Sudden and unexpected separation

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My fiance and I were together for 7 years. We had the storybook romance: we were always happy, never argued, never tired of each other, and all of of friends and family looked at us as having the perfect relationship. Life could not be better for the two of us.

She moved out for school two years ago, and the distance was hard on us, but we stayed strong. I saw her about two weekends a month. Then toward the end of her school, we started to feel more distant from each other. Then tragedy struck: my mom suddenly died. Shortly after, the two of us went to counseling to see what was missing between us. We received some great insight, and focused on better communicating our feelings.

We made a trip to Seattle to look for work and a new home, unsure of our future. We spent days together, exploring the city, and immediately felt the intense love return. We felt hope. She was so excited to finally start her career, feel some financial independence, and pursue her dream as a nurse.

We came back home, and life started to change. I lost my job, we were both struggling to find work, we were eating into our wedding fund to make ends meet, part of our home is torn apart for a remodel, etc. I could feel her become distant again. I tried to get her out of the house, to open up, to smile, but nothing. She only wanted to look for work and work on the house. I watched her become angry, and she directed some of her anger at me.

After a month or so of this, she told me she was leaving, and moving back with her parents. She told me that she hasn’t felt the same about me for months. I don’t agree. When we were in Seattle, and for several weeks after we got back, we were madly in love, and she is one who can’t hide her emotions. She said she didn’t know what the future will bring, but she’s not completely giving up on us yet.

After she moved out, she canceled all of our wedding plans (the wedding was for July 2012). One of our mutual friends says that she’s moving on with her life…

I’m convinced that most of the challenges we’ve faced have nothing to do with our relationship, but have been allowed to influence her view of us. Everyone who knows her, including her family, is surprised and confused. Could it be that there was an issue that wasn’t being communicated? It just seems that our separation was in sync with our life struggles. If so, why won’t she see anything good in our relationship all of a sudden?

I feel lost… I’m afraid that she’ll give up on us completely. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: How very, very painful this situation must be for you. One of my teachers used to say, “When things are easy, they’re easy. It’s when things are hard that you find out what you’re made of.” It seems that you two had a storybook romance as long as there were no big challenges. But life has a way of throwing obstacles in our paths. The shelter of school ended for her. You lost your mom. Work has been hard to find. Your home is disrupted. In short, there’s been stress layered on stress for some time. Apparently, when the going gets rough, your fiance gets going. She doesn’t know how to be a member of a team that confronts problems together. She sounds very young or very sheltered.

If she’s willing, I would suggest you go back to the couples counselor. You had a positive experience before. Perhaps the counselor can help her understand that it takes more than love to make a relationship strong. It also takes the willingness to stand together when times are hard. If she isn’t interested, I’m sorry to say that there is nothing you can do to make her change her mind. In that case, I hope you will someday find someone who truly understands what being a partner means.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Apr 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Sudden and unexpected separation. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/04/05/sudden-and-unexpected-separation/