How soon is too soon for a new relationship?

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My friend's wife died last year very suddenly and unexpectedly. They have been together for 25 years. He is now alone with their teenage daughter, teenage son and 12 year old daughter. He told me that apart from being sad and devastated about his wife's death he is really scared about being alone.

 

Only a few months after his wife's death he found a new girlfriend. I was part shocked, because it was so soon, and part relieved to know he wasn't alone anymore. He now wants to move to another town with his new girlfriend, but his children are very upset. They don't want to come with him and want to run away from home.

 

He has been my friend since Kindergarten and I really care about him, so I wonder if his decision is good for him and his family. Is it really possible to start a new relationship so soon after a long-term partner's death?

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Thanks PCDonkey. I was hoping to hear this answer for him, but as you say it is a whole different story for his kids.

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I'm always concerned about people moving away and leaving their support systems of family and friends. Is it the friend or the girlfriend who wants to move to another city?

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I think it is both of them and part of it is for financial reasons, as his wife provided a large part of the family income.

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My wife and I had this conversation just the other day. We have two friends who are currently in comas, one of whom is a woman with 2 young children. My first reaction to the news that she was in a coma was, "oh poor <insert first name of her husband here>".

 

Women seem to do much better without men than men can do without women. The thoughts that flashed through my mind were of me trying to work while taking care of 2 children (our oldest doesn't live with us anymore). Obviously my next thought was about the lack of sex for a while. Not to reduce the role of women to that of mother/sex object, but those are, in fact, two very big roles, of many, that they fill.

 

I don't see it as an insult to the mother at all. I see it as the need for love, support and companionship that only a woman can provide.

 

I think having your partner in an endless coma is even worse than having him/her die. You still have those needs for love and companionship, but can't get closure or move on. You live a life waiting for him/her to either come back to you or to die... That would suck.

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I lost my mom when I was 12 after a 2 year bout with breast cancer. We moved soon afterwards and my dad found himself in a new relationship. He was happier than I had seen him in a long time. It was, for me, a burden lifted because I didn't have a depressed father anymore. We were in a new town and the memories of my mother's slow passing were not facing us in our surroundings everyday.

 

Families move all the time. Does this father deserve any happiness? Should he stay depressed for his kids? Just another way of looking at it. Kids are a lot more adaptable to new situations and schools, etc. Now if you were to ask if they can adapt easily to a new mother, that is a different question altogether.

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In a nutshell: fine for him, I question what he is doing to the children, though.

 

Rob, I agree with your post, but ....

 

I have to think of my friend who died in January. She had her daughter relatively late (after miscarriages...) and the bond between them was extremely close. Her daughter does not speak of her mother at this moment and is now in counselling. I have heard that it is "normal" behaviour.

 

I cannot imagine what those children must feel and are going through. And now this upheaval.

 

Tough.

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It's a bad idea to judge others from your own standpoint, although I would not want others to have to suffer through this extreme situation. For almost a year, I was morbidly reluctant to even tell new friends about scogs and how he died; a new relationship was out of the question because of the circumstances of his death - they left me hurt and angry and very wary of letting anyone get that close again.

 

I was on a widows' and widowers' forum for some time after scogs' death to ask for help from people in a similar situation. What put me off most was how quite a few of the members could not let go of their dead spouse - three years on they still slept with his/her picture on the pillow next to them, visited the grave at least once a day, hadn't cleared the clothes out of the closet.

 

How long is too long?

 

In my case, there were no children involved except Cat, my daughter. Perhaps, if I had been on my own, I would have moved away from Munich, at least for a couple of years. While I agree that brutally uprooting the children relatively soon after their mother's death is not a good idea there is the chance that they might benefit from new surroundings, new impressions, new friends. It all boils down to how the dad actively deals with their fears and anguish; confronting them with the fait accompli and telling them to like it or lump it is the worst way. Ensuring that they will not lose contact with old friends immediately and forever, providing the means of visiting them again, gradually making the transition are aspects that the dad should observe.

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It's quite normal for someone to feel they can't be alone after their long-term partner has died, and it is also normal for people to find new partners. There's a bit of a cliche that when a woman dies, all the widows in the neighbourhood descend upon the grieving husband to offer him home-cooked food, a shoulder to cry on and in many cases an ulterior motive.

 

I remember when a widowed gentleman moved into my grandmother's sheltered housing. Lipsticks and eyeshadows that had last seen the light of day in 1981 became the order of the day and it became a bit of a race to sit beside him at coffee hour and "meet" him in the hallway. He and a late entrant to the new-man-bagging-race, a lady whose own husband died after the first man moved into the unit, ended up getting together and marrying in a very sweet ceremony down the road and back to the rec hall for stewed tea and a buffet.

 

Long-windedly, it's common for people who have experienced great love to feel they don't want to live without it and to look for a new great love as soon as the raw edges of their grief have been smoothed away. Sometimes it turns out for the best and sometimes it all goes horribly wrong (see Sir Paul McCartney). My major concern would be the children. It's generally recommended when children whose parent has died are quite young not to make any sudden moves for about a year afterwards, although I think your friend's children are probably a little too old for that to apply. There are practical considerations though, like support networks and school - if they're all settled into school then a move in the middle of the year - or the middle of their education - could be upheaval enough to cause them problems. But if it's a question of their father having to move for financial reasons that complicates things even further, it becomes a balance of his emotional needs, his financial/work-related needs, their educational needs and their emotional needs. And although it would be ideal if everyone's emotional needs were given highest consideration, if he can't earn enough to keep them then moving might be an unwelcome necessity.

 

Does your friend have friends or family in the area who would maybe be able to board the teenagers during the week for the remainder of the school year and they could visit him on the weekends and then revisit the situation over the summer? I'm not entirely ok with suggesting he separates the family even further, but what seems important is that he explain to them in a way they can understand that he needs to make enough money to keep them and is finding it hard where he is - and that he has a right to emotional support (from his new girlfriend) as they do (from their friends). Perhaps offering a way for everyone to get at least some of what they need would be a way to open dialogue.

 

I hope it goes well for all of them. It's so hard when the needs of individuals within a family conflict with each other.

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Thank you all so much for your replies. It really helps to read your opinions and your personal stories.

 

My first reaction was similar to yours Chad8504, but now I think it is better for the children to not have a lonely and depressed father. I just believe the move would be too much for them, because I think they may only now have began their grieving process. Right after their mother's death they were either unusually cheerful or totally withdrawn. For some reason I think they need to stay were they are for a while in order to really process what has happened.

 

Your stories were very reassuring Marc and Rob. Thank you for sharing them.

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I will just add that, 10 years down the road, his kids may feel the same way.

 

I know personally cases of fathers remarrying years after losing their wives and even adult children not accepting the "new mom" (how they see it) for years if ever. Especially here where the kids see the interloper getting part of their inheritance.

 

In this case, it does seem a little soon but I don't know these people. I have to ask how much quality time the dad is getting with his kids now that they need him so desperately. Raising kids is a full time job then comes his work and courting this new lady.

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There are two different issues and he needs to address both of them. Are the kids upset about his new girlfriend? Are the kids upset about moving?

 

My mum died when I was eleven and my dad remarried just over a year later (she and her kids moved in with us about eight months after my mum died and they married a few months later). She pushed very hard at the beginning for us all to move to a bigger house (in a posher area - my brother prefers to call her golddiggingwhorebitch instead of stepmother so admittedly in our situation there were lots of other factors at play too). I remember when I was asked if I would like to move and I said no she made a remark about how her kids had had to move so why shouldn't we all. I just answered something about uprooting us as well just because her kids had had to move (and we're talking about having moved less than two miles, not to a new town) not really being fair. Since I think my dad didn't really want the hassle of moving we never did but he wasn't dead very long before she'd put the house on the market and moved away to a far posher and more expensive place. Although I wasn't really able to put it into words at the time I know that what I basically thought was that we'd had the upheaval of losing our mother and they'd had the upheaval of moving house and so we were quits.

 

Funnily enough I was very open to the idea of my dad dating and meeting other women, which my friends thought was a bit weird when I mentioned it. But children weren't involved in that kind of thing at all and the first I knew about it was the morning of the day they were moving in when he told me that when we came home from school, her kids would be coming with us and she would already be there. I thought he was joking because she and her husband had been in our house frequently - turns out they must have been mostly discussing divorce proceedings and so on for them. For the first while I really did hope for a kind of a Brady-bunch type happiness of two families coming together. Pity it didn't work out like that and instead my dad had invited a heartless bitch into the house. At least your friend is being open with his kids about what's happening and that's good.

 

Are the kids getting any kind of grief counselling? In particular if they are facing another major upheaval it would probably be of benefit for them to have some kind of outside support.

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This sort of thing is personal to everyone so I don't think there is an answer to the question.

 

It's the sort of thing that requires hindsight to know and even then, should the relationship not suceed it does not mean "cos it was too soon"

 

As far as kids go - like a bad marriage it can come to a point where staying together for the sake of the kids only harms the kids. In this situation you have to ask which would be more harmful to the kids, a depressed, possibily resentful father or the new relationship.

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I have a friend who is the step-mom in a similar situation. Kid was 12 when his mom died of cancer, and his dad met my friend I think 6 months later or so. They didn't get married for a year I think, and much of the relationship was long distance. It had been the mother's hometown, and the extended family were there, so even though the father & my friend didn't have other ties to the town, they made the conscious decision to stay living there because it was the *kid's* home.

 

They figured he'd had enough crap to deal with. They are all doing really well right now, and since my friend does honour his mother, talks to him about her, etc., and doesn't try to replace her, the kid is pretty happy. It is more difficult for both parents staying in this town, but she says it is definitely worth it. Now if they couldn't make enough money, that would be a bit different. But what about the new girlfriend's income - if they live together, wouldn't she be contributing to expenses?

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Yup, all of us motherless children have our different stories. It takes a rare breed of woman to be a good stepmother that can take the place of the real mom, much like a substitute teacher will suffer at the hands of another teacher's students it takes a real love of the new children in her life and not just the man she is going to marry. A widower can be an easy mark for a golddigger.

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