Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Afraid the Relationship Break Might Become Permanent

Dear Jocelyn,
I've been with my boyfriend for 6 months. I met him 13 days before his ex-wife suddenly passed away. He had been divorced from her for almost 2 years. She had complications from cancer treatment that affected her immune system, which eventually deteriorated her body and took her life. My boyfriend took care of his ex-wife even though they were divorced, because she was not able to work. After 7 years of marriage, they divorced due to verbal, mental and emotional abuse. Apparently, she had been in an abusive marriage before. My boyfriend said that they couldn't live with each other anymore, but that he still loved her in his own way and would help her. He never allowed himself to deal with her death, so now he is dealing with the emotional trauma. His therapist stated that he was still emotionally attached to her and that since she died so abruptly, there was no closure between them; now he's dealing with the loss and going through the process of grieving. We both agreed to take time apart while he continues his counseling. He said he was not purposefully pushing me away, but needed the time to sort things out. I have agreed, but during our time of separation, I can not help to think that maybe he shouldn't be in a relationship-at least not now. Things have been a little rocky between us because of what he has been dealing with. We both opened up about things that bothered us and he realized that his actions towards me were emotional abuse, something he dealt with in the past relationship with his ex-wife. This is when he told me that he wanted to get some help. I commended him for noticing some of the issues arising in our relationship and agreed he should go to therapy. Since then, we agreed to take some time apart, which he assured me would be a good thing for us, not a bad thing. I have not heard from him in 3 days. I know that he needs time to recover, and I am doing my best to be understanding and supportive. I feel like I am going through the motions with him and feel mixed emotions. Our relationship is fairly new and we've come to care deeply for each other. I want to be there for him, but then I don't want to interfere with his recovery. I also wonder if the time apart will bring us closer or bring us apart. I would like your advice on if I should prepare myself for a possible break up, or how to deal with our situation.
     -Soon-to-be-Single?


Dear Single,
Your letter is fraught with so many issues for such a new relationship.  Let me address your most pressing concern first.  You are concerned about not hearing from your boyfriend in three days after agreeing to take some time apart.  It might have been helpful to define what "time apart" meant to both of you before agreeing to this.  Three days is hardly any time for your boyfriend to receive help, and it makes sense that he is not contacting you now.  I would imagine he might take several months to receive proper treatment.


One concern of mine is your statement that your boyfriend and his wife divorced due to mental, verbal, and emotional abuse.  You did not say who was the abuser.  Later, you wrote that your boyfriend realized his actions were emotionally abusive. This leads me to think that your boyfriend was also the abuser in his marriage.  If this is the case, please realize that without extensive therapy, your boyfriend will not be a loving and balanced romantic partner.  You might be in love with him, but you will not experience a healthy relationship with him until these issues are resolved.  Please strongly consider thinking of this "break" as a blessing.  Move on from this relationship, and make this break permanent.  Do not get back together with your boyfriend unless he has participated in therapy and can prove to you that he will not be emotionally abusive anymore.  


Your boyfriend has many things to deal with right now, such as mourning the loss of his ex-wife and resolving his abusive nature.  Please steer clear of him for now and move on.
     -Jocelyn

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