“Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Living in the Shadow of My Girlfriend’s Late Husband.”

Pin it

Editor’s note: Have a dating/sex/relationships conundrum? Email us at thedatereport at or fill out this anonymous form, and one of our experts will help you solve it.

I’ve been dating a woman for the past eight months who was widowed two years ago. I like her a lot and she has great qualities. I try my best to be supportive and sensitive because I know she is still grieving, but I sometimes feel like I’m living in her late husband’s shadow. Right now I’m at a point in my life where I want to settle, get married, and start a family. What should I do?

Sounds like you’ve been a model boyfriend: sensitive, patient, and caring. But sometimes despite our best efforts, the timing might simply not be right. Bottom line: if she isn’t ready, and you don’t share the same vision for a future and timeline, then your efforts may prove futile. But if she is looking for a serious relationship, then keep these things in mind:

  • Your girlfriend is both grieving and growing, and you’re assisting with both. This can be exhausting for you. Make sure you have a voice in this relationship and it is heard. Express your needs, daily struggles, goals, and joys. Mutual support will ultimately be what is healthiest for the relationship.
  • It’s common for someone in your girlfriend’s position to glorify feelings of love – especially around anniversaries, birthdays, and other important dates.
  • Comparisons are indeed normal but keep in mind: too much comparison can lead to feelings of insecurity and hinder the relationship from growing.
  • Respect her feelings related to her late husband while recognizing that you’re not his replacement.  This current relationship is and will be different.
  • Go slow. She isn’t in a position to move quickly. If you can’t step back from settling right now then reconsider the relationship and whether she is actually the person for you right now.

Jonathan Alpert is a Manhattan psychotherapist and author.  He appears on national TV commenting on sex and relationship issues as well as lifestyle, mental health, and hot-button issues. Get more of Jonathan’s great advice in his new book, Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

And you can follow Jonathan on Twitter at @JonathanAlpert and on Facebook at, and visit his website at