“He Deserted Me After His Mother Died”

Broken heart

My boyfriend had been widowed for seventeen months and and I had been widowed for nine months when we met about two years ago; we are both 58. Although I had reservations when thinking about getting into a relationship, I was won over by how, immediately, he was so easy to talk to and by how I felt that I had known him forever.

Right away we were seeing each other every weekend, we became intimate within two months, and then I moved in with him two months after that (leaving my son to house-sit in my home). We had the most wonderful relationship for a year and a half. We were very much in love. Then in January my mom died. In February we decided to take a vacation to Florida so I could meet his 77-year-old mom and some of his other relatives for the first time. We were back home in March when his mom found out she had cancer. My boyfriend was devastated, and I was there for him for the next six months. He visited her again in September, and she passed while he was there. He texted me on the way home and asked me to understand that he didn’t want to love or be loved anymore, and to please leave because he wanted to be alone.

I was devastated and incredulous that the man who had said, “Never leave me,” “Where have you been all my life?” and “Thank God I found you,” etc. was deserting me. He even packed up most of my stuff. Well, I have moved back to my house and he has told me to not make contact with him. I have called or texted now and then when I remember something of mine that’s still at his place. But then he recently blocked me, and, unable to call first, I went to his house to ask for a few more things and he was furious.

I’m out of my mind with grief now and feel like I just lost another husband. Why is he doing this?! He said he hates me because I won’t leave him alone and respect his wishes. What about my wishes for the life he promised me that I would have with him? How could he go from loving me so intensely to hating me? I’m so confused, and I can’t stop crying every day. I miss us so much. — Like I Lost Another Husband

As you said, you are out of your mind with grief, and I believe that’s how your ex is feeling, too. Who knows how much of his grief he truly processed when he lost his wife at what sounds like a relatively young age. Maybe instead of dealing with it, he pushed it aside for 17 months until he met you and then you very quickly moved in together and you became a fast replacement for the wife he lost. And then when his mother died and he was confronted with the feeling of grief again, all those feelings he pushed aside when he wife died came rushing back. Or maybe not. Maybe the guy’s just a real asshole. But I think there’s more to it than that.

When grief happens — and it will happen to almost all of us at some point in our lives — it tests us in numerous ways, often pushing us to the limits of what we think we can handle, while simultaneously testing the strength of our character. Can we be good partners, good parents, good friends, good employees, good people in the face of our grief? Some of us can. And for some of us, the grief is too much. It alone is more than we can bear and so we retreat because we don’t believe we can be of any good to anyone else and we don’t want to be reminded of that failure or of a life beyond what’s been lost or of what is yet to be lost. We see everything as an affront to us.

What you’re seeing with your ex is someone who is so consumed with grief he is “out of his mind,” to borrow your phrase. He is showing you both the depth of his emotion and the limit of his character. It’s an incredibly difficult and painful way to learn about someone, to learn about the flaws you had yet to see, but in the end, it may be saving you more potential grief later on.

As I wrote yesterday in my post about death, missing someone is another way of loving him or her. Of course, someone doesn’t have to die in order for you to miss him, and you missing your ex — the person you believed him to be, the person he was with you, and the future you imagined together — represents your love for him. Maybe for your ex, the potential to miss someone as a result of loving her is so painful and sad he is willing to forgo another day of love in his life if it might save him further grief later. Grief, as the payment we often make for the love we get to have, might be too great a cost for your ex to risk paying again. And for you, that means you’re paying the price instead, and for that I’m very sorry.

There are stages of grief you’ll have to move through at your own pace, but I would encourage you, even if you aren’t to the acceptance part yet, to accept for now that your ex isn’t in the head and heart space to hear from you. Let go of whatever else might be at his place; accept that you may not see those things again. As for seeing him again, take things one day at a time. And remind yourself that you’ve loved and lost and grieved before and still opened yourself to love again. Your strength of character is being tested once more, and I hope for your sake and for whoever might be lucky enough to risk potential grief for the chance of loving you, you will find your way back to hope again.


Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. It sounds like you both have been through a lot in the past four-ish years. I would try and remember first that he’s not your husband and he didn’t marry you nor make vows to you. You don’t say how long either of you was married but if it was for many years 9 and 17 months is not that long to be single again, especially if you didn’t deal with the grief the first time around. Because it is easier to meet someone and put all of those emotions in to that new person, rather than dealing with your emotions. Unfortunately dating someone doesn’t mean that you will get from that person exactly what they promised (being married doesn’t necessarily either). You should stop contacting him and move on. Like Wendy said grieve for him and the future you thought you would have with him, but respect his wishes to leave him alone.

  2. “He is showing you both the depth of his emotion and the limit of his character” – that is just beautifully put, Wendy.
    LW I am so sorry for you for everything that happened. I hope you find the strength to take Wendy’s advice.

    1. I thought so too. This whole response is really beautifully worded.

    2. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      No one gets a free pass to be a d*ck in my opinion. No one is perfect and lovely at all times. But your ex is doubling and tripling down on this behavior, so recognize that this is not a reflection of you, but rather of him and his shortcoming(s). Your pain will lessen over time, and truly, only time will help you heal and move on past this.
      On a side note, nothing rubs me wrong like a person who believes they are the only person on earth with the most hurt/pain/whatever. Life isnt easy- no one person is the only person in all of humanity to feel a certain way or feeling. Argh. (“Everyone you meet is fighting great battles.”<– always like this)

    3. Claresa O'Neal says:

      I truly understand… I am going thru the same exact thing. My children’s father who I’ve been with for over sixteen yrs lost his mom in 2012 from pancreatic cancer. He has pushed me away after proposing to me and he has become very mean too his girls. I had to keep them away from him for awhile bc he was becoming too mean. Long story short I just pray that he will come back to the man that I love so….much and we can be a family again.

      1. It’s been 6 years though. And he’s been, it sounds like, abusive to his children. Maybe it’s not just his mom’s death, maybe he’s an asshole. I get things used to be good, but this is your reality. You should leave.

  3. While this is a terrible situation for you to be in, having lost your spouse and having had the courage to love again, I’m sorry to say that your boyfriend has indeed shown his true character. Because he didn’t say “give me a few days.” He didn’t say “I can’t be with anyone for a while.” He just angrily cut you out. I think Wendy is more forgiving than i would be. I think how you behave during the worst times reveals your true character, and he hasn’t shown you much of worth. I hope you will be brave enough and lucky enough to find love again.

    1. Texas Belle says:

      I totally agree with Diablo. His character is shining through. But so was yours. Your mother died and you were a good partner to him. During his mother’s illness, you were there for him as well. And in his darkest time, he shut all the doors and windows and left you outside. While I know you miss him, and the way he left was cowardly, you dont want to be shut inside a dark hole with someone who will leave you hanging when times get hard. You need a shining light much like yourself. I’m sorry for your grief, love.

  4. dinoceros says:

    I’m sorry this happened. 🙁 I think it’s hard when someone is reacting to something bad happening because we always wonder if maybe they don’t really mean what they’re saying. Like maybe if they weren’t experiencing the grief, they wouldn’t want to break up. But the truth is, the loss DID happen, and that person made a choice. I understand that grief is hard, but if a person cannot grieve without pushing their partner away, then they probably shouldn’t be in a relationship to begin with, whether because of their own state of mind or how they approach relationships.
    The belief that a person is acting against their *actual* wishes makes it hard to let go when they push us away. But you do have to respect his wishes. I don’t think he hates you, but when a person says to stop contacting them and you don’t, they are likely going to have to take matters in their own hands to stop you. Take some time for yourself (you want to be in a place where a breakup doesn’t feel like you’re losing your spouse again) and find someone who is in the right frame of mind for a relationship.

  5. Wendy’s advice is beautiful, sad, and solid. I’m so sorry you are going through this, and only a couple of years after your husband passed on. It is understandable that you would be in disbelief given how abruptly your live-in boyfriend ended things. But for reasons you may never understand, he is too broken to be with you. After you moved out, you tested his boundaries by continuing to contact him for an item here or there. When he blocked you, he was communicating very clearly that he expected you to leave his life completely. When you showed up at his home after that, I’d guess his anger and harsh words were probably coming of having his boundaries disregarded, than from actual feelings of hate. I’m sorry it hurt you and is still hurting you. I hope you take time to be gentle with yourself. Revisit with long-standing trustworthy people you love. Reach out to other people who have experienced recent loss who can witness your grief. Persue peace, through art, meditation, church. Deep breaths. I’m wishing you peace and light and hoping your heart heals, moment to moment. I’m so deeply sorry.

  6. Sue Jones says:

    Another thought is that this man has Bipolar Disorder and the loss of his mother pushed him into a depressive state. As sad and seemingly inexplicable as this is, consider it a bullet dodged.

  7. One possibility is that his mother said something before she passed, perhaps about his first wife, perhaps about the LW. Maybe that’s remote, but I could not rule that out based on the information presented.

  8. I would add that the LW herself is going through extreme grief and her response to that grief has added to this situation. The LW lost her own mother and husband within the same short period (even shorter, actually). I’m guessing that she also transferred her love for her late husband to this new man in her life without dealing with that grief. I mean, how does one find the love of their life less than a year after the other of their life passed away? For both of them, this relationship rocketed way too fast into something way too intense. So when he did break up with her, which shouldn’t be so inexcusable, she couldn’t handle it. To her, all of the love and longing she had for her husband and mother had been piled onto him. Losing him was like losing them all over again. The BF is allowed to break up with her. She is not allowed to say “no” to that. And she has become so incapable of coping with her grief, she has refused to respect his wishes. When someone says not to contact them, you don’t contact them. Period. But she persisted, so he got angry. She needs to address her feelings, possibly with a counselor, so that she can move on. How about leaning on the son for support?

  9. wobster109 says:

    No amount of grief justifies him stealing your stuff. If it’s small stuff, let it go. But if it’s something of value to you, the police can help you get it back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *