Dear Dr. Respler,
I am a seventy-two-year-old woman who lost her husband two years ago. I was married to my husband for fifty years and I have never loved anyone more in my life. We had a loving, giving relationship and I loved being with him. My husband died in the middle of the night from what appeared to be a heart attack. We had a wonderful marriage. We were best friends, and we always compromised about issues. We also complimented each other and were so loving to each other. I by nature am a very positive person, and I try to have a positive outlook in life.
It came as a total shock to me when he passed away. I never was able to forget about my loving husband, but my children encouraged me to date and set me up with a very special man. This wonderful man treats me like a diamond. He asked to marry me a few times, but I just don’t feel like I am ready for a commitment. He is similar in many ways to my first husband, and he too had a good marriage where he lost a wife that he loved. We do speak about our first spouses, and he feels that since we both had good marriages we can create a good marriage for ourselves as well.
My children are upset, and they told me that I will never feel that I will be ready to get married and I shouldn’t pass up this relationship because of my old feelings towards my husband. My children feel that I was a good wife and they say “Tatty would have wanted you to remarry.” It’s easy for my children to say because Baruch Hashem they are all happily married, and I hope that they never have to experience my pain, but I just feel so guilty getting involved in a relationship when I still feel loyalty to my first husband. I am also scared to let myself love again and then suffer the terrible pain of losing another husband. Am I wrong for pushing this new man out of my life? Please help me make a decision – I don’t want to regret my actions!
Thank you so much for your heartfelt letter. Statistically people who have healthy, productive first marriages, generally have excellent second marriages. There is an art to being married and it appears that you have the talent to sustain a loving relationship. Your children are probably right that your first husband, alav hashalom, who loved you would probably want you to remarry and not live alone. Would you want him to be alone if the reverse would have happened? “Lo tov heyot haadam levado.” It is not good for a person to be alone.
You somehow need to see this second relationship as another chapter in your life. This does not mean that the loving years that you shared with your first husband should ever be forgotten. However, you need to move on in your life and still try to create some happiness in your life. It appears that you were a devoted wife, so you should not feel guilt towards your first husband. He would likely want you to be happy and taken care of.
Your children sound like they truly love you. They want you to be happy and they know that you have the ability to be in a great relationship. The fact that you yourself had an excellent marriage and all your children have good marriages, attests to the fact that you have the ability to create a healthy relationship. You probably know how to compromise, to love, and to respect another person. Skills like building your spouse’s ego and complimenting your spouse must be other qualities which you had in order to create a healthy relationship. All of these are skills that you can bring into your second marriage in order to be happy.
As far as your fear of loving another man and losing him. The joy one experiences in being in a relationship is great. Whenever we engage in a relationship, we risk loving and losing that love. However, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” There is so much truth to the old adage. Companionship and love increase life expectancy as well as physical and psychological health. A healthy marital relationship will bring out the best in you. There is always a risk when we love someone that we fear losing them. I think that your children are correct. They sound like very special, caring children who have your best interests in mind. I am sure that arranging a shidduch for their mother with another man who is not their father was very difficult for them. You seem to spread sunshine wherever you go. I think that you should take a leap of faith and not miss this opportunity. Hatzlocha!