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Boyfriend distanced himself after bureavement

(24 Posts)
hardygirls Wed 27-Apr-16 08:29:59


I am a survivor of a very EA relationship and not very good with new attachments and trusting new people. I've had a spate of short term boyfriends after the EA who treated me badly. Some were also EA, most were just hot and cold or liars.

I got very low and had absolutely no confidence, which I still struggle with. It took a long break from relationships and got some counselling, read a lot of books and made myself a promise that I would never again let a man make me feel rejected or sad. Deep down I honestly didn't believe I would ever meet anyone and was happy to be alone.

Then I met someone really different who knew what he wanted, was honest, kind, open, never got hot and cold and I just felt comfortable with him rather than anxious. We became friends first for a few weeks and then started seeing each other. I watched him very carefully for any red flags or signs he was going to hurt me and I built the trust very slowly. He never once did a single thing to cause me a moment's worry or confusion and he was so consistent and direct and kind that letting him close to me just felt easy rather than scary.

He made me feel so comfortable that I was able to open up to the extent of the EA relationship and everything I have been through and he was supportive and seemed to just like me exactly as I was, flaws and all, and things were going really great.

Then his Mum died after we had only just had our first kiss and things were very new between us. He was very close to his Mum and it was very sudden and traumatic in the circumstances. Since then he has had to deal with a lot and has been very up and down emotionally.

At first he was very busy dealing with the practicalities but he always stayed in close contact with me and let me know he still cared and very much wanted to be with me and he reassured me that because he was gone for a little while that it did not affect how he felt about me.

Even though we didn't see each other, it actually seemed to pull us closer together in some ways because we talked a lot about our lives and families and it seemed like he always wanted to talk to me and his behaviour towards me was very considerate and consistent in spite of it all. He was very grateful to me for being patient and I didn't mind being so.

Then about a month after her passing once all the arrangements were dealt with, he seemed to just change a bit and became quite distant. Less phone calls, fewer messages, no plans at all to see each other and me most certainly feeling a cold wind and some confusion about where I stand.

It's been like that for about three weeks now. I try and give him as much space as possible and rarely contact him unless he contact me first, but sometimes a few days go by without any contact at all whereas we used to speak multiple times a day.

I do understand the situation means he needs space and it was only a very new relationship but when someone changes their behaviour from consistent and reassuring to cold and distant and not interested it makes me feel really terrible.

I find myself having anxiety attacks and feeling very depressed and I know that this is an unfair way for me to feel and that it is because of my past that I feel this way, but I am not sure how to calm myself.

I have never been bereaved so I am not sure how it feels. I think I would want to see him, get a cuddle and talk about it so I am confused over why he wants to be alone.

All I hear is these horrible voices in my head of my ex saying "Oh this is happening again, everyone leaves you, everyone hates you, I told you no one could ever love you" and I feel like not getting out of bed.

ButIbeingpoor Wed 27-Apr-16 09:49:51

When I lost someone close to me, I just wanted to be with people who knew her and could talk about her and make me feel ( foolishly) that she wasn't dead but in the next room about to come in and join us.
I would gracefully step back from him for a while longer until he either renters your relationship or when you feel it's right to move on.
I'm sorry you are caught up in his grief.

hardygirls Wed 27-Apr-16 09:57:37

Thank you. I know I must sound really self absorbed but it's just been a really long time in limbo and not seeing him and I had invested my hopes and emotions and feel like i have to swallow them up and not acknowledge how I feel - which is rejected, alone, confused, helpless.

HuskyLover1 Wed 27-Apr-16 14:04:18

He is grieving and it's a very hard time for him. My DH was miserable for about a year after his Mum passed away (she was only 61, and it was sudden - time from diagnosis to passing was less than 6 months). After a year, it was as if the cloud lifted and he was back to his old self.

In your shoes, I'd contact him, offer to take him out etc, and just be very gentle.

crazyhead Wed 27-Apr-16 14:42:54

My Mum died last year. For me the complexity has been that my other parent got ill and my husband lost his parent around the same time, I am a senior manager within a major work restructure and we have very young children, so it's been hard to find any space to move back into myself and deal with it.

However, I wish I could have withdrawn and grieved and this is likely what your boyfriend is doing. If you think what the many traditions of mourning are around the world - sitting shiva, the Hindu mourning period - you realise that it is normal and advisable to do this.

If I were you, I'd have an upfront but gentle conversation with your boyfriend, where I would note that he was a little more quiet and withdrawn and would ask him what he needed at the moment and if there was anything I do. I'd then take note of his response, and spend some time on my own activities for a while - a fitness challenge, whatever makes sense for you!

In terms of your personal growth after your horrible experience, I think that learning to cope with this and to be relaxed and focus on yourself and your own goals while being within a relationship will be a new challenge - it sounds as though you have done a lot of work and maybe in the long term this will seem to have been a good thing. I'm sorry you are caught up in this though flowers

HarmlessChap Wed 27-Apr-16 14:50:55

When grieving sometimes you need a hug or a shoulder to cry on other times you need a distraction to take you away from the sorrow for a time and over time he'll get used to the fact that she's gone.

So long as he knows you are there for him that's all you can do everything else must be down to him.

hardygirls Wed 27-Apr-16 15:00:22

Sorry for all your losses and thank you for the responses.

I think if he wanted a shoulder to cry on, selfishly, that would make me feel wanted and needed and it's hard that what he wants is to basically not see or speak to me. He definitely doesn't want to talk about what he is going through with me.

I will take the advice and just let him know I have noticed he is quiet and withdrawn and let him know I am here for whatever he needs and try and pull focus back to myself.

You're right, it is good practice for me. I just feel this terrible fear that when I care for someone I will lose them or that there is something wrong with me and it seems to have just bubbled to the surface.

With my EA partner, I was wonderful, his absolute princess and he could not do enough for me - until one day he changed on a dime and I was nothing, an awful partner, worthless and everything was my fault.

And the last week or so since new BF has gone all quiet on me, I have been hearing my exes voice on my shoulder, telling me I am nothing and no good and all it makes me want to do is run away from the new boyfriend because I am so sure he must want to dump me.

I know it is illogical.

Hissy Wed 27-Apr-16 17:18:51

You have been with him 5 mins. This relationship is - for whatever reason - torturing you.

Back off, let him sort himself out and move on. Get yourself out of this.

If you have not done therapy, I'd suggest you focus on that, and yourself before embarking on a relationship. Your brain is still wired to the abusive being what you know, so you need to break this.

You also need to be able to end relationships on your terms, so that you don't trap yourself,

This guy needs to focus on other things, you need not to second and third guess yourself.

Ending this will give you strength, and it will also signal to him that you have minimum standards, so if he is a game player, he'll learn you're not going to take it. If he's genuinely in need of space, he'll appreciate you giving it to him.

Ultimately no, you are not here for whatever, you're worth more than this. You don't owe him anything

hardygirls Wed 27-Apr-16 19:24:54

Thanks Hissy.

All relationships torture me to be honest. Until this situation hit, this one didn't torture me.

I think I needed someone to come along and be trustworthy and consistent and stable and he was all of that until circumstances changed things.

I don't think it;s as easy as you put it. If I walked away from him now he would actually be deeply hurt, not relieved. Or at least that is what he has said.

It's not about owing him anything...I don't think I do. I do owe myself the chance to have a good relationship with someone really good and not to let fear of rejection and paranoia get in the way and so I am working on that.

I know everything from your post really is correct, but you know, we are not all so simple. Some people, like me, have a really hard time thinking we are worth anything at all and you know until you walked a mile in my shoes that might be hard to understand.

springydaffs Wed 27-Apr-16 19:41:03

He has had something that is akin to a tsunami, an earthquake. He will be in a very difficult place for the forseeable. I mean this kindly when I say this is all about him now, 100%. It's not about you. (That sounds so tough but I hope you can see what I mean?) He can't be reassuring you.

You say you want to see him to give you a hug. My dear, at the moment all hugs are his. He needs people around him who give and give and expect nothing in return. If you can't do that now because of your history then you are not right for him at this moment. This is nothing to do with you or with your worth on any level; it is to do with the massive crater that has opened up in his life.

What you can do is congratulate yourself that you have experienced a healthy and normal relationship with a healthy and normal man. That is a great confidence boost. Sadly this awful thing came along and has knocked everything BUT that has nothing to do with you. Even if you were strong and emotionally robust, something like this would test any new relationship which hasn't had the chance to establish roots.

So be encouraged. This relationship was a very good sign that you're on the mend and all the work you put in is paying off.

If you want the relationship to be 'is' rather than 'was', ask him what he needs. Because all focus needs to be on him.

Hissy Wed 27-Apr-16 19:49:22

I think I needed someone to come along and be trustworthy and consistent and stable and he was all of that until circumstances changed things.

YOU are this person. You are the one you need to learn to trust and love. You are the one you need to love with all your heart. The last thing you can do is place your wellbeing in the hands of others.

You're projecting your feelings about what you'd need if you were to lose someone, this comes from your own fears and to a point, insecurities. You have to have that good relationship with yourself. Little steps. You've been through so much, it's time to be kind to yourself above all others.

I've had a lifetime of people telling me I'm not good enough, my ex was the last in a long line, my dad did the most damage, my mum the enablement. I still have a negative view of myself, my inner voice is critical, and I struggle to believe I'll ever be worthy of happiness. Even after therapy, the freedom programme and group dv therapy. I spent 10 years in an abusive and isolated existence, many here know my story.

I've been free over 5 years now, and still struggle some days. the only way out is to be kind to yourself, untill you get into the habit and get used to it, some relationships are to show us parts of what we work towards.

I will never, ever stay in a relationship that exacerbates my fears. You need a break from this now.

If I were you I'd take a back step and explain to the boyf that I understood he's got a lot to work through, and I'll not add to it, so if he wants to park things for a while, I'd be fine wth that. No pressure, no commitment, no ties.

He clearly needs the space, he's not interested in leaning on you, and for whatever reason, that's uncomfortable for you, and something you need time to process.

This relationship is actively harming you, and you simply can't allow this to happen. You need the space to heal a bit and get things in perspective again. You simply must put yourself first here. It's a training relationship, it's not Mr HappyEverAfter. This is a lesson you need to learn. To protect and love yourself. Right now, You're not able to safely offer him the supposed support you think he needs.

hardygirls Wed 27-Apr-16 20:11:14

Springydaffs, thank you. Really good advice. I am not selfish, I am patient and despite all this post actually not a naturally clingy person and like my alone time so it;s just about not letting this insecurity and fear take over and make me over think things. My sister is telling me to just give him a bit of time and get on with my life.

Hissy, I do hear you, honestly I do...but if I go around dumping every man who goes through a hard time and needs time alone is that not counter productive? Do I not need to learn to cope with reassuring MYSELF at times like this and not being quite so scared/ needy etc.? If I honestly believed the best thing fro me was to walk away from him then I (think) I would do that. I did it with three idiots before him. But this one isn't an idiot. So my reason for dumping would be "your Mum died you are not paying me enough attention".

I do think damaged, wounded people sometimes need a little stability and find it harder to trust new people. I can't help or change that. I jump at loud noises still sometimes too. But if I grow old, alone, never having found someone really great to love because I was feeling/ acting like this then I;d be really disappointed in myself.

What I;d really like to do is be able to give this a month in terms of time space and readjustment without me flipping out, becoming anxious and completely emotionally reacting. I'd like to just be able to do what other people do and not feel so much need for that daily reminder of "i still like you, you are okay". I want to not do that.

I think if I walk away I am not protecting myself, I am being a complete idiot.

hardygirls Wed 27-Apr-16 20:16:31

Sorry also Hissy, "If I were you I'd take a back step and explain to the boyf that I understood he's got a lot to work through, and I'll not add to it, so if he wants to park things for a while, I'd be fine with that. No pressure, no commitment, no ties. "

I did try and do that twice. Both times he told me no, that he would be okay shortly and just to bear with him a little longer. He's said he's sure he wants to pursue a relationship with me and does not want space or time apart. Hence I am a little confused he said that and then acts the opposite but I presume to some degree he probably doesn't know himself.

He did send me a message two weeks ago to say he was sorry that i got caught up in the maelstrom, that he did very much want to see me and be with me but he understood if I could not wait.

I think a lot of this is me being an idiot, but I just think people are a bit confusing in such times and it is a tsunami time for him and he's not that logical or reliable.

KittyOShea Wed 27-Apr-16 20:27:37

Hardy you need to be prepared that it could take a lot longer than another month. For the first couple of months after my dad died I was numb, in shock. I couldn't cope with seeing anyone outside my family and my husband. I put my friends, friends I've had for a lifetime, on the back burner. I couldn't cope with normal conversation and had no interest in other people.

When the numbness wore off I just wanted to scream at the world didn't they know my dad was dead? Who cares about your work colleague/ new dress/ diet? I realise how unhinged and unreasonable this makes me sound but that is what grief can do. It is only now, 7 months down the line, that I am starting to venture back out into a social life.

It's possible he would also feel guilty going out and beginning a very new relationship- I felt very bad the first few times I went out for a meal or a few drinks as it felt like people (and dad if he's out there somewhere) would be horrified that I wasn't at home crying all the time.

If you are truly head over heels about this guy you need to give him space and even then the timing just might not be right. Hopefully both of you can survive it if it is right b
If you are not head over heels you might be better to let it slowly dwindle away. Either way it is no judgement on you, just how overwhelming grief can be.

hardygirls Wed 27-Apr-16 20:40:17

Hi Kitty

I didn't mean I expected him to be fine within a month, but more that I expected him to be able to communicate if h wanted a relationship or not.

At the moment his status is that he definitely does want a relationship and yet we are not having one so it's a bit confusing for me.

I was thinking give him a month to figure it out.

I'm not head over heels or anything, but I did feel like it had very serious long term potential and I really was happy. Also, watching the dignity and kindness with which he had handled himself in all that has made me see him for a person of really amazing character, which very few people posses and he's the kind of person I think I'd be proud to grow old with.

I suppose if it dwindles away then it does? I just wish I could relax

springydaffs Wed 27-Apr-16 21:23:58

Everybody is different of course but when I go through a bad time I want people to step up and show they care. It means everything to me.

That 'crossing the road to avoid the bereaved' thing is real. People really do do this. It is such a slap in the face. IMO to back off 'because he's having a bad time' is the opposite of what I'd want.

You say you've suggested you can cool things for now if that's what he wants - but he has said no. I can't express enough how bad he'll be feeling now - and probably for a long time to come. He may not be able to function in any normal way, hence no texts or contact for days. He won't be himself at all. And, as Kitty says, that will roll through for probably at least a year.

Perhaps Google how to respond to the bereaved. Also what bereavement is like for the bereaved.

TattyCat Wed 27-Apr-16 23:18:31

You sound like a really lovely person, Op. I lost my dad 18 months ago and if I'd just started a new relationship, I couldn't imagine sharing my grief with a new partner. It wouldn't be anything they'd done, or said - just that it's hard enough when you've been with someone for a long time let alone with someone who didn't know the person and doesn't know me very well either. I'm not sure I could have been emotionally available to anyone 'new' in the months afterwards.

Something to consider is that he'll likely be supporting his mum and/or other close family members (massive assumption here though) and if so, it won't be easy. It will be difficult for him to be seen to be 'moving on' without a backward glance and certainly couldn't be seen to be 'happy' in a new relationship when he and his family have lost someone so dear, however he feels about you.

When someone close dies, it changes the dynamics and it can take a long time to reach an equilibrium. The best thing you can do? Be understanding, patient and give him a little space to find his new place in life. Be a friend. When life starts to resemble normal again then take another look.

It's not about you. He sounds like a nice person, as do you. Don't take it personally - it's just bad timing.

TattyCat Wed 27-Apr-16 23:25:29

And ask him about his dad; what he was like, what kind of person he was, how he feels about him. Sometimes, people avoid asking and it's nice when they do! I don't go on about it but it's nice to know that people care.

What helps in these situations is if you stop thinking about how you feel and think about how he's feeling (and I mean this in the nicest possible way, by the way - absolutely not having a dig!).

LovePGtipsMonkey Thu 28-Apr-16 00:50:01

OP he may simple have some very depressive days when he can't /doesn't want to communicate with anyone, nothing personal. Do give him about a month but gently offer to do anything he needs - see if it eases off slightly (won't be much) in a month time.

springydaffs Thu 28-Apr-16 09:13:48

It's his mum who has died, not his dad.

TattyCat Thu 28-Apr-16 09:52:02

Sorry, my mistake. I got talking about my dad and was distracted. The advice still stands though.

hardygirls Thu 28-Apr-16 17:31:40

Thanks everyone for the advice. Yes, was his Mum, but his Dad died a long time ago so he's not got to support him or anything but I do think siblings and other family are leaning on him.

You explaining a bit of what he might be feeling really helped me, thank you. It is very hard to put myself in his shoes and I have just been wondering why he didn't want support / company but can see not everyone deals with things like I do

I did talk to him this morning, and without me asking he explained a little bit about why he needs to be alone and how he feels about me and it was all good. I think he just needs a bit of time and I feel a lot calmer now.

Thank you, sorry for being silly.

TattyCat Thu 28-Apr-16 19:04:35

Not silly, and good luck! Hope it works out well for you.

springydaffs Thu 28-Apr-16 22:58:06

Not silly! You have to get to a place where you have compassion on and accept yourself? The way you reacte makes perfect sense Things have been rocky for you so bumps in the road can be mountainous big.

Not that your very new boyf's bereavement is a bump. Pretty momentous imo. Anybody would feel challenged by it.

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