Dear Dr. Respler:
I am a 65-year-old woman who, two years ago, lost her husband of 43 years. We had a loving and giving relationship and I so enjoyed being with him.
My husband died in the middle of the night from what appeared to be a heart attack. It came as a total shock to me when he passed away. I have not been able to forget him, 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 me to marry him a few times, but I just don’t feel like I am ready for a commitment.
My children are upset and have told me that I will never feel ready to get married. They’ve urged me to not forgo this opportunity because of my feelings toward my husband. It’s easy for them to feel this way because, Baruch Hashem, they are all happily married. I hope they never experience my pain, but I just feel so guilty getting involved in a relationship when I still feel loyal to my husband. I am also scared to let myself love again and then suffer the terrible pain of losing another husband.
Am I wrong to push this new man out of my life? Please help me make a decision. I don’t want to regret my actions.
You appear to be a caring and devoted person; I can’t begin to imagine how difficult this is for you.
Let me say that statistically, people who have healthy and productive first marriages generally have excellent second marriages. There is an art to being married, and apparently you have the talent to sustain a loving relationship. As your husband, a”h, loved you, he would probably want you to remarry and not live alone. “Lo tov heyot ha’adam levado – it is not good for a person to be alone.”
As for your fear of loving another man and losing him, that is a risk that you may want to take. The joy one experiences by being in a relationship is unparalleled. Whenever we engage in a relationship, we risk loving and losing that love. But remember that there is much truth to the old adage, “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Companionship and love increase life expectancy, along with physical and psychological health. While it is definitely hard for someone to go through the risk of potential pain, it may be worthwhile for you to take the risk, as we do not know what Hashem has in store for us or how life will play out.
I agree with your children, who appear to be very special and caring and who have your best interests in mind. I am sure that arranging a shidduch for their mother with someone who is not their father was very difficult for them. However, they seem to want you to be happy and feel that you will be happier if you’re involved a loving relationship.
Take the risk and don’t miss this opportunity. It may be difficult to let go of your husband’s memory, but please realize that marrying again will not mean that you must forget your late husband or your beautiful marriage with him. You can always love him, as human beings have the capacity to love more than one person.
Also, it would not be fair to a second husband to compare him with your first husband, though most people understand that he will always have a special place in your heart. It may be a good idea to share your fears with this new man in your life and hear his views on the matter. But you must first be prudent in thinking about how to introduce your fear to him, so that you do not hurt or insult him. When you’re ready to address the issue with him, remember to be sensitive and careful.
Whatever you decide to do, be brave and always remember that we do not run the world. Although it would surely be very difficult for you to endure the loss of another loved one, you must understand that you may not have to undergo that experience again. After all, Hashem has a plan for you. So if you are confident that you can build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael with this man, it may be worth the try. Hatzlachah!