Since his father passed, my boyfriend has spent the last two years buying, restoring, obsessing with a sailboat. The plans he and I had have fallen to the wayside. He now thinks of no one nor ANYTHING else except that sailboat. I have lost both parents and I KNOW grief. But this is not healthy. He is smoking his dad’s pipe, wearing his clothes, and cutting his hair like his father. He will not go to a grief support group. He gets angry and drinks if I bring it up. I am at my wits’ end. His father was a semi-absent father, an alcoholic, and a womanizer.
I KNOW he has to grieve, but he is living his father’s life. I don’t want to be with a reproduction of his father. I want to be with him. HELP! — Wanting My Boyfriend Back
This is more than simply grieving (or even fulfilling a dead man’s dream). Your boyfriend sounds like he’s having some sort of midlife crisis (you don’t say how old you both are, but I’d put money on your boyfriend being in his mid-40s to early 50s?). It’s almost like his father’s death was a trigger, but ultimately not the cause, of this behavior. Like, maybe there was a predisposition for this behavior — and, assuming this was a biological father, an argument could be made that a predisposition for some of this behavior was passed down genetically (alcoholism, for example, runs in the family).
The cause for the troubling behavior, though, is beside the point. Whether this is a true emotional/psychological crisis or depression or mental illness or simply transitioning from one stage of life to another — albeit, in a way that seems unhealthy and worrisome — unless your boyfriend gets some professional support and guidance, he may be stuck in this way of being for a long time. It may get worse. It may swallow him.
He needs help — therapy at the least, maybe some prescription medication (like anti-depressants). He has refused to go to a grief support group. What about seeing a therapist? Maybe one who specializes in grief or midlife transitions? If he refuses to address his behavior and to seek help for the underlying issues, you are at a crossroads. Do you let him pull you down into the sinkhole of grief and depression and whatever else is going on? Or do you set yourself free — free to move on and live your life and pursue your dreams and perhaps find someone with whom to share those dreams?
As much as you are concerned for your boyfriend and worried about the turn his life has taken, if he won’t acknowledge what’s happening and seek help, you have to focus on your own life. If you’ve survived the deaths of both your parents and know grief and have made it through the other side, then you already know some of the strength you possess and your ability to find joy post-grief (and maybe even in the midst of it).
Leaving a longterm relationship — especially under these circumstances, where you feel the person you love is lost somewhere and if only you could find him your relationship could continue — brings grief. You will have to move through the stages of that grief before you’re whole on the other side. But, I think you probably started the grief process a while ago. Like your boyfriend, you can decide to wallow in it indefinitely and maybe lose yourself to the world, or you can decide to push through, accept the loss, and move forward with your life.
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