Although a spouse can die during the early – or middle-adult years, widowhood usually occurs later in life. In most heterosexual couples the man dies first, a tendency that became more pronounced during the 20 th century. There are more than four widows for every widower (U. S. Census Bureau, 2002). Older men without partners often seek young female companions, which reduces the pool of potential partners for older heterosexual women.
The postmarital adjustment of widowhood is different in some ways from that of divorce. Widowed people typically do not have the sense of having failed at marriage. The grief may be more intense, and the quality of the emotional bond to the deceased mate is often quite high. For some people this emotional tie remains so strong that other potential relationships appear dim by comparison. However, many people who have lost a spouse through death do remarry—about half of widowed men and one fourth of widowed women (Lown & Dolan, 1988).
Sexuality and the Adult Years