dating a divorcee, a widower or a widow need to come to terms with the undeniable fact that there was someone prominent in that person’s past. There must be some accommodation, but not in an unlimited manner. This is a real or potential conflict, but it can be solved if both sides wish to do so.

If not, a WOW or a GOW could end up competing against the dead. The result may very well be a relationship on life support.

Almost DailyBrett note: The acronyms WOW and GOW originate from blogger Julie Donner Andersen. Very clever.