Marriage is a huge undertaking. Parenting also can be challenging. But those things in combination with family blending? Phew, what an adventure! When I first started to date my now husband, there were many delicate issues we had to work around. While there are several resources for widows and widowers who are heading into Chapter Two, as it is often called, there are less resources for the person dating the widower. Even less for what happens if you actually get married. The world offers plenty of guidebooks for general dating, but Chapter Two is a book you must dive into without an outline.
Six months into marriage and after more than a year of friendship and dating, we are still many times learning the ropes of blending and weathering a world that sometimes looks at our family with scrutiny and harshness. I have so many thoughts about blending families and marriage, and maybe someday I’ll get to all of them, but for now, here are some rough thoughts about life in Chapter Two.
When the book opens to Chapter Two, it has to be open. Really open. To the outside viewer, it may appear that my husband and I moved rather quickly. From the inside, it was very methodical and slow. Our communication bordered on over sharing. I told him about things in my past I haven’t told anyone, he did as well. Communication was very very open, with everything on the table from expectations to future plans to daily nonsense. Long nights spent on the phone made up for the dates we weren’t allowed to have.
Weren’t allowed to have? Well, yes. Some of it was practical. It’s very hard to date when you have to find childcare for two separate kids! But as part of his chapter two, I found myself the object of disgust in eyes of many. For the first several months of being in an official relationship, I wasn’t allowed to be seen at his house as this caused a stir amongst family members and friends who saw me as a threat to the memory of their loved one.
But that’s the tricky thing. As I got to know my husband, I got to know his wife too. A woman I had never met, but now cherish as if she was a friend. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried over her loss. See, when you’re dating a widower, you want to know everything about him and that means knowing everything about his marriage. And he had a lovely marriage. If you’re dating a college boy, you understand him by his childhood, his parents, how he grew up, and all that life has brought his way up until that point. Dating a man in his thirties means that you’re still getting to know him based on his life experiences, but his life experiences are marriage, his wife’s family, their cherished memories together, the child they had together. And oh, I wanted to know everything about that life! Not in a jealous way, but in a way of understanding him.
Seldom, however, does the outside world see you as anything but an attempted replacement. That can be draining and heartbreaking. Your attitude must always be one of peace as you remember that you are never a replacement, rather an addition. I would not have my husband rewrite his rich past or close Chapter One to put it on the shelf as if it was it’s own separate book. The pages turn, but the story remains. Chapter Two is a balancing act of accepting the past and celebrating it, but not letting it define your future.
It can be isolating to be known as “the other woman.” And dating as adults doesn’t afford the same luxury of getting to know your significant other’s family as dating in early adulthood or teen years. This is why the church is very vital.
All through our courtship, the people who knew us best and shared the most in our joy were the fellow members of our church. People need community and we needed the accountability of the church. When emotions were too great to bear, we had so many people praying for us. When trials cropped up along our paths, we were able to turn to godly and unbiased believers. My husband even sat down with our pastor (and I with the pastor’s wife) before he decided on dating me to get Biblical insight on the situation. This is why my number one advice for all prospective couples is find a church and dig in. Become members, serve with the body, and get to know your future spouse better by walking together towards holiness.
The other joy of Chapter Two is how fresh a start it can be. While you are blending two fully formed lives, you are also starting a whole brand new life, filled with new opportunities and new hopes and dreams. We spent our first few months of marriage painting and redecorating our home in styles neither of us had thought of before. It wasn’t his style and my style making room for each other, rather it was something new. His and mine and ours blending into something shiny and distinctly ours. While we cherish past memories, we cannot be afraid to create new ones.
I don’t know how many other women have found themselves in my position, but my advice to others in similar positions is this:
Love Chapter One and celebrate it with him.
Let him lead the way into Chapter Two, but don’t hide your feelings. He has the hard part of navigating family members that you don’t know yet, which means he has to start the process of family blending before you ever really arrive on the scene. Depending on how they take this, you could find yourself in a world of hurt. But remember that as hard as that may be for you, they have lost a loved one. Your job is to remember that he loves both his family and you and to react in gentleness always. As much as is possible, point others towards God’s Grace. The Biblical idea is, “The Lord will fight for you if you only keep still.” The Cinderella 2015 idea is, “Have courage and be kind.”
No matter what chapter you are in—whether you are starting Chapter One or Chapter Two—seek Biblical counsel and find a Bible believing church. You cannot tackle dating or marriage without Christ. Godly marriages do not thrive in a vacuum. Befriend other married couples who have unions you admire. Read the Bible together. Pray together daily. Be open with your pastors. After all, the church is the best example of marriage you can find.
Don’t be afraid of Chapter Two. It can be intimidating at times to stand in the shadow of Chapter One. But you are not from that Chapter. You had your own. Chapter Two is a new beginning not just for him, but for you. Take a thousand pictures. Put them in frames. Take as many family outings as you can. Fill the pages of your story with so much love, all the sweeter for having been through such darkness.
This is just a beginning of my scattered ideas. I have so many more thoughts about Chapter Two, as does my husband (who I am slowly convincing to write a guest blog post). For now, I am deeply thankful for this chapter of our lives. I am honoured to be my husband’s best friend and second wife. Both of us went through deep sadness, but the Lord has brought us to still waters. And I like being Mrs. Waters.
Engagement photo credit: Micaela Maynard