Computer at table for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley

Widowhood, Dating and a Global Pandemic

Okay, let’s start with the obvious: if you’re a widow and you’re trying to date right now, it is….well, it’s probably not as easy as it was for you the last time you tried to date.

I mean, first – and most obviously to anyone who is single, widow or not – there’s the pandemic. It’s pretty tough to just randomly meet someone in a bar or at a coffeeshop anymore. That’s something I used to love to do, once upon a time. I think it helped with the mental fatigue of dating, honestly. Even if I didn’t actually talk to someone I found attractive, seeing other potentially single people reminded me that the possibility existed that I might some day meet someone I liked. Plus, I liked meeting new people. It gave me some great stories and helped with the monotony of parenting three small humans.

But now it’s all online, at least in the beginning of getting to know someone, and as I’ve noted many times on this blog, online dating can be a real drag. Is it worse than it was before? I don’t know. I think it’s probably about the same, at least according to a lot of my widow friends. It’s better in some ways (you can weed people out through a quick Zoom call, something that would have been strange before), but actually meeting in person requires more logistical work. In any case, many of the same problems exist, some that I wrote about a year ago in a blog post entitled, Ask a Widow: What’s So Hard With Online Dating?:

First of all, there are the offensive profiles. (I’m just looking at male profiles, so I can only speak about them, but really, I’m sure female profiles can be terrible too.) There are the men who take selfies in the bathroom, cutting off their heads in the photos to just focus on their abdominal muscles. There are the men who pose driving cars or boats or ATVs, presumably to show that they have this skill or that they are very manly. And then there are the men who pose with their guns (sometimes even shooting a gun!) and don’t even get me started about how that is not my kind of guy.

But these profiles can actually be somewhat entertaining, if you don’t take it too seriously. I don’t feel the need to answer everyone who writes me, and many of the men I write don’t write back. That’s dating, and I’ve become much more resilient to these mini-rejections. Furthermore, I get a kick out of a lot of these conversations, even the ones that lead nowhere.

No….these crazy profiles and the slights from attractive men don’t really dissuade me. I can deal with all that. What is actually difficult for me is that it takes So. Much. Time.

Yes, these same problems exist during the pandemic. Even though I’m not doing it right now, I’m aware that online dating still has its share of weirdos (that will never change) and it still takes so much time. And now many widows have even less time to spend doing something like online dating. Furthermore, even if you’re able to connect with someone online, the logistics of meeting up are beyond complicated. Can you get a babysitter who you’re sure doesn’t have Covid? Are you supposed to socially distance on a date? What if you bring Covid home to your family?

“It’s exhausting,” says every widow I know who is dating right now. Of course it is! And we haven’t even gotten to the part about dating as a widow.

Okay, so after you’ve dealt with the pandemic dramas and the online dating dramas, then there’s the widowhood aspect to face. Yes, maybe you’ve let enough time pass that you’re not tearing up on a phone date or recalling the good characteristics of your late spouse to the person who you just met for a walk in the park. Maybe you’re ready to date, even if it’s imperfect. But even if you’re ready – even if you’re really ready – dating as a widow is strange. Yes, you may intellectually understand that you cannot jump straight to deep intimacy with a person with whom you’ve only exchanged a half-dozen texts. But you remember what it’s like to be in love. Not just the lovey-dovey I-want-you-all-the-time attraction, but also that feeling of closeness and real intimacy.

And you want it again. Or at least that’s how I felt.

I constantly wanted to just skip all the “what do you do for fun on the weekend” questions and go straight to the “how do you envision your future” questions. I didn’t actually do this, at least not usually, but that feeling was often still there when I was out on a first or second date. I didn’t want to do the “get to know you” questions. I just wanted to get to the part where I had a new person who I knew inside and out.

It would be so much easier just to skip to that stage, wouldn’t it?

But it’s just not how dating works. I hate that. I hated that when I was dating and I hate that for all my friends who are dating now. As I wrote, back in that post from a year ago, “Seriously, I’m so ready for someone to tell me that they know the guy for me, he’s going to be at this party next weekend and I need to find a great outfit because I’m invited too.”

“But,” I wrote, “that never happens.” (I was right, at least in my case – this wasn’t how I eventually started dating Chris.) Instead, I went through the painful process of online dating and bad meet-ups and annoying waste-of-time dates. And then I just got lucky. There was no other magic trick.

I was texting with a widow friend the other day, and we got to talking about dating. In her exasperation, she wrote this to me (and yes, she said I could reprint it): “How are you supposed to date during a pandemic? I haven’t really done the Zoom thing. But moreover, the problem is that I just want the end part. I want to be in a relationship, but I don’t want to go through the dating part. Is that awful?”

“It’s not awful at all,” I wrote back. “It seems to be the most rational thing I’ve ever heard.”


  • Kristin Garner

    It is very rational!! I feel the exact same way; it’s so nice to not feel alone with this thinking. My husband died on March 29th of 2020. I’m not ready to date, but I really hope I am able to find deep love again. At this point, I can’t think about dating because I cry at “the drop off a hat” anytime I think or talk about my late husband. I’m trying to remain positive in my thinking though. I’m hoping I will have healed enough to try and date by the time we are able to resume some normalcy again, post pandemic. I’m 48 though and I feel like dating has changed so much since I last did it. I’m scared to death! Hence, I just want to skip the dating and find true love again. Why can’t it just work like that?!?!

    • M Brimley

      Oh, I GET THAT. It’s so tough. I think you can’t put too much pressure on yourself – I started dating and then stopped dating like a half-dozen times. It was a process. Dating has changed, but honestly it hasn’t changed THAT much – it’s still awkward, panic-inducing and sometimes – sometimes! – actually a lot of fun.

  • Mark Carroll

    Hi All,
    Can a recent covid widower comment here? I’m in the same boat — I don’t have any patience for the “small-talk” phase of dating that seemed so alluring when I was 24 (I’m 52 now). I have an urge to jump right to the long-term questions and what the other person wants in a long-term / permanent relationship. But, as you said, that’s not how dating works.
    I actually came to this blog because Google came up with a comment you made about a God who doesn’t intervene on Earth and you responded to the effect that you agreed because “Why the f**k would my spouse have died.” Yep, I have that same urge — and it’s a conversation/date killer. Just don’t have patience for learning about where you went to college. I want to know if you’re looking for someone who will say “You’re the love of my life” every night before going to sleep (as my late wife would invariably do). Sigh, but that’s not dating, and you’re not my late wife. I get it.

    • M Brimley

      First, I’m so sorry. It’s so terrible to lose your person, but it’s especially terrible right now. My heart goes out to you. I’ve been writing a lot lately about my early dating experiences and let me say this: they were painful. It gets easier, though the time it takes can feel like forever. But it’s not, and the day will come when you can date again with some ease, if you want. I’ll be thinking of you.

      • Mitch Pellicer

        I so get this. I dont know if i should even be thinking of dating . I so miss the intimacy of a good real conversation other than with my dog. The pandemic has made everything miserable and lonely. I will likely never be over anything but i want to live. Im too young to be a widow at 51 and feel too old to start over. It’s ridiculous…

        • M Brimley

          I don’t think you have to decide everything right now. I think you can take the time you need, and then reassess every few weeks or months. Time can help, a lot. Hang in there.

  • Allie

    I’ve been in this same boat longer than the writer and most of the readers on here. That same Google article on VOX bought me here also. This was after another attempt to find a “young widowed group” which I’ve sought for years and seeing only 70 year olds and scammers on Widow Dating . But I was widowed at the age of 41 in 2005. So online dating is beyond frustrating and I don’t think it is entirely the “being a widow” thing since I waited two years before I tried to date. Early on in 2007/2008, I was meeting guys (not my types) but I was going on dates. As the years passed, the dates became fewer and fewer. I’ve spent a fortune on every dating site there is and am currently on Eharmony for a second time after years of not wanting to spend that outrageous amount to attract a ‘compatible’ guy. I don’t have much hope this go round either but I am at the end of my rope as to how to meet a decent guy at this age. The kids are grown and I am an empty nester and am still not having any luck with online dating. Oh yeah, now add the COVID thing about “have you been vaccinated” and that turns up a whole new set of concerns. I have resigned myself to continuing to grow old alone but we all do miss the closeness and intimacy of a great relationship.

    • M Brimley

      I get it. I do. I managed to meet a group of young widows, but meeting widowers was much more difficult. In the end, I had to go to mainstream dating websites (widowed dating ones had mostly men my dad’s age!) and yet that never really proved a great way to meet people. And right now it’s even worse, for all the reasons you correctly pointed out! I mean, I’m not sure I have any answers here, except to say that so much of meeting someone is just luck. I wrote more about this in an earlier post here:

      Hang in there right now. I’m glad you came to my blog.