Last spring I met a really nice man online and ended up dating him. His late wife had died almost 5 years prior. We are the same age but I had children long before he did, so while mine are all grown up, his are still teenagers. Understandably his life revolved around them when they lost their mother (it was sudden and unexpected) and still does. He was already a sahd before his wife died so his kids had that stability in the aftermath of losing their mother.
We took things very slow, lots of walks and coffees and lunches as we got to know each other. Over the summer we had a few dates, and a couple of nights away when his kids were out of town. It was lovely and he expressed several times how lucky he felt to have met me. I had no problems with him talking about her at first as it was hard to share our pasts without referring to our spouses. As time went on I realised that we never got through a date or a walk or anything without him mentioning her name. Red flags started fluttering.
When the summer ended we were back to school routines and as he had taken on a postgrad degree, that was in the mix too. He reassured me that the routine would settle down and we would find our dating rhythm so I was patient and went along with seeing him only during the weekdays when his kids were in school. His weekends were, still are, full of sports activities, extra classes, scouts, parties, etc. His older two have busy social lives and are usually out with friends on Friday and Saturday nights and he doesn't like leaving the youngest at home so he prefers to stay in to babysit. More red flags unfortunately. We did go out, about four times between September and Christmas to dinner once (early bird so he could go home to the youngest), a concert (also home early) and two sports events only one of which he was able to make time for a drink after.
The holidays are a difficult time for him, and they are my affair season too, so I was careful to communicate that I understood these difficult times and would understand if he was a little quiet around the hardest days. In the first years after my separation I found these days very difficult. However I have worked hard to overcome this and regulate my emotions and I have largely 'reclaimed' the holidays I love. He prefers to use the season to remember the past and tries to keep everything exactly the same for the children. The weird thing was that for the first time in several years, I felt the loss of my own good times and family memories and the hurt of the ending of those good years came back to the surface. I don't think it was a coincidence that he was moping about and it triggered those feelings in me too. I decided that if we ended up together I would never have another Christmas like that with him. I like Christmas and he can be miserable on his own.
Eventually, after his sad season was over, I brought up the subject of our routine and how I felt it wasn't working for me. I said that I would like to see him at weekends. I even suggested that we could start with just two weekend dates a month, and see how things went. In the end of the day he couldn't even give me that, he kept saying he wished it wasn't like this (sounded familiar, that's what my ex said about his exit!) but that he just didn't have the time he thought he would. He asked me if I would keep things the same instead. I said no, that that felt like I was devalued. He wanted to stay friends and go for coffee occasionally but I politely declined that too and told him he doesn't get me as a friend if he doesn't value me enough to make an effort as a bf. He was upset, as was I but I wasn't going to be moved from my position.
I really just think he isn't ready to date, even if it is five years ago that she died. He wears his grief like a big comfort blanket, and every time it slips off his shoulders when he takes a step forward he gets cold and pulls it around him again. I can't do anything about that, nor do I want to. I never knew him when he was married so I didn't define him by his widowhood, but clearly he does. He even told me in our last conversation that he does define himself as a widower even though he knows he is single because he wants people to know that he lost his wife. And that was the crux of it, defined by the woman he lost rather than by the woman he found. I don't mean to trivialise his loss or his grief by the way, he is of course free to grieve in whichever way works for him and for however long he needs, but he had no business dating and hurting me in the process.
So that's my latest new beginning ending. The only good thing was that I saw the flags earlier, set my boundaries properly and walked away rather than move them to suit him. That is thanks in large part to the stories and advice I have read here over the past few years, so thank you to all those who have shared their triumphs and disasters to help others on their journeys!