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Awkward Question Series: Round 2

Rusty - June 28, 2007

If you had to marry either a divorcee or a widow/widower, which one would you choose?

Once again, highly sensitive topic so be nice.


  1. I would lean towards widow due to the complications of divorce. You are getting yourself involved with an ex-spouse and his or her parenting styles and issues.

    & often divorced men are stretched to the max financially with financial obligations to 2 households.

    Comment by bbell — June 28, 2007 @ 7:57 am

  2. Whichever had more money.

    Comment by Susan M — June 28, 2007 @ 8:12 am

  3. I’d have to concur with bbell… a widower.

    Besides, unless they’re black widows, they’re not likely to go through that again — whereas those who divorce are more likely to divorce again (not exactly an unsubstantiated rumor, but pretty dern close… sorry folks, not a sociologist).

    Comment by Silus Grok — June 28, 2007 @ 8:12 am

  4. If I weren’t married already, I’d have no real preference one way or the other. Having been married in the temple, however, and having a mild, nagging fear that polygamy might exist in the next life (I doubt it will, but you can never be sure), I’d have to go with the temple-sealed widow. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about getting married for time and eternity, and I’d still be monogomous in the next life.

    Comment by Sam B. — June 28, 2007 @ 8:25 am

  5. I would marry a divorced man before I would marry a widower, for two reasons. First: a man whose first wife died is likely still in love with her, and I don’t want to compete with that. Second: a widower would still be sealed to his first wife, and I don’t want to spend eternity as a second wife.

    Comment by Keri — June 28, 2007 @ 8:25 am

  6. I’d have to say a divorcee whose ex has passed away. Besides that ideal, it would be completely situational.

    Comment by john scherer — June 28, 2007 @ 8:29 am

  7. My mom married a widower and my dad married a divorcee. I’ll have to ask them which one got the better deal.

    Comment by Tom — June 28, 2007 @ 8:33 am

  8. I think it would depend if children were involved. With children- widower, without children- divorcee.

    Comment by Tammy — June 28, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  9. This wasn’t the question, but I find this equally interesting: if you believe there is absolutely *no* polygamy in the next life, what happens, then, if a temple-sealed widower marries again? He just has to ‘pick one’ of his non-consecutive wives in the next life to be with? He gets the first wife he married chronologically whether he prefers her or not, and the others are given an ‘eternal divorce’ and rejoin what (presumably) would be the ‘celestial dating scene’ to find someone else?

    I understand that a lot of people want whole-heartedly to believe polygamy has no place in the plan of salvation (despite scriptural evidence), but I’m interested in how you then answer the other tough questions about the future this presumption raises…

    Comment by KMB — June 28, 2007 @ 9:39 am

  10. Holy threadjack batman!!

    Comment by Robin — June 28, 2007 @ 9:47 am

  11. It’s not really a threadjack Robin.

    For instance, if I were to remarry to a widower, it’s quite likely that she would prefer to remain sealed to her previous husband. Any children I have with her, are then, under some doctrinal interpretations, sealed to her and her previous husband. Not to me. Correct?

    On the other hand, if I marry a divorcee, she’s more likely to want to get the sealing with her ex canceled, and be sealed to me, which means, I get to keep the kids. Right?

    As far as KMB’s question,

    I’ve always understood that the LDS faith believes in polygamy in the afterlife. Period.

    But not polyandry.

    In short, a man can have more than one WIFE in the hereafter, but a woman cannot have more than one husband.

    Which sucks for the young widow who loses a beloved husband in a car accident after 7 years of happy marriage, and then remarries another guy for the rest of her life and now has to choose which one she gets to be sealed to.


    Comment by Seth R. — June 28, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  12. Crap Seth, I agree with you, and I’ve wanted to use that line for so long.

    Comment by Robin — June 28, 2007 @ 10:23 am

  13. Seth R. (and KMB),
    I’ve not looked extensively into it, but as far as I know, the idea that polygamy will exist in the Celestial Kingdom comes from the same people who said that polygamy would never be taken from the Earth. (It kind of had to–polygamy hasn’t figured substantively into LDS discourse since, say, 1904.) So you can disbelieve in afterlife polygamy as being an incorrect (though sincere) statement of celestial society.

    But, like I said, I have a tiny fear in the back of my mind that it might exist, which is why, if my wife were to pass away, I’d probably spend the rest of my life single (absent, of course, an already-sealed widow).

    Comment by Sam B. — June 28, 2007 @ 10:52 am

  14. “Which sucks for the young widow who loses a beloved husband in a car accident after 7 years of happy marriage, and then remarries another guy for the rest of her life and now has to choose which one she gets to be sealed to.”

    My cousin married a young man with a terminal illness and was a widow in her early 20s. I admire her, knowing her prospects for remarriage in LDS circles is difficult.

    What would I choose? I think it matters less for me than for a single person who isn’t sealed to anyone. I would choose the one who I believed would provide the happiest marriage.

    Comment by KyleM — June 28, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  15. I’ve been divorced for ten years, so this is not a hypothetical question for me.

    With regard to remarriage, I categorize myself as “looking, optimistic, biding my time, not particularly anxious”.

    Eligible women that I might date just don’t sort out by “widow” or “divorcee”. I am much more interested and focused on matching up with someone with the potential for a developing and sustaining a long-term relationship. It would have to be someone that I would share a lot of common ground with.

    Most single women I meet are not even close. Every once in a while I meet someone that seems likely. So far, none of them have come to the same conclusion.

    My first wife decided after twenty years with me that she had discovered enough bad things about me to justify shrugging off the sacred covenants we had made. She went to great lengths to justify this, which was a waste of time as far as I was concerned — I have no desire to be with someone who doesn’t want me.

    That’s fine. I can wait.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — June 28, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  16. Good luck with your search, Jim.

    Comment by john scherer — June 28, 2007 @ 11:51 am

  17. If I _had_ to marry someone, I don’t think the question of a temple marriage would be in play very much . Otherwise, it would depend on the circumstances as mentioned above. My gut reaction, based on experience, is that a divorcee would not rate as high as a widow. But, I don’t have to worry – I don’t think any other woman would put up with me. Paraphrasing Groucho: “I wouldn’t marry a woman that would have me as a husband.”

    Comment by Mondo Cool — June 28, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

  18. Personally, I’d prefer a widower, who only wanted to marry me for time. And preferably someone whose first marriage had been very happy. Since I’d still be in love with my husband, it would work for him to still be in love with his wife.

    Comment by Sue — June 28, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

  19. Definitely widower–I am not interested in the lifestyle of divorce.

    Comment by a spectator — June 28, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  20. Honestly, the answer for me would be “neither” (which is what I’m hoping for long term!).

    But if I had to choose, I’d go with #6: A divorcee whose ex has passed away. That way I’d know that he loved me more than the first wife (a given?), but we wouldn’t have to deal with the awkwardness of the situation.

    Comment by Cheryl — June 28, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  21. A Widow…..

    .. as long as I was absolutely, positively, undeniably sure her husband had kicked over.

    Comment by Fregramis — June 28, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

  22. A widower who was still passionately in love with his first wife. Success is a good precedent. I would prefer someone who has never been married, though, given the choice.

    Comment by Tatiana — June 28, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

  23. For me the answer to the question would depend on my own stage of life. If I were in my 20s or 30s and still interested in having children then I’d definitely choose the widow as divorce at that young of an age carries with a lot of baggage. However, once my desire for children disappeared then it really wouldn’t matter– especially if the target in question was really hot.

    Comment by endlessnegotiation — June 29, 2007 @ 5:23 am

  24. What’s unfortunate here is that we tend to have compassion on the widow/er and judgement on the divorcee. Clearly we should have compassion on someone who loses a spouse, but why do we feel okay about saying stuff like “baggage” and “lifestyle of divorce”? Is their situation not also tragic?

    I know it’s easy to make judgements on the idea of a divorcee but are we really that critical of the brothers and sisters in our wards who have had to go through such an ugly experience?

    Comment by Rusty — June 29, 2007 @ 7:26 am

  25. Rusty:

    Divorce is rarely “tragic.” In today’s era of no-fault divorce most marriages end because BOTH parties are no longer capable of sustaining a relationship with someone who at one point they shared an undying love and commitment. That’s baggage. And suppose the divorcee is the product of a tragic situation, what does that say about the ability of the offended party to accurately judge character? Would that be the sort of person I’d want helping my children choose friends? And as for the offender, well, need I say more? The question is not about having more or less compassion for either the divorcee or the widow but about which, given limited resources like time, would make the most attractive acquisition target.

    Comment by endlessnegotiation — June 29, 2007 @ 8:09 am

  26. Rusty,

    Its clearly baggage in terms of future relationships.

    Take me. Lets say I got divorced next week.

    I would get hit with child support and probably alimony to the tune of 2-4K a month.

    If that is not baggage to a future spouse I do not know what is.

    Comment by bbell — June 29, 2007 @ 8:16 am

  27. Very few people really pay much attention to debt liability when they look for a spouse. I wish more people would.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 29, 2007 @ 9:04 am

  28. endless, bbell,
    You guys are talking about two different kinds of baggage: emotional and practical. It’s not really judgemental if all you’re doing is pointing out their debt liability.

    But when you start insinuating that “they” have a flaw in character judgement or that “they” would do a poor job of helping your children choose friends, well, that’s kind of offensive. Do you even know anyone that’s divorced? Does every one of them really have that poor of judgement, moreso than a happily married person? I mean, sure, we can find anecdotes of this but can’t we find just as many of the same of married people?

    Comment by Rusty — June 29, 2007 @ 9:34 am

  29. I am simply pointing out the financial baggage. Check my post again.

    Comment by bbell — June 29, 2007 @ 9:52 am

  30. endlessnegotiation, you’re just plain wrong. Maybe you need to spend some time listening to some divorced people’s stories. Even Elder Oaks’ recent, fairly harsh talk about divorce acknowledged that some people find themselves in circumstances where divorce is the best of the bad options, and that they are “innocent.” (his word)

    Comment by Kristine — June 29, 2007 @ 10:14 am

  31. OK,

    Lets discuss church policy regarding divorced persons and callings and temple rec.

    Lets say a member of the bishopric divorces his wife and there is no abuse. They simply fell out of love and filed for divorce.

    What would happen with….

    1. His and her TR
    2. His calling


    Comment by bbell — June 29, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  32. bbell, it’s a strawman. Virtually all divorce agreements stipulate that child support and alimony are reviewable and subject to modification by the court upon the remarriage of either party.

    Moreover, I suspect you would feel very differently about marrying someone with student loan debt, despite the very similar practical effect. I don’t think you’re making a value-neutral statement of fact. (Not that you should be value-neutral, just don’t pretend that there isn’t moral judgment attached if there is).

    Comment by Kristine — June 29, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  33. bbell, there’s no policy with respect to the TR; it’s solely up to the judgment of the bishop and SP.

    Comment by Kristine — June 29, 2007 @ 10:38 am

  34. bbell,
    I knew that that’s all you were talking about, the rest of my comment was directed at endless. But regarding your hypothetical, my answers are: 1) nothing 2) he’d be released, not because of the divorce but because he would no longer be married (what I understand to be a requirement for being in a bishopric).

    And FWIW, I asked this question because I think it’s an interesting question that has yielded some interesting answers. We are all different people and have different reasons for making the decisions that we make. I have absolutely no problem if someone would prefer a widow over a divorcee, but because I have a number of friends who are divorced (some of who read this blog) I know what kinds of people they are and I think it’s extremely unfair to insinuate that the entire swath of divorcees share the kind of emotional baggage that has been suggested here.

    Comment by Rusty — June 29, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  35. Rusty,

    In my exp in PH leadership

    1. Most likely the TR’s would be temporarily taken away by the bishop or SP but there is a great deal of flexibility and it really depends on the circumstances what happens with the TR. It all depends on the attitude of the local bishop and SP
    2. He would be released. Bishopric members do not in fact have to be married. Or if married even married to members. He would be released because of the divorce.

    There is a great deal of nuance and personal taste involved in your original question. Its also deeply unfair to cast a wide net of aspersion regarding divorced people.

    Comment by bbell — June 29, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

  36. Rusty:

    Please explain to me what’s offensive about drawing reasoned conclusions about someone’s future decisions based on past experience? Would it be offensive if I were to refuse to lend money to someone who had failed at a business in the past or would that just be prudent behavior? I don’t have to prove that every divorcee is a poor judge of character for my inference to be rational. I just have to prove that divorcees are more likely to be poor judges of character and my experience bears that out. Please, explain how divorce is not demonstable of poor character judgement.


    The problem with treating divorce honestly is that it has become so common-place in our society. We all know (at least I do) dozens of people who have been divorced. Typically, we only know one party in the divorce and that’s the only side of the dispute that we typically hear. Hence our perceptions of divorce and what motivates it are tainted by the impressions we get from these one-sided accounts. We don’t want to think our brother/sister/ex-roomate/ex-mission-comp are responsible for the breakup of their own marriage. After all, we know them, love them, and have never observed behavior that would make us want to “divorce” ourselves from them. We allow divorcees to wallow in their own sob stories and blame games because it helps them to feel better about their condition and it permits us to feel a little more intimate with them as we offer sympathy. The relationship is one of mutual emotional masturbation. I don’t condemn divorce or those who do but knowing someone has divorced alls me to make reasonable inferences about their character which I can use to make a decision about pursuing any future relationship.

    Comment by endlessnegotiation — June 29, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

  37. bbell said: “It all depends on the attitude of the local bishop and SP.”

    Exactly. In other words, there is nothing in the handbook suggesting the TR be taken away.

    “He would be released because of the divorce.”

    I’m pretty sure that isn’t in the handbook either, I’ll check tonight though. And if it’s not in the handbook then it points to your quote above, which is that it’s a cultural issue, not a policy/doctrine.

    “Its also deeply unfair to cast a wide net of aspersion regarding divorced people.”

    Wait, isn’t that what I am trying to say?

    endless said: “I don’t have to prove that every divorcee is a poor judge of character for my inference to be rational. I just have to prove that divorcees are more likely to be poor judges of character and my experience bears that out.”

    Are you serious? So what you’re saying is that of all those you know who have been divorced and all those who you know who are still married, there is a big enough difference in how good of character judges these people are that you can safely conclude that it’s the divorcees who are clearly poorer at judging character? Really? I don’t think I’d come to the same conclusion. If anything I think it would be upbringing, education, emotional stability, family paradigms, etc. over being divorced.

    Comment by Rusty — June 29, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  38. The choice for me is totally situational and I could go either way.

    However, as a single woman in the church, age 32 and looking for someone my age or older, if I had to choose between a man who had been divorced and one who had never been married, I’d tend rather strongly towards the divorcee, as the never-married men in this age range tend to have obvious reasons why they are still unmarried. (This is not always the case, just a significant trend that I have personally noticed.)

    Comment by Eliza Roxcy — June 29, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  39. You are right that divorcees have gotten the bad end of the stick on this thread. My vote simply indicated that, knowing nothing else, I would go for a widower.

    Now, if I knew it was a choice between a grumpy misanthropic widower and a divorcee who had made a great effort to have a happy marriage but it was all the exes fault, I would probably make a different choice.

    Good thing I’m already married.

    Comment by a spectator — June 29, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  40. I have seen such outlandish and amazing crap when it comes to divorce. Divorce among the “spiritual”; the “good characters”.

    I think a spectator and bbell have very valid points. And only because I’ve seen a man, divorced, who seems to be the most incredibly kind, spiritual and wonderful person all women dream of.

    His three wives and last fiance would say differently.

    However, women continue to flock to this man, even after they know about his past. Why? Because they are also divorced and don’t see “divorce” as a bad thing. Well, duh –go figure! I wouldn’t either. But at the same time I would be VERY concerned about striking up a relationship with someone who is divorced over a widow/widower until I knew the exact details about why the divorce occurred. No, it should not be the only deciding factor (maybe he left her or she left him –I’ve seen that, too), but second-marriage divorces are so much higher than first-marriage divorces and personally (which means I have no data to back the following up) I think it’s because people are so used to the status of divorce that they don’t even bat an eye when a potential mate has been married before.

    No-Fault Divorce is a plague.

    Death is a tragedy.

    (P.S. The only reason I used a male in my comments is because this is a person I am related to. I’ve seen women do the same thing, too, though…)

    Comment by Cheryl — June 29, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

  41. For both my husband and I, our first marriages were incredible learning experiences after which we could more clearly see what we wanted and what we had to offer, and how to make a marriage work. i’m not suggesting divorce is a good thing, just that the assumption that a divorced person has is tainted or has a flawed character is not always true.

    Although I’d be a little cautious with someone divorced more than once, maybe.

    I dated a widower at one point, and it was awkward. He still loved her, and as a Mormon she really existed for him in a way my ex did not for me.

    Comment by arareandradiantmaiden — June 29, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

  42. Cheryl,spectator, endless, bbell,

    I devoutly hope that none of you ever find yourselves in a position to be judged harshly for the reasons you’ve been passing judgment here. However, if you do, I hope that your judges will be more charitable.

    Comment by Kristine — June 30, 2007 @ 4:28 am

  43. Sorry to have offended you, Kristine. I gave a glib answer to a glib question. I sincerely feel that there are many good reasons for divorce, including simply wanting to be happy. I also recognize that it can significantly complicate your life and that many people choose it while others have it forced upon them. I suppose I could come up with variations on having your spouse die, too, but I won’t. Sorry if anyone was hurt by my comments.

    Comment by a spectator — June 30, 2007 @ 6:12 am

  44. spectator, I’m not personally offended by any of this; it’s a question that doesn’t apply to me. I’m just staggered by how many people are willing to make blanket statements about people’s character based on so little information. It’s like claiming one *knows* that everyone who has ever been in a car accident is a bad driver. It’s especially disturbing coming from people who have served or are serving in church leadership callings; it would seem that one’s pastoral capabilities would be strongly affected by having such nasty prejudices against the people one is supposed to care for.

    Comment by Kristine — June 30, 2007 @ 8:09 am

  45. Kristine-
    I thought I made it perfectly clear I was speaking about somebody I knew. And know well. My judgements were based upon facts and experience. Of course it’s not the same for everyone. I’m not that stupid, condescending, or judgemental. And I’ll stick by what I said. No-fault divorce is a plague. And being wary about a person (with whom I would want to build an eternal relationship) who has been divorced is just common sense.

    Comment by Cheryl — June 30, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

  46. Cheryl, being wary about ANYONE before building a relationship is just good common sense.

    No-fault divorce is, in many ways, a great blessing. Do we really want a woman whose husband has been cheating on her to have to hire private detectives to trail him and get evidence for a nasty, protracted court battle? Should a man whose wife takes off and leaves him with the kids have to spend time and money proving that she left deliberately and wasn’t kidnapped? “No-fault” divorce sounds bad, because it sounds like we’re exonerating the parties involved, but as a legal construct, it’s really far superior to the alternatives.

    Comment by Kristine — July 1, 2007 @ 6:49 am

  47. You just proved my point.

    “Oh, we agreed to part. It was a no-fault divorce” says the cheating husband.

    “My husband and I just didn’t see eye to eye” says the woman who runs away.

    Yes, we should be wary about anyone when building a relatinship. But let’s look at it this way. If I was to send my child to pre-school and then found out that the pre-school teacher had been fired at her last teaching job, I’m gonna be very, very concerned. Let’s say I find out that my new doctor had been sued before. Both situations may be completely innocent (teacher got fired because she stood up for a student/parent; doctor was sued by a greedy person calling “wolf”) but I would be a fool not to investigate further. So, there we go. If I was to start building a relationship towards marriage with someone that had previously failed at “marriage”, I would want to know why. And sometimes, the truth can be easily hidden (“he said, she said!”).

    Comment by Cheryl — July 1, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  48. Cheryl, the thrice-divorced man you mentioned illustrates how some men are entirely different in public versus private, or in-the-family versus out-of-the-family. I’ve seen the Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde types before too.

    Seasoned observers can sometimes identify the “markers” in public behavior, both in the abuser and in the victim, which indicate different behavior in private.

    Those who haven’t had close contact with the Jeckyl/Hyde types often can’t fathom how the super-nice person becomes a monster within the four walls of their house.

    Oh, the stories.

    Comment by Bookslinger — July 1, 2007 @ 7:52 pm

  49. Cheryl:

    Your analogy falls flat. Comparing being sued and being fired to being divorced shows a lack of understanding of what a divorce is like and what it feels like to go through one. It is infinitely more complex than that. And just so you know: all of your doctors have been sued before.

    Comment by arareandradiantmaiden — July 2, 2007 @ 8:45 am

  50. Those who haven’t had close contact with the Jeckyl/Hyde types often can’t fathom how the super-nice person becomes a monster within the four walls of their house.


    So…unless I go through a divorce, I’m not allowed to create analogies that make sense to me? Of course divorce is more complex than that. But to me, it was the simplest analogy that made sense. And no, I’m not divorced. But I deal with the divorce of a family member every single day.

    And once again, my point has been made (by those that would argue with me). Yes, Divorce is amazingly complex and affects EVERYONE it touches. Friends, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, colleagues, future spouses, future children, future in-laws, future friends, etc. And it can affect them in positive ways (such as getting out of an abusive situation) or extremely negative ways (backbiting, choosing sides, putting the children in the “middle”, lying, cheating, drawing out court issues, etc.).

    Why is it so wrong to be nervous about marrying a divorced person based on the explanations I’ve given? Because it sounds judgemental? If anything needs more sound judgement than choosing an eternal partner, I don’t know what it would be —and if that potential partner was already married before, wouldn’t that add to the worry?

    Comment by Cheryl — July 2, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  51. from my perspective as a guy in the church, marrying a widow who was sealed to someone else would be creepy to me as you would be married to someone else’s wife. not only that, but a dead guy’s wife.

    she better be dang hot or dang rich or both.

    if you’ve ever had experience with the single adult program, well, it reminds me of the famous words of yoda to luke after he said he wasn’t afraid, “oh…you will be…you will be.

    hey i heard a great story i bet you’d like at a conference once that was told by the bishop of the single’s ward.

    to make a long story short(as close as i remember the details):

    missionaries were teaching a spanish speaking couple and challenged them to be baptized. they accepted so the missionaries told them they’d have to get married first. the missionaries couldn’t follow the heated discussion that erruped between the two in front of them which ended in them agreeing to the marriage. a year later the missionaries were invited back to their temple marriage when they found out that they weren’t a couple at all. they didn’t even really know each other. they just happened to be living in the same complex and were there to just take the lessons at the same time.

    Comment by garry — July 6, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

  52. Just curious, how does our church view Christ’s apparent prohibitions in Matthew, Mark and Luke of almost all remarriage after divorce?

    For example, see Matthew 19:9:

    And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

    Remarriage sounds a risky proposition under this scripture.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 9, 2007 @ 1:42 pm

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