With Elizabeth Edwards deceased, husband John reportedly only waited a few weeks before proposing marriage to baby mama Rielle Hunter. Remarriage – and dating – after the death of a spouse is more common than you think. Does this make John less of a cad?
Coping with Grief in the Arms of Another?
While it is advisable to view the National Enquirer story about John Edward’s marriage proposal to Hunter with a grain of salt, he would (if true) most certainly not be the first widower to look for an instant remarriage. In some cases its appears as though coping with grief and the loss of constant companionship — due to the death of a spouse — can only be healed with an instant replacement.
Remarriage by the Numbers
Even though the figures regarding remarriage deal primarily with marriage after divorce, there is a clear trend that may be transferable to dating after the death of a spouse. The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center explains that serial marriages are becoming normal. Assigning probability values to the odds of remarriage after divorce, a startling 55 percent of men and 44 percent of women (over the age of 25) will tie the knot again.
The Danger of Marrying Again Too Soon
“The euphoria of a new relationship masks the pain and sorrow of their loss,” says Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. He makes a valid point that underscores just why it seems to be so easy for a grieving widower to go from mourning the loss of a wife to wooing a new one. Being unwilling (or unable) to fully feel the pain of the loss, the new relationship promises a shortcut to grief recovery.
Societal Norms and Realities
A quick peek at Dear Abby’s column proves that there are societal norms that dictate a proper mourning period before once again looking to the opposite sex for love and companionship. That being said, the convention does not look like it applies to real life examples.
Most notably it looks like those who are unaffected by the death of a spouse support the waiting period before dating and remarriage, while those in the situation engage in dating relationships within one to three months after the loss.
Being the Second Spouse: Not a Bed of Roses
If remarriage after the death of a spouse is a step that some men take a bit too quickly, being the new spouse is not always a bed of roses either. Although the wife-to-be might hope for her future husband to be an Edward Rochester to her Jane Eyre, more often than not he is likely still deeply grieving the loss of his first spouse.
“Grief is an enduring emotion that will be a part of your relationship together for years to come,” asserts Emily Bouchard, MSSW. Being called by the dead spouse’s name, dealing with a husband’s melancholy on anniversaries or at the sight of special locales and also enduring the gradual idealization of the deceased wife can take a toll on even a harmonious marriage.
While John Edwards is still a cad, Rielle Hunter may soon realize — should she say “I do” — that becoming the second Mrs. Edwards is going to be a lot tougher than it sounds.
National Enquirer: “John Edwards Secret Proposal to Mistress”
National Healthy Marriage Resource Center: “Remarriage Trends in the United States”
Richard Nicastro, Ph.D.: “Second Marriage Pitfall #5: The Challenge of Remarrying After A Spouse Dies”
Dear Abby: “Swift remarriage after a spouse’s death deserves respect, not ridicule”
Emily Bouchard, MSSW: “Remarriage after spouse’s death”