Boyfriend is grieving and unavailable

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

i have been with my boyfriend for almost one year now. about 6 months before we met his girlfriend passed away suddenly from cancer. when we started dating he told me about it and i asked him was he ok, and if he was ready to be in another relationship. he said he was fine. it has been about a year and a half since her death, but im afraid he has not moved on yet. they lived together and he still has all her items in his apartment. clothing, personal items….i mean everything. he keeps saying hes going to clear it out, but never does, and i never pressure him about it because i feel its not my place. also, whenever we go somewhere weather its shopping or out to eat, he always brings her up. like this is where she used to get her hair cut, or this is where she liked shopping. im writing this because i want to know if this is normal? i have never been through anything like this so i dont know what to do. it is really starting to affect me to the point where even though i love him i want to break it off because if feel as though we should be making our own memories, but hes still living in the past. can u help me??

A: This has to be very, very hard. You are understandably torn between wanting to be supportive and wanting to have your boyfriend’s full attention. Unfortunately, you may have entered his life too soon. He is grieving and you are competing with an angel.

I don’t think your boyfriend means to hurt you. He has invited you into his life because he genuinely wants to be able to move on. But his behavior says he’s just not there yet. This is certainly normal. It can take 3 – 5 years for a person to work through the grief of losing someone he or she loves; especially when the death happened unexpectedly and suddenly.

It would be kinder to both of you if you two could agree to redefine your relationship. He simply isn’t ready to put anyone in his girlfriend’s place. You can’t constantly feel like you are in the shadow of his deceased lover. You two might be able to manage a friendship but it’s unrealistic to push it to another level at this time.

The silver lining in the story is that this is a man who knows how to love deeply and completely. When he is ready, he will most likely put that same level of commitment and love into the next relationship. He may well be worth a wait.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Apr 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Boyfriend is grieving and unavailable. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/04/09/boyfriend-is-grieving-and-unavailable/