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Boyfriends struggling with grief and it affected our relationship


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Me and my boyfriend were going out a total of 6, nearly 7, months just before I broke up with him a few of days ago. We began dating in July, with him asking me to be his girlfriend 6 weeks later. It was a good relationship and we had fun together and I could really see myself building a future with him and we spoke about moving in together eventually.

We were doing so well until his stepdad had an unfortunate accident at work in November, this then started a long few months of communication problems on his side. He would ignore me for days on end, cancel dates last minute and just in general not do the bare minimum using the excuse of the stepdad being ill to do these things.

 Over Christmas it became worse and I barely saw him, he didn’t come over and bring my presents (we agreed we would swap them on Christmas eve – I promise I’m not being superficial!), and then a month ago his stepdad died. I supported him and gave him space if he needed it by not texting/calling etc. but he would reach out to me so I thought it would be ok to contact him. We didn’t see each other for 5 weeks during this period and the communication became non-existent again. Eventually I realised that he crossed too many of my boundaries after we had discussed what they were and that I was breaking up with him. We had no contact for a week but then came the messages like ‘Can we meet up and sort things out?’ etc…

I gave in and we agreed to meet up (this was 3 weeks ago), and he agreed to change and he’s sorry and will make the effort. During this meet up he said when he lost his biological father at 16 this is how he treated people back then and pushed them away but promised he wouldn’t do that with me. He also said he’s going to grief counselling which I think will be good for him

Roll on to last Wednesday (my birthday), I don’t get a message from him till 1:30pm saying ‘Happy Birthday x’ and that was it. I left him for the rest of the day to see if he would say anything more and for him to confirm what time he would be coming around to my house to celebrate my birthday (as we had made plans for him to have dinner with my family), but I heard nothing. I text at 6.30pm asking what he’s doing and if he’s coming and seconds later, I get a text back saying ‘Sorry, I can’t make it. It’s too complicated to explain. I promise I’ll make it up to you’. Well I will admit I was beyond angry and lost my temper and said some horrible things and then blocked him.

24 hours later I felt awful for what I had said so I unblocked him and apologised. He explained to me that he had to have an emergency funeral for the stepdad (they have been backlogged because of COVID) and that’s why he didn’t contact me on my birthday. I asked him what he wanted to do from this point on, he said he doesn’t know. I called him so we could talk but he sounded cold and not like the person I knew and loved. We agreed to take a break and talk again in a week.

The next day, I saw that he changed his picture on whatsapp to him and a new dog that they have just bought as family. This made me lose my temper again, I thought about it more and didn’t want to be with someone who couldn’t decide for sure whether he wanted to be with me but can go out and buy a new dog and post pictures, so I sent him a final goodbye text ending the relationship and blocked him. This was on Saturday night, i was in 2 minds whether I made the right choice, so I sent him a long message explaining how I feel and apologising for my actions [at the bottom].

We’ve spoken a couple of times since then as I’ve reached out to him to see how he’s doing, and he’s replied but nothing how it normally is. He did say he sees a future with me (at his own doing, not me asking) and misses me too (although I did say it first). I lost my own father when I was 11, so I can relate in some way. I understand he is grieving but I do not understand why he treats me so badly. All my friends and even my family have told me to walk away and that I deserve better.

Despite all of this, I still care for him and want to work through this and deeply regret how i acted but i am an reactionary person. I understand that he’s grieving and is struggling with his mental health now, but I do not understand why he treats me so badly. We’ve also struggled as we’re in our third lockdown (in the UK) which has made it harder to see one another. It's worth noting that we both live with our respective families - him, his mum and his stepdad in his house. I haven’t always handled the situations the right way and there a few things I wish I could have changed. I’m completely lost as to what to do, one part of me wants to move on due to the way he’s treated me but I just can’t seem to let him go. I don’t know how to separate the way he’s treated me from the fact that he is grieving. I don’t think grief is a good enough excuse for his poor behaviour. I’m aware that I may have codependancy issues and have been diagnosed with mental health issues previously and will be starting therapy again on the 4th March. I think this is a big factor and i'm currently using this break (if that's what it is) to work on myself. I know he loves me but it's just hard for him. I’m sorry for the long post but it’s all I can think about now and i just need some advice as everyone else seems to not want to talk to me about it anymore

[Hey, I know you probably hate me and are currently thinking **** sake, just leave me alone so, I don’t expect a response, and just a warning this is extremely long lol, but there’re just a few things I wanted to say so I hope you could just hear me out.

I 100% have not acted and behaved the way I should’ve at times as I’ve said and apologised for before (and again now) and there have been occasions where I’ve put my needs above yours. Sometimes that has been unintentional as I wasn’t aware of the situations going on, like the funeral for example.

My heart breaks for your loss, I understand what it’s like, but I think you know that. It’s not easy to go through it twice over too. It can change you as a person and that’s what it seems to have done with you, in turn affecting our relationship in a horrible way. At the point your stepdad had the accident, we were only 3/4 months into the relationship, and I forget it was that early because it feels like I’ve been with you much longer, so we were only finding our feet as a couple and working us out.

Life unfortunately got in the way and we’ve not been on the same page for a while with what we want/need/have and with our communication especially. Lockdown has completely f****d us too. I’m not using these as excuses for both of our shitty behaviours (more so yours if we’re being completely honest sorry lol) because we both need to be accountable for our actions and recognise the catalyst of why we are currently like this.

I’m taking the risk of looking like a complete mug by messaging you but I wouldn’t be staying true to myself if I didn’t and I think I owe ‘us’ more than that. I would like it if we could talk at some point, but I don’t want it to be an argument. I don’t have the energy for it especially as I’ve still not been feeling well. I would like us to try again, start afresh and for us to make up for everything that we both f****d up on, but to also take things slow and work at a pace that is best for both of us but that’s something we can discuss at a later point if you’re willing.

Anyway, I know you don’t like reading long messages, so I’ll stop now lol. I understand if you never want to speak to me again (which hurts me to think about, but it is what it is), or if you still need space and time to think then that’s ok too. I’m here to talk and won’t do my typical blocking sprees and will rein in my bad attitude, in the hope that you will eventually talk to me. In the meantime, I’m going to live my life as normal and continue to work on myself x]

 

 

 

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It might be of help to educate yourself about the grief process and how it affects some people.  They literally have nothing in them to give to a relationship...not everyone, but a high enough percentage to know it's a classic grief response.  They can be with family/friends but with a SO it feels like pressure to them that they can't do, even if the OP is giving them space.  It's unfortunate that you responded to him in anger, best to give yourself a cooling off period to think rather than react immediately.  Words spoken cannot be easily retrieved.  Apologies are not undo buttons.  

I would respect his wishes, even if it means not being together.  To do anything else would drive a further wedge...we cannot force someone to respond as we want, he is going through something hard that only he can do and he can't handle anything more at this time.

Taking this time to work on yourself does sound like a good idea whenever we have a breakup.  I hope you will go through some of the threads here and read them so see this is not an uncommon situation.

http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2014/08/grief-understanding-process.html

https://www.griefhealingblog.com/2018/03/in-grief-supporting-partner-in-mourning.html

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Thanks Kayc, i've been reading through some other posts and can see you're knowledgble about the topic so i thank you for your reply. Giving him space is the best plan of action, and I was naive in my response and actions to him as i've never seen grief being acted out the way he does it. I'll read through the materials you've provided and hope it'll give me some more clarity. I hope he feels like he's able to cope, it's hard for me that he won't let me in to support him. I know i'm being selfish but I just want things to be ok in the end. I feel like there is hope if I give him his space and let him come to me, but I don't want to get too excited. This is all new for me being on this side of the grieving process so i'm learning too.

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If it's any consolation, the outcome would have been the same regardless (99%), we can try our best to no avail, it takes TWO to make a relationship work, one can only carry it alone for so long.  We're human, we have needs too, needs for love, caring, sharing, etc.  I prefer to go through life with someone who wants to go through thick and thin together, not toss me aside when things get tough...because GUARANTEED, things get tough at some time, we all go through losses at some point.

Try not to put all your hopes in him as it may not come to fruition and you can't live in limbo for long.  I highly recommend no contact, NO CONTACT, as it will give you time to heal, him time to do what he needs to do, and you will have more clarification as you do begin to heal.  Sometimes we can't see for our emotion.

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Thanks, that does make me feel better. I am embarrassed, ashamed and regret the things I have done and said but this was out of hurt and anger but. I am trying to get myself into the mindset of it possible not working and currently doing no contact, but I don't know how long to hold out for. Days, months, years? I guess grief isn't a linear process so I will have to take a step back and see the wood from the trees and what will be will be. What would you suggest if he messages me during this no contact period? 

My main intention is for him to get to a place where he can be happy again because he is a good guy. I want nothing but the best for him and it breaks my heart that he is in so much pain

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Hi lost, 

I'm currently at work and unable to say much at the moment, but I'm very sorry you're having to go through all this.

At first glance, I can fully understand the frustration that you felt when he wasn't treating you the way he should or when he is able to get a new dog and post about it while leaving you hanging. I felt the exact same way when my ex was being hot and cold while posting a bunch of selfies on social media. The thing that angered me the most was when she posted a video if her singing with a heart emoji on it--she hadn't sent me a heart for over a month, and got upset when I joked about her doing it again. 

And it's okay to have some regrets about how you reacted sometimes, we all have emotions and it's difficult for us too. Don't be hard on yourself if you are, most of us here had no clue how to deal with a situation like this either. But I agree with Kayc, pressure and anger will only push them further away; it's best if there is a cooling off period. 

I've also experienced the coldness you mentioned, and I understand how awful that feels. It's hard to comprehend how someone can go from a loving and warm voice to a cold indifference. It's incredibly hurtful, especially when things seemed to have been going well before. 

In terms of how you felt you were treated and how much you should forgive for grief is difficult. I find myself thinking about this all the time. It's possible we both saw them for who they really were, without the rose colored glasses of the honeymoon phase--the person they pretended to be. 

If you read my thread, at least near the end, you can get an understanding of the benefits of NC that kayc has suggested. It's up to you if you want to try and make this work, however you're going to experience a lot of pain while doing so. The confusion on his end may never stop, and there's only so much of that you can take. I reached my breaking point after a month, and I was utterly burnt out. I reached out after 32 days and the wound was reopened-- I had to deal with the break up all over again. Keep this in mind. 

Sorry if I missed anything, I've only been able to skim through currently. 

Take care, 

-BB

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Hi BB

Thanks for your reply, I actually read your post which is what inspired me to sign up and make a post. I have sympathy because this sure isn't easy! I hope you're ok and i'm sorry you're going through this too. Luckily I don't have social media but i'm sure i'd have the same response if I had to see what you saw. 

I understand your point regarding the addiction/withdrawal. I message him generally (although not at the moment because currently NC - 24 hours so far so still early days!) for that temporary high but it comes crashing down when I get over the initial excitement or if I don't get a response I was anticipating and this is something I need to stop chasing. I do believe he'll come back to me when he's ready. I sent him a text yesterday as i had found a podcast regarding grief and said i hope he's doing well. I know he's a fan of podcasts so thought it would be helpful. He responded really quickly saying "that's thoughtful of you, i'm doing better slowly but surely, hope you're good" I replied saying "that's good to hear, i'm here if you need someone to talk to. I'll continue to give you your space for now and my offers there. It would be good to talk when you're ready but there's no rush. I miss you" He replied again within seconds too saying "I miss you too just know that x". So this has given me some hope that in time he will be able to talk to me, i'm trying to stay positive but as i mentioned in my earlier posts I need to prepare myself if that isn't the outcome. I'm not sure I will be able to cope if it doesn't happen. 

Regarding his behaviour, I can link it to when his stepdad first became ill. Before that we were only together for 3 months and was still learning each others behaviours, habits, likes/dislikes etc... I don't blame him for what has happened, I just find it hard to understand. All of my friends have told me to walk away and I shouldn't be treated like this but these forums have made me realise that there isn't one particular behaviour when grieving. My own dad died when I was 11 and my parents weren't together, he was and alcoholic physically abusive to me and my mum so it's a good thing they weren't together in the end. It did affect me at that age and has set a precedent for my future path, but I was very young. I did bereavement counselling but it didn't help much. I couldn't imagine losing him at this age so my heart does break for anyone going through grief. My best friend has just lost her dad too and she has been the complete opposite and has been very receptive to communication and i'm supporting her as best as I can. I guess in my mind, i thought if she can behave like that then why can't he be the same. But that comes from my lack of knowledge i suppose.

I'm just so sad that this has all happened, but will continue to work on myself as I know i'm not perfect. In regards to the length of your NC, I think after 32 days I would've reached out too. That is the timeline I had in my mind, if i can stick it out till then, then i may feel differently about the situation or have the same mindset I have now but I do heed your warning. I think my best port of call like both you and Kayc have said it just to give him space and let things cool down and hopefully he'll come to me when he's ready. I need to stay strong and not take it all so personally. 

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4 hours ago, LostAndNotFound said:

I do believe he'll come back to me when he's ready.

I really believed this too, and I was very confident that she would come back. Sadly, this hope slowly diminished. As time goes on the loss will sink in more and hope will slowly fade. I really do hope things work out for you two, but if you read many of the posts here, it's unlikely. Part of me still hopes that she will come back, but I don't envision my future with her anymore. 

4 hours ago, LostAndNotFound said:

I sent him a text yesterday as i had found a podcast regarding grief and said i hope he's doing well. I know he's a fan of podcasts so thought it would be helpful. He responded really quickly saying "that's thoughtful of you, i'm doing better slowly but surely, hope you're good" I replied saying "that's good to hear, i'm here if you need someone to talk to. I'll continue to give you your space for now and my offers there. It would be good to talk when you're ready but there's no rush. I miss you" He replied again within seconds too saying "I miss you too just know that x". So this has given me some hope that in time he will be able to talk to me, i'm trying to stay positive but as i mentioned in my earlier posts I need to prepare myself if that isn't the outcome. I'm not sure I will be able to cope if it doesn't happen. 

If you read my entire the thread, I did the same as you by offering grief resources. Maybe that's what inspired you. Hopefully he's able to fix himself, although its not fair for you to be waiting in the wings for someone who may never come back. My ex expected me to wait until school started to have an in person discussion; this is maybe 7 months from now if we even have class in person. Try your best to move on, but I know how hard and daunting that is and will be. And again, I hope for the best and that he does come back. But importantly, you have to consider whether he will do this again to you. Is this someone you can trust in a long term relationship? Do you want to have to go through this again?

4 hours ago, LostAndNotFound said:

don't blame him for what has happened, I just find it hard to understand. All of my friends have told me to walk away and I shouldn't be treated like this but these forums have made me realise that there isn't one particular behaviour when grieving. My own dad died when I was 11 and my parents weren't together, he was and alcoholic physically abusive to me and my mum so it's a good thing they weren't together in the end. It did affect me at that age and has set a precedent for my future path, but I was very young. I did bereavement counselling but it didn't help much.

My dad also died when I was 9; however, I don't recall actually grieving that loss,nor my aunt and grandmother this year. My family has never really grieved in the way my ex has. So this situation was especially confusing to me as well. I was kind of shocked how badly she was taking the whole thing. I've never seen anyone react in that way. And I'm sorry to hear about what you had to experience as a child, that's awful. 

 

4 hours ago, LostAndNotFound said:

That is the timeline I had in my mind, if i can stick it out till then, then i may feel differently about the situation or have the same mindset I have now but I do heed your warning. I think my best port of call like both you and Kayc have said it just to give him space and let things cool down and hopefully he'll come to me when he's ready. I need to stay strong and not take it all so personally. 

Be careful about setting a timeline. Often NC becomes a sort of hobby; try not to let it consume your mind, as hard as that sounds. And trust me: it's hard. I still think of my ex every single day, and it's been 3 months. Do your best to live your life, treat yourself a little if you can. It's a tough road ahead, but we'll be here for you if you need it. 

And try not to take it personally as you said. I'm taking it incredibly personal because she had some criticisims of me before making the final decision. We also just got the chance to be Intimate with each other due to covid, and so of course that drives me insane. In your case though it does seem to be the grief, and he seems to be trying , as well as your link to his step dad being sick; so yes--don't take it personally. This is because of what, and more importantly HOW, he is dealing with the situation--not you. My ex seemed to pull away from me when her grandfather went bed bound. It seems to be anticipatory grief, if it is in fact the grief causng all this.

Take care of yourself

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37 minutes ago, LostAndNotFound said:

I guess in my mind, i thought if she can behave like that then why can't he be the same. But that comes from my lack of knowledge i suppose.

While everyone's response to loss is unique to the individual, certain aspects of grief are common to us all ~ so it does help to educate yourself about the normal grief process and what one might normally expect in its wake. In addition to the articles Kayc suggested in her post above, I encourage you to read these: 

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Grief

Death of A Parent: Negative Impact On A Couple's Relationship

How We Mourn: Understanding Our Differences

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I'd recommend a longer NC period or you'll open up wounds that have not healed as Baxterburg stated.  Until you can reach a point where you have accepted the two of you as individuals and no longer hoping for coupledom, as that can lead to manipulation on one person's part if one is secretly hoping for more than the other, it's important to be on the same page.  Keep in mind your ex likely does not know their own mind as grieving, confused, broken, needs to figure out themselves even as you do the same separately.

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