Relationship with a man going through separation grief
I am in a relationship with a wonderful man that is currently trying to get through the grief of ending his marriage in December last year. He distracted himself for several months, not wanting to face the pain. Now that he opens himself up to it, everything has struck him. At the moment, he is in the worst phase, the chaos of feelings and emotions has hit him. He is angry at his wife, sad about the marriage that did not succeed, etc. etc. It has been a very tough time for him and for me because his confusion brings along nostalgia and sometimes he doesn't even know whether he should go back. It would be a mistake because there has been too much water under the bridge and he would be hurt, but he is in a lot of pain and he has a lot of pressures (e.g. financial support for her, stepson not liking him etc.). He split from an alcoholic wife with shopping addiction that did not treat him well but I think he feels guilty and beats himself up a lot. I am scared that he may make a mistake but he said the other day that he feels stuck because he cannot move forward as wanted and he cannot go back. So I believe he is mainly struggling with everything as a whole.
I am waiting for him, at the moment we only see each other at work but have agreed to be professional with little personal interaction. We do not see each other privately, except for once every few weeks to talk about the progress. It is very beautiful when we meet, although we talk about tough topics. Going through a separation is hard and I know how it feels because I separated from my husband a year ago. I am willing to wait because I can see a very happy future together and he says he often thinks about that too but that he cannot really focus on the future until the past is dealt with. I understand and support that. But I find myself struggling with the waiting, not for impatience but because I am scared of what may happen. How will I know? When will he be ready? I give him space and time so he can focus on himself and although I know that is necessary, I struggle to be so far removed on his priority list. Not me personally but us as a couple. I know the future cannot play a role yet but how will I realise whether he is improving and getting closer to wanting a new life with me? I will go on leave soon, only two weeks. But is it possible that in five weeks time I would see a tiny bit of positive change? I am not saying everything resolved, just a little bit of progress? I need to see this.
It would be nice to know what happens in the future - the problem is we don't. And if you could know, would you want to see it?
You said in your post that he made a good go at distracting himself from what happened and is now opening himself to what occurred. And that may take time. Some take longer than others. Some shorter.
Even though you are in a relationship with him, there is also a loss on his side regardless of what his partner did.
And while he is getting over the loss, there is also the matter of what he can do to help himself at this time. And maybe this is where you fit in? Do you go out for coffee together? Provide some sort of distraction for him. You are being a wonderful support for him it sounds. But you are also scared, or so you said in your post... Do you want to say what you are afraid of here?
thank you so much for your reply, I really appreciate it.
I am scared of losing him. Basically, our relationship is back to zero at the moment. We do not see each other privately with only the rare catch-up every couple of weeks to discuss the progress. Apart from that, we do not see each other because he says he needs to face his situation and feel what feelings that brings with it. We only see each other at work but have agreed that we will not talk about personal things there, so basically, we are completely back to zero. We only work together as colleagues and not much more. We have said that the feelings and care for each other are there in the background but at the moment, they hardly find an outlet or demonstration. So to me, this is scary. Is he trying to give me a hint that he just wants things to fade back into how it was before we connected? Or is he really trying to focus himself fully on moving through his past. I trust him and I know he is a wonderful man but he is quite confused at the moment and I am scared that I and we are getting put on hold never to be picked up again. It is probably an irrational fear but without occasional cues, it is very hard for me to understand whether he still sees me as a potential future partner. We have spoken about the future and I told him I can see a beautiful future together but that I understand he needs to focus on getting through his past first. He said he is thinking of a future with me regularly but cannot move on without letting go of the past, especially the anger and resentment he carries for his wife. I understand it all logically, but emotionally I am struggling. I am scared that everything will fade while he is focused on himself. I am scared that one day, he will only treat me like a colleague although we have had such a strong bond. Basically, I am wondering whether he will come back to me fully and when that may be. I give him space and time but will either of that be too much space and time one day and he will disappear before my eyes? I think of him with love every day but I have no idea what he feels and thinks because most of his energy goes towards what he needs to work through. He needs to be selfish for now but what about us? Will he actually consider it along the way, will he have moments thinking of us and how to get through his past for us? Or is it purely getting through it for him so he can live his life and forget about me and us? It scares me so much to think it fades.
The thoughts you have... our mind (?) can make the irrational seem rational and we (or at least I) will believe it.
One trick (?) my psychologist told me was to answer a number of questions (see below). For me, it can still be hard to be believe in a reframed thought, but the questions for me are very helpful - especially since the way I view or treat myself is different compared to other people. So here are the things I ask myself -
1. is this statement 100% true?
2. is this thought healthy for me?
3. if a friend told me this (story), what would I say to them?
4. is there another way to view the situation?
There are other questions that you can ask yourself if you had a proper questionnaire like that I was given, but if we are able to step back and consider our thought (dare I say) logically, the thought can become just that, a thought.
I may have said this in my previous reply, your thoughts are the normal or natural for you, based on your experiences. So, being scared because say the relationship is not how you might have expected it to be is "OK". The trick (my term) is to be able to deal with or accept that thought as that. More to come ...
The other possibility is for you to talk with him as a support person. There is plenty of information on the beyond blue web site about this. I assume you can still talk to him as a friend that cares about him? As a friend, there is plenty you could talk about including feelings, issues etc. He might be used to this sort of relationship or friendship, but it can exist - where two people can trust each other, confident they can share with each other without judgement.
thank you so much, your words are so helpful and I am really grateful. The questions are really good, especially the one about what I would say to a friend. I would probably say that everything sounds tough but positive and that a special bond like this can survive a whole lot of strain.
I currently go up and down depending on how the day goes with him at work. Usually, we laugh a lot and smile a lot, too. So maybe I should focus on the positive a bit more and trust that these are signs that we are still connected. Also, clearly, I will not lose my feelings for him easily throughout this phase, so I may need to trust that he feels the same.
I really like your questions, the thoughts are definitely not healthy for me. I am going to see a psychologist again tomorrow and I want to make it a regular occurrence for now. I really want to be strong for him and myself and believe in the positive of it all. But it is pretty hard as I am sure you can very well sympathise with. 🙂 Thank you again!
There are plenty of other things that I had to do for my psychologist... Gratitude journals, accomplishments, etc., things to help me remember the positives. That not everything is bad. I am unsure of how long you have been seeing a psychologist, but fingers crossed you will find ways of dealing with those thoughts you mentioned here.
How do you deal with uncertainty? (And any questions I might throw out you don't have to answer here.)
Me, I don't like uncertainty. I like to have backup plans. To know what is going to happen and when.) And if there is uncertainty, it becomes a case of what if?
In your case.... It would seem that in your mind, there's a lot of questions. Uncertainty? Not knowing what is going to happen.
I nearly forgot to ask... Do you have any sort of support network for yourself? Friends? Family? Someone that you can just open up with. Again, someone who you can be honest with.
Lots of random thoughts here. Hope some of these make sense to you. I am hopeful for you, and him
Peace and comforting thoughts,