I’m struck by how you phrased what “would have been his and his wife’s 30th anniversary.” It *was* the 30th anniversary of the day your boyfriend and his late wife married. There’s no “would have been” about it. Phrasing it like the anniversary only exists if both spouses are alive is dismissive, like the death of your boyfriend’s wife erased their marriage, their love, and their history together. It doesn’t work that way. When people vow to stay married “until death do us part,” they aren’t agreeing to only love and celebrate each other until death parts them.
Love doesn’t disappear when someone dies – it simply changes shape. In time, space is made for new and different love – but the love that existed before is still there; it doesn’t evaporate into thin air. If you are blindsided by this — blindsided that your boyfriend might have conflicting feelings so soon after losing his wife – it isn’t your boyfriend’s fault and it most certainly isn’t his grieving kids’ fault; frankly, it’s your own fault. You were naive to think a man could whole-heartedly commit to you in the way you crave mere months after his wife of nearly 30 years passed away. Can someone in his shoes find new love and commit so quickly? Yeah, I know for a fact it happens. But to expect it – to count on it, to feel bitter and blindsided when it doesn’t? Well, that suggests a shallow understanding of both grief and love.
It sounds to me that you were a bit of a rebound for your old high school boyfriend – a way of delaying or softening the unyielding punch of grief. That doesn’t mean that your boyfriend lied to you — and if he did, it’s only because he was lying to himself; he may very well love you and want a future with you. But he’s clearly still wading through the currents of grief, and the life jacket your relationship provided him early on is no longer cutting it. He needs some space to learn how to coast and float with the current until it weakens enough that he can stand on his own two feet. This isn’t his fault or your fault or his kids’ fault. This is life, this is grief, and this is love – though whether any of it is for you will need to be determined later.
The love he shares with his wife still exists. It has and is changing shape, hopefully making space for new love — space that maybe you will fit seamlessly into. But your boyfriend is letting you know in the only way he’s able to right now that he isn’t quite as ready for new love as he thought it was. If you want to preserve any chance of a relationship with this man once his heart has fully healed, set him free. As the saying goes: If he doesn’t come back, he was never yours to begin with.
He knows that you don’t want your kids losing a relationship if yours with him doesn’t work out, which is why he has zero interest in meeting them. This should tell you exactly everything you need to know about his long-term commitment to you and where he sees your relationship going.