How should one refer to a former (deceased) spouse in casual conversation?

I’ve been married three times. The first marriage ended in divorce after ten years, though it was quite amicable and neither of us bears a grudge. My second spouse died at a relatively young age after 18 years. I married again and have been happy married for about five years now.

I sometimes mention my second spouse during conversation. (Both my spouse and I do this, as my spouse also lost a spouse to death about 15 years ago.) My comment is usually fairly innocuous, like, “Oh, my spouse and I visited there in 1998 and really enjoyed it!”

The awkward part is that the person I’m speaking with doesn’t know the name of my deceased spouse, so I usually end up saying “second spouse” or “deceased spouse” to distinguish that person from my current spouse. But it still seems rather odd to me.

Former spouse? Second spouse? Deceased spouse? The spouse prior to this one sitting next to me? My last spouse, excepting this one? My penultimate spouse?

Anybody have an opinion on this? I definitely don’t say “ex-spouse.”

“My wife at the time”

Why not just avoid the issue and say “I visited there in 1998…”, which is, of course, still true.

My late husband/my late wife.

This. My vote.

Yes, “late wife/husband”.

I use “my late wife”.

Yes, I agree that “late spouse” is best. Thanks for the input!

Agreed with the others, but to expand a little… I’d say ‘my late spouse, Spousename’ and then just use Spousename any other time I wanted to mention them to the people I’d introduced the topic to.

I say “My first husband.” I don’t use “late” because I don’t want the ambiguity. I don’t care if people think my first marriage ended in divorce. I do care if people think my widowhood is something recent.

“My second dead wife”. Embrace the ambiguity!

How about, “Late former partner”? I think you need to be clear that it is not your current partner who is dead.

After his wife of 60 years died last year, my uncle (84) just got married this year to a young widow (56, and younger than his daughter – and yes, there was unnecessary drama in the family about it). She is obviously expected to outlive him and could possibly get remarried. Then she could talk about her first deceased husband or her second deceased husband.

OTOH, an aunt on my father’s side was married eight times (including one husband she married – and divorced – twice). She had stories to tell about the various husbands but it took diagrams to understand what was doing on.

I know that you said that you don’t say “ex-spouse,” but that really seems like the simplest solution. “I was there with my ex” is all you really need to say. Unless the fact that the spouse in question has passed away is germane to the conversation, it is really all that the person you are talking to needs to know.

Does she keep elderberry wine in the house? Oh, wait; those were boarders not husbands.