Widowed people often face a dilemma when they start dating again and new love interests visit them. What should they do with the pictures of their deceased mates that are scattered throughout their homes?

Cheryl emailed: “My husband, Matt, is a widower, and I am divorced. Matt was married for 25 years. I was married twice — for 25 years and then for 18 years.

“Matt commented to me this morning, ‘It is possible to still love a previous spouse but also love and appreciate a new partner.’

“I moved into the house that Matt and his wife lived in. It was a house that Matt had not been enthused about but she ‘loved it,’ and he bought it for her. I admit when I moved in, I felt to some extent like I was living in ‘her’ house.

“An issue came up between Matt and me when we decided to put family pictures on the refrigerator. Matt put pictures of his deceased wife on the fridge.

“Initially I didn’t think it would bother me, as I knew he loved me and was devoted to our relationship. Eventually, however, I realized that it bothered me a little seeing pictures of her every time I opened the fridge door!

“So, we talked about it, and I asked him to keep pictures of her in his office, which he understood and agreed to do. I had not put pictures of my ex-husbands where Matt could see them. 

“Regarding one of my ex-husbands, occasionally issues have arisen concerning my reaction to some of Matt’s comments that reminded me of my ex’s behavior. 

“Matt has responded by saying, ‘I’m not your ex,’ and we have been able to talk about my reaction and feelings. I think especially in the case of a divorce, there are negative experiences that can trigger a reaction. 

“The key is to be able to talk about feelings and reassure each other of the love you share and be able to comfort each other for what was lost and/or experienced in the previous relationship. Whether a person has been widowed or divorced, grief is experienced over the loss of a loving relationship.

“Entering a new relationship as a ‘senior’ has different challenges compared to when we were younger. What to do with a former love’s pictures is one of those issues.”


Tom’s comment: Cheryl’s story emphasizes the need for open and honest communication between older couples, which includes how to deal with each person’s photographs of deceased or former loved ones around the house.

This is especially true when two older adults move in together, but it’s also true when they are in a committed relationship but living apart. The pictures of ex-spouses will be a subject to discuss and agree upon.

A widow recently said to me, “It shouldn’t even matter if the pictures are on the refrigerator door. You just can’t wipe away the years you had together with a person you loved.”

She’s right, but it is a touchy subject requiring compromise.


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