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CygnusX1

Boyfriend Broke Up With Me Due to Grieving Death of Pet, Says He Still Loves Me

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A bit of background: My boyfriend and I were long-distance partners, and we've only been together for about six months. During that time, I've been dealing with my own case of delayed grief after having lost my mother and stepfather in 2018, eight months apart from each other. Throughout the entirety of our relationship, he was always incredibly supportive, and we both felt very visible to and understood by each other. I drove out to meet him for the first time last month and we spent an incredible week together, and we said we love each other (he said it first). However, within a couple days of my return home, his very beloved cat fell ill and passed away. It was quite sudden. And as a result, he drew inward, preferring to stick only to texts rather than calls and Facetime, which we had been doing every other day prior to my visit, and they were of great importance to me because they helped me to feel connected to him while coping with the physical distance. He kept asking me to be patient, and it was hard for me to understand why it seemed like he was suddenly beginning to shut me out. Over the course of the past couple weeks, I'd made missteps along the way, asking for reassurance that we'd go back to how we were, etc. I recently asked him to clarify what he was requesting I remain patient for, since it had been three weeks since we'd had any kind of real conversation or felt connected to each other the way we used to. After some digging, it was made clear that while he's grieving, he's feeling very lost and it's hard for him to know what he wants, therefore cannot set any expectations for himself outside of a simple desire to heal. I told him that if he felt he needed to step back entirely from our relationship, that I had to accept that, and he said that's what he needs. He'd previously said he didn't want that, but now he does (which is also hard for me to understand). I told him I'd stop contacting him, and that I hoped I'd hear from him and hoped that this wasn't the end. He said he loves me, and he hopes for the same. 

The thing is, it's hard for me to fully grasp why he'd want to leave, especially since I'm dealing with my own seemingly insurmountable grief, feeling lost myself, and couldn't imagine pushing away someone I love. 

The day before this all came crashing down, he'd sent me a photo of the wooden urn in which his cat's ashes have been laid to rest. It was shockingly similar to a box I'd had for 20 years or so that I used for my rock/crystal/sea glass collection. I asked if he wanted my keepsake box as something in which he could display some mementos - collar, toys, etc. - with the urn, and he said he would like it. I sent it off, and it's set to arrive today. If I don't hear from him upon receipt of it, I feel like that'll be an indication that this is the end. Because it was something I sent with love and care, and he knows it, and to receive no acknowledgment of it would be painful for me.

I'm sorry for the word vomit. I'm just scared that I've lost him forever, and that was not what I wanted when I told him it was okay for him to step back and that I'd leave him alone. Even though he says he loves me, it's hard to reconcile that with him not wanting me as part of his life, and though I know this is still fresh and raw, I wish I could just breathe and say "move on", rather than building up hope in my heart and then crying my eyes out when it suddenly turns into a void. I'd rather accept it, feel it, and eventually give myself closure, rather than oscillate between sorrow and hope, but I am struggling to do so because I can't know if he still thinks of me as a potential part of his future.

I need some advice. Do I continue to hold out hope that he'll reach out to me and attempt to start things back up again? Is it stupid to do so, and should I just accept that this probably is the end even though he says he loves me?

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16 hours ago, CygnusX1 said:

The thing is, it's hard for me to fully grasp why he'd want to leave, especially since I'm dealing with my own seemingly insurmountable grief, feeling lost myself, and couldn't imagine pushing away someone I love.

Therein lies the difference between you and I...and some others.  A certain percentage of grievers DO respond as you BF is!  I was engaged for a year when my fiance's mother suddenly started dying, no real diagnosis and he broke up with me by Fed Ex.  I was blindsided.  After her death a few months later, we'd had no contact during that time, I sent him a sympathy card and he promptly called and talked to me for 3 1/2 hours, as if catching me up on everything.  (His daughter told me he'd checked on me continually on FB.)  In the ensuing weeks he'd call every day and then I wouldn't hear from him for a couple of weeks, it was very confusing to me.  He'd tell me he loved me, and then...nothing.  I was getting mixed messages, and none of it made sense to me.  I realized he didn't know his own mind.  I had to put a protective barrier around my heart as it was yanking me around emotionally.  Ten years later (I haven't dated since, nothing to do with him per sae but I've been through a lot and feel no one has come close to being who I'd need in my life so I'm not searching....I'd had the right one and he'd died years ago) he is living with his XW, and although they aren't a "couple", they are together all of the time.  We are still friends but way back then I realized we would never be an "us" again.  We can talk to each other, he has a terrific sense of humor and I value him as a person...but that's it.  

This section is filled with stories like yours and mine.  Out of hundreds of threads here, I recall only one or two who made it through this.  I can't answer "why," only that it is.

I am so sorry you are going through this.  You ask if you should continue hoping...in my opinion, no.  I don't feel it'd be healthy for you to put your life on indefinite hold.  If something should change in the future, great, but it's important to look at this realistically too.  Whatever you decide, I hope you choose YOU first, and do what is ultimately best for you.

I recently read these articles and hope they help.  It'd be so much easier if things were neat and wrapped up in something we could understand, but in lieu of that, sometimes it's essential that we create our own closure.
https://www.griefhealingblog.com/2012/03/unresolved-grief-when-loved-one-is.html
https://www.ambiguousloss.com/about/

I am very sorry, I know this is not how you'd hoped things would go.  I know it hurts, it will eventually subside, although I can't say when.  I am so sorry for the loss of your parents as well.  I hope you can understand he is not CHOOSING this, he is hurting and grief has chosen this for him, it's hard to understand but it's not you personally, and he is victim to this as much as you are.

Here is my own story, you can see it took me quite a process to "get it."  It shows all of the thoughts, feelings, confusion, resolve, everything I went through.  One thing that struck me in the end is I wouldn't want to be with someone I couldn't count on to be with me through thick and thin.  

 

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Kayc, thank you for your words. And thank you for always being such a rational voice on this forum. I’ve been perusing it for a bit and you always have amazing insights.

Things are pretty much officially done with him now. His interpretation of what it means to love someone is quite different from mine, and it’s evident that he doesn’t see “love” as a verb, rather as a self-serving feeling that doesn’t actually entail any responsibility to the person it’s being said to. And that’s not good enough for me. “I love how you make me feel...” is not the same as saying “I am taking responsibility for making sure that your needs are addressed and you feel seen and understood and safe, and I am committed to you.” He’d said that even before his grief, he’d felt like things were moving too quickly, and I called him out for never having said anything and making me feel like we might have actually been on the same page all along. He apologized for not knowing how to articulate it until it was too late. But it’s beyond that. If you feel something is wrong, you communicate that something feels off, and you allow the chance to figure it out and work through it. You don’t just continue business as usual. 
Love is not just a set of feelings and emotions. It’s a commitment to communicate with the other and meet them where they are. 
Anyway, I’m incredibly sad, but mostly because I’m missing the early stages of things when he and I felt connected. I don’t think I miss him for who he is to me now. He said things to me before his loss that made me believe we were headed in one direction, but it’s clear that his grief wasn’t the only barrier that befell us. There were fundamental issues that never had the chance to be addressed because he decided not to communicate. 
I told him that if he feels in the future that he wants to try again, that we can cross that bridge if we come to it. But I’m not going to hold out hope. 
I deleted my entire text conversation with him. All 8,400 messages. Every message that professed love, every message that talked about his excitement for the future (which I call into question after he’s now told me that he felt pressured to “define” things and that we were moving too fast and blah blah blah). I don’t want to erase him, but I don’t want to have something to look back on and trick myself into longing for. Even having good memories of him feels painful right now.

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Yes to what you say here!  You show a lot of insight, it will carry you and you are wise about guarding and protecting yourself.  I feel good about how things ended up with Jim as I can look back now and realize some things I tried to push aside at the time, like his Asperger's.  What I would hope for with someone is that we affect each other for the good and can work as a team, without that, I'll go it alone.  I wish you the best going forward!

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Thank you for the kind words and for agreeing that I need to protect myself. I know that on some level, perhaps his grief served to amplify the feelings he’d already had with regards to pressure to make a commitment. But in my mind, you don’t say you love someone if you’re not committed to them. That’s not how I define it. I meant it when I said I loved him. To me, it was my way of saying “I am committed to you. I want a future with you. I want you to feel that my heart is a shelter for yours. I want you to be confident that in times when your needs supersede mine, I will do whatever is in my power to meet them.” Yes, I left while he was still grieving. Perhaps I wasn’t patient enough. But he made it clear that the grief didn’t cause the distance, instead it served to make his need for it even more pronounced. 
Shortly before his loss, he said he believed we make a good team. He said he was excited for the future, for us, and for whatever arrangements might be on the horizon to close the gap of so many miles between us. In my opinion, you don’t say those things to someone to whom you’re not committed.

He said that he’s had long-distance relationships in the past that ended in pain, and that’s part of why he ended up hesitating now. But first off, I shouldn’t be punished for how his past relationships went wrong, and though he acknowledged that, it still doesn’t  change the fact that he allowed it to sabotage us. And this was another thing he never communicated to me until last night when the end became quite real.
Communication is part of loving someone. *Actively* loving someone. And the fact that he couldn’t  communicate with me speaks worlds. I won’t say that he saw his grief as an “out” from our relationship, but I do think it provided him with an escape route from addressing the issues he saw with us  head-on. It wasn’t until I asked him point-blank what my expectations should be that this all came to light. Too little, too late.

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The truth is, we all mean something different when we say, "I love you," just as friends have different expectations of their friends.  It's important to recognize when it is right for you...and when it is not.  You are thinking deeper than he is, it sounds like he is commitment phobic, not at all uncommon when people aren't ready...it really has nothing to do with you and everything to do with where he is in his life and state of readiness.  

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On 7/18/2020 at 11:11 AM, CygnusX1 said:

Kayc, thank you for your words. And thank you for always being such a rational voice on this forum. I’ve been perusing it for a bit and you always have amazing insights.

Things are pretty much officially done with him now. His interpretation of what it means to love someone is quite different from mine, and it’s evident that he doesn’t see “love” as a verb, rather as a self-serving feeling that doesn’t actually entail any responsibility to the person it’s being said to. And that’s not good enough for me. “I love how you make me feel...” is not the same as saying “I am taking responsibility for making sure that your needs are addressed and you feel seen and understood and safe, and I am committed to you.” He’d said that even before his grief, he’d felt like things were moving too quickly, and I called him out for never having said anything and making me feel like we might have actually been on the same page all along. He apologized for not knowing how to articulate it until it was too late. But it’s beyond that. If you feel something is wrong, you communicate that something feels off, and you allow the chance to figure it out and work through it. You don’t just continue business as usual. 
Love is not just a set of feelings and emotions. It’s a commitment to communicate with the other and meet them where they are. 
Anyway, I’m incredibly sad, but mostly because I’m missing the early stages of things when he and I felt connected. I don’t think I miss him for who he is to me now. He said things to me before his loss that made me believe we were headed in one direction, but it’s clear that his grief wasn’t the only barrier that befell us. There were fundamental issues that never had the chance to be addressed because he decided not to communicate. 
I told him that if he feels in the future that he wants to try again, that we can cross that bridge if we come to it. But I’m not going to hold out hope. 
I deleted my entire text conversation with him. All 8,400 messages. Every message that professed love, every message that talked about his excitement for the future (which I call into question after he’s now told me that he felt pressured to “define” things and that we were moving too fast and blah blah blah). I don’t want to erase him, but I don’t want to have something to look back on and trick myself into longing for. Even having good memories of him feels painful right now.

This is exactly how I felt when my boyfriend of 2 years left me without explanation in late 2015 after his father suddenly died. He then tried to work things out three months later in 2016, only to disappear again. I cut contact with him after that, haven't spoken to him since and have moved forward.

I realized in the months after the same things you have, that for him, love was not a verb, but a self-serving feeling that he didn't feel any responsibility for saying to another person. It was devastating to me because he seemed loving and like any regular great boyfriend should be. But looking back, I realized later that our relationship was not going to move forward. He never wanted to travel with me if it was more than 2 hours away by car and I am a person who enjoys exploring and adventure. I was a semester away from college graduation when we started dating, after having studied abroad and visiting the neighboring countries and learning how to travel alone. I was new in my career and it seemed like every time I hit a milestone at my job, we'd celebrate, and then he'd try to "one up" me with his accomplishments. I had also come to the realization that if I had accepted one of the jobs I was applying for in other states, he would not have moved with me so we would've broken up anyways.

I, like you, was open to trying again after the first time, even though I should not have been after learning from his brother, who introduced us, that he's done similar things before and has some deep seated insecurities and emotional problems he hadn't ever resolved due to a turbulent relationship with his parents, many of which he brought into his relationships. The way he behaved started to make sense after learning this, though it was not an excuse. We talked about the future in the same way and he said a lot of the same things your bf has. I didn't want to erase him at first because I was still in love with him, but I realized after he left me the second time that I allowed him to do it again because I still longed for him and didn't remove him from my social media or my phone when I should have. I also empathized with him because a few years earlier I had lost my grandfather and best friend within a year and my relationship at the time suffered immensely because of it.

In the 5 years since, I have moved to a different state, traveled extensively and am actually planning a more permanent international move once I complete my Masters. Learn from this experience, even if you do end up getting back together in the future, don't allow yourself to just fall back into it and let things go back to normal unless you can see he's addressing his problems appropriately and has made tangible growth in his life. I am dating, but more so just focusing on my life and what I want it to be, rather than trying to mold my life around a relationship.

You're making great progress, don't allow his attempts to reach out and "check in" stop you from moving forward without him. They don't wait for us, there's no reason to do that for them.

:) Rae

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13 hours ago, kayc said:

The truth is, we all mean something different when we say, "I love you," just as friends have different expectations of their friends.  It's important to recognize when it is right for you...and when it is not.  You are thinking deeper than he is, it sounds like he is commitment phobic, not at all uncommon when people aren't ready...it really has nothing to do with you and everything to do with where he is in his life and state of readiness.  

I think he's absolutely commitment phobic. Because in hindsight, I realize that he was pushing me to arm's length before my trip to come see him, and I attributed it to stress or his need for alone time not being fully met (even though he did explicitly tell me that the adjustments I'd made for him were enough). The moment things became more real was the moment he began to push me away, and then my trip and the exchange of "I love you" (which he said first) were the nails in the coffin. During that trip, he'd introduced me to his family. And he called me his "friend" when introducing me to his sister. I'd asked him about it later, trying to get a handle on where we were and what we were doing, and he insisted that he wasn't quite ready to define things. And that hurt, but I let it slide, and let him know that I'd already made the decision in my head and was willing to wait for him to be ready. And now I know that my simple act of asking what we were was enough to push him over the edge. He'd continue to say "I love you" until the day everything ended, even going so far as to say that he always will after things came to a close. But I don't think he understands what love is. His definition comes from a place of ego love, not soul love. If he'd truly wanted a future with me, he'd have been willing to accommodate me while I accommodated him. He rarely if ever acknowledged the pain I am in over dealing with this delayed, complicated grief. I'm not going to say that there's some kind of hierarchy to grieving, because I know that losing a pet can be incredibly devastating. But it's as if he never really put much effort into letting me know that he sees my pain. I lost two parents in the course of a year and never had a chance to grieve either of them, and he made me feel so alone, as if the insurmountable sadness I'm experiencing was somehow less important than his, or that he couldn't be bothered to help me get through it.

Love is about meeting your partner where they are. And letting go, I've realized, sometimes means leaving them where they are too. 

He insists he wants to be friends, and I agreed to that. I've made the mistake of trying to "defend" myself, telling him that I did try to accommodate him and that I feel slighted that he never gave me the chance by speaking up about what was bothering him. I apologized for not having enough insight to trust my intuition and for inadvertently putting pressure on him. His responses have been short. And I've decided not to initiate conversation moving forward. If he wants to be friends, fine, but I'm not going to give any more than he's willing to in terms of ANY interaction, because I did that throughout the whole of our relationship and I'm tired. 

I'm angry today, because he's made me feel disposable. And you DON'T do that to someone you say you love. 

I hope it's okay that I share this here, but as part of my healing process, I've decided to start writing again. I wrote a piece on love, because it felt important for me to sort of "itemize" what it means, almost as a way to remind myself to never again settle for someone so emotionally avoidant: I love you?

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Rae, if my ex's dad weren't still with us, I'd think you and I dated the same person. 

It's disheartening, and in some cases, damaging to one's self esteem to be on the receiving end of an "I love you" that carries with it no responsibility to the recipient. It can make us feel like we don't matter enough to be considered a person of value. Like we're not important enough for someone to put in the work that's required in love. The hard part of moving on, not allowing for second chances, and getting over the pain of lost love, is knowing that at any moment, they may decide to love bomb you. When he and I first decided to put an end to things, I was desperately clinging to the idea that we may reconcile. Now I'm dreading him broaching the subject after he feels "like himself" again, because I'm afraid of how I might react. I just need to be strong, continue to write, continue with my therapy, and find my own worth through overcoming my own grief.

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1 hour ago, CygnusX1 said:

I just need to be strong, continue to write, continue with my therapy, and find my own worth through overcoming my own grief.

Good for you. May this be your mantra ♥️

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1 hour ago, CygnusX1 said:

And now I know that my simple act of asking what we were was enough to push him over the edge.

Instead of thinking of it as pushing him over the edge (apparently it didn't take much!), realize that you and him were not on the same page and it brought some clarity to you!

Wow, @Rae1991, you wrote that?  I love it, also the real heart you used in illustration.  Always good to hear your responses!  And good luck with your Master's, although I know there's nothing "luck" about it, it's perseverance and hard work.  Personally, I think you have a bright future ahead for you!...and hope your "now" is as well.

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2 hours ago, CygnusX1 said:

Rae, if my ex's dad weren't still with us, I'd think you and I dated the same person. 

It's disheartening, and in some cases, damaging to one's self esteem to be on the receiving end of an "I love you" that carries with it no responsibility to the recipient. It can make us feel like we don't matter enough to be considered a person of value. Like we're not important enough for someone to put in the work that's required in love. The hard part of moving on, not allowing for second chances, and getting over the pain of lost love, is knowing that at any moment, they may decide to love bomb you. When he and I first decided to put an end to things, I was desperately clinging to the idea that we may reconcile. Now I'm dreading him broaching the subject after he feels "like himself" again, because I'm afraid of how I might react. I just need to be strong, continue to write, continue with my therapy, and find my own worth through overcoming my own grief.

Yep. Many people have dated "this person." And you are correct that their damage damages others. Hurt people, hurt people. And yes, the most important things you can do is remember who the f*** you are, and that you had a life before him, and will after him, without his participation or permission. You're an individual and that should never be compromised by or for a relationship. Ironically, the last time I talked to Tim was when we were leaving his apartment to head to work, and he told me he loved me....then stood me up later that night, and I ended the relationship the next day. 2 months later I accepted a job in another state and left.

That damage left by them can be healed, but its your job to do that and ensure that if/when you come across another person like this (because they are everywhere, so you inevitably will) that you are able to recognize these signs and walk away before getting involved. Part of the reason I ended up dating guys like Tim was because I was failing to recognize that my damage matched their damage and it was comforting to get involved with people who needed me because I didn't understand that the only person I really needed to fix, was myself. Chaos was attractive because I didn't have to deal with my own problems when constantly surrounded by everyone else's. Therapy and finding positive outlets to express yourself are the best ways to move forward. Rediscovering old hobbies, or finding new ones, joining groups, etc are great ways to heal and get to a place you need to be, and along the way you'll find things and meet people you wouldn't have otherwise. Its not really about "getting to where you were before him," as often that person is probably toxic or needs therapy. But becoming someone better by learning from your experiences, failures and mistakes. When people fail to learn from their past experiences or mistakes, they inevitably end up repeating them and falling into a cycle of dating the same people with different faces, or staying in a job they hate and wondering why they're so unhappy.

Misery loves company, but so does confusion. It seems your now ex was both, and does not know what a healthy relationship looks like, nor has he made an effort to confront, discover or fix the parts of himself that are unavailable. I am certain that if you could find his relationship history, he'd probably have a number of fractured, stunted and unhealthy relationships, both romantic and familial. People aren't born this way, they're made.

:) Rae

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1 hour ago, Rae1991 said:

Misery loves company, but so does confusion. It seems your now ex was both, and does not know what a healthy relationship looks like, nor has he made an effort to confront, discover or fix the parts of himself that are unavailable. I am certain that if you could find his relationship history, he'd probably have a number of fractured, stunted and unhealthy relationships, both romantic and familial. People aren't born this way, they're made.

:) Rae

We never got too deep into the issues he'd had in past relationships. His longest lasted four years. My longest lasted thirteen. I was always open with him about the issues I noticed in past relationships, including disclosing the areas in which I'd faltered. He never opened up about what went wrong in his. And seeing how gaslit I felt when he tried to tell me what love is (when I know damn well what love is) was truly telling. I'm likely one in a series, not one in a million. I just hope he eventually wakes up to losing good women and decides to change instead of keeping the better ones at arm's length.

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2 hours ago, kayc said:

Instead of thinking of it as pushing him over the edge (apparently it didn't take much!), realize that you and him were not on the same page and it brought some clarity to you!

Wow, @Rae1991, you wrote that?  I love it, also the real heart you used in illustration.  Always good to hear your responses!  And good luck with your Master's, although I know there's nothing "luck" about it, it's perseverance and hard work.  Personally, I think you have a bright future ahead for you!...and hope your "now" is as well.

You're absolutely right. He was already over that edge and that's why he allowed things to change between us. I'm not going to go taking responsibility for scaring him when I did nothing wrong. Asking for a status update on your relationship, especially after "I love you" has been exchanged, is not wrong. I'm not going to shoulder the burden of his phobia.

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On 7/20/2020 at 8:24 AM, Rae1991 said:

When people fail to learn from their past experiences or mistakes, they inevitably end up repeating them and falling into a cycle of dating the same people with different faces, or staying in a job they hate and wondering why they're so unhappy.

So true!  So important to delve into what/why and figure out what changes to make within ourselves.

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On 7/20/2020 at 10:03 AM, CygnusX1 said:

I'm not going to go taking responsibility for scaring him when I did nothing wrong.

Attagirl!

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