Dating After Losing Your Spouse – Giddy

Finding new love can be challenging but healing, if you’re ready for it.

On his first date with another woman after losing his wife to suicide, Abel Keogh was overcome by guilt and betrayal.

“I felt like I was cheating on my late wife,” he wrote on his website.

It took Keogh, an author and relationship coach in Utah, about five dates to shake off the guilt and enjoy the company of another woman. After a few months, he met his wife, Juliana.

While every widow or widower’s journey is unique, Keogh’s experience is not entirely unusual. Dating is often a whirlwind for everyone, but it’s clearly complex for surviving spouses.

Marti Stany, LCSW, BCDa certificate Erotic plan coach based in Texas, acknowledged that the death of a spouse or long-term partner is one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. During the grieving process, it can be overwhelming to contemplate dating and sex with another person, and it’s absolutely normal to miss sex and intimacy with a dying or recently deceased partner, she said.

“Regaining a vibrant sex life and building a romantic relationship with someone else after the death of your spouse is an extremely personal journey, and it will take time to figure out what feels right,” Stany wrote in an email interview.

5 dating tips for widows and widowers

At some point, most people feel ready to find love again. Here are some tips from relationship experts:

Take your time

After a while, you may feel pressure from friends, family, or society to start dating again when they feel you should have gotten over your loss. While it usually comes from a good place—your loved ones’ collective desire for your happiness—the decision of when to come out is yours.

“There’s no timeline for when the desire for closeness and intimacy will emerge,” Stany said. “You are the only person who can decide when you are ready to go out and experience physical intimacy again.”

Keogh i Emily Simonian, MA, LMFT, head of clinical learning at Thriveworks Counseling in Washington, DC, agreed, noting that many widows and widowers are ready in months, while others take years. Some may choose to never date again.

According to Simonian, one indicator that you’re ready to date again is that you have the emotional capacity to honor the memory of your deceased spouse while also caring for other people.

“In the grieving process, it’s common to feel emotionally overwhelmed to the point where you’re not able to give as much emotional energy as you normally would to others,” Simonian explained. “This can be any relationship in your life, not necessarily romantic relationships. Trying to date will be easier when you’re in a place where grief isn’t dominating other aspects of your life.”

Even if you think you’re ready, experts advise remembering that grief is not linear and that it’s okay to take a step back if you need to.

“Expect ups and downs,” Stany said. “Grief and dating can be emotional roller coasters, and life can feel out of control. Take these experiences one day at a time and don’t plan too far into the future. With such a significant loss, seek stability and security in new relationships can be tempting. This is an opportunity to find that stability and security within oneself, and with family and close friends.”

Reconnect with your sexuality

Sex with a new partner can be exciting, petrifying, or both, especially if it’s been a while. After a loss, these emotions can be prominent and mixed with others, such as guilt and sadness.

Changes in physical appearance and functionality can further complicate matters, especially if you and your spouse were together for many years. To restore a healthy sex life, Stany advised reconnecting with yourself before involving others.

“Your sexuality is a part of you, even after this incredible loss,” Stany said. “Before jumping into bed with a new partner, get to know your sexual self. This is an essential first step, as many people do not find self-pleasure in long-term sexual relationships. Take the time to explore the pleasure of your body. can create a strong sense of sexual autonomy before embarking on a new sexual journey. Discover what your sexual needs are now.”

If you have physical difficulties, such as age-related problems such as vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction (ED), consider talking to a doctor to explore options. A sex and intimacy coach can also help overcome physical and psychological obstacles.

“This type of coach is skilled at helping you learn more about yourself and what you really want,” she continued. “They can be an excellent resource to help you reclaim or reclaim your sexuality and desires throughout this important life transition.”

When you’re ready to have sex with another person, Stany recommended communicating your needs and desires openly.

“In the long run, honest communication about sex after a loss can bring relief to those who are grieving and those who are comforting them,” Stany added. “Openly and respectfully expressing emotional and physical needs with a new partner creates a foundation of compassion and trust for this new sexual exploration.”

Set boundaries and chart a new path

According to Keogh, fully opening your heart to new love is a challenging and multifaceted process. Along with inner work and intimate communication, forging a new relationship can require significant changes.

“There is a price to pay when it comes to starting a new relationship, and many widows and widowers are not willing to pay that,” she said. “New love will not sink in and take the place of the deceased spouse. You need to create a new life with them. A successful, long-term relationship may require redefining relationships with family and friends, removing photos of the deceased spouse, selling or redecorating your house and doing other things that show your new love that they are number one.”

A new partner must respect that your late spouse will always have a place in your heart, Keogh continued. For most surviving spouses, honoring the memory of their deceased partner is a part of life. In accordance with Brianna Campbell, LMFT, LPCclinical director of Two Chairs, a mental health practice in Oakland, Calif., this circumstance shouldn’t threaten the new partner’s feelings of safety, but it’s important to discuss feelings and boundaries to find an appropriate way to honor the deceased spouse

“Most of the time, navigating this situation requires clear and consistent communication,” he explained. “It is the widow’s or widower’s responsibility to clearly name what they need and how they feel and receive the same feedback in return. These conversations need to be held in a neutral place. You need to make space for the relationship and the new partner. This it could lead to other stages of grieving and recognition that whereas the deceased partner used to do x, yiz, the new partner can take on that role, but in a different way.”

Say, don’t ask friends and family

According to Keogh, many widows and widowers worry about how friends and family will react when they find out about a new relationship. This is valid as it can be difficult for some people to accept.

“No matter how others react, the most important thing to remember is that widows and widowers don’t need anyone’s permission to start dating or have a serious relationship,” she said. “The conversation with family and friends is about informing them of the new relationship, not asking for their blessing.”

Keogh noted on his website that some people might treat your new partner badly, especially if they are also grieving. In these situations, she recommends telling the person in question privately and compassionately that their behavior is not acceptable.

“When someone dies, their community mourns not just the person themselves, but the way they knew them, the structure in which the person existed in their life and the expectation they had of that person,” he said. Campbell. “Often, people miss who they were when they were with the person who died, as well as how they felt. Friends and family might be grieving the widow or widower’s relationship, because that might be the context in which they met the deceased.”

Campbell and Simonian recommended clearly expressing your feelings and intentions around dating and setting the conversation on a neutral note.

Simonian said the news is more likely to be received well if you first share that you’ve been working through the grieving process, deserve to be happy again and feel ready. If you’re apprehensive or nervous, don’t be afraid to say so. Be clear about whether you are looking for opinions or not.

For example, “I’d like to share an important update from my life with you. I feel nervous to share it. I want you to know that I am dating someone. I’m not looking for your advice or opinion, but I’m sharing this new update because your relationship, friendship, etc. is important to me,” Simonian said.

Seek professional help

Grief can feel isolating, but you’re not alone. Stany recommended seeing a counselor or therapist to help you process your emotions and joining a support group to connect with other widows and widowers.

“Openly sharing about your loss can feel awkward with a new partner,” she said. “It’s vital that your new lover doesn’t also become your therapist.”

On her website, Keogh advised widows and widowers that while it’s okay to answer questions about your spouse and your relationship, the topic shouldn’t dominate the evening’s conversation. If you’re still surrounded by pain and need someone to talk to, she said it’s far more productive to spend money on a therapy session than dinner and a movie.

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