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He pushes me away after his mom died


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My MIL passed away 4 weeks ago from cancer. Not even 2 months after she got diagnosed in early December. She was only 59. We tried everything we could, got her transferred to a better hospital, talked to numerous doctors, researched everything about her illness we could. We had hope. When she passed away, it felt unreal. It still does. It feels like an awful nightmare and I would give everything to wake up from it. 

My boyfriend is deeply grieving. I try to be there for him, but he just pushes me away. We lived together for 2 years. Ever since it happened he hasn’t spend a single night with me. And almost no time during the day either, just the two of us. Actually we haven’t slept in the same bed for months now. And I try to understand it. I really do. His dad and sister are in our city now and stay in an apartment in my parents building. „We“ live 10 minutes away. I do understand that he wants to be there for his family. I also try my best to be there for them. 

Last week he came to „our“ apartment and spend 30 minutes with me lying around. Then he left again. That was the highlight of my last few weeks, I know how sad that sounds. I tried to bring it up with him, that I would be happy even with 2 hours of us just sitting on the sofa watching Netflix. I told him I miss him. That I felt we stopped being a couple 3 months ago because he started to treat me differently ever since then. (He left to be with his family after his mom first got diagnosed, stayed there December - January, I joined him in the beginning of January and then we all came back with my MIL to our city)

My boyfriend told me he can’t deal with closeness right now. Can’t hug me because he still remembers the last hug his mom gave him. The situation breaks my heart. I’m grieving the loss of my MIL who was a lovely, warm, kind women. And I’m also feeling my relationship with the love of my life is non existent anymore. And it breaks me heart even more because he was always so loving, so caring. And I do understand that I’m not his priority now or the first thing on his mind. I don’t expect that at all. But it feels like he stopped being in love with me. Stopped wanting a future together. We always talked about marriage and children. That was his biggest wish. And I know now is not the time or the place for that.
 

But I just feel him giving up on us. He is looking for new jobs in completely unrelated fields. Thinking about becoming a truck driver. He just bought a new motorcycle jacket, even though he knows how much I worry about him. (A relative of mine lost his leg in an accident) Even his mom frequently called me and begged me to stop him from riding his motorcycle because she knew how reckless he gets. We fought today, because I was so angry that the first thing he did after his moms passing was buying a motorcycle jacket knowing how much she always worried for him. She was often in tears when she called me. He is just acting so destructive. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to fix it. I want to, I still love the man he always was. But I’m so so afraid that we won’t survive this.

Edited by skyty
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I'm so sorry for your loss.  So the talk about marriage and children - were there any concrete actions towards getting married? Who wanted marriage more - you?  Why are you referring to her as your MIL? I think for sure just give your boyfriend space -and certainly you can tell him that you know he is grieving and you feel surprised that he seems to be pushing you away and making plans that do not include you.  That can happen but more often the person who is grieving turns to his partner for support, not away.  I'm sorry.

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He just lost his mother.  To him, 4 weeks, feels as if he lost his mother 4 seconds ago.  Give him a lot of time and space.  Unfortunately, it took me years to recover from losing my late father.  Granted, it may not take that long for your boyfriend, however, remember he is bereft.  His internal pain is beyond measure.

He may or may not heal and recover on your timeline.  Only time will tell regarding if your relationship with him will endure and survive. 

Continue backing off, give him a wide berth, act natural, be kind and patient.  After weeks or months, you will determine if you can hang onto him or not.  Since it's only been 4 weeks since his mother's passing, give him a chance to suffer, grieve and mourn.  Eventually, you will know whether or not your relationship was meant to be long term or not.  I'm sorry.

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IMO, he is in shock and deeply distressed and grieving... everything in a negative 😞

He cannot 'give' at this time.. and probably feels so lost.. unsure what to think or do.

17 minutes ago, skyty said:

And it breaks me heart even more because he was always so loving, so caring. And I do understand that I’m not his priority now or the first thing on his mind. I don’t expect that at all. But it feels like he stopped being in love with me. Stopped wanting a future together. We always talked about marriage and children.

- Right... at this time, none of this matters.

He NEEDS some real time to work through the process of his loss.. He needs grief counselling, I feel.  Was so much a loss, so suddenly.

22 minutes ago, skyty said:

But I just feel him giving up on us. He is looking for new jobs in completely unrelated fields. Thinking about becoming a truck driver. He just bought a new motorcycle jacket, even though he knows how much I worry about him. (A relative of mine lost his leg in an accident) Even his mom frequently called me and begged me to stop him from riding his motorcycle because she knew how reckless he gets. We fought today, because I was so angry that the first thing he did after his moms passing was buying a motorcycle jacket knowing how much she always worried

Sounds like this is how he is 'venting' out his frustration- coping.

But, there is nothing really YOU can do.... but leave him to it.

Worst thing to do is pressure him anymore.  Leave him be for a while now... a good while.  Let him release the steam and confusion he's got in there.

 

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36 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

I'm so sorry for your loss.  So the talk about marriage and children - were there any concrete actions towards getting married? Who wanted marriage more - you?  Why are you referring to her as your MIL? I think for sure just give your boyfriend space -and certainly you can tell him that you know he is grieving and you feel surprised that he seems to be pushing you away and making plans that do not include you.  That can happen but more often the person who is grieving turns to his partner for support, not away.  I'm sorry.

Thank you for your kind words. We both wanted to get married, maybe him even more than me! We actually had a date in mind. And then the pandemic hit... I try to give him space but I can’t help how much it hurts me that he is distancing himself from me like this. I want to be there for him so bad, and it tears me apart that he is not wanting or turning to me for any form of support.
I call her my MIL because in our country the term means more „like a second mother“ and that’s the way I feel about her.

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43 minutes ago, Cherylyn said:

He just lost his mother.  To him, 4 weeks, feels as if he lost his mother 4 seconds ago.  Give him a lot of time and space.  Unfortunately, it took me years to recover from losing my late father.  Granted, it may not take that long for your boyfriend, however, remember he is bereft.  His internal pain is beyond measure.

He may or may not heal and recover on your timeline.  Only time will tell regarding if your relationship with him will endure and survive. 

Continue backing off, give him a wide berth, act natural, be kind and patient.  After weeks or months, you will determine if you can hang onto him or not.  Since it's only been 4 weeks since his mother's passing, give him a chance to suffer, grieve and mourn.  Eventually, you will know whether or not your relationship was meant to be long term or not.  I'm sorry.

Thank you so much for your reply. I’m really sorry about your father’s passing. 

I understand I need to give him time, and I know that 4 weeks is nothing. I also still don’t realise it most of the time. I‘m doing the dishes and then boom the thought that she is truly gone hits me. I know that my grief is nothing compared to his grief or his dads or sisters. But I also haven’t stopped crying. And maybe I’m also longing for some kind of support / closeness from him. 

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38 minutes ago, SooSad33 said:

IMO, he is in shock and deeply distressed and grieving... everything in a negative 😞

He cannot 'give' at this time.. and probably feels so lost.. unsure what to think or do.

- Right... at this time, none of this matters.

He NEEDS some real time to work through the process of his loss.. He needs grief counselling, I feel.  Was so much a loss, so suddenly.

Sounds like this is how he is 'venting' out his frustration- coping.

But, there is nothing really YOU can do.... but leave him to it.

Worst thing to do is pressure him anymore.  Leave him be for a while now... a good while.  Let him release the steam and confusion he's got in there.

 

Thank you for your reply. I agree so much about grief counselling. He does need that. And first he seemed to agree with me. Now he gets angry when I bring it up... tells me I shouldn’t dictate his life or his grief. 
I just started seeing a therapist myself and he is supportive of that, but it’s not on his mind to go himself. At least right now.

Edited by skyty
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13 minutes ago, skyty said:

And first he seemed to agree with me. Now he gets angry when I bring it up... tells me I shouldn’t dictate his life or his grief. 
I just started seeing a therapist myself and he is supportive of that, but it’s not on his mind to go himself. At least right now.

Right. No pressures, he needs to do as he feels fit. So he needs to realize if or when he should do this... for now, he's in deep sorrow and will do it his own way.

Loss is huge 😞 

Do you know the stages of grief?  Expect him to be all over the place for a good while..

 

The five stages of grief are:

denial.

anger.

bargaining.

depression.

acceptance.

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41 minutes ago, skyty said:

Thank you for your kind words. We both wanted to get married, maybe him even more than me! We actually had a date in mind. And then the pandemic hit... I try to give him space but I can’t help how much it hurts me that he is distancing himself from me like this. I want to be there for him so bad, and it tears me apart that he is not wanting or turning to me for any form of support.
I call her my MIL because in our country the term means more „like a second mother“ and that’s the way I feel about her.

I am so sorry.  She was so young. I say follow Cheryln’s advice. Also. A suggestion - does he need practical stuff done as far as the estate or going through her things ?  Can you offer to help with that?  It might be a way to be involved without him feeling like he has to connect emotionally right now.  

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7 hours ago, skyty said:

Thank you so much for your reply. I’m really sorry about your father’s passing. 

I understand I need to give him time, and I know that 4 weeks is nothing. I also still don’t realise it most of the time. I‘m doing the dishes and then boom the thought that she is truly gone hits me. I know that my grief is nothing compared to his grief or his dads or sisters. But I also haven’t stopped crying. And maybe I’m also longing for some kind of support / closeness from him. 

Thank you for your kind words. 

He is so overwhelmed with his bereft state that he doesn't have any brain space left for you or anything else other than mourning the loss of his beloved mother.  All you can do is basically walk on eggshells for however long it takes for him to heal or however long your patience will last.  Only time will tell. 

Some people are incompatible following their life changing or traumatic events and who  knows how long this state will last?  You need to remain in the background and unobtrusive.  However, keep in mind, that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness; not aloofness.  You have your limits, too.  There is a difference between compassion and being unreasonable for excessive amounts of time post-passing.  You should not be ignored nor treated as a second class citizen. 

At some point, you will know and determine if you can remain the supportive, stoic partner.  Eventually, your patience will run its course if your partner forgets to treat you with dignity and care.  Eventually, your relationship with your partner will cause you to decide whether or not this relationship will succeed or dissolve.  I hope it's the former and not the latter.

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10 hours ago, skyty said:

My boyfriend is deeply grieving. I try to be there for him, but he just pushes me away.

We lived together for 2 years. 

Sorry to hear this. How long have you been dating? Does he actually live in your apartment or just stay there a lot? When did he move in and when did he move out.

She's not your mother in law and she and her family did all the work and all the grieving. So taking credit for finding her doctors, good care etc is a bit odd.

It would be best if you depended more on your own friends and family right now.

Allow him and all his family the peace and dignity and space they need to grieve.

Obviously he's not in the mood to entertain you with netflix and chill right now. Back up and leave him and his family in peace. He knows your contact info and address. When he's ready he'll contact you.

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1 hour ago, Wiseman2 said:

Sorry to hear this. How long have you been dating? Does he actually live in your apartment or just stay there a lot? When did he move in and when did he move out.

She's not your mother in law and she and her family did all the work and all the grieving. So taking credit for finding her doctors, good care etc is a bit odd.

It would be best if you depended more on your own friends and family right now.

Allow him and all his family the peace and dignity and space they need to grieve.

Obviously he's not in the mood to entertain you with netflix and chill right now. Back up and leave him and his family in peace. He knows your contact info and address. When he's ready he'll contact you.

Excuse me, do you know me and my life to make assumptions like that? Netflix and chill? What is wrong with you? Leave him and his family in peace? I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a committed relationship or not, but his family is my family. She was, is and always will be my MIL. WE as in my boyfriend, my FIL and SIL spend weeks together in his family home, praying together, supporting each other and crying together while she was in the hospital. I don’t want to take credit for anything, I’m so mad at myself for not getting her to our major hospital any sooner but believe me, I tried! My boyfriend wasn’t able to, so I did it all. I talked to countless doctors on the phone, not because I wanted to take credit for anything but to help get my MIL a better treatment. A chance to live. 

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9 minutes ago, skyty said:

. She was, is and always will be my MIL. WE as in my boyfriend, my FIL and SIL 

Why are you pretending to be married? Why is he pulling away?

It seems like you are overinvolved and overinvested. 

He is staying away from you to be with his family. He also never proposed no less wanted to marry you.

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1 minute ago, Wiseman2 said:

Why are you pretending to be married? Why is he pulling away?

It seems like you are overinvolved and overinvested. 

He is staying away from you to be with his family. He also never proposed no less wanted to marry you.

Maybe try reading my other responses. In our country the term MIL doesn’t have to mean in a legal sense.

And you seem to know my boyfriend better than I do telling me he never wanted to marry me. We even had a date set before the pandemic hit. Which my MIL knew about and was thrilled with!

It’s bad luck where he’s from to get engaged if you don’t plan to get married within 12 months. So we waited. Waited too long, because now she can’t be there with us. 

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So again I like Cheryln's follow up suggestions.  I think caring caregivers whether family, friends, hired - wow what a gem, what a godsend.  We had people like that surrounding us when my inlaws were ill and my husband is an only child. I'd sit with my mother in law where she was in hospice - very very little alertness if at all - for hours so my husband could get a break.  Would have done so whether we were married or not.  I loved her.  I miss her so much.  I mean I don't see you as trying to take credit -I see you as sharing what your role was, what you did, what you are doing now. 

When my cousin was dying of terminal cancer (in her 30s!!!) I supported her by helping her newlywed husband -mostly on a practical level, I found out she wanted to meet a celebrity and I arranged to have that happen (although tragically on the day of it she could not go, she was too sick), I sat with her a week before she passed. I showed up emotionally, physically - but I made sure to be there in the way that would be most helpful which sometimes meant staying away/giving from a distance.  I think you tried to do the same. 

Yes i was family.  No it didn't matter -because we were also dear dear friends - just like you loved your MIL -forget labels - you loved her -she was like a mother and/or dear dear friend, right??

Your boyfriend needed you for all you gave, all you offered, and you offered selflessly it seems and out of love and care and thoughtfulness.  And again I like Cheryln's approach for you personally -how you should think about it, balance it, do the self-talk and decide what you can do and what you can't that preserves your well-being and health ultimately.

 

All the best!!

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4 hours ago, Batya33 said:

So again I like Cheryln's follow up suggestions.  I think caring caregivers whether family, friends, hired - wow what a gem, what a godsend.  We had people like that surrounding us when my inlaws were ill and my husband is an only child. I'd sit with my mother in law where she was in hospice - very very little alertness if at all - for hours so my husband could get a break.  Would have done so whether we were married or not.  I loved her.  I miss her so much.  I mean I don't see you as trying to take credit -I see you as sharing what your role was, what you did, what you are doing now. 

When my cousin was dying of terminal cancer (in her 30s!!!) I supported her by helping her newlywed husband -mostly on a practical level, I found out she wanted to meet a celebrity and I arranged to have that happen (although tragically on the day of it she could not go, she was too sick), I sat with her a week before she passed. I showed up emotionally, physically - but I made sure to be there in the way that would be most helpful which sometimes meant staying away/giving from a distance.  I think you tried to do the same. 

Yes i was family.  No it didn't matter -because we were also dear dear friends - just like you loved your MIL -forget labels - you loved her -she was like a mother and/or dear dear friend, right??

Your boyfriend needed you for all you gave, all you offered, and you offered selflessly it seems and out of love and care and thoughtfulness.  And again I like Cheryln's approach for you personally -how you should think about it, balance it, do the self-talk and decide what you can do and what you can't that preserves your well-being and health ultimately.

 

All the best!!

Thank you so much I really appreciate your thoughtful comment. And I’m truly sorry for the losses you had to experience in your life. 

I thought about all the responses I received so far and just realised where my anxiety and fears seem to come from. I’m not doubting that my boyfriend loves me or that his wishes to start a family changed. For now of course they did, but I know it’s still the life he wants. But I’m afraid, as stupid as this may sound, we’re running out of time. A few days after his mom passed, he gave me a hug and said „Now we really have to make children soon, so they can spend as much time with their grandma as possible.“ My mom is 10 years older than his mom was.... so my thoughts are running wild in my head thinking about the unthinkable. Even though I don’t necessary feel ready to start trying right now or even in a year. But my fear and anxiety about this is probably what scares me the most right now... and him pulling away makes me even more anxious even though I completely understand him.

I already talked to him about this. And I think he seems to understand where I’m coming from better right now. Even though he says I should stop thinking those bad thoughts and everything will be fine and our children will experience lots of time with their grandparents... I just wish everything would have been different... my MIL was asking us for grandchildren, she was so looking forward to being a grandma. Family was the most important thing for her, as well as for my boyfriend. It makes me extremely sad that we couldn’t make her wish of becoming a grandma come true while she was still with us on earth...

 

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7 hours ago, skyty said:

In our country the term MIL doesn’t have to mean in a legal sense.

Even in this country the term can be relaxed. My boyfriend's mom introduces me as her daughter in law, and his sisters introduce me as their sister in law. I just go with it, because it cuts through a lot of unimportant details, especially when you are dealing with people outside of the immediate family and circle of friends.

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So my perspective on this is a bit different.  There are zero guarantees as to whether you two can have children, whether you will be able to adopt and when, etc - there are zero guarantees as to how long grandparents will live.  Yes, there are risk levels and statistics but I'm not a fan of basing family planning on the ages of grandparents (yes, ages of parents to decreases risk factors if you're having biological children).  We had our one and only child when we were 42 - my first and only pregnancy - and we have one grandparent left as my husband's parents had him later in life too.  We lost 3 grandparents when my son was ages 4-7.  But it's really so hard to predict and I wouldn't pressure myself if I were you two.  

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Unfortunately in some cases a partner or family member/friend end up being a reminder of that painful memory and that is why you are being pushed away. If you feel you have to walk away by all means do it.

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My heart goes out to you. Consider your partner to be on 'pause' right now.

Don't do him or yourself the disservice of projecting this time of grieving onto your future.

Seek out the help and care you need for yourself on your own, and allow your partner and his family to grieve and spend their time as they wish.

This is a historic and horrible time for humanity right now, and to suffer such a loss in the midst of this is even more terrible. Everyone grieves differently, and we can't really know what is right for another person.

The best we can do is to take good care of ourselves and demonstrate patience and generosity toward those who never signed up for this, either.

Sometimes the hardest but most right thing we can do for others when they show no inclination toward grieving as we would wish is to say nothing at all.

This is the wrong time to make this about your relationship or yourself to you partner. That could drive the kind of wedge over which he will never forgive you. I'd take it to a friend, family, clergy or therapist, but I would NOT lay it on your partner right now or in the near future.

Head high, you can do this.

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