Dear Barb – Old Connections Can Undermine New Relationship

Dear Barb:

I am a widow. My husband died two years ago and a few months ago I met a widower who lost his wife one and a half years ago. We’ve been dating six months. At first we spent a lot of time talking about our late spouses, but no longer feel the need to do this. Ken and I get along great. He says he is over his wife and ready to move forward with his life. We’ve talked about perhaps having a life together in the future.

My problem is his connection with his late wife’s family. They’ve made it clear that they want nothing to do with me, yet he continues to keep up daily contact with them. They invite him to birthday celebrations and he goes without me. Ken has recently joined Facebook and almost all his friends are his late wife’s family and friends. I understand they were a part of his life for many years, but isn’t this a little much? Even though I love this man very much, I do feel hurt by this situation. I understand him having the occasional contact with them (at weddings, etc.) where I would hopefully be invited as his guest, but I feel this regular contact may be impeding his ability to move on with his life. I’m not sure I want to share this man with his late wife’s family. Am I being unreasonable?

Lucy

Hi, Lucy. I can understand why you are upset and feel this connection may be preventing you and Ken from establishing a life together. By attending these social events by himself, he could be sending the message that you’re not that important in his life and that he’s willing to maintain the relationship with his late wife’s family whether you’re included or not. It is up to Ken to establish boundaries with them. If he doesn’t, they’ll continue their relationship with him as it was when his wife was alive. It does sound like he is having difficulty letting go of his late wife’s family, which could be interpreted as an inability to let go of his wife as well.

As you know, you never forget the people who have touched your life. Even when they’re gone, they will always live within our hearts. But if they take up too much of our heart, there won’t be room for anyone else. Perhaps you are more ready to move forward than Ken is. He may need more time. On the other hand, he may never be able to let go of that part of his life and you’ll always be excluded. It is possible that the late wife’s family may eventually come to accept you to a certain extent, but could you ever feel comfortable visiting their homes? There will probably be pictures of his late wife scattered throughout, as well as lots of memories for Ken. For some people this is okay, but only you know if this is a situation you can handle.

I guess you will have to decide where you want this relationship to go. Ken may be able to move forward and have a life with you, but he may always hold something back. I would suggest you give it a little more time. As I said earlier, perhaps you are just more ready to move forward than Ken is. As you know, a few months can make a world of difference for a grieving person. Thanks for writing, and good luck.

Email your questions to voice@voicemagazine.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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