I became a widower in 2008, but it’s all right to marry again, isn’t it?

I have two children who are twenty‑three and nineteen years old. Do I need to ask their permission or not? They are both involved in advanced studies…. I don’t know how they would react. I am at that crossroads.

Dear Friend,

We are very sorry to hear of the loss of your wife. Certainly it has been traumatic for both you and your two children. But it has now been more than a year, and it appears that you do not want to face the future without a partner.

If your children were still young, we would advise you to focus on their needs instead of your own. We would tell you that second marriages involving children are almost always extremely difficult, and often fail. The widowed parent’s responsibility is first to his young children. This sets up a virtually inevitable power struggle between the children and the new step‑parent. We frequently receive letters from people on both sides of the struggle. The step‑parent usually ends up resenting the children, while the parent feels that he constantly has to choose sides, with no one ever being happy with his choices. But your children are adults now. They have their own lives. So even though it will be difficult for them, we do not believe that you need to ask their permission to date or to remarry.

Just a few years ago we had this same situation in our family. A father with adult children remarried after the death of his wife. There are several things that he did not do that could have prevented the emotional hurt that his children have suffered. We believe that a widow or widower should not even date until at least a full year has passed after the death of his or her spouse. To begin sooner is to give the impression to the adult children that their parent is not grieving as much as they are. This makes them question the love between their parents and the security that they felt in their parents’ relationship. It also makes them resent the newcomer and blame her for all their negative emotions.

Before beginning to date, you should have a discussion with your adult children. You should explain that, because you were so comfortable or happy in your marriage to their mother, you want to recapture those feelings. Another woman will never replace their mother, but you hope to find a woman who can become their friend someday.

It is extremely important that the adult children never see a new woman in their mother’s home or using her things. So never bring your dates to the family home. And when you do find a woman that you want to marry, move to her house or get a new place together. Let your adult children take any possessions that remind them of their mother, even if it means that you have to do without a sofa or dishes.

Remember to be the right example for your adult children in your dating behavior. For just as you believe that they should not have sexual relations before they are married, you also should save sexual intimacy for marriage. Remember that God’s Word says that we should “Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.”(1)

Even after you marry, plan times to spend alone with just your adult children. They need to be able to talk about their mother, and it will be very uncomfortable with your new wife present. Also, make sure that you keep in constant communication with your children. Do not ask your new wife to do that for you. Don’t make the children feel that they have lost their father as well as their mother.

We wish you well,

Linda and Charles
1 Heb 13:4 (The Message)