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Why Did He Back Away?

Question:

My finance of 4 years died 7 months ago of a massive heart attack at 46 years old. 2 weeks later my father died of the same massive heart attack, so I have had a real bad 7 months, yet I have become much stronger lately and I think I am ready to love again. in regards to that about a month ago I became close with a man who’s wife of 22 years was killed in a car wreck 3 months after all my deaths occurred. he is devastated. yet we became very close in a short time and I feel in love with him. then he all the sudden backs off and acts like we never had anything special. we really understand each other and are perfect together but now he is totally out of my life and I am crushed. I know he is hurting and maybe dealing differently than I did, but how long am I supposed to wait on this guy to get past the grief enough to go on with life. he has turned to drinking now and is so negative about things from what I hear. we listened to each other and talked so much! why did he back away from me?? scared to love again?? I am so hurt. I truly love this man, I know I do. should I back off and not talk to him at all or continue to show him support??? I miss him so much. I know he is hurting. I am too, but that does not mean we cant ever be happy again???

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Answer:

People grieve at different rates. While you may have made significant progress in your seven months, your new boyfriend may take longer than that before he adapts to his losses. For him, it is only four months, and that is not a long time at all to grieve such a significant lost relationship. When people are grieving, they often move back and forth between acutely feeling the sadness of their loss, and finding ways to avoid thinking about it for a while, to feel happy for a while. Your romance with this man should be judged in this context. You got together quickly, and at a time when he (and you) were both very vulnerable, and it probably helped you both to feel good about loving each other during a time of significant hurting. But since it happened quickly, and since it represents a lot of change in a little bit of time, it probably also felt very frightening to have moved so fast with someone so little known. You wonder if he isn’t “scared to love again”, and that is probably half right. I think the other half that you may not be recognizing is that he is still grieving actively and not ready to commit to anything new, with anyone right at this time. And given that decisions don’t come easy when one is grieving, this is perhaps for the best. There may yet be a future for your relationship, but if there is, it will have to happen after he has made more progress with his grief. If you want to, give him time to grieve. Many months actually may be necessary before he is in a better place. In the mean time, if you want, back off on the intensity of relationship you’d like and be a support and a diversion for him. Things may come around.

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