Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I urgently need advice concerning a pending second marriage possibility. I am in my 50s and have been widowed for six years. I started dating with the idea of remarriage a few years ago, but have only gone out with a few men. About a month ago some friends suggested a man whose wife died a little less than a year ago. Each of us has children who are young adults and older teens.
The suggestion turned out to be a wonderful one. It has been almost 35 years since I've felt this way about anyone, other than my late husband. This man tells me that he has strong feelings for me as well. We have been seeing each other once a week and speak or send SMS messages every other day.
My daughters know that I am dating this man, but his children do not know. This has caused me quite a bit of concern. He says that he plans to tell them about his plans to remarry after one year has passed since their mother's death (which is in a few weeks' time). He wants to be sensitive about this mourning period.
He often doesn't call because his children are at home.
I am worried that once his children find out that he's been seeing me before this time, it will cause bad feelings and conflict. In addition, I'm also uncomfortable about the fact that we are dating "in secret." I wait for him to call in the evenings, and often doesn't call because his children are at home. I would like to bring my feelings out in the open, but I don't know what to say or how to say it.
One more issue: About a week ago, he happened to mention that if things proceed, I should find someone to advise me on financial affairs, and that he will do the same. I am financially stable and he is, too. He also mentioned that he does not like to discuss such "unpleasant matters" and that it's good to have professionals work things out. I do not know how to respond to this request. What is the appropriate way to handle financial matters in a second marriage?
I am fully aware that we'll be up against difficult situations -- either between us, or with the children -- but we really want to give this our best shot at another chance of happiness. I do not want to do anything silly that might endanger this relationship. Can you give me some advice?
We understand how difficult it is, after you developed feelings for this man, that he now wants to wait before telling his children. This man probably knows his children well, and is displaying an appropriate sensitivity to them by waiting to tell them that he has begun to date. The first year after a mother's death is very difficult for children, no matter what their age. This man's sensitivity is probably one of the qualities that attracted you to him in the first place.
It's natural to worry how this man's children will react once they learn that their father wants to remarry -- especially given that he's already met someone he views as a potential spouse. Some children react favorably to the idea of their parent remarrying, because they realize that their parent is lonely and would benefit from being in a loving relationship. Sometimes, the parent who died will have told their children that they want the surviving spouse to get married again for precisely this reason.
But even when children acknowledge that their parent should marry again, it is very difficult for them to think about someone entering the family and "replacing" their mother. Children often can't see far enough beyond their own grief to understand that their parent needs a companion in life. They see their father's hope to remarry as a "betrayal" of their mother.
Here's how a widowed parent can make it easier for children to accept the idea of remarriage.
There are a number of ways that this man (or any widowed parent) can make it easier for their children to accept the idea of remarriage. A good first step is to explain that his decision to start dating was made after careful thought and consultation. He can explain to them how someone who had a good marriage -- and then lost a spouse -- greatly appreciates how beneficial marriage is. Having a spouse provides companionship and a framework for family life. A second marriage won't recapture the same loving relationship he had with his wife, and won't replace her, but it will be fulfilling in a different way, and will allow him and his children to continue with life without forgetting the person they lost.
Although this man seems ready to take the step toward marriage, you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that his children may react negatively to his plans. In such a case, he may decide to delay thoughts of remarriage until they have more time to acclimate to the idea, or even until they have moved out of the house.
Although a bit premature at this point, this man's suggestion about dealing with finances is right on the mark. Anyone who goes into a marriage with assets and/or with children should negotiate a pre-nuptial agreement to protect their assets against a variety of possibilities: either spouse becoming ill, falling into debt, dying, or becoming incapacitated, or the marriage ending in divorce. Even in a good marriage, second-time spouses will want to make sure that their natural children will be able to inherit most of the assets they brought into the marriage, and that if the parent dies before their children are financially independent, they will be provided for. People who remarry also want to make sure that their spouses are provided for should they pass away or become ill or disabled, and are protected from having to use one spouse's assets to pay the other's debts. This goes a long way in preventing children and spouses from fighting over assets!
Using a third party avoids the discomfort of bringing these discussions directly into the relationship.
He is also right that it is better to have professionals explain the options and then handle the negotiations. This can take time, because even if the two of you come to a basic agreement there will be wording issues and technicalities. And by using a third party, it enables each of you to present the deal that you want, without the discomfort of bringing these discussions directly into the relationship.
In general, financial issues can be a source of disagreement in many marriages, so it is a good idea for couples -- of any age -- who are thinking about marriage to discuss their attitudes about finances, and come to an agreement about as many parameters as possible, before they decide to build a life together. Some of the issues to address are how to allocate their income between day-to-day expenses, vacations and large purchases; what financial decisions they will share and what decisions each will make independently; how to handle debt, and the like.
We should also mention that if the two of you decide to marry, another important issue that you'll need to address is how to blend a family. We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,
Rosie & Sherry