Young Widowhood—Dating and Sex

Most young widows eventually feel ready to date and perhaps even marry again, but most find that everything related to dating and sex is more complicated as a widow than it was as a younger single person. In the dating world people talk about baggage—and while your late spouse isn’t a suitcase, most widows do feel like widowhood has changed the way they approach romantic relationships—and also changes how people view them as well.

Jumping In

The decision to date again might come naturally after meeting someone special, but it’s just as likely to be a deliberate choice, one usually made as part of a decision to move life forward after your spouse’s death. It’s also not uncommon for men and women who know they are dying to specifically instruct their spouses to date and marry again. There’s no magic way to know if you’re ready to date—the timeline is different for everyone.

The decision to be open to the possibility of a new relationship is a personal one, but it’s also likely something people in your life will have an opinion about. Some might think you are waiting too long, others might think your decision to date is disrespectful to your late spouse. These comments can be hurtful, but this is your decision, not your parents/in-laws/friends/co-workers.

“Hi, I’m a Widow”

Dating as a widow can come with all sorts of etiquette dilemmas. Is taking off your wedding ring a prerequisite for dating? How do you talk about your late spouse? Will your children think you are trying to replace their mom or dad? Can you sleep with a new partner in the bed you shared with your late spouse?

These questions do not have one-size-fits-all answers, and each widow will likely answer them differently… or even differently depending on the situation or length of time since their spouse died. Talking about widowhood can be awkward because death isn’t generally something we consider romantic, but most widows find a way to discuss their late spouse and their life as a widow in a way that feels right—and many use it as a way to weed out dates who won’t be able to handle the complexity of dating a widow.


Just like dating, many young widows find that sex is more complicated now. Widows’ approaches to sex can also vary, and as long as you’re not hurting yourself or others, there’s no “right” way to approach sex after widowhood. It’s not uncommon for widows to:

  • Look for “no-strings-attached” sex to meet physical needs even before he/she feels ready for a romantic relationship;
  • Feel hesitant to have physical intimacy even with a long-term romantic partner, often because sex with a new partner feels even more like betraying their late spouse than going to dinner and a movie;
  • Struggle to find a time and place appropriate for sex, even if you’re ready. This might be because you don’t want to have sex with a new partner in your bed, or because you moved in with your parents after your late spouse’s death or because you’re a single parent and have to juggle your children’s needs, too.

Whether you’re just starting to contemplate dating again or you have a serious new relationship, working with a professional counselor can help you navigate the complex emotions involved with dating and sex after the death of a spouse. Regardless of where you are now on dating, it’s important to remember that you’re not disrespecting or betraying your late spouse by dating someone new.

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