Dear Carolyn: Arriving from a work trip, I texted my fiance that I had landed safely and would be home soon. He responded with: “I love you. I’ll bring home pizza for dinner.” Thirty minutes later: “Actually, I can’t be in a relationship anymore. I need to experience living on my own for a while. We aren’t getting back together.” He then blocked my number and signed our shared home over to me in full.
I sold quickly as I can’t afford the mortgage on my own, and I have not found another place to live yet. I have a 7-year-old son and my ex has two sons. We were a family and lived together for four years. I miss my “stepsons.” I never got to say goodbye. My son is brokenhearted at losing the only dad he ever knew. In two weeks, I lost my fiance, two stepsons, my home and the family I thought I had. It’s like a death to both of us.
I have my son in therapy. I will go once we move and I can afford it again.
I’m a level-headed person and can safely say I could not see this coming. In our few brief conversations, he agrees with that assessment. We had intimacy, laughter, were a great team around our house, always made time for each other with a date night once a week.
When he said he loved me and looked forward to our future, he said it was because he always hoped for, how he worded it, “better days.”
I’m shocked. Stunned. In disbelief. What’s next in carrying on? How will I learn to trust again?
Ghosted: So awful — I’m sorry.
I think you’re as close as you can get to an answer in treating this as a death. Something so sudden and transformative and final (with the added slap of his having chosen it) has a set of rules of its own — along with license not to hold yourself to any rules too tightly.
The first step is relieve yourself of any responsibility to figure out long-term issues like how to trust again. Your job now is to think of the immediate, because that’s plenty. Housing. Kid’s emotional needs. Getting through today, then tomorrow, then the day after.
Our bodies are built to help us through truly horrible things by, for lack of a cheerier word, normalizing even acute pain. What is agony now will dull with time. And, as it dulls, your abilities to function will return, including those that help you make sense of what happened and help you rebuild your optimism. Which is, of course, emotionally synonymous with trust.
Obviously people can get stuck in this process and may need help getting there.
So the moment you get your housing resolved, yes, therapy for you, whether you’re stuck or not. A support group might also help you on the cheap — check NAMI (nami.org) for listings.
You probably know this, but I’ll say it anyway: Anyone who can leave so abruptly has problems serious enough that you can’t assume all or even half of the blame for the outcome yourself.
He also isn’t representative of most people; he’s a sick outlier.
But that’s for later. Now, just console yourself and your boy.