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Reconcilation with grieving ex-boyfriend


Isa76
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Sorry for the length of this email. 14 years ago, I met a man through work who I was instantly drawn to (and him to me as it turned out- he wanted to ask me out the first day we met, but my boss told him I was engaged). We worked together for a number of years and I suppressed my feelings and we finally got together as soon as my relationship ended. We had an amazing connection, shared values, and I loved him like nobody else I had been with. However, there was one crunch- he had kids, one of whom was disabled, and could not imagine having more, while for me, it was non-negotiable. As a result of this, I broke up with him and I moved away soon after and we stopped communicating as it was too hard.

 

I since went on to marry and had a child and divorced several years ago. But I thought of him a lot and out of the blue 3 months ago, he made contact and said that he was thinking of me, asking how I was. We talked by phone the next night (which I realised during the call was exactly 10 years to the day that we had had had our talk about him not wanting kids, crazy coincidence, which he had not been aware of when he made contact) and he told me that he reckoned we would still be together today if we had stayed together and that he could even have had a child with me. It was pretty big to hear as I was not sure if our relationship had meant as much to him as me, but it obviously had. We talked every day for the next 2 weeks, planning to see each other, saying how special it was to reconnect and to see where it would bring us.

 

Then, the worst possible thing happened- his adult son died suddenly. It was a horrific shock , to say the least, and he rang me throughout the week and it was good to hear his voice and know how he was doing, but I just expected nothing and that I would probably not see him again, that he might get back with his ex, basically anything that would get him through and I respected that.

 

However, he told me he would love to see me and so I made the journey to see him. It was so soon after his son's loss but it was very special to reconnect and we became physical. However, he expressed some doubt about the future in some moments with me and I pulled back and offered him space. However, he made it clear that he didn't want to lose me and was really looking forward to seeing me when I was to be back again, that he missed me and he planned a trip to see me after my trip to see him this week. He was really attentive and I just tried to offer support but it was hard to suppress my feelings and I struggled with not ending it for the moment as it was so unsustainable but he kept showing me he needed me and did not want to lose me.

 

 

 

Just before my trip to see him, he dramatically pulled away, was very irritated and making remarks that made me feel suddenly like I would be merely a FWB (friends with benefits), unlike it had been before, as well as hinting that he was not going to make the trip to see me anymore. It was very upsetting and I asked him if he was sure if he wanted me to visit him, and that it was ok to say if he was not, that his wellbeing was the most important thing right now. But he said he was ok.

 

However, he was very distant and unaffectionate when I arrived and only kissed me in a sexual way with no cuddles unlike before, and I just felt cheap and horrible. I know it was the grief and it seemed like he had entered a stage of anger but I just felt like I should not be there. I asked him about his plans to see me and he basically said he was not sure anymore, so two days in, I decided to leave his house (while he was at work) and stay the night with a friend, as I was just too upset. We decided to talk later.

 

Later on, he told me he had not realised he had come across so cold but he was really defensive and just started saying "what did you expect from me, I can't commit to anything right now, stop trying to map out our relationship, we have only seen each other twice", etc. I tried to say that the last thing I expected was any commitment, that I totally understood he could not do that but that I had to be able to express my concerns if we were to be together and that I was upset about the trip being cancelled. He belittled everything I said and I felt awful for bringing it up in the first place as obviously for him it is just nothing and meaningless. I realised then how wrong it was for me to have become involved with him at this stage as I had feelings and could not just have no feelings and I told him the following day that despite our plans for that and the following weekend, that I could not see him right now as it did not seem healthy but that I continued to support him as a friend, sending my unconditional support and love and how very sorry I was for his loss.

 

I know he is so angry in general right now and with me too, I imagine, judging from his response, but I feel dreadful for having done what I did. I feel like I trivialised his grief and stabbed him in the back instead of being a supportive friend, as I had tried so hard to be so far. I feel so much for him and just feel dreadful but I don't think there is any point in trying to say more right now as I think it would just make things worse. 

 

 

 

Apologies for the long mail, I just struggle to make sense of all of this.

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He's not angry with you. He is grieving the loss of his son and needs to do that in his own way. Making plans and trips clearly became too overwhelming for him to cope with so your right, it's probably best you keep a distance for a while until he's ready. The last thing he needs is anyone else getting upset with him over trips and other meaningless things at the moment. You didn't do anything wrong and you have showed him nothing but support, but it likely made him feel a little stifled. He just needs time.

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You haven't been getting anything out of this except for hurt. Just because you're a compassionate person and he's had a terrible thing happen, it doesn't in the slightest mean you should subject yourself to this any further.

 

I would go as far as to say stop talking to him entirely. He is an adult who can get grief support in plenty places, there is literally no reason for you to keep this up.

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It's a terrible tragedy, but I think all you can give him right now is support from a distance, and that's only if he reaches out to you. You didn't trivialise his grief - you did your best to be there for him, and he pushed you away. I strongly believe that if people push you away, you need to stay away. This is partly because they may genuinely need the space, and partly because if they don't actually need the space but are testing you, it's a game you really don't want to play.

 

If I were you, I'd back off completely and just get on with your life. If this happened to a partner in a long term relationship, then OF COURSE you need to be there for them. However, this is effectively a new relationship - as he says, you have only seen each other twice - and is wayyyy too much drama. He needs to be alone to process his feelings, and you need to protect yourself.

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Many thanks for your responses, I really appreciate the honesty. I actually feel hugely relieved to have the distance and I feel that it is the best for him too.

 

I think I just feel very guilty about having made it about me, although I had completely focused on him and his needs up until then. I had tried to offer him space twice in the last 6 weeks when I felt that he was in a very bad place but he kept saying he definitely did not want space, wanted me in his life and he became even closer and more attentive afterwards.

 

However, my body was screaming to just distance myself for the moment as I knew that it was just bad for me as I had feelings for him but equally because it could only be about him for the foreeeable future and was totally inbalanced. But I felt guilty and he was also so warm and caring and he would ring me and we would have long conversations nearly every day, he would tell me he was looking forward to seeing me, etc., and I would leave contact up to him. So whenever he just suddenly pulled back only days after talking about being about to book flights to see me (and knowing I had booked time off, as he had confirmed the dates, and would book as soon as he got paid, the whole conversation about the same instigated by him), something in me just snapped and I had to express how bad that made me feel, etc.

 

I honestly do not know how else I could have handled it, but I still feel very bad about cancelling the rest of the time we were to spend together last and next weekend (I came to visit my home town where he lives for two weeks). I feel awful that he may see me as having trivialised his grief by saying that I could not see him at the moment as it was not healthy for me (as opposed to just saying it was not healthy and not focusing on me) and as if I let him down as a friend who was supposed to be supporting him. Essentially, I should have known better. I hope that some time in the future he´ll realise that I did try my best to support him and did not demean his grief by doing what I did.

Edited by Isa76
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It's called ghostly lover syndrome, happens all the time. people think about the love they once had in a relationship, and try to get back together again but then they find out the love is gone. It's not like the TV and movies, you can't go back. You get one chance for love per person.

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I just realised that the title of my original email is misleading- I was referring to the fact that we had reconciled, not that I wanted to reconcile now. I guess what I really wanted to know was if I should have been kinder and told him that I had not meant to trivialise his grief by focusing on what to him were meaningless needs. I don't intend to make any other contact and it is actually a relief to have distance, as awful as it sounds, as it was not healthy for me or for him. But he is still someone who is very special to me and I would hate to think of me in a negative way because of how I cut everything short.

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I doubt he's giving that much thought at the moment, to be honest.

 

^This. His son just died. I doubt he is thinking about you.

Also, your motivations are pretty transparent and not very attractive "how do I make myself look good because I really want to date him later on." Do yourself and him a favor and just leave him be. If a year or two from now, once his grief has settled a bit, he is actually ready for a romantic relationship and you happen to run into each other, sure give it a shot and start on a clean slate. Right now...the more you try to look good, the worse you'll come across.

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no, believe me, you were more than kind and have nothing to feel bad about.

 

you haven't trivialized his grief either. if he wanted to approach his grief in a serious manner, to respect his own emotional state at the time, he wouldn't have sought to deflect from it via the encounters you describe, he would've just said something like "i'm sorry it turned out like this but this has affected me too much to focus on a relationship (or even other people's feelings) now, i did not plan for that but i need to let go now so i can focus on myself and my remaining child etc". nobody is blaming him for not being able to deal with such a tragic thing in a healthy way, but nobody should have to suffer for it either- and wanting what is healthy and fair and dignified for yourself doesn't equal disrespect for his grief. that would imply you can only honor his grief by sacrificing yourself.

 

it's easy to take too much responsibility and to blame yourself when someone's needs and wants are too complex or unhealthy to be met outside of a therapist's office, but you can trust your brain on this one, you're not "guilty" of anything. whether he'll agree with that or not i don't know, i mean he's in no state to be objective and he probably projects all over the place now. so what. you've been through a divorce, you probably already know you won't get his blessing or seal of approval for removing yourself from what's obviously unhealthy for you. that's not on you. maybe you feel he is too important to you for you to be able to bear the thought of him resenting you, but if you can keep in mind he isn't the best judge of things it's easier to write it off. you also don't know that at least some of this isn't him as a person. your probably lonely reminiscences about him as the one who got away have likely been as idealized as these things tend to be. in any event, this was bad for you and you removed yourself is all. Nothing inhumane about it on your part. Reading the part about the sexual kissing and the rest of that visit and how cheap you felt was really painful, especially when you started expressing feeling like you're not being empathic enough. Like, do you honor someone's grief by agreeing to feel like a prostitute? you're honestly probably doing him a favor walking away, perhaps it'll make him look for better suited ways to deal with his situation.

 

you're a kind and smart person, you shouldn't view your choices through the eyes of someone who isn't being (or at least, cannot be right now) very kind and smart.

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I really appreciate your honest answers. It has been a very difficult situation to navigate and I just wanted to do the best so that in the future he would not see me as one of the people who let him down at his time of need. But that is out of my hands. Many thanks for your help, it has been very helpful x.

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also, if you mean that you trivialized his grief by simply hoping for (let alone expecting) the romantic interest to continue or at least be sympathetically declined, no again. I think you were completely aware of the gravity of what had happened to him, being a mother yourself, and it sounds like you were aware it would affect how well he could relate. I think you either expected that, even though he probably wouldn't relate in a way that a man who hadn't been afflicted with something like that could, the "relationship" would still remain dignified towards the both of you, even if not very intense. And that if or when he couldn't do that he would state that and break it off rather than you having to come to the crumbling realization after being treated like a causal encounter he blocks out his pain #ucking.

 

it's good if, in the light of things, you think he can be forgiven, but if he has a temporary need to blame you, you shouldn't see it as the pathological solution for his emotional state that it is, not a valid judgement.

 

be well and post any time you need to!

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I guess what I really wanted to know was if I should have been kinder and told him that I had not meant to trivialise his grief by focusing on what to him were meaningless needs. I don't intend to make any other contact and it is actually a relief to have distance, as awful as it sounds, as it was not healthy for me or for him. But he is still someone who is very special to me and I would hate to think of me in a negative way because of how I cut everything short.

 

Forget what he thinks. He's not in a reliable 'thinking' mode right now. That's your problem. You're expecting a reasonable person to act reasonably right now and he is likely the furthest thing from reasonable. Stop pitying him and coddling him also. Yes, this is likely one of the most painful things a person can ever go through in their life (losing a child) but you are not his bandaid, his bounty picker upper and you sure as heck are not his mother. Take care of yourself and stop worrying so much about him. He senses your neediness and you're smothering him. If he needs a listening ear, just listen to him. Don't have sex with him and don't engage in anything romantic. If he thinks you're being a witch, so what. He can get over himself and bring his attitude down a notch when he's feeling better. You just stay true to yourself and don't give a flying flip.

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Many thanks for your kind and very observant comment, I could not have described it better, much appreciated.

 

also, if you mean that you trivialized his grief by simply hoping for (let alone expecting) the romantic interest to continue or at least be sympathetically declined, no again. I think you were completely aware of the gravity of what had happened to him, being a mother yourself, and it sounds like you were aware it would affect how well he could relate. I think you either expected that, even though he probably wouldn't relate in a way that a man who hadn't been afflicted with something like that could, the "relationship" would still remain dignified towards the both of you, even if not very intense. And that if or when he couldn't do that he would state that and break it off rather than you having to come to the crumbling realization after being treated like a causal encounter he blocks out his pain #ucking.

 

it's good if, in the light of things, you think he can be forgiven, but if he has a temporary need to blame you, you shouldn't see it as the pathological solution for his emotional state that it is, not a valid judgement.

 

be well and post any time you need to!

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Many thanks, I needed to hear these comments to get a more objective perspective and realise that there is nothing I can do about this and to be ok walking away, much appreciated.

 

Forget what he thinks. He's not in a reliable 'thinking' mode right now. That's your problem. You're expecting a reasonable person to act reasonably right now and he is likely the furthest thing from reasonable. Stop pitying him and coddling him also. Yes, this is likely one of the most painful things a person can ever go through in their life (losing a child) but you are not his bandaid, his bounty picker upper and you sure as heck are not his mother. Take care of yourself and stop worrying so much about him. He senses your neediness and you're smothering him. If he needs a listening ear, just listen to him. Don't have sex with him and don't engage in anything romantic. If he thinks you're being a witch, so what. He can get over himself and bring his attitude down a notch when he's feeling better. You just stay true to yourself and don't give a flying flip.
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I hope it is ok to ask one last question- does it seem appropriate to "unfriend" him from social media? I want to be sensitive in this regard but I don't want to see his posts and vice versa. I didn't want to do it last week so soon after everything, and I have avoided going into my account up to now, but it does not seem appropriate in the long run to be each other's contact. It is a Linkedin account, but we are both pretty active on it, posting several times a week. Many thanks.

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Yes on LinkedIn you can reset all your setting to either not follow him or simply disconnect from him without any notifications. It's a good idea to review your connections, settings and keep your profile, posts, connections and privacy settings all up to date. If you post make sure it's not public. Delete/unfollow him from all social media.

It is a Linkedin account, but we are both pretty active on it, posting several times a week. Many thanks.
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