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Marital Status When Widowed Isn't an Option

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

Today I went to a new chiropractor’s office and had to fill out an intake form. As part of the demographic information, the form asked for my marital status and included only “single” or “married.” Since my husband died, I've hated this part of forms. Thankfully, more often than not, the forms include “widowed.” But I cannot tell you the number of times I've had to fill out demographic information where “widowed” was not a choice—just like the chiropractor’s office. In those instances, I never know what to choose. Am I single? Am I married?

My husband and I dated for many years and even lived together for many years before we officially got married. Though in our minds we were married, he technically was my boyfriend; I was his girlfriend. We knew we would grow old together. Our futures included each other. But on paper, we were single. Sometimes if I nagged him about something, he would jokingly say, “Stop wife-ing me.” But I wasn't his wife. During this time, I filled out many forms asking for my marital status. I think I always checked “single.” I didn’t really think anything of it. It didn’t matter.

But now that he has passed, I can’t stand the thought of checking “single.” In my mind, I'm still married to him. My heart is still very much tied to his. But technically, I'm not married anymore. The first time I encountered this dilemma on what to select was after I'd run a 10k (6.2 mile) race. I filled out an online survey after the race, and it asked for my marital status without giving “widowed” as an option. I got really angry with the form and stared at it for a long time. I felt distressed with the choices and finally selected “single,” but then I regretted it. After that experience, I decided I'd only choose “other.” I would not choose “single.” One of my widow friends has taken it a step further and actually written “widowed” on forms when the forms did not have “widowed.” Another friend selects "married."

And it’s not just forms where I have encountered the internal debate on my marital status. Last week I went to a Colorado Mammoth lacrosse game. The Colorado Mammoth play at Denver’s Pepsi Center, the facility for our professional hockey, basketball, and lacrosse teams. It's a large venue with a large crowd, and during one of the time outs, the Colorado mascot, Wooly, attempted to get the spectators involved. Like many cheerleaders and mascots, he held up signs—such as “Go Mammoth”—for the crowd to yell. At one point, he held up a sign that said, “Men Only.” Then, “Women Only.” Then he held up a sign that said, “Singles Only.” Then, “Married Only.” I couldn’t believe it! I wanted to scream at him, “Where is your Widows Only/Widowers Only signs?!?” Needless to say, I didn’t cheer with either sign. I happened to be at the game with a widow friend. She also didn't cheer. I told her, “Where is the Widows Only sign?” She agreed. It felt like a slap in the face. But like the forms asking for my demographics, I refused to pick. I remained silent. So did she.

Have you had this experience? Have you had to fill out forms where “widowed” was not a choice? Or have you attended an event where people are separated into singles or married?

In case you’re wondering about the form I filled out at the chiropractor’s office today, I left the question blank. I refused to pick “single” or “married.”

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