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is it time to break up?

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Here's my situation:


I've been in a new town for one year. I recently became engaged and

moved in with my fiance. We bought a house. Her lack of enthusiasm about our wedding plans confused me. When I asked her she said she has

unprocessed grief, loss and depression related to her first marriage. She apologized and told me that she has been "willing" herself to adopt a happier state of mind, but it's not working.



Aside from the unprocessed grief, we both agree that we have fundamental personality differences. I'm low key, she's lively. I like quiet, she likes to "stir things up" (her words -I'm not trying to use pejorative descriptions). I have not formed a network of friends. The subject of friends and their importance comes up a lot. She told me she defines herself by her relationships with friends. I told her I don't, but that friends are important to me and I am looking forward to making friends here. I encourage her to go out with her friends, and we go out with other couples frequently. She is disappointed in my social interactions with her friends. I am happy with the interactions.


My work is pretty easy. Hers is hard.

She doesn't want much engagement when she comes home from work.

She says her work is emotionally exhausting. Even a hug can upset her. She says I have an air of expectancy that is off-putting. I think I am just expressing joy at seeing her.


She says my lack of friends and easy job leave me too focused on us.


We agreed we can't marry in these circumstances. Our wedding,

which was set for shortly after my move-in is now postponed indefinitely.

She told me she was dreading the conversation about postponement and

she was visibly relieved when the discussion turned to move-out plans.

I told her I didn't want to act rashly. I felt some relief in knowing the causes of her lack of enthusiasm.


She says she will see a counselor about the unprocessed grief. I have a deep investment in this relationship. We have dated for two years. A few days have elapsed since our wedding postponement and I can feel myself

detaching from her.


Given all the issues I have mentioned I am beginning to think I need to break up with her. I am lacking the desire to address the personality issues together with her because her sadness attaches to our relationship in a way that makes looking forward together impossible.


I am trying to imagine possibilities other than a break-up, but the idea

of suspending my hopes and plans while waiting to see what happens

with her counseling makes me sad for myself and makes me question my



Should I wait around to see is she will heal and be able to marry me?

Is breaking up with her selfish or self-affirming?

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Hi Austin,

And welcome to enotalone.com.

My first question is why is getting married more important to you than ironing out your differences with your fiancé? Marriage is not a goal, it's a process. And whether you get married or not, you two seem to have communication problems that will not fade with a ring around your fingers. I think she's being pretty clear about what she needs from you right now, and I think you might benefit from listening to her - and believing her when she expresses them. In all fairness, she probably could work on her listening abilities, as well. If you're happy not having too many friends for instance it's really not her place telling you otherwise. For a relationship to work, you need to accept eachother as you are - and not try to change eachother. When you try changing someone you will end up using manipulation like moping, detachment, anger etc. And that's not a healthy place to be. We all change under pressure, but never permanently. Impetus to real change comes from the inside - when we want to change, not when someone tells us to.

If she needs to work on unfinished grief from her past relationship(s), and you want this relationship to last (beyond the altar), I think you should really give her that space. Don't worry about a wedding for now. It's just a paper. The true test of a relationship is how you work out your problems everyday, how you communicate. That's the real commitment.

Good luck.

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Thanks, realitybites, for your perspective. I appreciate your point about

focusing on the relationship rather than the marriage. I would like to clarify how the unprocessed grief is causing a problem for me.

We recently observed Christmas and New Year's holidays together.

My fiance cried many times and told me that she could not enjoy the holidays because she was thinking about all the fun her children were having visiting their paternal relatives in another state and how much she missed spending time with those relatives. She wants the former husband's family to know acknowledge that he behaved badly before and during the divorce.


The source of my puzzlement is that I don't know how to focus on our

relationship because my fiance is daily lost in perseverating sadness about the past. I feel no sense of an ongoing, maturing "us".

She acknowledges this and says she is stuck as to how to move on.

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" The source of my puzzlement is that I don't know how to focus on our

relationship because my fiance is daily lost in perseverating sadness about the past. I feel no sense of an ongoing, maturing "us". "


It seems to me you need to slow down to her pace. She's the one with heavy baggage. She can't keep up with your lighter, faster pace. She needs to work on her past, and I believe it's possible INSIDE the relationship. As long as you haven't decided you want out, as long as you still love her, why not slow it down a bit? There's only so much you can do to help another person deal with a problem. At some point you just have to step back and let them figure it out for themselves. Support her but don't get too involved. I know that sounds like a tough feat, but it is possible. She will need to solve this before she commits wholly to you and your relationship.


A thought just struck me though: is this a rebound relationship for her? How long since her divorce?

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I appreciate your interest and I thank you for helping me sort this out. She's been divorced a couple years. When we started dating

I had been single for about eight years and she for a year.

I had serious concerns that this was rebound for her. We talked about it before we started dating and I told her I wanted to wait six months or so before dating. She assured me that the marriage (and her feelings about it) was over long before the divorce, but she agreed to wait. She called me six weeks later. She sounded good and I became convinced that is was ok for us to date. Now, based on the intensity of her feelings of post-marriage loss, we both know it was way too soon. We have discussed this, but not prescriptively. I think some of her observations about my friendships, interactions, etc. derive from blossoming rebound-awareness. Sometimes she makes remarks that make it seem that she is making new discoveries about me. I do not regard her observations about me as cruel or unfounded, but I am puzzled because I think my personality is fairly consistent, and I have been hurt a few times recently when she said she is disappointed in me (in ways that don't question my worth or goodness or go to actions or behaviors, but are hurtful nonetheless because the disappointment goes to essential components of my personality). For example, I value simplicity in my life and affairs. She values diversity and hustle-bustle.When we met I was living in a cottage that I built for myself. She told me she had dreamed of living a simple life too. Now she disparages my simplicity and I find myself wondering - did the post-divorce fallout leave her hungering temporarily for simplicity as an escape? I know above all she is an honest woman, so I can't imagine that she was engaging in ingratiating deception.


So aside from the fact that she is reeling from post-divorce emotional trauma, we are both very worried that our relationship is not healthy for us because it may have had its origin in rebound. It's not easy to acknowledge and toss out the rebound component and see what's left that will make for compatibility.

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Please remember I know close to nothing about you and your relationship. Any advice or opinion I give here is bound to be very myopic.


I've been divorced for six years (no kids) and I still feel the rebound element surfacing every once in a while in my relationships. thereforeeee, to my ears, two years sounds like a very short time indeed.


Like you, I don't think your fiancé is dishonest, but she very likely is out of touch with her own situation. She most probably very much wants this to work between the two of you, but the past won't let her go. It haunts her. The best thing to do is to give her the space and time that she needs. That could be the ultimate act of love on your part.


And what do you do in the meantime? I suggest you work on yourself. I don't see any other solution. On the other hand, if she is clearly signalling the need to exit - and you should give this a thought - then maybe it's time you acknowledged that and cut your losses.


I don't know how inclined you are towards counselling/therapy. But have you considered that? I know most men feel iffish about therapy but if it can save your love, then why not? Couples therapy is about having someone (or two) there to make sure the communication stays on an honest - and not a meta - level.


I'm here if you need more help sorting your thoughts out. But something tells me you already know what to do. Best of luck.

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