Manners Matter: Moving Forward

Dear Mary Pat,


My wife and I moved to Door County in the mid 1990s. Though my wife passed away in 2001, I still live in Door County and have been single ever since. After my wife died, friends and family suggested I clean the house out of her things as soon as possible. And I did. I repainted rooms, replaced most to all of the furniture to “my” taste and lifestyle. If I kept anything of “our time” it was of practicality, not to mourn over. I have made the house my own! To this day I talk very little of my wife…now and again, a spark of memory comes or a song will remind me of my wife, and that is okay. I feel that is normal.

Now the anger comes in. I have dated a good handful of gals now in this span of time. I can truly understand if it was a short time but this is years now – I am still dealing with their judgment that I am looking for my wife’s replacement. They judge me to feel they are under the shadow of my past. I do not reminisce to them of my marriage past. I am not looking for a carbon copy of her. I look and hope for an all-new adventure.

My philosophy is this:  I don’t need a woman in my life. I have known so many men to remarry shortly after a death or divorce (as little as six months, hardly enough time to re-find themselves). But I would like a woman in my life.

So what say you Mary Pat? Sorry if perhaps this question is out of your league. But I seek your advice. Is it me, truly? Am I creating this stereotype? Or is it them? Why can’t they see past the past and accept me for who I am now, and not what was? To give a chance to create something anew!


Yours truly,

Not Reframing the Past

Carlsville, Wis.


Dear Not Reframing The Past,


This is indeed a puzzle and a complex question. I will certainly offer my advice and try to help the best I can.

As you have discovered, relationships are complicated. I think you are wise to have not jumped into another marriage so soon after losing your wife 16 years ago. It’s best to process this on your own and figure out who you are and what you are looking for in a potential mate. Some people don’t see it that way and deal with their grief by getting involved in another relationship right away. And then there are others still who can’t imagine ever moving on with a new spouse. Everyone deals with grief in a different way and it’s harder for some to move on. It sounds as though you grieved in a healthy way and are very open to finding a special someone.

I would like you to sit back and really reflect on this “good handful of gals” that you’ve dated over this time period. Do they have a lot in common? In other words, would you say that you have a type of woman that you typically date? Are they confident…or perhaps more insecure? Jealous? These are questions that only you can answer. We sometimes tend to fall for the same type of person and part of that knowing yourself is knowing who will work best in your life and those who won’t. Are any of these gals widows themselves? If not, there is a lot to be said for that shared experience. I have known a lot of couples to remarry after both losing their respective spouses and they can bond over that and understand each other without having to explain it as much.

In your email you mentioned online dating and how that hasn’t worked out for you as of yet. Given our remote area, online dating can be a good solution for some, but it doesn’t offer any guarantees. Put online dating on hold awhile and try to find women in your everyday life. Have you tried having your friends set you up? (This has the potential for greatness or disaster just like anything else.) Do you volunteer or belong to a church? Do you take any classes? There are women all around you and if you seek them out in settings where you have something in common you’ll have better luck of being compatible.

One word sticks out to me in your letter and that word is “anger.” Dating is not for the faint of heart and can be frustrating and disappointing and even heartbreaking when it doesn’t go well. But don’t let yourself get angry or bitter. They say women have to kiss a lot of frogs before meeting their prince and the reverse is just as true for men. Put your best foot forward and if you meet a woman who isn’t a great match for you, wish her well and move on.

As far as your question “Is it me or them?” I don’t know for sure but I suspect it’s probably both. Hopefully you will find someone who is living in the present and you will be able to fully communicate that she is your focus, not your late wife. When you do find the right woman, she will understand that you had a life before she showed up and will not feel threatened by anything that came before.


Good luck,

Mary Pat