Dear Dr. Romance,
Not knowing just where to begin, I will simply state that I am a man in my midfifties, who possesses exceptional health and fitness, and who has been in love with a much younger woman, (midthirties), for many years and who has just lost her husband through death.
First of all, please recognize that I do not feel joy in the loss of my friend’s husband. She and I both have experienced divorce of our spouses over the years we have known each other but most recently, she has lost her third husband through suicide.
I certainly am sensitive to the fact that she will be going through a grieving process for an unknown amount of time and that I do not intend, in any way other than as a close friend, to bring her and her children comfort and some financial help. She has absolutely no knowledge of my feelings for her and I do not want to bring any more confusion into her already chaotic life than what is already there.
May I simply ask how to tenderly, genuinely, and respectfully introduce to her, as a close friend of her and her family for over twenty years, the fact that I am in love with her and have been for so many years? I will, as always, respect, and honor this woman; for what is love without honor and sacrifice. But I am not just a little concerned about the age gap, nor do I take lightly the fact that we both have gone through some life changes in our past.
Perhaps my desire will never be realized, but I feel that I must at least make the attempt, at the proper time, and in the proper way. I will remain a man of honor until my own death, but until then, I wish to strive to give all that I can give with a pure and chaste heart to a woman that simply fills my heart with desire and love.
Your chances are probably good, if you continue to be patient. Twenty years is not that much of an age gap, at your stage of life. Your friend needs a friend right now, not a suitor. So, please do not bring this subject up. Just be there for her in any appropriate way you can. Offer to help her with things around the house that need doing, if you’re capable. When you’re going grocery shopping, or to the library, call and ask her if there’s anything she needs. Invite her out to a movie, not as a date, but because you think she’d be interested.
Please, whatever you do, don’t get romantic during the movie. Just be her friend. She’ll need, at the very least, a year to recover from her grief—perhaps more, if she feels guilty about the suicide, as surviving spouses often do. Make time to listen to her, call and see if she’s doing okay, just be that close friend that you are. Statistics show that widows frequently turn to a neighbor or family friend in their time of loss, and if the friend is supportive, but does not pressure them in any way, the relationship often turns into a new marriage.
You sound like a very respectful and caring man, so just be her good friend. She’s probably comfortable around you, and if you create opportunities to be together (if she has children, offer to accompany her to their school games and events, as a friend) your companionship may very well grow into something much more. To help you understand her grief, you might want to read my article “Surviving Loss and Thriving Again,” and The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again can help you slowly develop a healthy relationship.