I am a divorced mother with two boys who are six and eight. Just a few months after my divorce I met a younger man and soon after he was living with us and my mother. We’ve now been together for three years and have been very happy until recently. A few months ago my mother died suddenly. Before she died she was our full-time babysitter and support; she did a ton to help the household run smoothly. When she died my boyfriend was there for me through all of it, part of each tear, each goodbye. He loved my mother and they got along so well. But now something’s changed. Now he sleeps until minutes before leaving for work. I go to work only to come home and clean the house, do laundry and make sure everything is in order for the next day. He and the kids play video games most nights. I barely sleep and when I do my mom haunts my dreams. I am overwhelmed with work, kids, him, life. I am still grieving and it doesn’t seem like he notices. Lately I feel invisible to him. I tried talking about this with him, even begging him to listen, but he’s stopped listening. I haven’t done much grief counseling because it would be one less hour that I could try and catch some sleep. I don’t have any other family around and not many girlfriends. There truly isn’t time for much of anything anymore and I feel like I’m barely hanging on. I don’t feel like we are partners anymore and now I wonder if we ever were. Maybe I didn’t notice because my mother filled the part? Does this seem like behavior as “usual” after losing a parent or am I in for a real shock to find out this is how hard life really is? Am I asking too much of him or is he really self-absorbed, young and immature? I’m so worried about everything.
Grieving in Georgia
Dear Grieving in Georgia,
Thanks for your question. Please accept my condolences. It’s very hard to lose someone you love. And losing a parent is like losing your anchor. In some ways it’s the beginning of your life as an adult.
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Everyone grieves in their own way. While you feel the pain every moment of your day, your boyfriend has chosen to approach it by sleeping, working, and engaging with your kids. But also understand that he also feels powerless because he doesn’t know how to make it all better for you. Guys often react two ways to this type of situation.
They either throw themselves into the fray and try to fix the problem or they withdraw. Your guy is doing the latter.
This is also playing out in the division of chores. Even in your grief you know you have responsibilities. You know that there are things that need to be done. I agree that your boyfriend is not doing his share of the household duties, but don’t undervalue what he’s currently contributing. This may sound silly, but making your sons’ lives happier by playing video games with them is actually quite important at this juncture in their lives.
Yes, I understand you feel resentful because you’re slaving while he’s playing, but if you think about this from a mother’s perspective you’ll realize that he is contributing in his own way.
Is he too young to handle all of this? It’s possible. And it’s possible that your mother’s death and the void she left has made him realize that he’s not ready to have an instant family and all the responsibility that comes with that. The two of you need to figure this out together. These questions should be part of a larger conversation about your relationship. Seeing a couple’s counselor to help facilitate this discussion might be a good place to start. I very much hope your boyfriend will step up to the plate and try to work through this with you.
And finally, I urge you to forego an hour’s sleep on a regular basis and seek the grief counseling you need and deserve.
Good luck and take care,
Saelen Ghose is the head writer for The Guy’s Perspective, a popular relationship blog and website. Over the course of his tenure he has responded to thousands of relationship questions, and while he hasn’t solved every problem, he has provided a thoughtful perspective on every question received. If you have a relationship question of your own, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Saelen will do his best to answer your question. Please limit your question to 200 words or less. For more from The Guy’s Perspective, visit www.theguysperspective.com.
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