Competing With A Memory: 5 Ways To Build A Healthy Marriage When Marrying A Widower

This is a special guest article written with all the wives in mind who are married to a widower. I hope this encourages you today!

Mandy writes:

Every marriage has its share of struggles. Marrying a widower is no exception and actually presents its own set of challenges. My husband Joe lost his first wife after 2 years of marriage. She died at the young age of 31 battling Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. It’s a very sad story of a young, newly-married couple receiving a stage IV diagnosis and then having only 7 short months to say their goodbyes.

I met Joe years after Stacy had passed. We fell in love and married. Everything was great at first, but I always felt like I was, in some way, competing with Stacy’s memory. Of course I wasn’t, and my husband reassured me of that, but knowing that they were no longer together only because of something so tragic always nagged me.

This line of thinking isn’t logical or rational, but if you are the wife of a widower, you might understand.

Over the first year or two, as I struggled with this feeling, I prayed asking God to help me in this area. What God led me to offered me relief, honored a special person in my husband’s life, and helped my husband deal with a part of his past that was still tender.

1. Understand that his deceased wife will always hold a special place in his heart. This is in no way an affront to you.

Once I put myself in Stacy’s position, I realized the heartbreak she must have felt knowing she would not get to grow old with Joe. She would not get to have children with him. She realized—and actually gave her blessing—that Joe would most likely re-marry and have a family. If I were Stacy, I would want my husband to remember me and the covenant we’d shared.

2. Follow your husband’s lead on keeping her memory alive and initiating conversation about their life together.

I am a naturally inquisitive person, so I asked a lot of questions about Stacy. Joe was comfortable answering, and shared with me anything I wanted to know. This helped remove the mystery for me and the feeling of living in her shadow. For Joe, it was freeing because he had kept a lot bottled up for so long. Well-meaning family and friends ceased asking him questions or bringing up Stacy’s name for fear of upsetting him. It was actually therapeutic for him to talk about her and it made our bond that much stronger.

3. Keep her memory alive and incorporate that in your everyday life.

This is not to say that you need to talk about her every day, but don’t shy away from things like visiting her grave site or looking at pictures with your husband.

4. When/If you do have children, feel free to speak openly about her to them.

From the time our oldest son was a baby, we took him with us to the cemetery. He has always grown up knowing Stacy’s name and hearing stories about her. I feel like she would enjoy that our children know about her.

5. Realize that your husband will always love her. This does not lessen his love for or commitment to you.

It was difficult at first to know that Joe loved Stacy the same way he loved me. But with prayer and lots of conversations with my husband, I have come to understand and appreciate the love they shared. He was committed to Stacy to the end. He took care of her and was literally by her side as she took her last breath. Instead of feeling somehow cheated, I realize the depth of his commitment and how seriously he took his vows “for better or worse” and “in sickness and in health.”

Marrying a widower is challenging, for sure, but it doesn’t have to be a constant point of contention in your marriage. When you put God at the center of your marriage, pray about your feelings– being honest with God and your husband about how you feel. Your marriage can both thrive and honor the memory of his late wife.

– Mandy P.

Mandy and her husband Joe are raising their six children in the Pittsburgh, PA area. When Mandy isn’t blogging at or with four other ladies at, a women’s ministry she founded in 2012, Mandy is homeschooling her three oldest. She can also be found teaching Sunday School, acting as Coordinator of her local MOPS chapter, and juggling soccer schedules. Mandy desires to reach women with the love of Jesus by sharing her imperfect life and the way God is using her story to benefit others and– more importantly– to tell the greatest story of all: The story of Jesus and His redeeming grace.

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