Tell Me About It: You must now focus on your wellbeing and take steps to build your life afresh
I am separated from my partner of 20 years. We are still living in same house and he has moved into the spare room. I still love him and was hoping it was just a temporary break.
I suggested couples counselling but he says, ‘No, it’s over for good’. He has now decided that we should tell people. I am going through a lot, as a family member who I care for is dying.
I am feeling overwhelmed and I really needed my – I guess I should call – ex-partner to support me through this. He says he will but also says he won’t be a shoulder to cry on or someone to give me a hug when I need one. He says if he hugs me, I will probably think we are getting back together so it’s out of the question.
It’s very tough. I’ve very little family and no friends. He wants me to be friends with him. He wants us to still watch TV, still eat dinner together, etc, yet other days he will completely ignore me. I find this very hard as I feel I am not ready to be just his friend. When I tell him this, we argue.
He has mentioned moving out and buying somewhere but has not actively been looking. He works a few days away from home each week and stays with family on those days. So, moving closer to work makes sense.
I think the only way I can get over this is if one of us moves out. We are lucky to own a house and maybe we could sell. But whenever I say I want to move out, we argue. I’m not sure what to do. He just wants us to continue like this. Living in same house, eating and watching TV and hanging out together but sleep in separate rooms. I can’t.
I know I can’t make him love me but he can’t expect me to continue like this. I’m just so sad and empty and feel that if he doesn’t want be my partner, why should he get me as a friend. I’m just so hurt. And now with my family member being so sick, it’s just too much.
It is heartbreaking when the love of your life chooses to end the relationship and you are now going through the awful process of accepting this decision by your partner. It sounds as though your partner is at the other end of the process, ie he is content with the separation and has moved to wanting to be friends.
This is not happening, however, as true friends would comfort and be there for each other at times of great sadness. This is not an option here as he fears that you would lean into his sympathy and he would have to break up with you again. When one partner of a couple decides that a relationship is over and there is no openness to discussion or counselling, there is little that the other person can do but come to accept it and you are now in this place.
The problems with continuing in the same house are many: coping with one person’s dates or lovers, how to invite family or friends in, sharing bills, etc and if there are children, how to manage their hurt and confusion.
Your partner is not under great pressure to take action as he seems to be reasonably okay with the situation. It is you who must now focus on your wellbeing and take steps to build your life afresh. Mediation (free, confidential and provided via your local legal aid centre) can offer you support – a pathway to separation, advice and expertise on how to separate with respect and equity as well as some sense that you are not alone in the process.
There is also the very real need to look at your own life and its lack of community support. If you continue to live in the shared house, it is likely that all your attention will be drawn to your ex and you will not begin the very real need to create relationships with others. This situation has highlighted that you do not have enough social connections in your life and even though you are in pain, you need to start developing these right now.
If there are volunteering opportunities in your area these can be a great way to connect with people while also giving your attention to others in need. This can also offer some relief from your own painful focus. You might also consider joining a hiking or swimming group or some other group activity that appeals to you.
You are someone who knows how to love and care – evidence of this is in your caring for an ill family member and your love of your partner – so trust that you will find more love in your life but, right now, you need to take steps towards creating a future of good conditions for yourself. Mediation will guide you through the separation process and this heartbreak might signal the beginning of a richer life for you with a much wider social and support structure.