There are no official figures on the number of widowers who remarry. Despite this, the Census Bureau estimates that ten times as many widowers as widows over 65 remarry, despite the fact that older men outnumber older women. However, marital counselors feel that widowers are more likely than divorced males to remarry. Research shows that younger men who have been widowed are less likely to re-marry than middle-aged or older men.
Widowers usually remarry within a few years of their spouse's death. But because people vary in how long they dwell on their loss, there is no way to estimate exactly how long a widower might live without remarrying. Some research indicates that men who have not yet reached their 50s when their spouse dies are less likely to marry again later in life than men who have some time to grieve and recover before trying to start over in love and life. But other studies show just the opposite: men who have not yet reached age 60 are more likely to marry again after their spouse dies.
It all depends on the man and what he needs and wants from his life. If he has children, for example, then waiting until after his 60s to marry again would be foolish because it would be hard for him to find a wife if he waited that long.
Despite the fact that older males are more likely than women to remarry, remarriage among older individuals is still uncommon (Lee, DeMaris, Bavin, & Sulli-van, 2001). Approximately 2% of elder widows and 20% of older widowers ever remarry (Smith, Zick, & Duncan, 1991). Remarriage rates decline dramatically with age for both men and women. By age 80+, less than 1% of women and 6% of men have married again.
Widows who are younger than 50 years old are less likely to remarry compared to men. Among older widows, there are several factors that may influence whether they will remarry. If a woman was born into an affluent family, she is more likely to remain unmarried if her husband dies. Also, if a woman did not receive proper social training and has no idea how to behave like a wife, she may never marry again even though she would like to. Of course, the man's death will also be a factor in delaying her own marriage prospects.
Women's marital histories vary depending on where they live. For example, women in Asia tend to stay single for longer periods after losing their husbands, which can affect their chances of marrying again. Cultural norms play a big role in deciding when and how long a woman should remain single after losing a spouse. In some cultures, it is acceptable for a woman to remain single for many years, while in others this is not recommended at all.
After the death of a spouse, one-half of all widowers and one-third of all widows remarried within this time period. The proportion of remarried women fell in the nineteenth century as life expectancy grew, reducing the number of young widows and widowers.
Women who did marry again were not considered "spinsters" or "widows" anymore; instead, they were referred to as "single mothers." They would often take in boarders to raise their children while trying to find new jobs. Some single mothers also took in laundry or worked as servants. Some turned to crime to make money.
People thought that by marrying again, these widowed women would be able to escape the poverty that followed widowhood. But even after married women were expected to quit work, many could not afford to live on their own incomes. So they went back to either finding a new husband or moving in with their old family member if they had one. Sometimes they would even return to their former residence in the town where they met their first husband so they could be close to his family.
There was no official government policy on how women should react after a marriage ended. Each state decided for itself what role, if any, a wife should play in legal proceedings against her deceased husband's estate. If she lived in Kentucky or Missouri, for example, she would not be allowed to testify against her husband.