Ask Sara: My Fiancé is Grieving… Can This Relationship Work?

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“Hi Sara,

I discovered you through DailyOM, which I read almost daily. I feel very stuck at the moment and I’m not sure if it’s due from my relationship uncertainty or just the fact I need more purpose in my life, but I am taking it out on my fiancé instead.

I met him three and a half years ago. His wife had died a year and a half before. The family did not accept me at first and probably kept thinking this would pass and he would move on to the next. We fell in love quickly and have both been excited about our future together until recently. My youngest goes to college in the fall and he wants me to move in when she goes away. I am not comfortable in his apartment. He has a huge picture of himself and his late wife – it’s probably 3 ft x 4 ft – really! And there are quite a few other pictures of the two of them. The apartment feels like a memorial to me. I had a few pics of us up, but they seem intrusive. Every time I bring up making small changes to the apartment, he says he likes it the way it is. We do not have a wedding date and have been engaged since August of 2012.  I am the one in the process of cleaning out her huge closet. He has told me he does not want to take the huge picture down. (It was bad enough that it was in the immediate foyer when you walked in, now it’s by his office.)

He is so generous and loving in so many ways but I don’t feel like he is even trying to understand my feelings. He was married over 30 years and has 2 grown children with her. My frustration is surfacing almost daily and I need to find some answers within myself. Any guidance you have to offer would be greatly appreciated. Best regards.” ~ Maddi

Dear Maddi,

Your fiancé needs time to complete his grieving process. Unfortunately, until this is done, he won’t be able to be fully present to a relationship with you. Sometimes after such a big loss, such as a spouse or long-time partner, the grieving partner jumps into a relationship too fast, because he/she doesn’t want to be alone, or the suffering is too unbearable to face alone.

I think that’s what happened here. Your fiancé did not have time to complete his grieving when he met  you.

Until he’s ready to release his departed wife, he’s not ready to go forward with you. And, it would be a mistake and create a lot of heartbreak for you to try to force it or hope that it will work.

I would suggest you take some breathing time from each other, of at least several months, during which he can get some counseling. During this time, you can also examine your own feelings—do you really love him, or are you more playing a “rescuer” role for him? Definitely, it’s not time to move in together.

Grief is not something that can be wrapped up neatly; it’s a myth that it only takes a year. For many people, it takes much, much longer. Counseling can help a great deal.

This is hard on both of you, and it may be that the relationship has a future. But healing has to happen first—so allow yourself both the gift of taking some breathing room, and allowing that healing to happen before you attempt to move forward.

Much love,

SARA

Sara Wiseman

Sara Wiseman is a spiritual teacher, intuitive and author of six insightful books on spirituality and intuition, including Living a Life of Gratitude. She is the founder of Intuition University, hosts the popular radio show Ask Sara, and is a top contributor to DailyOM, Inspire Me Today, Aspire and more.

For more information, please visit sarawiseman.com.

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