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ASK AMY: Widower ponders the ticktock of moving on

A widower's choice to enter the dating scene has his family concerned.

Dear Amy: It’s been four months since losing my wife of 40 years.

She made me promise to move on with life.

To keep that promise, I have removed my wedding ring. I have started dating.

I am moving slowly, wanting to develop a friendship before a serious relationship. My family thinks I am moving too fast.

What do you think?

– Widower

Dear Widower: No other person gets to set a timer on when you should start to move on with your life.

However, if you have children and other family members who were attached to your wife, they are not living the same experience as you are. Any moves you make might seem too fast for them. They may try to weigh in out of concern for you, and you should listen respectfully – and then do what you want to do, but with the awareness that your choices matter to other people.

If you are actually dating in order to satisfy a promise you made to your late wife, then be aware that this is not the optimal way to approach a new relationship. Nor do you need to justify your desire to date by framing it as keeping a promise.

Counsellors often suggest not making any huge or life-altering decisions during the first year after the death of a loved one. So yes, take things slowly.

The following is from a study of 350 widows and widowers, published by the National Institutes of Health:

“By 25 months after the spouse’s death, 61% of men and 19% of women were either remarried or involved in a new romance. Women expressed more negative feelings about forming new romantic relationships.”

The study concludes: “Greater psychological well-being was highly correlated with being remarried or in a new romance 25 months after the spouse’s death. It may be helpful for family, friends, and therapists to know that dating and remarriage are common and appear to be highly adaptive behaviours among the recently bereaved.”

Dear Amy: A former colleague is getting married this summer. We were close when we worked together and have kept in touch through the years.

Due to current restrictions, no significant others have been invited to the event. It is not nearby.

No one I really know will be in attendance.

OK, bottom line, I do not want to go.

If we still worked together that would be a different story.

I will send a card and a gift, of course.

Why am I so torn about not going?

Your thoughts?

– Unsure

Dear Unsure: I can take a stab at this and guess that you are torn about your choice not to attend this wedding because – as we are all emerging from the isolation caused by the pandemic – you don’t really want to slog through a wedding full of strangers by yourself, and yet you believe that after a year of isolation, you should want to do it.

Go easy on yourself.

You may never get to the point where you want to attend a wedding by yourself where you don’t really know anyone, but these – and other – social occasions will seem less overwhelming as time goes on.

Dear Amy: I’ve just read your response to “No Wedding Bells for Me,” and can’t understand your vehement dislike for the idea of a groom singing his wife down the aisle at their wedding.

As a professional singer (and as a romantic), your statement to “never marry a guy who wants to sing you down the aisle” seems very extreme to me.

There are some who would find this to be a beautiful thing – me among them.

Not marrying someone because they want to sing, as opposed to “because they are a jerk” are two very different things.

Your extreme opinion in your response really rings shallow. If it’s a good match, nothing else matters.

I sang my spouse down the aisle 10 years ago, and we’d both do it again.

What do you have against singers?

– Trying to Understand

Dear Trying: I have my own particular and checkered history as a lounge singer in Washington, D.C.

I assure you I have nothing against singers. My statement to “never marry a man who wants to sing you down the aisle” (unless he is Tony Bennett) was sardonic, and yet the underlying point is one I stand firm on: In my opinion, a wedding ceremony should be a shared experience, not a performance.

It sounds like you and your wife married the right people. I hope you’ll continue to make beautiful music together.

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