I’ve met more than my share of middle-aged widowers in the three years since Tom died. Before that, I didn’t know a single one. So far, I have to say I find this particular demographic interesting and sometimes puzzling.
They vary in age, size, shape, length of widowhood, income, education, occupation, intelligence, and background. But they share a similarity: They are all single after two to seven years of widowhood. And given that, they seem to defy U.S. statistics on widowers.
Time magazine reported last November that a 2014 study from Pew Research found that “men are much more enamored of remarriage than women are. Most currently divorced or widowed men are open to the idea of remarriage, but women in the same circumstances are less likely to be.” It added that “almost two thirds of men either want to remarry or would at least consider it, while fewer than a half of women would.”
A New York Times article from awhile back said “For men whose marriage ends only because of death, there is often a desire to repeat the happiness they knew. These men love being married, and they are good husband material.” The article cited Paul McCartney who remarried after his beloved wife of many years died of cancer. It pointed out that the marriage did not go well perhaps because of the high profile nature of it. In fact, it ended in a messy divorce, but McCartney remarried again — to his current wife Nancy Shevell.
The Times article went on to say “sociologists have been studying the phenomenon for decades and conclude that it goes beyond mere demographics. It boils down to differences between the sexes: While both men and women want companionship and security, many women might be more cautious about taking a new man into their lives and tend to hold out for romance. Men, on the other hand, typically seek someone to organize their world, the everyday household tasks, their social lives and to keep them company.”
I tread lightly on this topic, but I don’t know why. Far as I can tell, widowers don’t read my blog or anything about widowhood. I have given out my blog URL and have not had one comment from a guy. (Maybe I’ve had a few likes on Facebook, and, after I wrote this, a widower friend divulged he reads it.)
I have, however, had several personal conversations with most of the widowers I know. Widowhood is a common denominator and an instant icebreaker. You ask questions like a fast-paced ping-pong game: When did your spouse die? How old were they? What did they die of? How long did it take? How old were the kids? It is not awkward like how it might be with a person who isn’t a widow. You empathize a bit but move on to another topic to find out if you have anything else in common.
What I have learned is that joint, middle-aged widowhood between men and women is not a guarantee of a relationship or even a casual friendship. It is just something in common like a root canal or a home foreclosure.
The first guy I dated after Tom died was a widower, and I initially thought that seemed right. But it didn’t work. I have met more widowers, some of whom I talked to only a couple times and others who have become friends. I guess that is more than I can say about the single non-widowers I’ve met.