Telling friends and family you are dating….
One of the most challenging aspects of starting dating is knowing when to share this news with friends and family. There really is no right or wrong time, the timing will depend on who you are telling, your relationship with them and their relationship with your late partner.
Timing can be everything, you only get one chance to share such news and you want to ensure they are receptive in the hope of a positive and supportive response.
People react differently to such situations, some will be genuinely thrilled for you, supportive and happy to talk and listen, others perhaps less so. They may not be ready to move forward even if you feel you are. They may also be worried for you and protective of you and your late partner/spouse’s memory so try to consider that in your tone, delivery and conversations.
If you are telling friends of you or your late partner then it is so important to read the room, try and ascertain what their thoughts are. Perhaps mention a fellow widow starting dating again as an example to test the water, that should give you an indication on their stance on the subject.
Having a conversation
We always recommend that for conversations such as this meeting, face to face in a quiet, suitable space where you can chat privately and without interruption. Never announce or share that you are dating or in a new relationship by text or on social media, this is where the personal approach is essential.
Be clear, concise, let them know how lonely and bereft you have felt and that although you have supportive wonderful friends, it is often the simple stuff like nights on the sofa, someone to share your day with that you miss most.
This will lay the groundwork and rationale for the reason you are trying to move forward. It may be worth explaining as widows we never move on; we just move forward. I’d definitely reference your spouse explaining they wouldn’t want you to be alone and upset for the rest of your life.
Ask them to keep this news confidential as you probably don’t want to be the topic of gossip and you definitely don’t want the news shared with people you aren’t ready to tell yet. I’d also explain you are confiding in them in trust and hope they will be supportive.
Some people will inevitably be upset or not approve, often the widow moving forward is to friends and family a reality check that their late spouse really is gone, it is like a secondary loss if you like. Be conscious, respectful, and mindful of this.
If the conversation doesn’t go the way you’d like then try not to get too upset, time is a great healer, move the conversation on and maybe revisit at some point in the future when they have had an opportunity to digest the news and sleep on it.
Remember we are all grieving here and no one’s pain is greater than another and we all grieve in different ways on different timelines.
In-laws can of course be a real challenge, they have lost a child. As a widow there is for us an opportunity to find a chapter 2, as a parent there is no chapter 2. You really need to be mindful of this. I’d suggest waiting until you know you and your date have a future and that it is a significant relationship before you raise it.
Try to pre-think the conversation and second guess what they may want or need re-assurance about, for example will you introduce your children, will you have more children, how does this affect the time you spend with in laws, what happens at birthdays and holidays etc.
Try to have some sort of reassuring answers, be honest, clear and concise. Acknowledge that you know this will be painful for them but ultimately you are and always will be family and we need to support each other.
Always talk to your in-laws ahead of a face-to-face introduction with your chapter 2, this gives them time to adjust and prepare. Be very mindful of what you share on social media ahead of telling in-laws, even if they don’t use Facebook, they have friends who will and may see your posts and tell them.
Telling your children can be really difficult. How you approach this will of course depend on how old they are and how long you have been widowed. We’d always recommend trying to leave it 3-6 months of dating one person before introducing anyone to your children, this helps you ensure the relationship is long term and serious enough to warrant involving your children – plus there is a lot to be said for child free dates 😉
Again, choose an appropriate time when you can talk at length should they want to and devote some special time dedicated to them afterwards. Be honest, open and share how you’ve been feeling and that you feel it is now the right time.
Explain that you need adult company, explain the loneliness you’ve felt, most children would never want their parents to be unhappy. Reassure them they will always be your priority and front and centre of your world. Give them space and time to react how they need too.
If it doesn’t go well, reassure, and move on to a different subject, let them sleep on it, it may well feel better in the morning.
Reassure them you are not and never will try and replace their parent, your spouse/partner will always be their mummy or daddy and will always be remembered and acknowledged in your house. They also may need reassurance that your date won’t be moving in and clarity about if your date has children and how that interaction may work.
Ask them if they have any questions and let them know you are always here to talk if they want too but do not push them for approval after the first conversation – give them space and time to process.
Final Piece of Advice
Don’t try and rush initial meetings between dates and your friends and family. It pays to make sure that your date is committed in it for the long term before you make introductions as it can be upsetting for friends and family to meet a stream of people you are dating. Also, there is a lot to be said for ensuring some quiet, private, quality one of one dates while you explore if they are your Chapter 2.
Good luck, do let us know how you get on, we’d love to hear how it goes – email firstname.lastname@example.org