Wives of Widowers

Most members of the BSWC are in a second marriage because there has been a divorce, but we do get (and very much welcome!) WoWs on our site. Your situation is usually a little different, but many of the feelings that have been described to us are familiar to other members – not least, the isolation and lack of support, and the worry that you have problems that no one else will really understand.

Marrying a widower can be very different to marrying a divorced man. He did not choose to end his last marriage, and he may still feel great love and loss, even if he now loves and adores you. If there was any hint of tragedy about his late wife’s death, then society may view him as some sort of saint. Most likely, his children, friends and family will also feel a great loss, and unlike your husband, who has chosen to make a new life with you, they may not be so accepting of your position.

This has certainly been the experience of some of our WoW members, who have encountered resentment and even anger from others who knew their husband’s late wife and did not want her to be ‘replaced’. Many others have had to endure tactlessness and hurtful remarks. Some have come to feel that they are being constantly compared to someone who is only remembered at her most perfect, or that the home they share with their husband is actually a shrine to another woman. And even when a WoW has realised that her husband’s first marriage was probably not the bed of roses it has become in the collective memory of family and friends, sometimes it has still been a struggle to cope with the idea that if his late wife was still alive, they would still be together and he would not be with her. We know from various members that this feeling of being ‘second best’, or having impossibly large boots to fill, can slowly chip away at a woman’s self-esteem, and really undermine her new marriage. And on top of this, there is sometimes the feeling that it is shameful to feel this way.

The role of stepmother when there is no mother can also be more difficult than it is for other second wives, who, relatively speaking, take a bit of a back seat when it comes to raising the stepchildren. But the wife of a widower will live with the children all the time, doing as much for them as their own mother would have done, and yet she is not their ‘real’ mother, as no doubt they and plenty of others will remind her…. as if that means she doesn’t count.

But she does count! However sad it may be, marriages end when one partner dies, and when the grieving is over, the surviving partner has every right to start again, to find new love, and to live just as happily – maybe more happily – than he did before. His new wife is not a replacement, or a substitute, she is just as much the real thing as his previous one. But, as with many divorced men, this new relationship often necessitates a period of resetting boundaries and changing other people’s expectations, and this is something we know a lot about at the BSWC! Join us for help, advice and support and to share your story.