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Romancing the Widow

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Trying a bit too hard there, girl.

Behold the young bride, blissfully happy with her husband (or sometimes not...) until he dies before his time. Now she's single again, but disinterested in romance. Either her former husband was a jerk, and she no longer trusts men, or she loved her husband so deeply that no suitor can compete with his (possibly rose-tinted) memory. A third possibility is that the widow is hesitant to form bonds again because she is afraid of suffering the pain of that loss a second time.

But lo! Enter our protagonist, who wins her heart with his patient ways and teaches her to love again. This is of course a romance trope. Can be a way of bringing in an "older woman" love interest. Once she moves on, the old husband will rarely — if ever — be mentioned again.

Can face complications when dealing with the False Widow.


If it's a Rescue Romance, she's probably also a Determined Widow. See Widow Woman for more widow tropes.

A form of Second Love. Compare Comforting the Widow, when the lover starts putting on the moves way too early, and the Black Widow, where she's single and there's a very good reason for that.

Word of warning to all time-travelers: This could result in you becoming your own Grandpa.

Often Truth in Television today and especially in past centuries, when shorter lifespans and a greater risk of dying in early adulthood (either in war or of disease) meant that it was common for people to remarry at least once in their lifetimes due to the death of their spouses. To cite just one famous historical example, James Madison hooked up with Dolley Payne Todd this way after her husband died during the yellow-fever epidemic that hit Philadelphia in the mid-1790's.



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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • ElfQuest has two very different examples: Clearbrook's husband One-Eye is murdered during a sneak attack, and their old friend Treestump immediately takes care of Clearbrook emotionally during her Heroic BSoD to make sure she doesn't go insane with grief. When it turns out One-Eye is in a kind of magical coma, Treestump makes sure his friend's soul gets all the closure it needs, and he and Clearbrook gradually become lifemates after One-Eye is put to rest. A second, less conventional example happens when Cutter's family is kidnapped 10000 years into the future (far beyond his own natural lifespan) and he decides to at least keep on living normally for as long as he can. His childhood friends Nightfall and Redlance ask him to become their lovemate and live with them for as long as he wants, because the loneliness would otherwise consume him completely. (Interestingly, Nightfall is the best friend of Cutter's kidnapped lifemate Leetah, and it was thought by the entire tribe that she would end up with Cutter because they were born around the same time. Also interestingly, Nightfall's daughter Tyleet ends up becoming the lifemate of both Treestump's daughter Dewshine and Clearbrook's son Scouter.)
  • The Sin City story A Dame To Kill For has a subplot involving one of the few honest cops in Basin City getting involved in an affair with a recently widowed Femme Fatale. It ends tragically for him and his partner, whom he kills before committing suicide.
  • Gender inverted and without actual marriage (even if they were seriously considering it) in the Spider-Man comics. Gwen... named a certain trope and left Peter heartbroken. Enter Mary Jane whom helps him by being a supportive friend and the two become closer. A few years after her death, they share a kiss and begin to contemplate a relationship. Then this being comics, a Gwen clone shows up (and of course he spend a good deal of the arc believing it was genuinely her). The clone eventually helps him realize that his relationship with Gwen was NOT as perfect as he thought, her hatred of his alter ego ran too deep, and it was MJ he really in love with. However, he never really stopped angsting about Gwen, leading MJ to sometimes question if she really was his second choice (it's mostly entirely baseless, and they have never shown to have anything but unconditional love for each other, but the "what if I managed to save her thing" gets dragged out A LOT).

    Films — Animated 
  • Bébé's Kids starts with Robin Harris dating the newly widowed Jameeka, but it turns out he bit off more than he could chew, as he ends up babysitting her friend's incredibly rambunctious kids.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Finding Neverland, rumors of this arise as a result of all of the time that James Barrie spends with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (a rather scandalous situation, considering that he is married). The reality is a platonic variation, and Sylvia's mother, Emma, is rather annoyed with James because his attentions are keeping this from legitimately happening to Sylvia.
  • The Film of the Book to Flight of the Intruder has a subplot where the main character ends up getting into a relationship with the widow of his bombadier/navigator, who died in the film's opening.
  • In Key Largo, Frank with Nora, although it's mostly on her part. Frank is still dealing with the guilt of surviving the war where his friend—Nora's husband—hadn't.
  • In Too Many Husbands (1940), when Bill was declared Legally Dead after a boating accident, his business partner Henry helped the widow "in a million little ways," leading her to marry him six months later. This causes awkwardness when Bill returns from being shipwrecked on a Deserted Island.
  • In Miracle on 34th Street she's a divorcee, not a widow, but it's the same principle.
  • Sarah and Hull's relationship is like this in Pale Rider. Sarah's husband dies before the plot begins, but it's implied that she's the "loved her husband dearly" variety of widow.
  • The Magnificent Ambersons is about a (grown-up) Spoiled Brat with Mommy Issues who is horrified that his widowed mother is falling for her Childhood Sweetheart. Everyone else thinks he's making a fuss about nothing.
  • Edward towards Angela in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao; it takes a little magical assistance from the eponymous wizard for her to finally come around.
  • Alec wants to marry Julie, a young widow, in the film In Name Only. They both fall deeply in love, but the only problem is that his current wife, Maida, won't give him a divorce.
  • Wild River has Chuck the TVA man falling in love with beautiful Carol, whose husband died three years ago and who was left with two small children. Complicated in that Chuck, on behalf of the federal government, is trying to get Carol's family off their land so the badly-needed dam can proceed.
  • In the Marx Brothers films, Margaret Dumont played the rich widow, and Groucho played the one wooing her. In Duck Soup:
    Firefly (Groucho): Not that I care, but where is your husband?
    Teasdale (Dumont): Why he's dead.
    Firefly: I'll bet he's just using that as an excuse.
    Teasdale: I stayed with him till the very end.
    Firefly: Hmm, no wonder he passed away.
    Teasdale: I held him in my arms and kissed him.
    Firefly: Oh I see, then it was murder. Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.
    Teasdale: He left me his entire fortune.
    Firefly: Is that so? Can't you see what I'm trying to tell you, I love you!
  • When the Last Sword Is Drawn: A close variant. Chiaki Ono married Yoshimura Shizu after her father Yoshimura Kanichiro came home mortally wounded, and her older brother (and Chiaki's best friend) Kaichirou left to take his father's place fighting in the Boshin War and didn't come back.

  • In Enoch Arden, Philip declares his love to Annie after Enoch has been missing for several years. He has to be very patient, as she is reluctant to give up on Enoch, and even when she finally marries him, it is mostly Remarrying for Your Kids at first. (She does finally come to return his feelings, however.)
  • Ista in Paladin of Souls, by Lois McMaster Bujold; she does a lot of the romancing herself, being the POV character.
  • Clive Cussler's The Mediterranean Caper. Dirk Pitt does this with Teri von Till, who is still in mourning for her car-racer husband. It later turns out that she's actually an undercover Federal Bureau of Narcotics agent named Amy, so her story may have been fake.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Miles Vorkosigan's love interest Ekaterin is widowed in Komarr, freeing her up for Miles' courtship in A Civil Campaign. Given the five-to-four male/female ratio on Barrayar, however, he quickly finds that he is not her only suitor. And given the unstable and classified circumstances under which the husband died, Miles finds himself slandered of creating a widow for himself...
    • In Barrayar, Count Vidal Vordarian had been courting the recently widowed Princess Kareen as part of his scheme to become Regent for Life for her four year old son Gregor. Emperor Ezar saw through him and arranged for his grandson's regency to be assigned to Lord Aral Vorkosigan instead.
  • Somehow subverted in Jorge Amado's novel Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, where the titular Flor is the widow who is eventually romanced, and who has to learn how to open to love again. Of course, things become more complicated, what with the ghost of her first husband coming back...
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality novel "Being a Green Mother," after the stunning Niobe loses her husband, she becomes the immortal Clotho. Some 40 years later, she meets and falls in love again with a different man, many years after his wife also died. He even comments (paraphrased) "It's almost like Fate has been saving you until the time was right."
  • Atretes, the hero of As Sure As the Dawn, is an ex-gladiator embittered by a failed Destructive Romance who strikes up a partnership with a widow named Rizpah who had previously adopted the child whom he had thought his previous lover had aborted. Despite hating one another's guts at first, they eventually fall for each other; she pulls him out of his nihilistic cynicism and he is able to help her experience true love for the first time (she was a prostitute as a child and her first husband was a kindly older man for whom she never had romantic feelings).
  • Gender inverted in The Silmarillion. Indis loved Finwë from afar even before he married. After he visits her when his first wife dies, she openly declares her love for him.
  • Messenger has a sinister version. Mentor trades away his true self to become young and handsome in order to romance Stocktender's recently-widowed wife.
  • In David Weber's Empire from the Ashes, Star Marshal Tsien Tao-ling does this for Amanda Givens, who lost her first husband in the battle of Zeta Trianguli Australis and subsequently completely shut down emotionally. Happens in the time gap between The Armageddon Inheritance and Heirs of Empire, meaning the romance is recounted in the narrative of the latter:
    Narration: Amanda Tsien feared nothing that lived, but she was also an orphan. She'd been only nine years old when she learned a harsh universe's cruelest weapon could be love... and she'd relearned that lesson when Tamman, her first husband, died at Zeta Trianguli Australis. Colin and Jiltanith had watched helplessly as she hid herself in her duties, sealing herself into an armored shell and investing all the emotion she dared risk in Tamman's son. She'd become an automaton, and there'd been nothing even an emperor could do about it, but Tsien Tao-ling had changed that.
    Many of the marshal's personnel feared him. That was wise of them, yet something in Amanda had called out to him, despite her defenses, and the man the newsies called "the Juggernaut" had approached her so gently she hadn't even realized he was doing it until it was too late. Until he'd been inside her armor, holding out his hand to offer her the heart few people believed he had... and she'd taken it.
  • A Brother's Price has Jerin with the princesses. Since the former husband was a jerk, the widow status is not much dwelled on, though—it is only important insofar as Trini does not really want to remarry, for fear she could get such a jerk again.
  • As they did in Real Life, the heroines of Susan Higginbotham's historical fiction often end up remarrying after their first husband comes to a historically sticky end.
  • In some of the later Dune books, the long-widowed Lady Jessica Atreides is said to have found love with Gurney Halleck, although given that they have by that time become the rulers of Caledan and Giedi Prime, respectively, their relationship is kept very low-key to avoid scandal.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lucrezia Borgia of Borgia is surprisingly distraught after the death of her husband, Alfonso de Calabria. Lucky, her longtime lover (the other Alfonso) is still around to marry.
  • Carnival Row: Portia is a widow, and has become lovers with Philo (to one of her tenant's strong disapproval, as they're unmarried).
  • Doctor Who: In "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood", the humanized Doctor falls in love with a widowed nurse working at the school where he teaches. She remarks at some point that it's not fair how the world expects widows to just disappear after their husbands die.
  • Frasier: Martin starts dating the widow of a friend and wonders whether he should feel guilty about it.
  • In the British thriller series The Last Enemy, Stephen and his brother's widow, Yasim, fall in love. Things get a bit more complicated when it turns out that his brother was Faking the Dead. Not that their marriage was in the best of states beforehand.
  • Patrick Jane of The Mentalist lost both his wife and his daughter when they were brutally murdered by a serial killer, which was kind of his fault. He feels incredibly guilty about it and continues to wear his wedding ring years later, all while bent on revenge. Consequently, any woman attempting to date him in the series falls into this, as he has a lot of issues and is extremely cagey about starting up with anyone new. Eventually he gets past this and starts a relationship with Libson. It ends very, very well.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • Enid Jones a pretty young widow courted by Detective Murdoch when his on-again-off-again relationship with Dr. Ogden is off. She likes him a lot, but her son Alwyn is the most important person in her life, so she breaks it off because Murdoch appears too undecided and she doesn't want to see her son hurt.
    • Dr. Julia Ogden's husband Dr. Darcy Garland dies in "Crime & Punishment". Murdoch resumes pursuing her romantically — or more like he continues to pursue her romantically, because when Dr. Garland died, Julia was trying to get a divorce.
    • George Crabtree romantically pursues widowed Mrs. Brooks. They knew each other when she was a Miss Garrison. When they meet again, she's a young widow with a stepson Simon. She genuinely likes George and is beyond happy that George proves to be a good influence on Simon.
  • In Single Father Dave and Sarah's burgeoning romance is taut with the presence of Rita's memory and how quickly they seem to have gotten together after her death. Rita was also Sarah's best friend and further complicates things by having a boyfriend at the time when she and Dave first get together.
  • In the second season of Tyrant, Molly, having been led to believe that her husband Bassam Al-Fayeed has been executed, pursues a short-lived affair with Sammy's lawyer.

  • Garth Brooks' "That Summer" is made of this trope. It tells the story of a young farmhand hired by a widow who then falls for him.
  • The Great Big Sea song "Widow in the Window" is about a young bride who refuses to believe her husband died at sea, much to the disappointment of the narrator, who is in love with her.

    Myth & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • In the Book of Deuteronomy: If a married man dies without leaving behind a son, the man's brother has a responsibility to marry the widow. If this brother then has a son with the woman, the son is considered to be of the deceased's lineage, to carry on his family name. Furthermore, if the brother refuses to marry the widow, she can take him before the town elders and have him publicly humiliated. (This was to ensure that a widow was properly cared for, as women in those days didn't have much means of supporting themselves without a husband or son.)
      • Onan's refusal to do this (he married his brother's widow and slept with her, but "spilled his seed" on the ground instead of inside her to avoid getting her pregnant) got him killed by God, because in the event that the resulting child was male, the brother's possessions would go to "his" son instead of Onan's (or Onan himself). This was later conflated with any male ejaculation happening outside of sex, hence onanism being an old-fashioned term for masturbating.
    • In the Book of Judith, the title character (who herself is a widow) becomes so famous for her Heroic Seductress role in defeating Holofernes, the leader of the Assyrian army, that many tried to marry her, but she ended up turning them all down and lived the rest of her life as a widow.

  • The Merry Widow is about a baron from the same small country as the title character trying to get her to marry a fellow countryman and not a Frenchman, so that her husband's money doesn't leave the country. They choose her old flame Count Danilo for the job, and Slap-Slap-Kiss ensues.

    Video Games 
  • Dream Daddy:
    • The Main Character that can date any of the dads has lost his previous partner a while before the events of the series.
    • Robert had a wife, but she died in a car accident. He is a romantic option for you to date.
    • Another romantic option, Mat, also had a wife who passed away before she even saw the coffee shop they opened.
  • BioWare gender-inverts the trope into Romancing the Widower quite a few times across their various games:
  • Waaaay too many H-games to count.
  • Ramon wanted to do this to Vanessa in The King of Fighters. Never got further than being her Dogged Nice Guy.
  • In Mitsumete Knight, this is the scenario of one of the winnable girls, Claire Majoram.
  • Looking at the game code reveals that this was going to be an option in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but was cut. The Dragonborn would be able to romance Jarl Elisif the Fair, whose husband was murdered at the start of the Civil War, but there's no way (without using the developer's console) to reach the romancing dialogue.
  • The trope is genderflipped in Fire Emblem Fates if a Female Avatar successfully romances Gunther, a man whose wife and child perished alongside his Doomed Hometown.
  • Long Live the Queen begins with player character Elodie's mother, Queen Fidelia, suddenly dying. Her father, Joslyn, is subsequently approached by multiple suitors throughout the game; as the King Dowager and the Duke of Caloris, he makes an attractive partner to anyone looking. By default he remains uninterested in remarrying despite having no heir to his title (since Elodie is the crown princess, she can't also inherit Joslyn's title), but if Elodie's choices have gotten the nobles talking about the importance of heirs, he may be pushed into marrying in order to ensure the succession remains safe.
  • Harvest Moon:
  • A plot point in the backstory of Yakuza 2 is that veteran cop Jiro Kawara married Suyeon Jung, a woman violently widowed by her husband's death at the hands of yakuza. Said husband was a boss of a Korean mafia gang known as the Jingweon, Kawara himself prevented her from committing suicide and taking her son (who grows up to become Ryuji Goda) with him, they had a child together (who grows up to become Detective Kaoru Sayama), and Kawara spent years killing Jingweon members who took exception to Suyeon abandoning the group and intended to kill her and their children.

  • Gender-inverted in Something*Positive by Davan's parents. Fred was a widower who had lost his wife and son, which didn't stop Faye from falling in love with him. Despite harsh criticism from Fred's side of the family, Faye and Fred got married and had children of their own.
  • Monsterkind: A same-sex example. Wallace starts to develop a crush on Ben, his landlord who is still grieving his past love interest. Chapter 4 implies this to not be really one sided anymore, as they Almost Kiss.

    Western Animation 
  • Several Looney Tunes cartoons revolved around this plot, usually the result of the would-be suitor discovering that the widow in question had inherited a fortune.
    • "At Your Service, Madame" - A mother sow is almost robbed blind by a con-man... er... pig (patterned after W.C. Fields) posing as a suitor, and her kids team up trying to stop him.
    • "Hare Trimmed" - Yosemite Sam attempts to woo Granny (called Emma in this cartoon) after discovering she inherited 50 million dollars. Bugs Bunny overhears about the plot, and poses as another suitor in an attempt to keep Granny from being conned.
    • "Honey's Money" - Yosemite Sam (in his only solo cartoon) marries a wealthy widow, but quickly becomes a Henpecked Husband, and to make matters worse, has to put up with his new big-as-a-house stepson, leaving him to wonder if the money's even worth it. He ultimately decides "yes".


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