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Why Doesn’t My Boyfriend Get a Divorce?

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My bf and I reconnected online after 20 years. Within a year, I was divorced and he had moved 1000 miles to be with me. We moved in together right away and my 3 kids live with us part-time. My bf changed his whole life to be with me, left his marriage and job, all his friends, and moved here and started a new career.
The problem is it has now been over 3 years and he has not gotten divorced. He avoided his wife for over a year when she tried to start the divorce process and then she got cancer and stopped pursuing him for a divorce. He doesn’t have contact with her but he gets updates on her health from his mother, who still keeps in touch with her.
We have lived together for over 2.5 years now and have gone many places and always take photos wherever we go. His public-facing social media profiles are pictures from when he was with his wife. And he has changed the pictures since he moved in with me, but still changed them to old pictures from his life with her. He has one small item of hers that holds a lot of sentimental value that she has asked him to return to her by mail and he told her he would but still hasn’t done so. He sees the item all the time and knows she wants it back but still doesn’t mail it to her.
It feels like he’s fighting as hard as he can to avoid letting go completely. Why would someone change their entire life but still cling to the old?

Why Doesn’t My Boyfriend Get a Divorce?

Answered by on -


My guess is that your boyfriend is caught in a dilemma. He wants to be with you. But he feels guilty about leaving a wife who has cancer. He may also not want to “look bad”, thinking that people will judge him for leaving a wife who is seriously ill. The way he resolves his dilemma is to try to have it both ways — He has a full and private life with you but presents a picture of a loving husband to his wife to the world. I suspect he hangs on to the item from his marriage to remind himself that he is still “married”, even while he has changed his entire life to be with you.

Arguing with him about “letting go” isn’t going to be helpful. He needs to find a way to both separate from his sick wife and feel like a decent guy. If he can’t figure it out on his own, I do suggest that a therapist can provide both practical suggestions and support.

Meanwhile, I suggest you be patient. Your bf isn’t acting “against” you. He has already proven how much he loves and values having you in his life.  No. He is trying to navigate a very difficult internal dilemma. Try to find a way to give him some support.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie

Why Doesn’t My Boyfriend Get a Divorce?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). Why Doesn’t My Boyfriend Get a Divorce?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 May 2019 (Originally: 10 May 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 May 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.